Class conflict

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Class conflict refers to the concept of underlying tensions or antagonisms which exist in society due to conflicting interests that arise from different socioeconomic positions and dispositions. Class conflict is thought to play a pivotal role in history of class societies (such as capitalism and feudalism) by Marxists[1] who refer to its overt manifestations as class war, a struggle whose resolution in favor of the working class is viewed by them as inevitable under capitalism.

Class conflict can take many different shapes. Direct violence, such as wars fought for resources and cheap labor; indirect violence, such as deaths from poverty, starvation or unsafe working conditions; coercion, such as the threat of losing a job or pulling an important investment; or ideology, either intentionally (as with books and articles promoting anti-capitalism) or unintentionally (as with the promotion of consumerism through advertising).

It can be open, as with a lockout aimed at destroying a labor union, or hidden, as with an informal slowdown in production protesting low wages or unfair labor practices.

Contents

Definition

Class conflict is a term long-used mostly by socialists, communists, and many anarchists, who define a class by its relationship to the means of production--such as factories, land, and machinery. From this point of view, the social control of production and labour is a contest between classes, and the division of these resources necessarily involves conflict and inflicts harm.

In pre-capitalist societies

Where societies are socially divided based on status, wealth, or control of social production and distribution, conflict arises. This conflict is both everyday, such as the common medieval insistence on the right of lords to control access to grain mills and baking ovens, or it can be exceptional such as the Roman Conflict of the Orders, the uprising of Spartacus, or the various popular uprisings in late medieval Europe. One of the earliest analysis of these conflicts is Frederick Engel's German Peasants War[2]. One of the earliest analyses of the development of class as the development of conflicts between emergent classes is available in Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid. In this work, Kropotkin analyzes the disposal of goods after death in pre-class societies, and how inheritance produces early class divisions and conflict[3].

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