Ralf Dahrendorf: Conflict Theory Sociology YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Ralf Dahrendorf

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Conflict Theory

  • Originated in 1950s
  • Studies social structure and institutions
  • Reaction to structural functionalism
  • Roots found in Marxian theories and Simmel՚s work on social conflict
  • Superseded by Neo-Marxian theories

Comparing Conflict Theory with Functionalist Theory

Comparing Conflict Theory with Functionalist Theory
Conflict theoryFunctionalist theory
Society is subject to changeSociety is static
Emphasis on dimensionSociety moves towards equilibrium
Elements in society lead to disintegrationElements in society lead to order and stability
Roots of order lie in coercion from those who hold top positionsSociety is held together by values and norms
Power helps in maintaining orderCohesion in society is due to shared values and morals

Criticism of Conflict Theory

  • Ignores order and stability perspective
  • One dimensional
  • Ideologically radical
  • Underdeveloped theory
  • Not true to Marxist theory
  • Derivative theory from structural functionalism, never divorced from the same

Dahrendorf՚s Theory

  • Work – Antithesis, 1958
  • Conflict Theory of Society
  • Macro perspective
  • Enforced constraint holds the society together
  • Two faces of society:
    • Conflict
    • Consensus
  • Conflict examines conflict of interest and coercion that binds the society Whereas, Consensus values integration
  • Sociological theories should be based on conflict and consensus
  • Both the terms are interrelated
  • Co-exist
  • Prerequisites for each other
  • Prior consensus or integration is a must for conflict and vice-versa (eg. Alliance)


Q. 1. Who called Conflict and coercion the ‘ugly face of society’ ?

i. Simmel

ii. Coser

iii. Dahrendorf

iv. Collins

Answer: iii

Q. 2. Match List-I with List-II and select the correct answer from codes given below:

List-I Statements

(a) Conflict theory is a creation of men of affairs

(b) The conflict of self-interest and social interest

(c) Social and cultural evolution is totally the result of group conflict

(d) Group conflict is to be seen in terms of conflict over the legitimacy of authority relations

List-II Thinkers

(1) Adam Smith

(2) Martindale

(3) Dahrendorf

(4) Gumplowicz


a b c d

i. (2) (1) (3) (4)

ii. (1) (4) (2) (3)

iii. (2) (1) (4) (3)

iv. (4) (1) (3) (2)

Answer: iii

#Sociological Theories





0: 00 Ralf Dahrendorf

0: 12 Conflict Theory

1: 27 Comparing Conflict Theory with Functionalist Theory

3: 00 Criticism of Conflict Theory

4: 04 Dahrendorf՚s Theory

7: 32 MCQ about Conflict Theory

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