Conflict Theory Examples

Social scientists have identified two major processes in society – consensus and conflicts. A variety of social and professional situations may give rise to conflicts. Being a universal feature of human existence, conflicts may arise at the interpersonal level, or they may also take place within or between groups, societies, and nations.

Conflicts have a variety of ranges – from two people not talking to each other, or having an angry debate, to violence and aggression between groups and even organized warfare. Many social scientists, including Karl Marx, have studied conflicts through several concepts including conflict theory.

Karl Marx and Conflict Theory

According to Karl Marx, conflicts are about power dynamics between the capitalist and the working class based on access to resources. Marx identified that conflicts are an essential part of society, and established social order only functions because the individuals in power can hold and restrict access to resources to keep those with limited resources in the workforce.


#1. Pseudo Interpersonal Conflict

In an organization, two people with extremely different personalities give rise to interpersonal conflict as they often disagree about various issues. It happens when two or more employees express different points of view.

For example, two team leaders are working on the same project, and one team leader wants the members working on the project to note down the instructions on sticky notes on the computer, while the other team leader wants them to use pen and paper.

#2. Fact Conflict

This conflict arises when two people don’t agree over the facts of any concept, event, or situation. For example, two persons argue over the release date of a particular film.

#3. Value Conflict

Value conflicts occur between two individuals with different value systems. A value system is a set of beliefs and attitudes based on which a person makes choices in all areas of his/her life. For example, two individuals may have different opinions on religion, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.

#4. Ego Conflict

Ego conflicts occur between two individuals who argue over an issue and make it a matter of their pride. In this case, winning the argument becomes more important than logically understanding the concept. The arguing individuals may speak harsh words to each other, and they often deviate from the main topic during the argument.

#5. Policy Conflict

This conflict occurs between two individuals who are impacted by the same event or situation. For example, an organization releases its leave policy, and one individual is happy with the policy, while the other individual finds flaws in the policy.

#6. Intra-role Conflict

This conflict arises when an individual’s role has opposing expectations. For example, you are a team leader, and your manager expects you to make your team members more productive; however, your team members expect you to take care of their work-life balance.

#7. Inter-role Conflict

This conflict arises when the same person has various roles. Suppose you are working as a software engineer, and at the same time, you are also a parent and have to take care of your child.

Your job responsibilities require you to work late, attend client dinners, and occasionally travel for business meetings, while your responsibilities as a parent require you to attend your child’s school events, make dinner for the family, and help your child with homework.

#8. Person-role Conflict

This conflict arises when a person’s work contradicts his value system. For example, you are working as an engineer for an oil company; however, you are an environmentally conscious person, and you know that the oil industry has a negative impact on the environment. This clash between role expectations and personal values gives rise to person-role conflict.

#9. Role Overload

When a person does multiple tasks while working at an organization that is beyond his job description, and his role exceeds his capacity to fulfill them, it causes role overload conflict.

#10. Maturity Conflict

Maturity conflicts always occur between an individual and an organization/institution and not between two individuals. This conflict arises when employees start feeling that they are not given the opportunities to grow in the organization, and they are not provided with adequate resources. Organizations can address this by introducing training programmes for employees so that they can grow in the organization.

#11. “Identity” or Inter-group Conflict

This conflict arises when two groups fight for their identities. For example, conflicts between ethnic and racial groups (like Blacks and Whites, Arabs and Hispanics, etc.), conflicts between religious groups (like Catholic and Protestant), and conflicts about sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

#12. Ideological Conflict

This conflict occurs between two individuals with different ideologies about a concept, event, or situation. For example, two individuals may have different political or religious beliefs in an organization, which may create intense situations in the organization during discussions about these topics.

#13. Occupy Wall Street

This is an example of conflict between rich and marginalized people. Occupy Wall Street was a political protest that took place after the 2008 economic crisis. During the two-month-long protest on Wall Street, New York, the slogan “We Are the 99%” became popular. The protestors used this slogan, indicating the income discrepancy between the wealthiest 1% of the population and the rest of the country.

#14. The Education System

It is often observed that the education system in almost every country favours those students who belong to rich families, and only these students can further their higher studies in reputed colleges and universities, while those who belong to poor and marginalized families do not get these opportunities.

#15. The Judicial System

It has been observed that powerful and wealthier people do not get harsh punishments when they commit crimes, while people who belong to poor families and minority races receive harsh punishments.

#16. #MeToo Movement

This movement highlights the power of ruling classes who abuse their powers to commit crimes against women and men who are vulnerable. Although the movement started in 2006, it gained popularity in 2017 when it exposed the issue of workplace sexual abuse and harassment.

#17. Black Lives Matter

This is an example of racial and ethnic conflict. Black Lives Matter is a social movement that protests violence against black people. Started in 2013, this movement highlights the unequal treatment of Black people.

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