Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT)

Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT) is a sociological theory that explains intergroup conflict and prejudice as a result of competition over limited resources, power, and social status. It posits that when groups perceive a threat to their interests or perceive others as competitors, conflict and negative attitudes arise.

Key Concepts

1. Inter-group conflict: RCT focuses on conflict between different groups, rather than conflict between individuals. It asserts that intergroup tensions and conflicts are inevitable in societies.

2. Competition: RCT emphasizes the role of competition between groups as a primary factor leading to conflict. This competition can be for resources, territory, economic opportunities, or social dominance.

3. Limited resources: The theory posits that conflict emerges when groups perceive resources as scarce or limited. This perception triggers a sense of threat and hostility towards other groups.

4. In-group favoritism: RCT suggests that individuals tend to favor and show loyalty towards their own group (in-group), which can further exacerbate intergroup conflict and prejudice.

Contributors and Applications

RCT was originally proposed by Muzafer Sherif and later expanded upon by other sociologists and psychologists. It has been widely applied to understand various forms of intergroup conflict, such as ethnic conflicts, racial tensions, and competition between social classes or political ideologies.

By examining the underlying causes of intergroup conflict, RCT provides insights into strategies for reducing prejudice and fostering cooperation between groups. Understanding the dynamics of conflict can aid in the development of interventions and policies aimed at promoting harmony and social cohesion.