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The social context comprise of social interactions, culture, social institutions and groups, and is one of the approaches that can be adopted in the quest to understand human behaviour (Brinkerhoff, Ortega & Weitz 2013). Andersen and Taylor (2008) contend that the social context impact how individuals act and think. Diverse theoretical perspectives have thus far been developed in a bid to understand human behaviour in a particular society. One of the theoretical perspectives is the conflict theory, which postulates that society is comprised of fragmented groups that compete for the prevailing economic and social resources. According to Andersen and Taylor (2008), ‘social order is maintained by domination and not consensus, with power in the hands of those with the greatest political, economic and social resources’ (p. 20). In spite of the likely cooperation between parties within a particular society in an effort to overcome inequality in the society, the struggle for power between the parties is inherent.
The prevalence of inequality within the society with reference to economic and social resources is one of the major factors that increase conflict as those in power actively defend their control. The disadvantaged groups or parties in the society struggle to overcome inequalities in order to advance their interests. Conflict theory is based on different factors such as race, gender inequality and social class as some of the fundamental aspects that influence different dimensions of social life (Andersen & Taylor 2008). Despite the fact that inequality is an unfair aspect of the society, it constitutes a fundamental driver for social change. This view is supported by Andersen, Taylor and Logio (2014) who opine that conflict and coercion play an essential role in holding together a particular society. This is the case because inequality triggers the need for parties faced by the inequality to act collaboratively in a quest to overcome the associated negative effect hence achieving the shared goal (Brinkerhoff et al. 2013).
On the basis of this aspect, social change occurs through conflict between different parties in the society. The social impact of inequality in society can be illustrated by undertaking a critical analysis on the different types of conflict. This paper assumes the form of a comparative analysis of the different types of radical conflicts. The analysis focuses on different types of intergroup conflicts that have occurred in different societies across the world. In particular, the paper seeks to examine such conflicts as women resistance, industrial revolution and the food riots. The analysis of the conflicts is achieved through evaluation of the different dimension of social stratification.
According to Henslin et al (2015), intergroup group conflict refers to the disagreements that arise between communities, interest groups, ethnic groups, and religious or sectarian groups. Fiske (2002) asserts that intergroup conflict is associated with different internal conflicts such as bias, discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. Intergroup conflict emanate from an existing behaviour whereby people tend to seek and establish relationships with other people who possess similarities as them or those that they perceive to posses similar characteristics. Industrial revolution and women resistance are some of the notable intergroup conflicts. Europe and North America are some of the regions that have experienced industrial revolution and women resistance, hence leading to significant change in social order (Henslin et al 2015).
The industrial revolution and women resistance were spurred on by the need to eliminate social class differences that prevailed in the society. Perkin (2003) accentuate that social class arises from the different ways in which individuals are treated by their colleagues. The industrial revolution mainly emphasised on the economic and social dimensions, which is evidenced by the fact that parties involved in instigating the revolution focused on achieving equality with reference to economic aspects such as compensation. The revolution was spurred by organising society into two main social classes namely, the rich and the poor. The ruling class comprised of extremely wealth individuals on account of their ability to control the factors of production. Society’s domination by the rich led to the development of a capitalist society. This means that industrial revolution was motivated by the need to eliminate prevailing structural violence that was promoted by the capitalists. Structural violence arises from implementation of structures that limit a particular group in society from meeting the basic needs (Boland & Griffin 2015).
On the other hand, the food riots experienced during the 18th century in Europe were as a result of economic purposes. The high price of food reduced its affordability. This aspect arose from the prevalence of unethical economic practices. For examples, farmers, middlemen and business people engaged in unethical practices such as hoarding grain hence creating artificial shortage. This in turn led to a remarkable increase in food prices (Archer 2000). The food shortage led to collective action within the society, which culminated in riots. The riots were supported by different members of the society. The rationale behind the remarkable support for the food riots by different members of the society is that they were aimed at pressuring the groups or people involved into hoarding agricultural products to cease from such a practice. By achieving this purpose, the food riots would have culminated in an increase in the level of food supply in society (Archer 2000). The food riots were characterised by revolutionary subjectivities, which arose from recognition of the fact that the food shortage experienced was as a result of artificial causes as opposed to natural causes. Thus, the society was compelled to react to the artificial food shortage by confronting the business communities and farmers who engaged in hoarding food products. Unlike the non-violent approach to resolving conflict witnessed during women resistance, the food riots were characterised by extensive violence. Moreover, the violence largely targeted businesses and farmers who engaged in unethical business practices.
Unlike the industrial revolution, which affected all individuals in the society irrespective of their race or gender, women resistance in the U.S was spurred by the prevalence of discrimination against women. During the first and second wave of feminism, women in the U.S were focused on overcoming discrimination due to patriarchal societal order. Under the patriarchy system, women did not have the right to vote. Additionally, women were limited from accessing equal job opportunities compared to their male counterparts (Agnew, Mitchell & Toal 2008). This shows that women's resistance was largely motivated by the need to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender. Andersen, Taylor and Logio (2014) accentuate that conflicts are positively correlated with the prevalence of social stratification, which is based on three main dimensions namely, class or economic dimension, party or political dimension and status or cultural/social dimension. Therefore, women's resistance was focused on eliminating discrimination on the basis of political, economic and social dimensions.
One of the distinct characteristics of the women's resistance entails non-violence. Women resistance was also cognisant of the importance of cooperation in order to achieve the intended goal. The organisation is evidenced by the formation of the National Council of Women during the 20th century. The NCW advocated for women to be accorded the right to vote (Hobbs & Rice 2013). The feminist leaders were of the view that according women the right to vote was an effective way to end war (Cortright 2015).The NCW was able to advocate for suffrage amongst all women across the United States. Despite the fact that women resistance did not succeed in putting an end to war, it was a remarkable step in influencing governance. The pursuit for suffrage has succeeded in promoting implementation of peaceful governance policies. Cortrright (2015) opines that ‘the way to peace and order in the society is through social and economic empowerment of women’ (p. 186). In the process of advocating for suffrage, the feminist leaders appreciated diversity amongst women as a source of strength in pursuing the shared goal. Women resistance was not only limited to advocating for suffrage amongst women. On the contrary, women resistance advocated for a myriad of rights amongst women such as ownership of property, provision of better working conditions and access to better public health services (Hobbs & Rice 2013).
To achieve the desired goal, women resistance was characterised by integration of different non-violent campaints that involved different techniques. Examples of the techniques incorporated included aggressive lobbying, civil disobedience, picketing, and engagement in creative publicity stunts. A considerable number of feminist leaders were imprisoned for engagement in picketing. Thus, they became political prisoners. As political prisoners, the feminist leaders gained the support by other leaders globally hence forcing the then US President Wilson to push for congressional amendment to the women voting right (American Memory n.d.). This is indicative of remarkable success in the women’s quest to achieve the voting rights. The non-violence approach adopted during the women resistance indicates that integration of violence during conflicts is not correlated to success in achieving the desired goal. Nevertheless, there are more effective methods to achieve social change without resorting in armed or violent conflicts. Women’s participation in non-violent revolutionary struggles led to powerful support on the feminist efforts both at the local and international level hence embedding their success. Moreover, the non-violent approach to conflicts has contributed to remarkable transformation with reference to the prevailing invisibility of women in the society. Jabri (1999) accentuates that, women resistance has had a considerable impact on thinking and policy formulation in the society.
Due to their capitalist motive, the wealthy class during the industrial revolution was concerned about maximising profit. However, to achieve this goal, the capitalists adopted an unfair approach which entailed paying workers low wages. Subsequently, the poor were oppressed and exploited through low wages and poor working conditions. Rapoport (1994) accentuates that class structure constitutes one of the fundamental catalysts of intergroup conflict.
Development of consciousness regarding the prevailing exploitation amongst the working class led to the need for the working class to adopt a collective action in overcoming the discrimination arising from prevalence of social classes. This aspect culminated in creation of conflict of interest between the wealthy and the poor hence culminating in rebellion in the quest to overcome the exploitation and oppression. Similar to the women resistance, the success of industrial revolution depended on the collective action of the poor communities who were subjected to poor working conditions. The collective action during the industrial revolution was achieved through organisation of the working class into groups that focused on advocating for the rights of workers. However, unlike the women resistance, the industrial revolution was characterised by a significant degree of violence. Workers organised themselves into groups that were ready to engage in violence against the rich capitalists.
The motivation towards violence indicates the extensive determination of the poor workers to achieve autonomy from the bondage that arose from the capitalist behaviour of the employers. In England, workers organised themselves into an Army of Redressers under the leadership of General Ned Ludd. The workers started revolts by destroying factories (Kelly, Ree & Shuter 1998). Therefore, the industrial revolution was mainly inclined to the economic dimension of conflict. The collective action amongst the poor working class amounted to remarkable outcome, which is evidenced by emergence of a new society. The engagement in violence indicates the prevalence of revolutionary subjectivity. Cortrright (2015) accentuates that ‘capitalist development leads to emergence of conditions necessary for revolutionary subjectivity’ (p.434). Unlike the women resistance, which was characterised by non-violence, the conflict during the industrial revolution and the food riots were characterised by visible violence. Cortrright (2015) asserts that visible violence entails disruption of normal operation of things. For example, industrial revolution resulted in disruption of factory operations while the food riots translated in disruption of normal business operation amongst farmers and bakers amongst other businesses.
The analysis reveals that there are different types of conflicts that exist in the society. One of the notable conflicts entails the intergroup conflict, which arises from prevalence of differences amongst members of the society with reference to diverse aspects such as race, gender, social class and ethnicity. These aspects lead to creation of social stratification hence creating inequality amongst the members of the society. The conflicts arise from the need to achieving distinct outcomes such as autonomy and equality. Despite the fact that conflicts might be associated with negative outcome, they are a fundamental aspect in promoting social change. This aspect is will evidenced by the capacity of the different conflicts evaluated to culminate in establishment of a new social order. For example, the industrial revolution led to promotion of balance in the labour market. Thus, the revolution played a critical role in establishing a functional labour market, which is evidenced by implementation of fair wage level. The food riots led to elimination of unfair trade practices amongst the business community.
On the other hand, women resistance led to elimination of discrimination against women in the society with reference to political, economic and social dimensions. One of the notable aspects in the three types of conflict relate to integration of collective action. The positive outcomes of the conflicts were a result of a collaborative effort between the different members of the society. Despite the prevalence of violence during the industrial revolution and the food riots, women resistance was absolutely non-violent. Nevertheless, women resistance succeeded in achieving the intended goal. This shows that non-violence is an effective technique that can be employed in achieving the desired goal during conflicts.
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