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Conflict Theory Introduction. Roots Marx and Weber Coercion not consensus is what maintains social order Marx saw a two tier system of Proletariat and Bourgeoisie struggling for control of the means of economic production Weber – agreed in the importance of wealth, but

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Conflict Theory Introduction

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Conflict theory introduction l.jpg

Conflict Theory Introduction

  • Roots

    • Marx and Weber

      • Coercion not consensus is what maintains social order

    • Marx saw a two tier system of Proletariat and Bourgeoisie struggling for control of the means of economic production

    • Weber – agreed in the importance of wealth, but

      • argued that power and status were of equal importance

    • Both saw different groups in conflict over social scarcities.


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Modern Conflict Theory

  • 60’s open social conflict

    • Functionalism

      • Stability

      • Equilibrium

      • Consensus

    • Dahrendorf

      • the “two faces” of society

        • Functional theory (rulers)

        • Conflict theory (ruled)

      • Society is constantly changing

    • Change results from social conflict and dissent.


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Dahrendorf’s Assumptions

  • Power is not a zero sum game

  • World not strictly divided

    • Winners

    • Losers

    • Power dominates and controls the powerless.

    • The powerful establish a social structure to maintain control

  • Authority positions are widely distributed

  • People only have power in some

    • President Corp v. family reunion


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Dahrendorf's Assumptions

  • Dahrendorf believes

    • Functionalists are utopian

    • A society with the absence of power struggles or conflict

    • Real societies

  • Society maintains tension between stasis and change,

    • consensus and coercion

    • function and conflict


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Social Structure, Group Interests, and Conflict Groups

The central questioned of all social thought

  • How do societies adhere?

    • Two well established positions:

      • The Utopians (Functional Theory)

        • Represented by the Functional Theory

      • The Rationalists (Conflict Theory)

        • Represented by Conflict Theory

    • Conflict between the two positions is old.

      • Aristotle vs. Plato

      • Hobbes vs. Rousseau

      • Kant vs. Hegel

        • the debate has intensified.


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Utopians V. Rationalists

  • Unless one believes that all philosophical arguments are irrelevant

    • the debate was exposed the fundamental alternatives of knowledge, moral and political orientation.

  • Utopians are represented by the Functional theory of society

  • Rationalists are represented by the Conflict theory of society

  • The two positions are mutually exclusive in most fields and people, but not is sociology.

    • Good Sociology uses one in A, another in B and both in C. but does not exclude any.


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Parson’s Functionalism

  • Parsons is not aware of the rationalists conception of society

    • Parson includes no power struggles in society

    • He envisions a utopian society of consensus and agreement

  • How can functionalism explain daily conflict and disequilibria in society?


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Functionalist vs. Conflict Theories

  • Functionalism Theory of Society

    • Every society is relatively persistent, stable structure of elements

    • Every society is a well integrated structure of elements

    • Every element in a society has a function. (i.e. contributes to the maintenance)

    • Every function in the social structure is based on a consensus of values between members

  • How can the theory explain a situation where employees of one company, go on a strike that leads to a general revolt against society?


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Conflict Theory of Society

  • Every Society is at every point subject to the processes of change. Change is everywhere.

  • Every Society displays at every point dissensus and conflict. Conflict is everywhere

  • Every Element in a society contributes to its disintegration and change

  • Every Society is based on coercion of some members by others.


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Dahrendorf’s Conflict Theory

  • Using Conflict theory he tries to show:

  • How relations of authority become productive of clashes of role interest, which

  • Under certain conditions leads to the formation of organized antagonistic groups within limited social organizations and societies.


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Power and Authority

  • Two basic premises:

  • Certain people are entrusted with the right to exercise effective coercion over others

  • There is a differential distribution of power and authority

  • The central thesis:

    • The different distribution of authority creates systematic social conflicts (similar to the class conflicts described by Marx)


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Power Defined

  • The probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his/her will despite the resistance of others, regardless of the base of power.

  • Bases of Power

    • Reward

    • Coercive

    • Legitimate

    • Referent

    • Expert


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Authority Defined

  • The probability that a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group of people.

  • Does authority require a power base for existence?

    • For Example – expertise or referent


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Power v. Authority

  • The difference between P/A

    • Power is essentially tied to the personality of the individual, but

    • Authority is always associated with social positions (status)

  • Dahrendorf is only concerned in his presentation with authority

    • Authority alone is part of the social structure, and therefore permits groupconflicts

    • Power only permits personalconflict


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Authority and Conflict

The reasons why authority always produces conflict:

  • Authority relations are always super and subordination

  • The super ordinate is expected to control the subordinate

  • Expectation are attached to status positions rather than the character of the individual

  • Authority relations specify the persons subject to control and the spheres within which control is permissible

    • Voluntary relations or socialized relations, there is a duty to obey

  • Authority that is perceived as legitimate threatens negative sanctions for non-compliance

    • The function of the legal system to support the exercise of legitimate authority


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Imperatively Coordinated Associations

  • An association is the coordination of roles

    • Super Ordinate

    • Sub Ordinate

  • Tasks require effort coordination by group members

    • No task -> No coordination

    • Task introduction -> Coordination requirement


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Conflict Analysis

  • Investigates

    • the generation of conflict groups created by authority relations in imperatively coordinated associations

    • the unit of analysis is the specific association

      • the dichotomy of authority positions

    • Do all associations involve super ordinate and sub ordinate positions?


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Conflict Analysis cont.

  • Super ordinate/Sub ordinate dichotomy in all forms of associations

  • Everyone takes part in a large number of different ICA’s

  • Sometimes we are super ordinate

  • Sometimes we are sub ordinate


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Power and Authority in Conflict Analysis

  • Is power a zero-sum concept?

  • Power is never a zero – sum game

    • Everyone, in every association has some power

    • Power, while not evenly distributed, is ubiquitous

  • Authority is a zero - sum concept

    • No matter how subtitle the distribution

    • Always a line

    • Those with authority (no matter how little) and those without


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Elites in Society (ICA’s)

  • Elites are those who represent the super ordinate group in any ICA

  • Generally, subordinates out number the super ordinate

  • But in post industrial society, the number of people clearly subjected to authority decreases

    • Elites are only elite in specific associations


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Elite Classes in Society

  • Always conflict between elites in different associations

  • The upper structure of society is not necessarily the elite class

  • There is constant change

    • Based on the given authority relations of the moment


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The Masses and Suppressed

  • The masses as typically viewed

    • Ignorant

    • Powerless

    • Apathetic

  • Dahrendorf View

    • Intelligent

    • Empowered

    • Interested


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Generalizations about the masses

  • Not necessarily the major of an association

    2. Members are not necessarily connected by like culture

    3. Existence is related to a particular association


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