The Functions of Social Conflict

Lewis Coser

This stimulating work explores the paradoxical thesis that conflict is not socially destructive in most cases, but rather an essential mechanism in the positive evolution of society. I am not well versed in the literature of sociology, but it appears to me that since its appearance in 1956, this little book has achieved deservedly the status of a classic.

Over the course of eight chapters the author discusses sixteen propositions regarding the nature of social conflict. Each proposition is stated initially as a quotation from the work “Conflict” of German sociologist Georg Simmel (“Der Streit,” 1908). The author then comments on the initial statement, drawing on his obviously vast learning in the fields of sociology, psychology, politics, and history. Each of the sixteen commentaries concludes with a restatement of the original proposition incorporating modifications deemed appropriate from the survey of more recent works.

This structure makes the book as useful as a reference as it is interesting to read straight through. The reader who wants only to refresh the memory or who is interested in only part of the work can easily locate the relevant numbered proposition.

status In
genre Social Science ยป Sociology
publisher The Free Press
publish date 1956
popularity checked out 1 time(s)


  • By Sam Swicord -

    A timeless concise explanation of how social conflict functions.

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