Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest materializes when an individual's personal interests hinder them from objectively carrying out professional or public tasks.
Conflict of Interest Sociology Definition

Definition

A conflict of interest materializes when an individual’s personal interests hinder them from objectively carrying out professional or public tasks.

A conflict of interest occurs when a person or organization loses credibility due to a clash of personal interests and work-related obligations or responsibilities. A person or organization is in this scenario when they have many competing financial or non-financial claims, and pursuing one objective may mean sacrificing another.

According to Ralf Dahrendorf, conflict is “a conflict of interest” or “of one’s interests.” Conflict may spark a revolution or serve as the starting point for a consensus.

Explanation

These conflicts may lead to a loss of impartiality, a decline in professional competence, and the potential for another party’s injury and exploitation. Since impartiality is the foundation of science, it is problematic when conflicts of interest taint professional and scientific judgments. Therefore, whether they are perceived or actual, conflicts of interest must be avoided by professional sociologists.

The notion that society is dynamic and evolving influences theoretical ideas like Marxism and feminism.

A conflict theory emphasizes the competing interests of those with access to money, power, prestige, and everyone else.

The idea of a conflict of interest can be beneficial in understanding critical elements of the emergence and development of various struggles, such as the ongoing conflicts between employers and employees. However, empirical research is needed to examine methods for resolving or institutionalizing conflict and elements that either prevent or promote the emergence of class consciousness and activism.

Marx used this idea to reveal the underlying workings of the capitalist system. His analysis persuaded him that the system was confronted by contradictions destined to bring it down. For specialized economic reasons, he held that capitalists will indeed deteriorate from a declining rate of profit and that the structure would be subject to periodic crises of excess production. However, the rivalry that developed due to the conflicting interests of the capitalist bourgeoisie and the working-class proletariat appeared to assure its inevitable destruction.

Conflict of interest analysis is a methodology used by feminism to examine family conflict. According to this concept, the desire for equality in everyday family interactions stands in contrast to more enormous structural disparities that influence both the home and the workplace. More precisely, the increase in dual-career families has not resulted in marital equality since most women continue to manage the home and family significantly more than their husbands do.

In addition, women often adjust their professional obligations to family requirements, which frequently compromises their advancement possibilities, despite increased educational accomplishments. On the other hand, husbands can more often utilize the family’s wealth as a launching pad for their career mobility. Of course, this conflict between equality and inequality usually produces emotions of unfairness, which may manifest themselves via a divorce, psychological suffering, or violence towards children, among other forms of expression.

Interests are a factor in all social conflicts. A person’s interests are a source of power; they are his attitude and capacity for creating results. Social power is a social interest or one that is self-centered. The opposing and balance of these interests is social strife.  What distinguishes them is whether the interests entail similar, antagonistic, or incompatible goods or aims.

The term is applied mainly in the legal profession to ensure that ethical problems arising between parties with a preexisting relationship do not affect others.

To preserve the objectivity of social research, sociologists should exercise caution while studying in areas that contain conflicts of interest. 

Examples

A spouse could want to stay in and relax while his wife wants to go on a family picnic. One American would wish the country to remain capitalist, while another may want it to become socialist. A student might want to become a poet, but his parents want him to become a lawyer. There is a clash of conflicting interests in all the above scenarios.

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