Conflict Theory


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A brief overview of conflict theory.

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Conflict Theory

  1. 1. Conflict Theory
  2. 2. Estranged Labour <ul><li>The worker, under capitalism, is “the most wretched of commodities,” (p. 30). A commodity is a thing that can be bought and sold. </li></ul><ul><li>The more important a worker’s labour is, the less power she has. </li></ul><ul><li>So, for instance, we live in a society that loves clothes very much and which offers fairly cheap clothes to all. Clothing is important to our survival, and it also important to our culture. </li></ul><ul><li>But the makers of our clothing are often sweatshop workers in foreign countries who make almost nothing for this important work. </li></ul><ul><li>Ever felt like a commodity in your job? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Estranged Labour <ul><li>The worker is “estranged” (or alienated) in many ways. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First, the worker is alienated from what he produces. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Second, the worker is alienated from her labor, from the act of production. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Third, the worker is alienated from nature. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fourth, the worker is alienated from himself, including his body and his emotions. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Once alienated, these four things—the product, the labor, nature, and the worker herself—become the property of the capitalist (the owner of the business). </li></ul><ul><li>Can you illustrate this with your own experiences? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Class Struggle <ul><li>“ The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (p. 37). </li></ul><ul><li>Marx is the founder of what is known as Conflict Theory, which argues that the best way to understand society is to examine conflicts for power and resources within society. </li></ul>
  5. 5. A Framework for Comparing Theoretical Approaches Structur-alism Function-alism Class Conflict Inter-pretive Racial Conflict Feminist Theory Queer Inter-sectional Social Self Focus of Explan-ation How society is organized; resources and schema Purpose of every social institution Economics Systems of Meaning Racial hierarchy Gender Sexuality; social boundaries; mainstream Comb-ination of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. Social Psychology Implication for Power Neutral Power important for social cohesion Ruling class, bourgeoisie and capitalists Hegemony White supremacy; racial dictatorship Patriarchy Dispersed Matrix of Domination Agency Key Questions What are the norms, goals, and means? What need is served by institutions Who rules? How is strat-ification reproduced What are the beliefs and values of a society What does race mean? How is it organized Relative positions of men and women, meanings of gender Who is treated as ‘other’? How do the marginalized find power How do different hierarchies work hand in hand to oppress some and privilege others Relation-ship between the individual and society; how do social exp. Create identity
  6. 6. Structuralism Functionalism Class Conflict Focus of Explanation How society is organized; resources and schema Purpose of every social institution Economics Implication for Power Neutral Power important for social cohesion Ruling class, bourgeoisie and capitalists Key Questions What are the norms, goals, and means? What need is served by institutions Who rules? How is stratification reproduced?
  7. 7. Class Struggle <ul><li>According to Marx, world history can be summarized into 6 epochs, 2 of which still lie in the future: </li></ul><ul><li>Primitive Communism—No class divisions. People produce goods from nature and then trade them with each other. </li></ul><ul><li>Slavery—A small few rise to power with military might. They become the elite and the rest of society is treated as their slaves. </li></ul><ul><li>Feudalism—Slaves are replaced by serfs, quasi-independent workers who are beholden to a lord. </li></ul><ul><li>Modern Capitalism—Serfs are replaced by laborers in factory production (the proletariat) and lords are replaced by business owners (capitalists, or the bourgeoisie). </li></ul><ul><li>Socialism—the workers take control of society and oppress the bourgeoisie. Factories are shared by those who work in them. </li></ul><ul><li>Communism—Class distinctions are lost and both production and politics are equally shared across society. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Class Struggle <ul><li>Marx focused on 2 class groups under capitalism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Proletariat: the worker who is estranged from her work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Bourgeoisie: the owner of the factory or business </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Although a middle class was already developing in Marx’s day, Marx thought they would be pulled down into the proletariat. </li></ul><ul><li>What might Marx say about the middle class today? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Class Struggle <ul><li>Marx reasoned that as capitalism grew, it would spread across the world and make for an ever-larger working class. </li></ul><ul><li>In the space of the factory floor, this massive group of laborers would develop a class consciousness—a sense of shared identity and a unity of purpose. </li></ul><ul><li>He believed this class consciousness would be radical and politically motivating </li></ul><ul><li>Eventually, it would lead to a revolution against the bourgeoisie, and capitalism would be replaced with socialism. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Poverty
  11. 11. Poverty <ul><li>The official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. This was the first statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004, when poverty increased to 12.7 percent from 12.5 percent in 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>In 2008, 39.8 million people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007 -- the second consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Poverty <ul><li>In 2008, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2008 -- up from 8.2 percent in 2007), Asians (11.8 percent in 2008 -- up from 10.2 percent in 2007) and Hispanics (23.2 percent in 2008 -- up from 21.5 percent in 2007). Poverty rates in 2008 were statistically unchanged for Blacks (24.7 percent). </li></ul><ul><li>The poverty rate in 2008 (13.2 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1997 but was 9.2 percentage points lower than in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Poverty <ul><li>Since 1960, the number of people below poverty has not exceeded the 2008 figure of 39.8 million people </li></ul><ul><li>The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (19.0 percent in 2008 -- up from 18.0 percent in 2007) and people 18 to 64 years old (11.7 percent in 2008 -- up from 10.9 percent in 2007), while it remained statistically unchanged for people 65 years and over (9.7 percent). </li></ul><ul><li>The Poverty Line </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This is the instrument by which poverty is identified and measured </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does not vary by region of the US, type of residency (urban, suburban, rural) or any other variable that can affect cost-of-living </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Available online at: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. DuBois—On Labor, Economics, and Politics <ul><li>Group Assignments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Each group is assigned two sections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I’m going to give you a theory for the first section </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I want you to devise a theory for the second section </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But your group is responsible for explaining both theories </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. DuBois—On Labor, Economics, and Politics <ul><li>Group 1 (sec. 1 and 8)—1: Domestic service is a tool of racism and race is a tool of class inequality. 8: ? </li></ul><ul><li>Group 2 (sec. 2 and 9)—2: Social agitators are important agents of social change. 9: ? </li></ul><ul><li>Group 3 (sec. 3 and 10)—3: Rules on who can vote and who can lead will always be a barrier to democracy. 10: ? </li></ul><ul><li>Group 4 (sec. 4 and 11)—4: Providing jobs and wages is no more an act of charity or service than providing labor and goods. 11:? </li></ul><ul><li>Group 5 (sec. 5 and 12)—5: Capitalism (the modern economy) is a barrier to democracy that privileges money-making over public service, beauty and truth. 12:? </li></ul><ul><li>Group 6 (sec. 6 and 13)—6: Unemployment is less a result of individual failures and more a result of social structure. 13:? </li></ul><ul><li>Group 7 (sec. 7 and 14)—7: Widely shared public goods should be publicly owned (not private corporations). 14:? </li></ul>