Sociologists employ three fundamental theoretical perspectives to understand and analyze the dynamics of modern-day society. These three sociological constructs are symbolic interactionism, structural functionalism, and conflict theory. Each theoretical perspective offers a unique and novel understanding of society’s influence upon its human behavior, social forces, and institutions. Symbolic interactionism and structural functionalism primarily focus on the affirmative facets of society that contribute to its stability, however, the conflict theory focuses on the negative, ever-changing, and conflicted nature of society and is deemed better for understanding the dynamics of the modern world.
Unlike the symbolic and functionalist approaches who defend and support the status quo; oppose social change and promote cooperation to sustain the existing social order, the conflict theorists challenge the current social system and encourage change in the social world order even if that construes revolutionary resistance against the rich and powerful segments of the society by the marginalized and poor people. The conflict theory originated primarily in the works of Karl Marx who observed unequal distribution of economic resources as the fundamental cause of social conflict and presented the analysis of social problems in a different and novel light than did the symbolic and functionalist perspectives. Karl Marx suggested that religion serves as the opium for the destitute masses which tries to soothe their sufferings and distress and calls upon them to divert their attention towards spirituality and the afterlife and leave the worldly concerns and bounties enjoyed by the rich class. For instance, conflict theorists regard that income disparity and wealth segregation among the Bourgeoisie (Business class) and the Proletariat (Poor working class) in the capitalist economic model invoke people to compete against one another for the abolition of racial, gender, economic and political discrimination due to the conflicting values and ideologies of the two classes.