What Are the Branches of Social Conflict Theory?


Vincent White

The social conflict theory is a perspective in sociology that focuses on the social and economic inequalities in society and how they lead to conflict between different groups. This theory seeks to understand how power and resources are distributed unequally, leading to tension and struggle between those who have access to these resources and those who do not.

Branches of Social Conflict Theory

Marxist Conflict Theory

The Marxist conflict theory, also known as the class conflict theory, was developed by Karl Marx. It emphasizes the role of social classes in society and how their conflicting interests drive social change.

According to Marx, society is divided into two main classes: the bourgeoisie (those who own the means of production) and the proletariat (the working class). The bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat by extracting surplus value from their labor.

Key Points:

  • The bourgeoisie controls the economy, politics, and media, allowing them to maintain their power.
  • The proletariat’s struggle against exploitation leads to class consciousness and eventually revolution.
  • Marxist conflict theory focuses on economic inequalities but also recognizes other forms of oppression like race or gender.

Feminist Conflict Theory

Feminist conflict theory analyzes how gender inequality contributes to social conflict. It highlights how patriarchal systems perpetuate inequality between men and women in various aspects of life, including work, family dynamics, education, and politics. Feminist theorists seek to challenge these power imbalances and advocate for gender equality.

Key Points:

  • Patriarchy is a system that privileges men over women in terms of power, resources, and opportunities.
  • Feminist conflict theorists argue that gender inequality is deeply rooted in social structures and norms.
  • Intersectionality is an important concept within feminist conflict theory, recognizing that individuals may face multiple forms of oppression based on their race, class, sexuality, etc.

Race and Ethnic Conflict Theory

Race and ethnic conflict theory focuses on the inequalities and conflicts that arise due to racial and ethnic differences. It explores how power dynamics based on race or ethnicity contribute to social stratification, discrimination, and prejudice. This perspective aims to understand the impact of racism and ethnocentrism on individuals and societies.

Key Points:

  • Racial and ethnic groups are unequally positioned in society based on access to resources, opportunities, and social status.
  • Institutional racism refers to discriminatory practices embedded in social institutions like education or criminal justice systems.
  • Race and ethnic conflict theory highlights the importance of addressing systemic inequalities to achieve social justice.


The branches of social conflict theory provide different lenses through which we can analyze societal conflicts. Whether it’s the economic disparities emphasized by Marxist conflict theory, the gender inequalities highlighted by feminist conflict theory, or the racial tensions explored by race and ethnic conflict theory – all these perspectives shed light on the various dimensions of social inequality. By understanding these branches of social conflict theory, we can work towards creating a more equitable society for all.