Social-Conflict and Good Will Hunting

Social-Conflict theory espouses the belief that that conflict is a basic aspect of life and can never be fully resolved. According to this approach formal agencies of social control merely coerce the disenfranchised to comply with the rules established by those in power. This paper will examine this perspective in light of the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and directed by Gus Van Sant.

Social-Conflict Theory

Social-conflict theory has its roots in the ideas of Karl Marx. Marxs conflict approach stresses a materialistic interpretation of social order. Marx felt that the way work is socially organized and the technology utilized in production have a strong impact on every other aspect of society. He maintained that everything of value in society results from human labor and viewed working men and women as engaged in making society and creating the conditions for their own existence.

According to Louis Kriesburg social conflict occurs when two or more parties believe they have incompatible objectives. Social conflicts arise when structural relations of an inequality are present. Issues such as political power, access to recourses, or ideologies can give impetus to social conflict.

One aspect of this point-of-view is to see laws as a tool of the powerful, to be used to maintain the status quo with regards to important social institutions. In this context social order rests upon the exercise of power through law rather than being the result of any consensus or process of dispute resolution. Those in power work ceaselessly to remain there and the structure which they impose on society, such as patterns of wealth building that they define as acceptable, or situations under which they authorize the exercise of legal power and military might, yields advantages they may exercise to impose their will.

According to Frank Schmalleger a social conflict perspective can be discribed by six key elements: 1) society is composed of diverse social groups, 2) each group holds to differing definitions of right and wrong, 3) conflict between groups is based upon significant social differences and is unavoidable because groups defined on the basis of these characteristics compete for power, wealth, and other forms of recognition, 4) the fundamental nature of group conflict centers around the exercise of political power which is key to the accumulation of wealth and other forms of power, 5) law is a tool of power and furthers the interests of those powerful enough to make it, allowing those in control to gain what they define as legitimate access to scarce resources and to deny such access to the politically disenfranchised, and 6) those in power are inevitably interested in maintaining their power against those who would usurp it, the powerful strive to keep their power.

Powerful groups make laws, and those laws express and protect their interests. Hence, the body of laws that characterize any society are a political statement. These laws tend to limit the opportunities afforded to the haves to the exclusion of the have-nots.

Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is the story of a group of young men from south Boston and their struggle to survive despite there impoverished beginnings. Will Hunting, Chuckie Sullivan, Morgan OMally and Billy McBride are four childhood friends who are now in their early twenties and working blue collar jobs. The movie centers on Will, a prodigy struggling to come to terms with his impossibly high I.Q. Will struggles with troubled relationships, an artifact of an abusive childhood as a foster child, and anger management issues.

Working as a janitor at M.I.T., Will is pushed by a math professor to pursue a career.