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Biernoff, J. (1957). The Functions of Social Conflict: By Lewis A. Coser. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1956. 188 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 26:555-557.

(1957). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 26:555-557

The Functions of Social Conflict: By Lewis A. Coser. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1956. 188 pp.

Review by:
Joseph Biernoff

Dr. Coser, a sociologist, disagrees with the majority of American sociologists who, he contends, have badly neglected and misunderstood the concept and function of social conflict. He defines social conflict as '… a struggle over the values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure, or eliminate their rivals'. He believes that the prevalent tendency is to look upon conflict as dysfunctional and pathological.

A half century ago, the first generation of American sociologists were social reformers and addressed themselves to a similar audience. They assessed social conflict as a positive force. It provided the chief element in the analysis of social change and progress. After World War I, this attitude began to change and the average sociologist now either orients himself to a purely academic audience or to authorities in public or private bureaucracies. This has resulted in centering attention on problems of adaptation rather than of conflict.

The author's interest is in the consequences of social conflict which increase the adaptation or adjustment of particular groups.

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