Marxist ideas have also provided as a starting point for many of the modern feminist theorists. Despite these applications, Marxism of any variety is still a minority position among American sociologists (Conflict Theory, 2000).
Marx's sociology state that:
1. Particular forms of property, slavery, feudal landholding, and capital are upheld by the coercive power of the state. Thus classes formed by property divisions, slaves and slave-owners, serfs and lords, capitalists and workers are the opposing agents in the struggle for political power the underpinning of their means of livelihood.
2. Material contributions often determine the extent to which social classes can organize effectively to fight for their interests. These conditions of mobilization are a set of intervening variables between class and political power.
3. Other material conditions such as the means of mental production, determines which interests will be able to articulate their ideas and hence to dominate the ideological realm (Collins, 1974).
Marx was primarily interested in what determined political power, and only indirectly in what may be called a theory of stratification. He thought that:
1. The material circumstances of making a living were the main determinants of one's style of life. He thought that property relations were crucial for distinguishing between ways of supporting oneself. Class cultures and behaviors divide up along opposing lines of control over, or lack of, property were very important.
2. The material conditions that were used for mobilization as a coherent, intercommunicating group also vary among social classes. Another difference among class lifestyles stems from the differing organization of their communities and their differing experience with the means of social communication.
3. Classes often differ in their control of the means of mental production. This produces yet another difference in class culture where by some are more articulated symbolically than others, and some have the symbolic structures of another class imposed upon them from outside (Collins, 1974).
During the 1960's and early 1970s, the obvious gender bias of sociological inquiry was uncovered. Both theory and research in sociology had begun to focus on males and contributed to patterns of gender inequality. If one looks to the early thinkers of sociological theory, they were conspicuously quiet about gender issues, despite the fundamental facts that roughly one-half of the human population is female and that all patterns of social organizations have historically revealed a gender-based division of labor. When theorizing turned to gender questions, theorizing itself became confrontational and laden with conflict. Critical feminist thinking often rejected science and male modes of thinking about the world in general, offering a variety of new ways to analyze social reality. Many critical feminists have stayed within the scientific field, preferring to conceptualize gender process in more neutral theoretical terms. Those in this scientific group worked within a conflict-theory approach, analyzing gender inequalities as yet another form of conflict-producing stratification (Turner, 2003).
Modern conflict theory is often thought to be based upon the view that the fundamental causes of crime are the social and economic forces operating within a society. Criminal law is thought to be operating on behalf of rich and powerful social elites, with resulting policies aimed at controlling the poor. The criminal justice institution aims at imposing standards of morality and good behavior created by the powerful on the whole of society. Focus is on separating the powerful from have nots who would steal from others while protecting themselves from physical attacks. In the process the legal rights of poor folks might are often ignored. The middle class side with the elites rather the poor, in hopes that they might themselves rise to the top by supporting the status quo (Conflict, 2005).
Radical criminology or critical criminology is a branch of conflict theory that draws its ideas from a basic Marxist perspective. Marx saw modern capitalist societies as being controlled by a wealthy few or the bourgeoisie who controlled the means of production while everyone else or the proletariat was reduced to the lot of being wage laborers. While Marx never really addressed in detail the criminal justice system's specific role in keeping this type of system in place, from his writings a radical tradition has surfaced. Certain types of crime are seen as taking on different characters. Stealing is often seen as an attempt to take away from the rich while, protest-related violence may actually be the start of proto-revolutionary movements, which will ultimately lead to a workers' revolt and the establishment of a just society (Conflict, 2005).
Conflict theory is often thought of as a sort of trickle-down effect, or as a pyramid. At the top of the social class system sits the elite. The elite are the ones tend that set the laws and rules for the general population. Most laws and rules of the land typically benefit those that have already been in power for many years. When the general population begins to rebel against this form of social order, they will be labeled societal outlaws. While conflict theory does not seek to support either side, it does seek to study how those that have power stay in power. The only way to learn all about conflict theory is to study how the elite manage to hold onto their position at the top of the pyramid while they are being challenged by the masses (Conflict Theory, n.d.).
Conflict theory is often seen as a physical resistance, but often it is nothing more than just a battle of the brains. A theory of wide-ranging importance in historical and political thought known as elitism seeks to explain how policy is made, by whom, in whose interest, in what manner, for what purpose, and with what results. A causal relationship generally is proposed between the composition of the policymaking group and the content and consequences of the policy it makes. The explanation of policy is to be found in the machinations of persons belonging to or admitted to a small group representing a wider privileged class, at the very top levels of society, called elite. A regular issue in elite analysis is that of whether the elite consists principally of the decision makers themselves or whether the elite is instead the socially superior part of a community from which decision makers are drawn. The first view tends to be that of diplomatic historians and other scholars who focus on particular events, while emphasizing the actors who are involved. The latter view tends to be that of sociologists and political scientists who compare overall patterns and may be interested in predicting, as well as explaining, public policy emphasizes the structures that produce policy decisions. Common to most elite analyses is an assumption that there is some connection between actors, or power holders, and the structures, or social and governmental frameworks (Henrikson, 2008).
The word elite, adapted from the French elite, means to pick out, choose, or select. The superiority of an elite group, particularly in a nominally classless country such as the United States, with a republican form of government and democratic social institutions, is not based merely on birth or on wealth. It is mainly based as well on individual merit and on achievement. A person's intelligence and skill, courage and energy, and, of particular relevance in foreign policymaking, expertise and experience are also taken into consideration (Henrikson, 2008).
The elite in every country and nation of the world typically have obtained ill gotten gains in order to obtain a step at the top of a leadership ladder. Hitler rode on a political fanatical system in order to gain power, money and a spot on the top of the ladder position. In the United States it is thought that the elite are still applying the methods of a lost age, of buying into a position of power (Babel-Fish, 2009).
The nastiness that comes from elitism shows up when those that wish to have complete power over the nation's citizens go to the extent of building a large empire. The worst example is that of Hitler who sealed his own end because of greed. Stalin actual got away with it and even ended up having dead hero worship take over (Babel-Fish, 2009).
The word democratic has taken on a new meaning when it comes to politics. It now means that everybody has a vote and a say, but the elite have the power and still reap the corrupt benefits of being in power. It is thought that the so called democratic systems have been set up to benefit the elite and not the citizens (Babel-Fish, 2009).
Those who are at the very top of the elitist ladder have the power to send citizens to war for their own gains. Politics, deceit, propaganda, religion and false patriotism are their tools to get most of their fellow citizens to do their bidding. The education system is also used as a patriotic tool to program citizens at a young age (Babel-Fish, 2009).