class conflict


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Related to class conflict: class struggle

class conflict

  1. any political struggle between social classes on the basis of different CLASS INTERESTS.
  2. an underlying conflict of interests between classes, whether or not this involves active political conflict.
Theories which use this concept operate within an adversarial view of classes, i.e. they typically consider that conflicts between classes are inevitable. Conflict exists over the distribution of power and wealth, and over issues like equality of opportunity housing, education, working conditions and other sociopolitical matters. It is usually recognized, however, that such collective conflicts mostly occur without challenging the basis of the class system itself. For example, trade union conflicts over pay and conditions seek a better deal for a group within the existing framework. Social conflicts do not usually involve the mobilization of entire classes. Thus it is useful to distinguish between conflict within a system and conflict about it.

One of the founders of the conflict approach, MARX, foresaw an inevitable sharpening and radicalization of conflict, culminating in a revolutionary crisis. In practice, levels of conflict have very rarely been so threatening, and, in recent times, where a fundamental crisis has developed it has not been on the basis of one class in opposition to another, but has involved alliances and coalitions of different class groupings (e.g. students and workers in France in 1968, and similarly located groups in Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990), and on varying bases (e.g. ‘authority relations’, ‘exclusion’ or ‘inclusion’), as well as ownership and non-ownership of capital.