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How Does Class Conflict Theory Describe the Relationship Between the Ruling Class and the Working Class?

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Sociologists believe that there is four different ways of social conflict. Most sociologists will use the theoretical or perspective approach to help research. There are a multitude of approaches that are used by sociologist but, the mainly stick to three types of theories. The first would be the structural – functional theory, then the social conflict theory, and finally the symbolic interaction theory. Within these three approaches are several more ways to gain research.

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Conflict theory in sociology describes society's tendency to change and develop due to perpetual conflict between classes. It is one of the four paradigms of sociology, which include functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and feminism. Examples of social conflict theory can be found in a variety of situations. The 19th-century philosopher and revolutionary Karl Marx saw society broken into two classes: the proletariat (working class) and bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production). To Marx, societal conflicts arise due to competition for limited resources in an economy, leading to an eventual revolution and/or war. Ruling classes kept working classes in states of oppression with hegemony, which imposed dominance with social rules that all obeyed. Political economist Max Weber extended this definition to include multidimensional class levels, such as those based on race, gender, and religion. He believed that in addition to political revolution, social conflict and change can result from discourse and the exchange of ideas. Patterns of class conflict theory occur when one class of people is systemically empowered over another. The less empowered class demands a share of resources that the more fortunate class has in abundance, leading to social conflict. Here are some real-life examples of conflict theory in both economic and societal situations.

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The structure for setting a theory which views society as a ring of inequality which bears conflict and change is known as a social conflict approach. The factors of a social conflict are inequality, power, influence, competition and abuse. Social conflict results in ethnicity, racism, social classes and gender inequality among others. Social conflict theory is based on Karl Marx’s theory of social conflict. Marx shows that there are inequalities between different groups in society, for example, poor and rich. Karl Marx used social conflict approach to learn more about society and introduce changes to reduce the gaps between different groups. On 26th February, 2012, George Zimmerman, a white male neighborhood watch leader shot dead Trayvon Martin a 17 year old Black teenager. Trayvon had left a convenience store with a packet of candy and ice tea when Zimmerman rang the Florida police emergency line. He described Trayvon as a ‘suspicious man’. Trayvon who wore a hood was unarmed at the time of the shooting, but Zimmerman claimed he shot Trayvon to defend himself (CNN 2012).

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In a word, conflict theorists of the later 20th and 21st centuries have continued to extend conflict theory beyond the strict economic classes posited by Marx, although economic relations remain a core feature of the inequalities across groups in the various branches of conflict theory. Conflict theory is highly influential in modern and post-modern theories of sexual and racial inequality, peace and conflict studies, and the many varieties of identity studies that have arisen across Western academia in the past several decades.

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CNN Wire Staff. (2012). Outrage protests grow over shooting of unarmed Florida teen. Web.

Macionis, J & Gerber, L. (2010). Sociology. Web.

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Essay sample
How Does Class Conflict Theory Describe the Relationship Between the Ruling Class and the Working Class?
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