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Conflict theorists are the on the opposite end of philosophical spectrum of structural functionalists. People who are a mix of the two, are called synthetic theorists. Conflict theorists believe that inequities exist in society because of the way society is structured. They also believe strongly in "conspiracy theory" type explanations of social problems. For example, a conflict theorist would believe the following things about the following social institutions:

Family: serves as the chief means of subordinating; teaches inequality by encouraging male power and control over children and women; encourages women and children to be viewed as private property; a "microcosm of inequality" in the larger society

Religion: legitimizes inequality in society; stifles social change; serves as sources of conflict among groups; "opiate of the masses"

Education: credentialism maintains and perpetuates social inequality and the power of elites; teaches inequality is justifiable; teaches dominant group values; teaches conformity; tracks students according to social status/ascription rather than ability

Politics: reflects competing needs for resources; is used by those who get a larger share of resources to further their own interests; established to protect and encourage elite values (esp. economic elites and power elites)

Economy: leads to exploitation of workers (the "proletariat" by owners/managers (the "bourgeois") under capitalist systems; creates conflict among competing groups (under capitalist systems); only works to meet social and material needs of some people and groups ("the haves") and neglects/alienates others ("the have nots").

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