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Conflict Theories Are Perspectives

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Conflict theories are perspectives in social science which emphasize the social, political or material inequality of a social group, which critique the broad socio-political system, or which otherwise detract from structural functionalism and ideological conservativism. Conflict theories draw attention to power differentials, such as class conflict, and generally contrast historically dominant ideologies.

Certain conflict theories set out to highlight the ideological aspects inherent in traditional thought. Whilst many of these perspectives hold parallels, conflict theory does not refer to a unified school of thought, and should not be confused with, for instance, peace and conflict studies, or any other specific theory of social conflict.

Of the classical founders of social science, conflict theory is most commonly associated with Karl Marx (1818-1883). Based on a dialectical materialist account history, Marxism posited that capitalism, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions leading to its own destruction. Marx ushered in radical change, advocating proletarian revolution and freedom from the ruling classes. Two early conflict theorists were the Polish-Austrian sociologist and political theorist Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838-1909) and the American sociologist and paleontologist Lester F. Ward (1841-1913). Although Ward and Gumplowicz developed their theories independently they had much in common and approached conflict from a comprehensive anthropological and evolutionary point-of-view as opposed to Marx's rather exclusive focus on economic factors.

Gumplowicz, in "Outlines of Sociology" (1884), describes how civilization has been shaped by conflict between cultures and ethnic groups. Gumplowicz theorized that large complex human societies evolved from the war and conquest. States become organized around the domination of one group by another: masters and slaves. Eventually a complex caste system develops.[3] Horowitz says that Gumplowicz understood conflict in all it's forms: "class conflict, race conflict and ethnic conflict", and calls him one of the fathers of Conflict Theory.



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