Sociological perspective can be defined as the lens from which an individual chooses to view the society. There are three basic sociological perspectives which include the conflict theory perspective, the structural functional perspective and the interactionist perspective. According to Newman, both the structural functional perspective and the conflict theory perspective operate at the macro level while the interactionist perspective normally operates at a micro level. In this paper, I will focus on the conflict sociological perspective which has influenced me into looking at the society through the eyes of those who do not influence decision making process in the society. I will also discuss various theories and concepts that relates to the conflict theory perspective. Generally, the perspective holds that any society is made up of groups which are competing for scarce resources especially wealth and power. My argument will focus on both the macro and the micro levels of society.
Most scholars have attributed the origin of conflict theory to the work of Karl Marx. The general underlying assumption associated with conflict theory is that the society is made up of groups with competing self-interests. According to Marx, the distribution of wealth by the dormant groups in any society determines other aspects of that society. Key to the theory is the political systems and the characteristics of culture which may include the norms, values and beliefs that a culture uses to legitimize their control of wealth and power. To Marx this is made possible because cultural beliefs are always accepted as just by all the social classes of any society. Conflict theorists draw attention to power differentials such as class conflict and contrasting dominant historical ideologies.
Karl Marx argued that capitalism would inevitably produce internal tensions leading to its own destruction and thus to revolution. The ideologies in Marx’s work have resulted into various radical changes leading to revolution of various societies as the subordinates are freed from the ruling classes. He explained that conflicts between classes of society are inevitable because of the exploitative nature of the capitalists. According to Marx, the social order in any society is maintained not through cooperation but through force. This means that the social change is not predictable though it constantly takes place.
Applicability of the knowledge
I believe that the modern world civilization experienced today has its origin from conflicts that exists between different cultures and various ethnic groups. Right from history, the large and complex human societies existing today have resulted from various forms of wars and conquest. Every state in the world has been organized around the domination of one group by another in a master and slave/servant kind of relationship.
This perspective has made me believe that any change in a society begins with the building of a conflict. Conflicts will naturally build up because wealth and power are distributed unequally among different social classes. Such unequal distribution of resources creates different conflicting interests by different groups. During such conflicts, one group will obviously emerge dominant over the other because the competing interest groups normally have unequal power. The dominant group will then use its power to control the subordinate group. Normally, the dominant groups seek to ensure that the society work in a way that serves their interest through controlling its culture. This gives them control of the larger part of the societal resources including the political power and the wealth. I agree with Marx that any consensus witnessed in any society is always artificial and in many cases never last for long . I may therefore not agree with the argument of functionalists that every member of the society will obviously pursue a consensus because it is necessary. Instead, I believe that any kind of consensus in a society is either arrived as through coercion or repression by the dominant group.
Contradiction between conflict perspective and other perspectives
As a believer of conflict perspective, I have often faced criticism from those who believe in other social perspectives as the basis of understanding the social world. I see the society as totally different to what is presented by the views of functionalists and symbolic interactionist perspectives. Contrary to their approach of focusing on the positive aspects of the society that contributes to its stability, I agree with Marx that for a better understanding of the society, one must focus on negative, conflict and the ever changing nature of that society. Unlike functionalists who defend the status quo, to me, any meaningful change in a society results from challenging the status quo while encouraging social revolution. This is why I believe that the rich and the political class force the social order on the poor and the weak.
Different conflict theories of the conflict perspective
There are a number of forms of conflict perspective theories that have enabled me to have a better understanding of the perspective. One of such theory is the feminist theory which has boosted my understanding of the origin and continued existence of gender inequality. It has enabled me to examine the social role of women and the existing feminist politics in a number of fields such as education. Our society today is full of such terms like gender equality and women rights. These are all forms of the conflict between the dominant and the subordinate groups for resources. Second is the post-colonial theory which explains the reaction to and analysis of the cultural legacy of colonialism. It is believed that this theory is the major force behind the decolonization processes that have been witnessed in a number of countries. The major aim of the theory is to account for and combat the residual effects of colonialism on cultures. Finally, there is the world system theory which stresses that the international division of labor and not various nation states should be the basic units of social analysis. This is an agitation by the developing countries against the developed countries’ domination of the international market.
Other related concepts
False consciousness: this is a case where a consensus is achieved when a minority group accepts an ideology that is not in its self interest. Taylor and Anderson noted that it normally occurs when the dominant group imposes disproportionate control over the sources of influence and public opinion. It might also result from fear by the subordinate group especially in cases where the dominant group exerts much force on them. In such cases, the subordinate group may see no reason of attempting to resist as such attempts may turn to be futile to their own disadvantage.
Class consciousness: Class consciousness is the realization of the ideologies that serves to oppress the subordinate group. The understanding of these ideologies by the subordinate group leads to class consciousness and may result into changing of the institutions that are seen to perpetrate acts like biasness of any form. It is necessary for any meaningful change to occur in the society.
The purpose of this paper was to explain how my knowledge of the Sociological Perspective has helped me to understand the social world on both a macro and micro level. The paper focused on the conflict theory system. I also went ahead and explained various concepts and theories and how they have influence my perception of the social world. In conclusion, I still believe that conflict is necessary as a force for social change. It allows more equitable distribution of wealth and power through such changes as democracy and civil rights.