Historical Perspective on Conflict Theory

Going back to my favorite sport of soccer, the fans are famous for causing trouble when they're upset. We even have the phrase 'soccer hooligan' or 'football hooligan' because of this tendency! Social conflict theory emphasizes how social conflict motivates people and societies to evolve over time.

There are a few ways that conflict theory can begin to form including:

Marxian Conflict Theory
From Marx's writing, particularly The Elements of Marxian Conflict Theory - 1844, conflict is seen as a product of social living. It is almost a mechanistic view in which conflict is manufactured out of the competing interests of the capitalists and their workers (see Figure 9).

Simmel and the New Conflict Theorists

GORDON MARSHALL. "conflict theory."  A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998.  (December 12, 2015). Clearly, the conflict theory takes a number of things into consideration. While there always seems to be some sort of struggle between social classes, this is not always the case. Sometimes, conflict theory can be applied to ideologies including capitalism and socialism. Sometimes, theory in conflict has to do with the ways in which one group can better its social position. Often, conflict theory is a physical resistance, but sometimes it’s just a battle of the brains.

On a mission to make your conflict theory information more accessible

You can think of the conflict theory as a sort of trickle-down effect, or as a pyramid. At the top of the social scene sits the elite. The elite tend to set the laws and rules for the general population. Most laws and rules of the land usually benefit those that have already been in power for many years.

Theories of Deviance: Conflict Theory


The initial thought that one can have about social conflict theory is how to tackle the task of defining it when it is such a broad theory and when it has influenced so many sociologists, philosophers, and other thinkers alike. One way to define it is to go to its source and to break it apart piece by piece. It all stemmed from the thought of one man, his name was Karl Marx (1818-1883). was a German philosopher; a political economist and some think he was also a revolutionary. Although he did not write extensively about crime he was credited with coming up with the basis for social conflict theory. Those that have studied his writings and his work and that have sided with him are often called Marxist criminologists or sometimes are simply referred as radical criminologists or critical criminologists. From this main theory have branched out some sub theories such as left realism, radical feminism, peacemaking and postmodernism which is also. I am going to tackle the main idea of social conflict theory while I may be touching upon the other sub theories without getting in depth about them. It is important to note that Marx as many great thinkers of another time, another era, has been helped financially and supported ideologically by someone. That someone was Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). He is even thought to have written in 1848 the communist manifesto, but would have, allegedly, let Marx take the credit for it because Marx has more the personality to handle the heat from it, where as Engels was more a behind the scenes kind of guy.Basically, social conflict theory stemmed because workers are demoralized in a capitalist society and they are caught up in a vicious cycle and a process that leads to crime and violence. More recently some criminologists, in the early 1990’s such as Messner and Rosenfeld have tried to argue against Marx and explain something a little different about the social conflict theory, but as Barbara Simms put it eloquently in her article “Crime, Punishment and the American Dream: toward a Marxist integration”, she mentions that Messner and Rosenfeld although came up with a decent theory failed to make the connection between Marx and their theory which is the reason their theory does take hold.