Posted: September 6th, 2023
Please choose one of the following prompts and respond to it in no less than 300-400 words. In your response, you must fully answer all aspects of the question and support your answer with reference to course materials (textbook, supplementary readings, videos, etc).
Discuss a real-life example in which a social conflict followed Coser’s theory. According to Coser’s (and Simmel’s) insights, what function(s) did this conflict fulfill? In other words, why was it good for society – or at least some people within society?
“Conflict theory” derives from the critical work of Karl Marx on economic inequality under capitalism; Coser’s analysis comes from structural-functionalism. How might social conflict be understood using symbolic interactionism? Come up with and discuss an application of this theory to the question of conflict.
One real-life example of a social conflict that followed Coser’s theory is the 2016 United States Presidential election. The election saw a deep divide between the supporters of the two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The conflict resulted from differences in political ideologies, beliefs, and values, leading to intense emotions, polarization, and social tensions.
According to Coser’s theory, social conflict can serve several functions, including maintaining social order, fostering social change, and strengthening social bonds. In the case of the 2016 election, the conflict served to maintain social order by providing a legitimate means for individuals to express their political beliefs and values. Additionally, the conflict fostered social change by bringing to light issues such as income inequality, immigration, and racial tensions, and increasing awareness of these issues. Finally, the conflict strengthened social bonds by promoting a sense of community among like-minded individuals and increasing political participation.
Symbolic interactionism, on the other hand, offers a different perspective on social conflict. This theory posits that individuals construct meaning and create their own realities through social interaction. Thus, social conflict arises from differences in meaning and interpretation of symbols, norms, and values. For example, in the context of the 2016 election, supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had different meanings and interpretations of concepts such as patriotism, freedom, and democracy. These differences led to conflict as each group tried to assert their meaning and interpretation as the “correct” one.
An application of symbolic interactionism to the question of conflict could be the issue of abortion. Pro-choice and pro-life groups have different meanings and interpretations of the concept of life and women’s rights. Pro-choice advocates argue that women have the right to control their bodies and make decisions about their reproductive health, while pro-life advocates believe that life begins at conception and abortion is morally wrong. The conflict arises from these different interpretations and meanings, leading to social tensions and polarization.
In conclusion, social conflict is a complex phenomenon that can be analyzed through various sociological theories. Coser’s theory emphasizes the positive functions of social conflict, while symbolic interactionism focuses on the role of meaning and interpretation in shaping conflict. The 2016 US Presidential election and the issue of abortion provide real-life examples of social conflicts that can be understood using these theories.