Conflict theory is one of the main areas of macro-sociology, which focuses on the conflict as a center phenomenon of social processes, inherent in the nature of human society. In the 50-60s of the XX century, it developed as a counterweight to structural functionalism with emphasis on stability and equilibrium of the social system. The proponents of the conflict theory emphasize the objective value of the conflict that prevents ossification of the social system and stimulates its development.
Conflict (from Lat. Conflictus) in philosophy is a category reflecting the stage (phase and shape) of the development of the “contradiction” category, when existing opposites in the contradiction turn into the extreme opposites (polarity, antagonism), reaching a moment of mutual rejection and the removal of contradiction. Conflict in the social sciences (history, sociology, psychology) is the process of development and resolution of contradictory goals, attitudes, and actions of people, determined by objective and subjective reasons, and flowing in two dialectically interrelated forms – conflicting psychological states and open controversial actions of the parties at the individual and group levels.
Social theory has been interested in the conflict in the society in the XIX and early XX century. G. Hegel, K. Marx, H. Spencer, M. Weber, G. Simmel, F. Tennis broadly applied to this problem in their works.
Spencer, considering social conflict from the viewpoint of social Darwinism, considered it inevitable phenomenon in the history of human society and encouraging social development.
Weber included problem of conflict in all three main lines of his work: the sociology of politics, sociology of religion, and sociology of economic life. His original position in the examination of the conflict lies in the fact that society is a set of positively and negatively privileged status groups, whose ideas and interests differ and match at different points. Their confrontation in terms of interests, values, and the exercise of power is a source of conflict.
Marx once proposed a dichotomous model of social conflict, according to which the whole society is divided into two main classes, representing the interests of labor and capital. The basis of class conflict is a profound contradiction between the new productive forces and old relations of production restraining their further development. Ultimately, the conflict leads to the transformation of the society. Stressing the importance of the conflict, G. Simmel did not adopt nor the dichotomous model, niether the concept considering its end result the destruction of the existing social order. He believed that the conflict is positive with respect to the function of social stability and promotes existing groups and communities. G. Simmel, calling social conflict “a dispute,” considered it a psychologically conditioned phenomenon and a form of socialization.
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