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Conflict Theory

This theory originated from Karl Marx’s philosophy on class struggle (cliffnotes. com, 2000). While functionalist theory focus on positive aspects of society that made it stable, this theory focuses on the negative, conflict-related and perpetually changing nature of society. Compared to functionalist theory which consider status quo, doing away with social change and consider mutual cooperation to preserve order in society, the conflict theory challenge the status quo, encourage social change even if it will result to revolution and

promote the philosophy that the rich and powerful force the establishment of social order on the masses. Stephens et al. (1998) revealed that conflict in the economic society is the engine of change which keep society moving (p. 55). The author refer to the ruling class as owners of business and they were the ones controlling how the society of workers should operate under the conflict theory perspective. The cliffnotes. com (2000) revealed that American sociologists in the 1940s and 50s ignored this perspective in favor of the functionalist theory but in the 1960s it gained

considerable interest due to troubled times. The American sociologists expanded the philosophy of Karl Marx and believe that society is turning its wheel fueled by economic conflict. This theory explains the inequality among society, be it racial, religious, economic and gender based. They uphold the belief that unequal societies have conflicting values and interests which resulted to competition to achieve supremacy which form the basis of perpetually changing nature of society. The opposing groups to this theory believe conflict

theory as overly negative towards society in the sense that the efforts related to democracy, 4 civil rights, sacrifices and other positive aspects of structural society are treated as ideas of capitalism to control the masses contrary to societal preservation and upholding of order. Jealousy rooting out of misbalanced allocation of resources and benefits among members of family which normally result to conflict and family violence can be explained using the Conflict theory. Witt (1987) revealed that family violence is directly related to the economic value perception from the existing culture.

There are instances that among children in the family, there is a favorite due to the fact that the child strives harder to do his responsibilities and therefore is entitled to bigger share of the benefits. Sometimes, despite the extra effort, additional benefits cannot be given due to scarce resources and also to prevent jealousy and labelling of favoritism. The child often reacted in terms of tantrums and self-destructive acts which often lead to laziness as extra effort is not properly compensated. As with the Conflict theory, the father or head of the family has the exclusive

power to control the actions of the member of the family. He may resolve the conflict by explaining the rationale of equal division of benefits in relation to division of labor. He can hide behind his power to force the other members to perform their duties and responsibilities as was agreed. In the light of the conflict theory, such reaction is expected and anticipated among the family members. The actions and reactions keep the family moving and achieve its stability and remain an active and productive member of society. 3. Interactionism The book of Stephen et al.

, (1998) revealed that Interactionism theory is known by some other names as social constructionist theory, labelling theory and ethomethodology theory. This theory uphold the belief that human social behavior is interpreted during social interaction (p. 58). The interpretation greatly depend on the previous experience on how society reacted from the action. The reason for this is due to the fact that people make social structures based from concrete goal inspired actions but the structure dictate how people should react, think and behave. This is so due to the fact that the social world is empty

unless we assign meaning to it and the meaning is derived from our interactive experiences. 5 The cliffnotes . com (2000) revealed that interactionism uphold the philosophy that people tend to attach meaning to symbols and then they act according to their subjective interpretation of the symbols. Spoken words in verbal communication were considered the dominant symbols. The words spoken by the sender have meanings that the receiver hopefully can assign the same meaning as what the sender intends. Conversation therefore under the interactionist theory is an interaction of symbols among individuals who interpret

their surroundings according to their previous interactions. The website forwarded a situational example applying the Interactionist theory to the institution of American marriage. Symbols of marriage include white bridal dresses, wedding cake, flowers, a church ceremony, music and vows of eternal commitment. The American society assigns general meaning to these symbols but individuals attending the wedding may also maintain their own perception of the meaning of symbols. The bride may interpret their wedding ring as symbol of never ending love as the ring is an infinity of going round and around.

The groom may interpret a different meaning to the ring based from his experience as it represents a lot of financial expense. This goes to show that society is formed based from our interpretation of symbols and the meaning that we assigned to these symbols based from our experience as we interact with other members of society. We then based interpretative meaning of symbols from accepted norms established by structure or institutions in society. Critics of Interactionism believe that this theory leave behind the macro level of societal

interpretation or the big picture as it concentrates on individual perception. In other words, this theory focus too much on the trees neglecting the overall status of the forest. By doing so, the website claims that the influence of social forces and institutions on the individual interactions is neglected in the focus. On the family level, interactionism result to hidden feelings among members which contribute to misunderstanding in a closed family situation. This is due to the fact that a member may interpret a conversation differently from other members based from their own

experience from outside the family socialization but may show an agreeable stance just to 6 preempt misunderstanding. The prevailing culture in the family is always to achieve harmony but in the deeper consciousness of members they are not in conformity. The impact of interactionism theory on the family can be viewed as potential source of misunderstanding resulting to instability of the structure in a closed family system. In open family system where open communication is encouraged, the theory can give stability to the social structure by pre-empting misunderstanding.

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