Social Order theory and Conflict theory

Social Order theory and Conflict theory

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According to the social order theory change is inevitable so as to get rid of unjust practices that threaten continued stability and order; it thus opines that real social change should be imposed from above. This occurred in the wave of the November, 2010 students unrest in the UK where the Conservative party chairman retorted that as much as the public have a right to protest against unfair government policies when such protests turn ugly then they do not help anyone. Les Bayliss, a moderate concurs with this assertion when he adds that national strikes that are well coordinated are not the answer to social change rather he asserts that the remedy is to employ peaceful and local campaigns which will in the end not only win the argument but also public support.

However, the conflict theory asserts that real social change emanates from subordinate groups actively challenging the existing order, consequently it believes that real change must emanate from below. This occurred when protesting students stormed London’s conservative party headquarters to display their rage over rising tuition fees. The public and commercial services union general secretary Mark Serwotka agreed with their strike when he asserted that the strike indicated that people were not prepared to lie down and accept unpopular government policies be forced down their throats.

According to the conflict theory inequality is decisive in how modern societies are shaped so that the haves sustain their privileges by exploiting the have-nots. This is typical of political despots on the African continent who continue to rule through tyranny by exploiting the masses. In the student protests Serwotka asserts that the strike was not just about the impact on certain groups or individual policies rather it was about politicians who had perfected the art of telling lies.

On the other hand, the social order theory opines that the public will accept inequalities if they are convinced that the system in general is fair and that what makes a difference between the poor and the rich is hard work. This is true of mature democracies like the US and the west where politicians resign due to scandals and corruption is not condoned. However, the UK protests were fueled by the fact that the liberal Democratic Party won an election on the promise of reducing tuition fees as asserted by the deputy prime minister only to renege on this promise.

The social order theory asserts that social order is not only sustained by a strong state but also a strong set of shared principles and norms. Subsequently, a healthy society is inclined to support a common culture and shared values. For instance the protesting students were divided on the use of violence; while one advocated for violence as a means to an end the other felt that violence could hinder rather than help their cause.

On the other hand the conflict theory holds that dominating values and norms in addition to state power in actual fact support the status quo where the subordinate groups remain to be marginalized and these realities are hidden in a common culture. For instance, the winter wave of unrest by protesting students was not just because of the rise in tuition fees but a climax of several unfulfilled promises by the ruling class who had perfected a culture of making empty promises during election time only to end up marginalizing the subordinate groups. In April of the same year the deputy prime minister had promised to end tuition fees only to support a bill that would increase it.

According to the social order theory, society serves as the critical regulator that enables people from various backgrounds to coexist peacefully and productively through preventing them from acting for their own selfish interests. For instance, the NUS top organ decided to avoid violence and employ the coalition’s policy that gave constituents the mandate to recall non performing MPs. They thus made liberal democratic MPs who fail to vote against an increment in tuition fees their main target.

On the contrary, the conflict theory holds that modern society is not liberalized; fair or founded on equal opportunities instead it is based on serious inequalities which privilege minority class of rulers and disadvantage the majority class of the subordinates. This is supported by Len McCluskey a former supporter of militants in the eighties who believed the rioting students were doing the right thing since his experience showed that there was nothing like an irresponsible strike for the ruling class do not listen to the voice of reason. Consequently workers go to the streets because they perceive that there is nothing they can do.

In conclusion the UK protests are an indicator to the fact that the social order theory can only work in a perfect society for even mature democracies like the UK have their own shortcomings. For this reason, it is only the conflict theory that can stand the test of time in advocating for equality regardless of people’s background. This is because society is not free for all rather it is divided on enduring critical inequalities that have made the minority ruling class sustain the status quo at the expense of the majority subordinates.


Alan, Sears. A good Book in theory: Making sense through inquiry, University of Toronto press: Toronto.

Helm, T. and Townsend, M. (2010,November 14). Student Protests set stage for winter wave of unrest. The Observer