Lecture: Conflict

Competing Paradigms Part II: Conflict Theory


1. Basic Assumptions

a. Every society has limited resources

b. Society is composed of groups competing for these scarce resources

c. When groups gain power they use it to extract from those beneath them, using institutions and ideology to do so.

2. Structure of the argument

a. What is the social phenomena to be explained?

b. Who has power?

c. How do they use it? (i.e., how do they benefit from the exploitation of others?)

3. Example: Bowles and Gintis (Schooling in Capitalist America)

Phenomena to be explained - inequality in the educational system.

Who has power - Those who have wealth

How to they benefit from exploitation and what forms does it take?

Educational credentials are necessary for employment and wealthy individuals disproportionately accrue credentials and high level employment.

How do they benefit -

Institutional exploitation- schools legitimate inequality through several means:

1) students learn the attitudes necessary for the maintenance of a hierarchical and authoritarian society and

2) different students are socialized toward different positions within larger society in accordance with the contents and contexts students experience within the school organization.

Ideology - attitudes and behaviors of students are differentially taught and learned (via tracking) and students are taught to internalize failure that results from the stratification process as an individual rather than a social or structural problem.

4. Criticisms of the conflict perspective

a. Marx predicted that class divisions were the predominant divisions, however there currently exist numerous levels of conflict including ethnic and racial, gender, religious, ect.

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