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Sociology 101 Final The Economic Recession and Conflict Theory

In Conflict Theory social problems originate from the exploitative nature of capitalism, along with class, racial, ethnic, gender, and other inequalities. Social problems arise from different types of social conflict. The most common being class, racial or ethnic, and gender conflict. They stem from inequality between the powerful and the weak. The essence of conflict theory is best epitomized by the classic "pyramid structure" in which an elite dictates terms to the larger masses. All major social structures, laws, and traditions in the society are designed to support those who have traditionally been in power, or the groups that are perceived to be superior in the society according to this theory. Conflict theorists would argue that all groups in society are born from conflict. An example might be that of labor unions, which are developed to fight for the interests of workers, whereas trade organizations are made to fight for the interests of the moneyed classes. This theory of groups is opposed to functionalism in which each of these groups would play a specific, set role in society. In functionalism, these groups cooperate to benefit society whereas in conflict theory the groups are in opposition to one another as they seek to better their masters. (Stolley)-- Social-conflict theory focuses on competition between groups. Whereas functionalists focus on balance and stability within a social system, conflict theorists view society as comprised of social relations characterized by inequality and change. According to conflict theorists, groups are constantly competing for unequally distributed resources, such as wealth

and power, with each group seeking to benefit their own interests. In this scenario, one or a few groups control these resources at the expense of others. Thus, these theorists look at social structures and ask, Who benefits? This constant conflict between groups also results in social change. Conflict theories did not arise with sociology. As Randall Collins points out, much of the history of the world is a history of conflict. "It is in the interests of those who have wealth to keep and extend what they own, whereas it is in the interests of those who have little or no wealth to try to improve their lot in life."[1] This can also be expanded to include any society's morality, and by extension their definition of deviance. Anything that challenges the control of the elite will likely be considered "deviant" or "morally reprehensible." The theory can be applied on both the macro level (like the U.S. government orSoviet Russia, historically) or the micro level (a church organization or school club). In summary, conflict theory seeks to catalog the ways in which those in power seek to stay in power. In understanding conflict theory, competition between social classes plays a key part. The following are four primary assumptions of modern conflict theory: 1. Competition: Competition over scarce resources (money, leisure, sexual partners, and so on) is at the heart of all social relationships. Competition rather than consensus is characteristic of human relationships. 2. Structural inequality: Inequalities in power and reward are built into all social structures. Individuals and groups that benefit from any particular structure strive to see it maintained.

3. Revolution: Change occurs as a result of conflict between social class's competing interests rather than through adaptation. It is often abrupt and revolutionary rather thanevolutionary. 4. War: Even war is a unifier of the societies involved, as well as war may set an end to whole societies. Karl Marx, a German economist and contributor to the Conflict Theory said class conflict involves the struggle between the capitalists and laborers. Capitalists maximize profit by underpaying their laborers, causing many social problems, such as crime and deviance, through the resulting poverty. Socialism brings about widespread unemployment as well. Capitalism causes personal crimes such as assault, rape, homicide, deviance, and addictive behaviors like alcoholism. Poverty leads to a sense of powerlessness, low self-esteem, and causes tremendous pressure on individuals, leading to frustration and violence. With unemployment up and the economy in the tank at the end of the great recession, this country became a breeding ground for competition over scarce resources like money and jobs. Competitive nature of college education and high demand jobs like nursing. At the end of the economic recession, June 2009, the unemployment rate in the US reached 9.80 percent, a total number of 15.1 million people. From 1948 until 2009 the United States' unemployment rate averaged 5.70 percent reaching an historical high of 10.80 percent in November of 1982 and a record low of 2.50 percent in May of 1953 (1). Unfortunately, many people deal with discrimination in the workplace on a consistent basis when it comes to the opportunity to either being promoted or getting the job in the first place. As of November 2009, the unemployment rates for blacks are 16.0 percent,

Hispanics are 13.2 percent, Asians are at 7.6 percent and whites were calculated at 8.9 percent. Stereotypes of certain ethnic groups or even ones gender play a role in the hiring of workers. It is easy for employers to fall back into their categorical knowing of those who they intend to hire. Categorical knowing is defined as the classification of others on the basis of limited information obtained visually and perhaps verbally. As everybody should know, first appearances are huge in a job interview and it is advised by career experts to not show tattoos, shave clean and to not have an abundance of piercings. The concept of categorical knowing has been accepted by society to the point where experts advise those looking for jobs to conform to the norms of the workplace in which they intend to work. Those looked at has having too many tattoos or piercings may be perceived as unmanageable by their intended employer. The conflict theory best exemplifies the competition for work these days while America is getting out of its recession. Proponents of conflict theory see society as being continually engaged in a series of disagreements, tensions, and clashes as different groups compete for limited resources (4). This theory is influenced by Karl Marx's socioeconomic view of an elite exploiting the masses. In todays workplace these limited resources are jobs and the different groups looking for them are competing for them. Karl Marx had it correct when in todays society the elite, being employers, are exploiting the masses, those looking for jobs. There is such an abundance of people looking for work that employers are able to filter through thousands of applications and find those who are willing to work for the cheapest and in turn exploit their work. Unfortunately because of the lack of jobs, those looking for work have a false consciousness about the work they

are doing because to them they need the work to put food on the table. However, on the opposite side, companies are exploiting these workers because on a larger scale they are working for virtually nothing. This type of exploitation can largely be seen in the agriculture field where illegal immigrants compete for low-paying jobs while being exploited by their employers because of their willingness to work long hours for cheap. References United States Unemployment Rate Calculator http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate Stolley, K. S. (2005). Basics of Sociology. Greenwood Press. Tasci, M., & Burgen, E. (2012). Labor Markets, Unemployment, and Wages: Beyond the Unemployment Rate: Long-term Unemployment. Economic Trends (07482922), 12-15.