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Social Conflict Theory & Behavior Theory Analysis


There are various and numerous types of criminal activities in our societies in this modern world. Some crimes are intentional, while others are accidental. Crime refers to an action, which is offensive, and the offenders face punishment through law when found guilty (Jewkes & Linnemann, 2017). On Jun 28th, 2019, in Virginia, James Alex Fields, Jr., who participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was found guilty of hate crimes. His unlawful actions led to the death of a victim, causing severe bodily injury. He also attempted to kill other people after driving into a group of those who were protesting, his act of killing an innocent person. Evidence showed that Mr. Field attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where various groups of people were protesting against the white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. This research paper briefly introduces Mr. Field’s case and different behavioral theories explaining his actions.

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Numerous theories can explain the reason behind various types of criminal activities. However, in this research paper, there will be a critical analysis of two theories. These theories include Social Conflict Theory and Behavior Theory. After the law enforcers had called off the rally and told the participants to leave, Mr. Fields drove into downtown Charlottesville, where there was a gathering of racially and diverse ethical groups. He then drove through the crowd, protesting and expressing their views on discrimination based on race, color, national origin, and religion. The court also found him guilty of using his social media to promote the white supremacy views, violence against those perceived to be non-white, and the social and racial policies of Nazi-era Germany. Mr. Field agreed to have committed all those crimes, and signed to prove that he was guilty as charged.

The Social Conflict Theory

According to social conflict theorists, crime in a society results from class conflict, and that people in power usually create laws that only protect their interests and rights. Karl Marx developed the theory, and according to him, due to society’s eternal struggle for the available scarce resources, there will always be a conflict (Allenykh et al., 2019). One of this theory’s most essential premises is that the law system is always biased, and it always protects the rich at the expense of the poor people. Most wealthy people will try to be closer to wealthy clients to build a vast portfolio for financial gains. The rich will protect and hoard the resources, while the less fortunate people will always try to obtain those resources with all means to survive. This dynamic means that the struggle between the rich and the poor will never end. Marx explains that conflict is an unavoidable part of human nature that can never to stopped but can be controlled.

Social Conflict theory can be used to examine violence, a form of justice, and discrimination, by showing that there exists natural disparity that causes these problems in society. Looking at the criminal case explained above, Mr. Field is a white American who has a wrong perception of the black community. Most black people in America face various forms of discrimination for their skin color, origin, and even social status, and most of them are less fortunate people. Therefore, it has always been a struggle fighting for their rights since the independence of the USA. The relationship between the white and black have never been good because they have been at odds with each other. It explains why Mr. Fields kills one victim and still has the anger of killing others because the environment has always been full of a struggle between black and white people.

The Behavior Theory

The Behavior theory is an approach to understand how humans and other animals behave. It is believed that humans behaviors are evoked by particular antecedent stimuli within the surrounding environment. Some of these stimuli may include the person’s history experiences, such as punishments, the current motivational state, and controlling stimuli of the individual. Some behaviorists also link the behavior theory to heredity, but they focus more on environmental events. Behaviorists have always believed that people would be likely to adapt to the current status of their living environment. They supposed that if one altered someone’s environment, most likely, they would have altered that person’s feelings, attitude, and behavior (Hagger & Weed, 2019). Behaviorists believed in the impact of rewards and punishment. For example, if a teacher rewarded a student for behaving well, they would try to constantly learn the same behavior on their own, which also applies to punishment. Therefore, people act to both internal and external generated physical stimuli.

The behavior theory can therefore explain why Mr. Field behaved in that manner. Mr. Field was a national rally driver who was prepared to participate in that particular activity on that date. It was wrong for Mr. Field to kill an innocent victim. However, Mr. Field also became frustrated and angered because the demonstrators’ acts led to the closure of the rallying event. Therefore, it is human nature to be angry at specific things that alter their lives negatively, and the closure of the event must have angered Mr. Field because of the demonstrators’ actions. This could have triggered the anger and furiousness of Mr. Field, leading to him killing one victim and driving into the demonstrating crowd, and injuring other people. Mr. Field could have acted differently if the demonstrators’ actions had not interfered with the rallying event. Therefore, it is evident that one person’s behavior can impact the behavior of the other person negatively or positively, and this explains how one would respond.


Criminal activities are unacceptable within traditional and constitutional laws. Nobody should consider themselves too superior, for the law treats everyone equally despite the race, color of skin, gender, origin, or social status, and all people are equal. Therefore, the social conflict theory, where there is a continuous struggle and fight between the poor and the rich, should never exist. Law of justice should not be biased when being implemented between the poor and the rich. People should always be cautious with their behaviors, never to cause pain or a wrong impression of unworthiness to other people. The behavior theory refers to where one behavior in a certain way because of the lessons from their environment should never be the reason for hatred and fights between people. If only there could have been the equal application of social justice, the black community could not have felt discriminated. Hence, there could have never been any demonstrations, and Mr. Field could have never killed anyone.

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Allenykh, M. A., Varvus, S. A., & Novichenkova, M. G. (2019). The actuality of Karl Marx’s Social Conflict. Marx and Modernity: A Political and Economic Analysis of Social Systems Management, 225.

Hagger, M. S., & Weed, M. (2019). DEBATE: Do interventions based on behavioral theory work in the real world? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 16(1), 1-10.

Jewkes, Y., & Linnemann, T. (2017). Media and Crime in the US. Sage Publications.

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