Emergence Of Violence And Conflict Theory Literature Review

Length: 4 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Sociology Type: Literature Review Paper: #47361564 Related Topics: Mills Theory, Grand Theory, Karl Marx, Conflict Of Interest
Excerpt from Literature Review :


Why do people engage in violence? It is so ingrained within society, yet we seem to not have a concrete understanding of what provokes it to the extent that recent events have shown violence can go. Violence has acquired several dimensions in the society and has become one of the leading causes of human conflicts that have spun over years and even decades. The quest to understand the main causes of violence is aimed at ultimately stopping the effects of violence to the community hence fostering more peace within the society. There are various factors responsible for the emergence of violence in the contemporary society, each of which re explored different by a number of perspectives. First, the literature review explores Marxist theories of violence and conflict within societies.

Marxist and Parsonian Conflict Theory

Ultimately, Marxism believes that class differences inherently breed class conflicts. More recently, here is the notion of conflict theory as being responsible for sparking violence within society. This school believes an explanation of conflict is that it is a natural part of life because there will always be contradicting social groups that hinder each other's progress of their own selfish objectives, thus leading to potential for violence. Parsonian conflict theory again adds to this with the notion that societies that allow the rule of elites will always be prone to conflict.

II. Similarities in Demonstration of Conflict and Violence

Clearly, the similarities between these schools demonstrate that conflict and violence arise when an elite group disadvantages the other contradicting groups within society. Both Marxism and conflict theory see conflict as arising from struggles between social groups when one takes too much power and abuses this power to the behest of the interests of other social groups. As tensions increase, violence builds and eventually erupts. Conflict and the violence that follows it is a direct cause of class differences, with tensions rising when a minority hinder the majority groups from achieving their goals that work in their self-interest. Still, conflict theories see such conflicts as ongoing and a natural part of life, while Marxism saw it more tied to modern capitalism.

III. Marxism in Understanding Conflict

To begin, an exploration of Marxism helps set the foundation for understanding conflict in modern societies. Karl Marx believed that within a capitalist society, an elite few are allowed to grab too much power and influence over the rest of the society. As they are empowered with material wealth, they become the owners of production, or the bourgeoisie. These are the ones that control the distribution of wealth, and often take too much of it for themselves and their own self-interest. This leaves the rest of the working class at a disadvantage. The proletariat, although empowered with greater numbers, do not have access to money and capital in order to best seek out their own needs (Weininger, 2002). Even worse, they are constantly exploited by the elite bourgeoisie, further disenfranchising them. Marx believed that within this economic structure, conflict and violence is bound to erupt because the working class will eventually tire of being exploited and rise up against the owners of capital. Such social revolutions did occur throughout history. Marx believed that a more communal society, where wealth was redistributed more evenly would thus be less prone to violence and conflict.

IV. Conflict Theory

C. Wright Mills is one of the most fundamental voices within the school of conflict theory. He constructs his exploration of conflict as through the class conflict between the elite upper classes and the working classes. These are essentially two polar opposite groups whose ideologies and interests often come into conflict with each other. Bureaucratic rationality often conflicts with a number of social groups (Elwell, 2014). Essentially, as each society or group pursues its own goals and self-interests, it is increasing conflict with the contradicting groups that are trying to pursue their own goals. This is where conflict can come to a head and intensify, as the contradicting groups begin to see each other as hindrances to their own ability to pursue goals and objectives. For example, in societies of capitalism, executives are trying to maximize profits, as that suits their interests. However, this can create worsened...


This inevitably leads to conflicts among executives and employees. The same can be seen for different nation states in the international community. Major global conflicts are the result of tensions occurring between two conflicting societies that constantly bump heads when attempting to pursue their own objectives.

IV. Galtung: Unique Definition of Conflict Theory

Galtung (2009) explores a unique definition of conflict theory in that he bases the tenants of conflict theory in the natural world. Here, he explains how there are natural contradictions found all throughout life, including the natural world and mathematics. The world is essentially built on contradicting principles. This inevitably leads to conflict between the two very different polar opposite contradictions, no matter what they may be. From a social context, there are contradicting classes and ways of life. These then come into natural conflict with other societies, classes, groups that represent contradicting ideas. The conflict that is in society is a natural result of combining two contradicting factors in the same physical space.

In the middle of the Twentieth Century, conflict theory began examining class conflict more specifically, as Karl Marx did previously. Mills discusses how the "power elite" often create conflict when they disadvantage other, less powerful groups. This was originally introduced by Mills saw conflict as originating from the small elite groups taking too much control in society for the interest of only a select few. By doing so, they ignore the interests of other, contradicting groups. This results in many groups that are larger, but less powerful, becoming angered with a system that continually takes away from their ability to follow their objectives. Hardwood and Samir (1964) go further into Mills' original theories regarding conflict and help establish the notion of the "power elite." They discuss how this can occur on a grand scale, creating the types of conflicts within society that are a direct result of the power elite not allowing the other groups to enjoy their own self-interest. As more is taken away from the many to benefit only the few, there is inevitable conflict that will erupt. Hardwood and Samir (1964) examined the political development that created a power elite within 1950s society. The powerful conservative elite did not work in the interest of other groups and thus resulted in the later social unrest that would envelope the nation in the turbulent 1960s. Ruling power elite can only keep conflicts from erupting for so long, as they naturally occur when contradicting groups begin to cause each other disadvantages.

V. Parsonian Conflict Theory

Parsonian conflict theory continues to build on these notions. According to Tittenbrun (2013), the founding elements of Ralph Dahrendorf's conflict theory of social differentiation is that conflict and violence occur when there are struggles to mitigate tensions between very different social groups. Societies will always continue to undergo conflicts because there will always be such differing social groups. Throughout history, societies have had layers of classes and statuses for various members (Idris, 2014). There are always some form of elite that use their wealth and prominence to dominate over the affairs of society, and most of the time at the behest of the majority. This is because the majority has less power and influence and thus is less successful at completing their own unique objectives. The elite's ability to intervene and hinder this process for their own benefit is what causes societal conflicts that can erupt into violence.

Summary and Conclusion

While all the theories concerning conflict are somewhat similar the fact is that Galtung in his unique definition of conflict understands that there is not only one group of disadvantaged that are struggling against the powers that be but instead that are various and diverse groups in terms of religion, race, ethnicity and as well there are different struggles within certain sectors of the lower class of society although let it be noted that some of these struggles are such that are experienced across the mass of the various social groups in the lower classes of society. For example there are the struggles experienced by low-paid labor and other struggles experienced by those in rental agreements with slumlords living in unfit conditions and paying more rent than is deemed for the property or that they can afford. The ills suffered by those in the lower economic class in society comprises a list that is too, lengthy to review in this present study however; suffice it to say that the diversity of the peoples and the dismal conditions they experience in life are such that eventually enough becomes enough. This results in war within the lower income neighborhoods, infiltration of gangs and so the oppressed are even…

Sources Used in Documents:


Galtung J., (2009). Theories of Conflict. Definitions, Dimensions, Negotiations, Formations. https://www.transcend.org/files/Galtung_Book_Theories_Of_Conflict_single.pdf

Elwell F., (2014). Karl Marx. http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/users/f/felwell/www/Theorists/Marx/Presentation/Marx.pdf

Weininger E.B. (2002). Class and Causation in Bourdieu. Pp. 49-114 in Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 21. Ed. Jennifer Lehmann. Amsterdam: JAI Press. http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/Found-c4rev.pdf

Tittenbrun Jacek,(2013). Ralph Dahrendorf's Conflict Theory of Social Differentiation and Elite Theory. Innovative issues and approaches in social sciences, 2013, vol. 6, no. 3 . http://www.iiass.com/pdf/IIASS-volume6-number3-article7.pdf
Idris G., (2014). Karl Marx and Ralf Dahrendorf: A Comparative Perspective on Class Formation and Conflict. http://www.google.co.ke/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDsQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdergipark.ulakbim.gov.tr%2Feoguiibfd%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F5000074813%2F5000069079&ei=eAvzVNGQG8rtaprAgVA&usg=AFQjCNH81-S3tqGhw_q7uQUtj4YOdfVBSg&sig2=uICrxfYMcNvXNfc6ueJTlw
Elwell F., (2014). The Sociology of C. Wright Mills. http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/users/f/felwell/www/Theorists/Mills/Presentation/Mills.pdf
Hardwood E., & Samir D., (1964). Wright Mills and the "Power Elite." The Economic Weekly. http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/1964_16/34/wright_mills_and_the_power_elite.pdf

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