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Class conflict is both the friction that accompanies social relationships between members or groups of different social classes and the underlying tensions or antagonisms which exist in society. Class conflict is thought to play a pivotal role in history of class societies (such as capitalism and feudalism) by Marxists who refer to its overt manifestations as class struggle. Regardless of the truth or utility of that theory, conflict between classes exists and is expressed both in daily life and politics.
Sometimes class conflict results in violent struggles, either episodic, such as the Johnson County War in Wyoming in the 19th century, or chronic, such as the atmosphere that prevailed in pre-revolutionary Russia. It can be open, as with a business lockout aimed at destroying a labor union, or it can be hidden, as with an informal slowdown in production that protests low wages or an excessively fast or dangerous work process.
"Representing a political group of working people with a common interest" , Labour unions and labor-oriented political parties have revolutionised health and safety standards in industrial economies, either directly (by making government policy) or indirectly (by pressuring incumbent politicians).
Definition of Classes and Class Conflict
Class conflict is a term long-used mostly by socialists, marxists, and anarchists, to describe social and political conflicts between two or more classes in society.
Marxists define a 'class' by it's relationship to the 'means of production'-such as factories, land, and machinary. Non marxists usually define classes by the type of employment (such as manufacturing/blue collar, white collar, or management), or by income.
In the Marxist view, capitalism consists of two social classes: those who sell their labour for survival (the proletariat) and those who hire labour to produce goods or services (the bourgeoisie). In non-Marxist theory, there are usually deemed to be three or four classes: Working (blue collar or manual labourers), Middle (those who work in a non manual profession such as teaching, computing, or management), and upper (the rich, or those whose career is highly specialised and requires great education, such as stock brockers, politicians, judges, and millionaires). Sometimes a forth class is added: The 'Underclass' or Lumpenproletariat - those who are unemployed, living on state benefits, or engage in 'blue collar' crime such as burglary, mugging, or drug dealing.
Class in the Soviet Union and similar societies
Some argue that in a system such as that which existed in the Soviet Union, the leaders of the ruling political party form a powerful bureaucratic stratum -- sometimes termed a "new class" -- that controls the means of production. This type of system is referred to by its detractors as state capitalism.
To counter this, Trotskyists propose solutions that include what they claim would be a democratic state, putting state power (and thus, also the control of the means of production) in the hands of the people. They reject the idea of "socialism in one country" as a solution; in their view, a truly grassroots socialist system would have to be world-wide in order to work. They also maintain that to avoid establishing new single-person or small-group (as opposed to class) dictatorships, all revolutions would have to come from popular forces rather than being imposed from above, or from outside, a country.
Anti-Revisionist critics of state capitalism reject the idea of "Permanent Revolution" and counter that Trotsky himself had at one time thought it acceptable that socialism would come to be in a single country alone as long as that country was industrialized, but that in regards to Russia, he considered the country too backward to achieve what it later in fact did achieve — mostly through his archenemy Stalin's Five Year Plans. In their own right, anti-revisionists also acknowledge that the Soviet Union contained a "new class" or "red bourgeoisie", but they generally place the real beginning of the formation of that class on Nikita Khruschev and his successors. Therefore, in anti-revisionist circles, there is very little talk of class conflict in the Soviet Union before 1956, except when talking about specific contexts such as the Russian Civil War (when some agents of the former feudal ruling class tried to retake state power from the Bolsheviks) and World War II (fought in that country and elsewhere between, in their view, communists and fascists, the latter of which Marxists consider to be one of the more developed or "in crisis" forms of capitalism).
Other socialist critics of Soviet-style societies, such as the libertarian socialists and the syndicalists, argue that the solution is for factories and offices to be run by the workers who work in them. In this view, merely changing who controls the state is insufficient; the nature of the work process itself must also be changed. In the syndicalist and anarchist views, in fact, there is generally no state apparatus at all, but rather a network of councils coordinated by informal larger gatherings at which policies for the wider society are collectively decided.
- Class struggle
- Class consciousness
- Social class
- Slave rebellion
- Economic inequality
- Economic stratification
- labor union
- No War But The Class War
- Class envy
- Popular revolt in late medieval Europe
- Conflict of the Orders
- Johnson County War
- Class & Class Conflict in Industrial Society,Ralf Dahrendorf, Stanford University Press, 1959, trade paperback, 336 pages, ISBN 0-8047-0561-5 (also available in hardback as ISBN 0-8047-0560-7 and ISBN 1-131-15573-4).
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