Applying Ralf Dahrendorf's Conflict Theory To Pusuit Of Happiness

1550 words - 6 pages

Conflict theory is a perspective that emphasizes the social, political, or material inequality of a particular social group. Conflict theory attempts to highlight the ideological aspects inherent in traditional thought, and while these different perspectives hold parallels, conflict theory does not have a unified school of thought on these theories. Conflict theorists see where groups fight for power, and the control of conflict means that one group is able, at least temporarily; to suppress the opposition therefore the emphasis is the shifting balance of power among competing groups.
`Within the general conflict direction there are three essential assumptions. The first is that individuals within a society have several basic interests that they want and attempt to acquire that is not defined by the societies they live in and are common to everyone living there. The second, and the main component to the conflict perspective, is a priority on power as the central to all relationships. While conflict theorists see power as unequally divided among people and groups they also see it as scarce. Because of this, the power becomes a source of conflict but at the same time this power is coercive. As a result, there is a concern with the allocation of resources that would give some people more power than others. Finally, the third feature of conflict theory is that values and ideas are seen as a weapon that can be used by different groups to attain what they want rather than achieving what is best for the group.
Within conflict theory there are those who are analytical conflict theorists. Ralf Dahrendorf is grouped into this category. Dahrendorf argues that there is an inherent tendency to have conflict in our society, hence groups with powers will pursue their interests, and those without the power will pursue theirs. Dahrendorf states, “conflict is the great creative force of human history” (Wallace and Wolfe 2008:122). In the movie Pursuit of Happyness, we can see Dahrendorf’s theory of society at work in power, norms, and social stratification.
In Dahrendorf’s theory of society, power is a fundamental principal of social structure. Dahrendorf’s definition of power resembled Weber’s, “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests” (Wallace and Wolfe 2008:122). This definition of power is observed when Chris pursues a job on Wall Street in spite of all the barriers that are standing in his way. Without much money and a wife that has left him, he is totally committed to taking care of his son Christopher while pursuing a better life. Chris sees the chance to fight for a stockbroker internship position at Dean Witter, contending for one career in the end of six months training period without any salary and competing against twenty other candidates. He is at a great disadvantage as a powerless black man that is...

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