Four Sociological Traditions

By Randall Collins | Go to book overview

1: The Conflict Tradition

Strife is the father of all things. . . . Being at variance it agrees with itself: there is a back-stretched connection, as in the bow and the lyre.

Heraclitus, ca. 500 B.C.

A line of thought going back many centuries emphasizes social conflict. This sounds like it studies only certain dramatic events, but the perspective is much broader and includes all of what goes on in society. Its main argument is not simply that society consists of conflict, but the larger claim that what occurs when conflict is not openly taking place is a process of domination. Its vision of social order consists of groups and individuals trying to advance their own interests over others whether or not overt outbreaks take place in this struggle for advantage. Calling this approach the conflict perspective is a bit of a metaphor. The word focuses on the tip of an iceberg, the spectacular events of revolution, war, or social movements; but the viewpoint concerns equally the normal structure of dominant and subordinate interest groups that make up the larger part of the iceberg submerged below.

This conflict vision of society is rarely popular. Conflict sociologists have usually been an intellectual underground. Prevailing views of one's own society have usually stressed a much more benign picture, whether based on beliefs in religious beings underpinning the social world, or on secular beliefs in the goodness of one's rulers and the charitable inten

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Four Sociological Traditions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Prologue- the Rise of the Social Sciences 3
  • 1- The Conflict Tradition 47
  • Notes 118
  • 2- The Rational/Utilitarian Tradition 121
  • Notes 179
  • 3- The Durkheimian Tradition 181
  • Notes 236
  • 4- The Microinteractionist Tradition 242
  • Notes 289
  • Epilogue 291
  • Bibliography 297
  • Index 311
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