Conflict theory is a sociological perspective that emphasizes the role of power and coercion in social interactions. It suggests that individuals and groups with different interests, goals, and values compete with each other over resources such as wealth, status, and power.

As a result of this competition, conflicts emerge which shape social structures and relationships. In this article, we will explore how conflict theory explains social interaction.

Power and Conflict

According to conflict theory, power is the central aspect of social life. It is defined as the ability to influence others and to control resources.

Power can be expressed in various forms such as economic power (control over money), political power (control over decision-making), and cultural power (control over values and beliefs). Those who possess more power are able to shape social structures and relationships in their favor.

Class Conflict

One of the key concepts in conflict theory is class conflict. This refers to the struggle between different social classes over resources such as wealth, income, and job opportunities.

Class conflict arises because different classes have different interests and goals. The ruling class (also known as the bourgeoisie) seeks to maintain its power by controlling the means of production while the working class (also known as the proletariat) seeks better wages, working conditions, and benefits.

Race Conflict

Another form of conflict that arises from differences in interests is race conflict. This refers to the struggle between different racial groups over resources such as jobs, housing, education, and healthcare. Race conflict arises because racial groups have different levels of access to resources due to historical discrimination or prejudice.

Social Change

Conflict theory also emphasizes the role of conflicts in promoting social change. When conflicts arise between different groups or classes, they may lead to new forms of organization or new laws that protect the interests of those who were previously marginalized or oppressed. For example, the civil rights movement in the United States was a response to racial conflict and led to the passage of laws that prohibited discrimination based on race.

Critiques of Conflict Theory

While conflict theory provides a useful perspective for understanding social interaction, it has been criticized for being too focused on power and conflict to the exclusion of other factors such as cooperation and consensus. Some critics argue that it overlooks the ability of individuals and groups to work together towards common goals. Additionally, conflict theory has been accused of being deterministic by suggesting that social structures are solely determined by power relations.


In conclusion, conflict theory provides a valuable perspective for understanding social interaction by emphasizing the role of power and conflicts in shaping social structures and relationships. It highlights the struggles between different groups or classes over resources and how these conflicts can lead to social change. However, it is important to consider other factors such as cooperation and consensus when analyzing social interactions.