Conflict theory has 3 BASIC PROPOSITIONS.

[1]  All people have a number of basic interests.

[2]  Power is at the core of all relationships.

[3]  Power requires weapons.






All people have a number of basic interests: These can include, money, power, shelter, sex etc. etc.  People desire these “things” just as well as people will attempt to acquire “them.”  These “things” can interrelate. That is, People can desire money to get power. People can desire power to get sex. The “things” people desire are the basic matrix of social existence.


Power is at the core of all relationships: There is power between a teacher and his/her students. There is power in people who are dating. Every social relationship has an element of a power struggle however minutely it manifests itself. The distribution of resources gives power. Power usually involves a “cost.” For example, power in war costs for weapons and troops. Some sort of funding usually helps one attain power. Even as a teacher, they must first receive their credentials in order to be approved to teach. Money is required to attain credentials and in turn credentials usually can be translated into more money and / or power.

lcd-television-set Power-of-Words

Power requires weapons: The two main types of weapons that help acquire, as well as, maintain power are guns and ideas. As Mao Tse Tung said during the Chinese revolution, “Power comes from the barrel of a gun.” But just as guns are weapons, so are ideas. Ideas are weapons in the sense that they help legitimatize power. This is just as important as having guns.


There are two “traditions” within the conflict theory research. 

[1] The first is the branch that assumes that social scientists have a moral obligation to help change the negative aspects of society. That is, sociologists should become activists as well. They believe that any social analysis is connected to values. But that is OK with them. In their eyes, conflict can be eradicated. Because of these beliefs, they are known as “utopian writers.”

[2] The other group of social scientists feel that they should remain “neutral” in their analysis. Furthermore, they believe that conflict is inevitable (even among researchers). But in order not to get caught up in the social fray, social scientists should attempt to remain “value-free”. Sociologists in their eyes, should attempt to build sociology as a canon of objectivity.


Implications of Conflict Theory.

– Blew the lid off “value-free” neutrality.

– Accused Functionalism of perpetuating the status quo. (society needed critiquing)

– Conflict theorists felt that a micro sociology of power relations could also be developed.

– Since the 1960’s it has become very popular.


Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883)

Marx also took a “systems approach.” He claimed that economics are the basis of “system”.  And within this system, the  “parts” compete for resources.  But here what we are concerned with is the fact that Marx writes about the two important aspects to viewing the “system.” The first components involved with a society are the physical “things.” There are roads, buildings, and social behavioral patterns. This Marx labelled the sub-structure. The other components of society consisted of the ideas that legitimize the interaction patterns between any groups in the sub-structure. These LEGITIMIZING social beliefs and myths he called the super-structue. In short then, ideas are also “constructed” by those in power. (The Golden Rule: Whoever owns the gold makes the rules)


Thorstein Bunde Veblen(July 30, 1857 –  August 3, 1929)

Veblen has the honor in American sociology as the 1st American sociologist to critique “the system.” In short, Veblen said that people strive for esteem (compete) and they do it in groups competeing with one another for the status etc.


Georg Simmel (March 1, 1858 – September 28, 1918)  (German)

Simmel is important to conflict theory because he claimed that as sociologists, we should look for universal patterns in human behavior. These universal patterns could then be compared across time and an ahistorical conflict theory could be developed. Simmel’s other contribution is his claim about cross-cutting conflicts. He said that in society, sometimes one is an ally and at other times one can be the enemy. (harmony & conflict / love & hatred).


Robert Ezra Park (February 14, 1864 – February 7, 1944)  (American)

– central characteristics of social life

* competition

* conflict

* accommodation

* assimilation

– conflict is over HOW power is allocated

– conflict may involve groups / individuals


Charles Wright Mills (August 28, 1916 – March 20, 1962)  (American)

  1. Mills has been called the founder of modern conflict theory. In Mills’s view, social structures are created through conflict between people with differing interests and resources. Individuals and resources, in turn, are influenced by these structures and by the “unequal distribution of power and resources in the society.” The power elite of American society, (i.e., the military-industrial complex) had “emerged from the fusion of the corporate elite, the Pentagon, and the executive branch of government.” Mills argued that the interests of this elite were opposed to those of the people. He theorized that the policies of the power elite would result in “increased escalation of conflict, production of weapons of mass destruction, and possibly the annihilation of the human race.” *

* Knapp, P. (1994). One World – Many Worlds: Contemporary Sociological Theory (2nd Ed.). Harper-Collins College Div, pp. 228–246. Online summary Isbn 978-0-06-501218-7


Wallace, Ruth A. and Alison Wolf. 1980 Contemporary Sociological Theory. Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.





Black Man Pledge (poster)

Food Stamp Fraud


HIspanic mom laundry


hand grab ear

Pulling my ear



kids saying pledge


The US Government added two words to the official Pledge of Allegiance in 1958. The country was in the throws of the Cold War. A perceived “missile gap” and stiff competition from the communists to control parts pf the world. The US Government felt that if they added the words, “… under God,” people would perceive God to be on our “side” and not on the side of the ATHEISTs or Godless communists. Words have power.


pledge words (1958)



laudry room

laundry basket







scrooge 2








When I attended Arizona State University, I was a poor grad student. I didn’t have much disposable income at the time. So I had to keep a continuous lookout for bargains and “deals.” Soon after I arrived to ASU, SEARS promoted their own line of credit by offering a small-to-medium appliance for applying for their credit line.

sears credit card

During that time, I needed a sewing machine. I was tired of sewing everything by hand (hemming my pants) etc.

sewing machine


My girlfriend went with me to apply for the line of credit and choose my sewing machine. We chose a pretty nice product, told the sales clerk who had to submit the order to the stock room, and took a seat in the waiting area. When my number was called, we got up and went to the window to pick up the sewing machine. As the male clerk was passing it to me at the pick up window, he saw my girlfriend and said, “Here is your machine sir. I hope your wife enjoys it.”  That took me by surprise and I couldn’t help but retort back, “It’s for me dude!” The clerk didn’t know what to do. A look of confusion came over him as I took the machine and carried it out of the room.

When people hear that I sew, they figure I make quilts.

quilt1 quilt2

I don’t sew quilts. I normally sew something sports-related. (see below)






Some examples…


According to strict gender roles, men are NOT supposed to sew; it’s a “female” activity. Why? yet when I recently purchased a suit, and who came out to measure it for tailoring? Yup…. a male! By keeping the stereotypes alive, it reinforces the gender stereotype.




shower drain  shower-stall




Light Cycle System


– “Dinner is served” at Christmas in AZ.

– “Wake up and get your clothes.”



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