Conflict and Competition: Analytical Conflict Theories at the Macro Level

In managing conflict, both within and between groups, numerous informal and formal mechanisms of social control are utilized to enforce rules and regulations, to prevent conflict from erupting into widespread rebellion, and to help reduce blatant forms of unfair hostility or coercion of the weak by the strong. These mechanisms for controlling, regulating, or preventing conflict are backed up by hierarchies of dominance and by unequal control of the means of persuasion and coercion-and this inequality may itself be a source of conflict. This chapter will cover the following theoretical perspectives on social conflict:

  • Lewis Coser’s conflict functionalism—Although sometimes considered a conflict theory, Coser’s analysis shows how handling conflict realistically can contribute to social integration, particularly in ingroup relations but sometimes extending to outgroups as well.

  • Ralf Dahrendorf’s analysis of conflict in modern industrial societies—Although Dahrendorf began with a Marxist perspective, he showed how the changes in capitalist society since Marx’s time have led to gradual evolutionary change, as opposed to revolutionary class struggle to overthrow capitalism.

  • Randall Collins’ multidimensional analysis of conflict and social stratification—In Collins’ perspective, conflict and competition permeate all areas of social life as a result of people’s ongoing struggles to improve their position in terms of material resources, status, and power. Moreover, macro-level institutional conflicts are grounded in micro-level processes of dominance and submission in people’s everyday life social relations.

  • Immanuel Wallerstein’s world systems theory—Our review of Wallerstein’s analysis of the capitalist world economy will focus on how dominant societies exploit other societies through their ability to control the terms of international trade.


Macro Level Conflict Theory Authority Relation Authority Structure Class Conflict 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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