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Trying to Think Sociological

Excellent example of paper 1 by Sarah Mantia Fall 2010.

If I were a sociologist I would want to use Conflict Theory in my daily practice. Though I found significant importance within all three of the theoretical perspectives, Conflict theory made the most sense to me.

The way I can best visualize and describe Conflict Theory is by the simple imagery of a positive and negative charge. The positive and negative charges symbolize the aspirations of the working class and the owning elite. The positive and negative charges do not represent opposite ideas, more over they represent the contradictory interests of the two classes. It is through this impending difference that conflict arises and as conditions diminish for the working class, they begin to band together, strengthening the will for their cause. Once the conflict has reached critical mass, the working class reflects to one another their ideas of change. Once their criteria for change have been decided, they begin a revolution to break down the old system and make the improvements they deem necessary. The elite class of owners' fight back against the working class to retain the status quo. Often the outcome lives up to neither party's standards. In this case a compromise is generally made between the owners and the workers that partially satisfies the desires of both. The new status quo is implemented but because neither party received exactly what they desired neither party is happy. The conflict is deflated but still present. The cycle generally repeats itself several throughout the lifespan of a company.

Conflict Theory is the substance of competitive thought. The big businesses going after the workers trying to keep them down while the workers are constantly trying to rise up against their oppressing taskmasters. Unions are prime examples of what the big businesses want to eliminate, without unions the workers do not have enough power to promote change with their wages or benefits and the businesses continue to pay them smaller wages. Union's advocate for fair and safe conditions in the work environment, which should be what employers are seeking for their business; however this is not the situation we see today. Unions used to be far more dominate then they are today and this is mostly due to the fact that they have been broken up due to companies going bankrupt or bigger business buying them out.

Because mass poverty creates jobs the elite stay wealthy when everyone else is struggling to make ends meat. The lack of work and over abundance of workers looking for a job causes those who can find a job to take a lower salary, which drives profit up even more for the wealthy business owners. And do not think that this all happens by chance; it is one more way that the lower class is manipulated by the elite upper class. Paying desperate workers cheaper pay helps to pad the already excessively padded pockets of the wealthy. Legal exploitation could not get any easier. By doing this big businesses are able to cut more corners to further increase profit; and workers are more likely to look the other way when shady business occurs because they fear for the security of their jobs more than they care about ethical business. This is because of how heavily they rely on their meager pay. Unfortunately this neglect towards good business practice does more damage in the long term and yet increases the instability of the business and the jobs of the employees. In addition because workers are aware of these ethical breaches and do not speak out, if a sanction is brought to the company, any number of the employees that were aware may now be used as a scapegoat for the company. The owners use the, now infamous liability trickle affect, down the chain of accountability until they reach the lowest level grunt worker that was involved. The grunts are whom the majority of the blame gets placed on. That worker might get fired or be forced to take a pay cut in order to keep their job. Once again the manipulation strikes at the heart and wallet of the struggling worker or workers. With the growing fear for they're already at risk jobs and the ever-plummeting moral, employees have nowhere to go and long to see changes made. All means of production are controlled by the bourgeoisie who are know as the owners, while the ones who work hard and receive little are know as the proletarian or the workers. The proletarians'' are truly at the mercy of the bourgeoisies'.

Surplus is what it all comes down to. It is the bottom line for the business owners and what they care the most about over all. How much money it takes to sell minus how much it actually costs to produce, anything that is left over is the surplus profit. The difference between what a worker contributes and what they are paid is part of the over all surplus profit. If not for the massive cut in what workers should be paid there would be no class conflict and that would mean no Conflict Theory. There is constant conflict over the surplus profits because each side has opposing ambitions. With the bourgeoisies' are continuously attempting to cheat the proletarians out of their difficultly acquired money. The bourgeoisie endeavor to reduce coasts by underpaying the proletarians by as significant of a margin as they can get away with for the amount of work the employees contribute.

Schools are also places where you can find Conflict Theory in action. With the government running the schools they play a huge role in the development and training of our children from a very early age. Right off the bat they start to train them to be compliant and to do as they are told. Which means that they already have been able to get their hands on the future workers for their companies and they know it. It continues all through our education with grades and status, they are always trying to hone in on the elite. The hidden expectations they impose on us are endless. Respect for authority being one of the most predominately important. Regardless of who has the authority what form of authority or whether or not they have earned or deserve their authority, we must obey. Another of the highly ranked hidden curriculum is the need to follow rules. Rules are put in place by the powerful. This keeps their form of desired order in place. By introducing competition into the mix it makes it all the easier to prevent an uprising when everyone is fighting for himself or herself. Marking the exceptional means that they have been grading them on more then just things learned in the classroom, it also means that they have been grading them on things like leadership and more submissive roles.

If we apply this concept of competition to the inter workings of a business, we can see its affects, pro's and cons. Take a car dealership with employees that are paid on commission. The more vehicles an employee can sell the bigger paycheck that employee will receive. Thus stifling inter-worker relations. Workers are less likely to help one another and more likely to horde for as many sales as they can get. Now if the owner of the dealership were to hold a 30-day long sales contest and offer a desirable reward or prize, loyalties between co-workers would suspend, at least for the duration of the contest. Let's say the prize was a four-day all expenses paid trip for the salesperson and their whole family; and of course the prize will be awarded to the salesperson that can sell the most cars within the 30-day period. No salesperson would be able to step away from a potential customer for a second without another salesperson jumping in and trying to steel the commission away. This may significantly increase sales, however, if you have ever been to a dealership then you know how this creates pushy salespeople. They don't want to lose your commission so they do what ever they can to get you to sign. Because of all the competition, backstabbing, and pressure to perform at a standard set forth by the owner to get cars sold; this is where the epitome of the phrase "pushy salesperson" was coined.

By understanding the process of Conflict Theory I have been able to implement some of the concepts into my everyday life. Whether it be at work, school or in my relationships with people Conflict Theory provides a necessary insight as to maintain not only a healthy status quo but be more accepting and more open minded to necessary changes in the world around me.