How does Conflict Theory Explain Social Change?

Sociology is a fascinating subject that studies human society and its development over time. One of the most significant aspects of human society is change, which can occur due to various reasons.

However, when we talk about social change, it’s essential to understand how different sociological theories explain this phenomenon. One such theory that explains social change is conflict theory.

The Basics of Conflict Theory

Conflict theory posits that human society is marked by conflict and competition between different groups, which arises due to the unequal distribution of resources and power. According to this theory, social change occurs when one group overthrows another group in power through collective action or revolution.

Conflict theorists argue that those in power use their wealth and resources to maintain their status quo while the poor and marginalized struggle for better living conditions. This unequal distribution of power leads to class struggles where one class dominates another through oppressive means.

The Role of Conflict in Social Change

In conflict theory, social change occurs when oppressed groups challenge those in power and demand equal rights and opportunities. The oppressed group aims to overthrow the existing power structure and establish a new one based on equality and justice.

For example, during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, African Americans challenged White Americans’ dominant position by demanding equal rights in education, employment, voting rights, etc. The Civil Rights Movement fought for racial equality and justice against the dominant White American population who held all political and economic power at that time.

The Importance of Collective Action

Collective action is crucial for bringing about social change according to conflict theorists. Collective action refers to organized efforts by individuals or groups aimed at creating social change through protests, strikes, demonstrations, etc.

Collective action is essential because it helps in mobilizing people and resources towards the common goal of overthrowing the existing power structure. Collective action creates a sense of solidarity and unity among the oppressed group, which helps them withstand the challenges posed by those in power.

The Limitations of Conflict Theory

While conflict theory provides a valuable perspective on social change, it has some limitations. For example, this theory portrays society as being in a constant state of conflict, which may not be entirely accurate. Society is not always marked by violence and aggression; there are times when cooperation and collaboration between different groups lead to positive social change.

Also, conflict theory does not explain how social change occurs in societies where there is no clear line between oppressor and oppressed groups. In such societies, social change may occur due to factors other than class struggle, such as technological advancements or changes in cultural values.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, conflict theory provides an insightful perspective on social change by highlighting the role of power struggles between different groups. This theory emphasizes the importance of collective action and challenges those in power to create a more equal society. However, like any other sociological theory, conflict theory has its limitations and may not provide a complete explanation for all types of social change.