Sociology Index

Ralf Gustav Dahrendorf

Among distinguished sociologists, Ralf Gustav Dahrendorf was a German-British sociologist. Dahrendorf’s contributed immensely to class theory and role theory. Darendorf’s major works include: Class and Class Conflict in an Industrial Society (1959); 'Conflict after Class' (1967); Society and Democracy in Germany (1967); The New Liberty (1975); Life Chances (1979). Dahrendorf was a an expert on class divisions in modern society. Dahrendorf’s first detailed account of the problem of social inequality in modern societies, his most influential work on social inequality is Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (1959). Darendorf’s argument is, neither structural functionalism nor Marxism alone provide an acceptable perspective on advanced society.

According to Dahrendorf structural functionalists paid little attention to the realities of social conflict and Marx defined class too narrowly, in a historically-specific context. Dahrendorf believes that traditional Marxism ignores consensus and integration in modern social structures. Dahrendorf thus combined both of these perspectives to develop his theory, class conflict in postcapitalist society. During Marx's time, wealth was the determining factor in attaining power. Therefore the powerful ruled, leaving no way for the poor to gain any power or increase their position in society.

According to Dahrendorf with democracy came voting for political parties, and increased social mobility. Dahrendorf believes that the struggle for authority creates conflict. Dahrendorf believes that traditional Marxism ignores consensus and integration in modern social structures. Dahrendorf's theory defined class by levels of authority. Dahrendorf combines elements from both of these perspectives to develop his own theory about class conflict in postcapitalist society.