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Paradigms in Sociology: By French sociologist Emile Durkheim

563). The social conflict paradigm was based on the assumption that the existing social order was unjust due to its exploitative nature.

Marx began his analysis of social change with the concept of class. For him, the key to understanding social reality was not in abstract ideas. His focus was on the workers who spent their lives toiling at dangerous or demeaning jobs while the rich capitalists profited. As long as human beings were obligated to endure oppression and dehumanizing material and social conditions, Marx believed that the revolutionary overthrow of these conditions was necessary. Marx had a vision of a future utopian society in which private property would be abolished and individuals would be able to interact in communal, not merely economic, relationships.

One of the emphases of the social conflict paradigm is that the economic structure of society constitutes its real foundation. All other social institutions are built on this supporting structure: "Marx's division of society into two classes defined conflicting social interests, and these decisively shaped all aspects of social life" (Unit 3, 3-5).

Another concept central to social conflict theory is that of alienation. Marx believed that the mechanized system of production in factories had alienating consequence for workers. Machines are made by people, and they have the potential to free people from physical work, but the actual effect of the development of machines in the early days of the Industrial Revolution was to limit the opportunity of workers for creative activity. Marx believed that human survival and the fulfillment of human needs depended on productive activity in which people actively participated in transforming their natural environment. Marx argued that as a result of industrialization workers were dehumanized, forced to serve the machine instead of making the machine serve them: "Marx's objective was not to derive social laws as bas...

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Paradigms in Sociology: By French sociologist Emile Durkheim. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:39, November 20, 2014, from
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