Karl Marx – Conflict Theory

Karl Marx is certainly the greatest economist and sociologist of all times. His contributions to understanding the social structure based on power and resources analysis are summarized in the conflict theory. Marx is associated with some of the famous economic and social theories that affect lives today and helps to understand the social and economic settings of the world. Karl Marx’s social conflict theory is reflected in many conflict scenarios around the globe. In this study, we focus on Karl Marx life and the social conflict theory. The study also evaluates how the theory has impacted on the present society as suggested in its key tenets. A lot of the conflicts witnessed in various parts of the world presently revolves around power and wealth as Marx projected earlier (Marx 134). The recent social conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan are some examples justifying Marx’s social conflict theories. The sociological theories are a group of the modern theories which draw their proof from the empirical studies conducted by the society. They seek to evaluate the social issues in the society based on the popular notion and empirical evidence.

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Karl Marx was born in Prussia on the 5th day of the month of May 1818. Karl was educated at home until he was 12 years old before attending the Jesuit High School in Trier, Prussia (1830-1835). He then proceeded to the University of Bonn in 1835 where he studied for one year (Marx 11). In 1936, his father took him to a University in Berlin, Germany where he studied philosophy and law (Marx 11). He later obtained a doctorate qualification from the University of Jena in 1841 but did not get a job due to his radical stance against the government and the religious propensities of the time. He became a journalist and an editor of the Rheinische Zeitung newspaper in Cologne. He later taught in several universities and died in London on the 14th day of March 1883 after suffering from pleurisy.

During his life, Marx made a lot of remarkable contributions in economics, philosophy, and sociology which keeps making a significant impact on the society to date. One of his famous theories is the social conflict theory. Critics of Karl Max such as David McLellan have argued that Marx constructed the majority of his theoretical propositions based primarily on his radical positions against the governments of the day and wasn’t informed by accurate predictions on social movements of the future (Marx and McLellan 47). However, the huge acceptance that Marx works have received over time have either defined the courses of the societies or proven the relevance of his theories to the societies of the world. The social conflict theory has been utilized largely to describe and understand the power struggles of the world associated with conflicts and tensions. Also, the theory has been rather instrumental in understanding the role of politics in designing social structures, power distributions and consequently, resources and wealth distribution. The social conflict theory is described in the following section.

The conflict theory, also called the class theory states that the conflicts and tensions often arise in societies when resources, power, and status are unevenly distributed between different groups of persons in the society and that the conflicts and tensions ultimately become the engines of social change. According to the social conflict theory, power is described on the basis of the ability to control the material resources, political influence, wealth accumulation and the control over institutions which make up the society. In every society, there is a constant struggle to control resources and determine the distribution of wealth. Marx divided the society into three groups based on their social power, political influence and wealth accumulation. These are the wealthy class (the bourgeoisies), the middle class and the low-class (the proletariat) groups. Consequently, the bourgeoisies’ class is the powerful category and who controls power, politics, and state institutions and thus determines the distributions of wealth and resources while the proletariat.

Basing his arguments on the capitalist Europe, Marx noted that in the capitalists’ system, premised on absolute control over the proletariat majority group by the bourgeoisie minority groups created a social conflict based on class and interests. The conflicts were ignited majorly by the divergences in the interests of the two and unjust distribution of resources among the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The ideological agreements were developed and enforced mainly through coercion by the bourgeoisie to create a consensus due to their highly influential powers. However, with the continued suffering of the proletariat at the expense of the bourgeoisies’ comforts, there comes a time when a revolution is evoked spearheaded by the proletariat majority to initiate change.

Marx, social conflict theory has been applicable largely in the present society. In virtually every capitalist society, the bourgeoisie class is the minority and the most powerful, always the ruling class while the proletariat group is the majority who are disadvantaged (the subjects/ the ruled). Consequently, the constant struggle to control wealth and power is the onus of the modern political struggles. According to Karl Marx, politics is the main avenue through which people obtain and retain the power to influence ideologies and control resources (Marx 92). With the size of the proletariat groups swelling every day, same as their woes, revolutions have been evident in various regions. The French revolution, for instance, justified the applicability of Marx social conflict theory. Similar other revolutions have been realized in several other parts of the world e.g. in the majority of the Arabic countries and Africa.

To conclude, this study confirms the remarkable contributions of Karl Marx to the social, economic and political developments of the modern society. Particularly, Marx’ social conflict theory has been very instrumental in understanding the popular ideologies on power struggle and the ability to influence decisions and control the allocation and distribution of capital resources. The noted unbalanced distribution of capital resources between the bourgeoisie minority and the proletariat majority groups in the present society has been at the center of the struggle between the two groups. Recent revolutionary struggles such as the French revolution are notable justifications to the relevance of Marx’ theory.


Works Cited

Marx, Karl, and David McLellan. Karl Marx: selected writings. Oxford University Press, USA,   2000.

Marx, Karl. “A contribution to the critique of political economy.” Marx Today. Palgrave  Macmillan US, 2010. 91-94.

Swingewood, Alan. “Marx and modern social theory.” (1975).