Conflict theory, derived from the works of Karl Marx, is a sociological view that consists of groups competing for scarce resources. The basic concepts of conflict theory are:

Key elements of conflict theory

1. Power and Inequality: Two theories emphasize the role of power and coercion in shaping social policy. It highlights how power differentials contribute to struggles between social groups and classes.

2. Economic Interest: Marx focused on the economic struggle between the bourgeoisie (capitalists with the means of production) and the proletariat (workers) He argued that the capitalist system inherently exploited and led to class struggle.

3. Social Change: Conflict theorists believe that social change is primarily the result of conflict between competing factors. This approach sees social change as a response to societal tensions and contradictions.

4. Ideology and False Consciousness: Marx introduced the concept of ideology to explain how ruling groups hold power. According to conflict theory, dominant ideologies promote the interests of the dominant group and maintain the status quo, creating false consciousness among oppressed groups

Examples of conflict theory

1. Class struggle: The battle between different social groups such as the rich and elite and the working poor is a prime example of conflict theory. This can be seen in labor strikes, protests, and the crackdown on policies such as increasing the minimum wage.

2. Ethnic and Ethnic Conflicts: Conflict theory can also be applied to ethnic and racial struggles for economic and social resources. Through this lens, it examines discrimination, segregation, and systemic racism.

3. Gender Inequality: Feminist theory, which often interacts with conflict theory, explores how gender roles and inequalities are perpetuated through power dynamics and social norms, creating conflict between men and women.

4. INTERPRETATION: Conflict theory in criminology suggests that laws and the criminal justice system are tools used by the powerful to control the less powerful. This view can explain why some behaviors are criminalized and others are not.

Realistic conflict theory

Realist conflict theory by Muzaffar Sherif extends conflict theory by focusing on competition between groups for limited resources Intergroup conflict arises when different groups compete for scarce resources, and leads to prejudice and discrimination.

Applications in Sociology

Sociology uses conflict theory to analyze and explain social phenomena at the macro and micro levels. It helps sociologists understand the underlying forces and structural inequalities that shape societies. By examining the distribution of resources and power, sociologists can better understand the causes and consequences of social conflict.


Conflict theory provides an important framework for understanding the complexity of social interaction and the persistence of social inequality. Emphasizing the role of power and economic interests, it offers insights into the mechanisms by which social order is maintained and challenged.

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