Conflict theory is a rather fuzzy theoretical paradigm in sociological thinking. The term conflict theory crystallized in the 1950s as sociologists like Lewis Coser and Ralf Dahrendorf criticized the then dominant structural functionalism in sociology for overly emphasizing the consensual, conflict-free nature of societies (see Classics of the Conflict Theory Paradigm). Therefore, they put forward conflict theory as an independent paradigm of sociological theory with a distinct focus on phenomena of power, interests, coercion, and conflict. Basically, conflict theory assumes that societies exhibit structural power divisions and resource inequalities leading to conflicting interests. However, the emergence of manifest conflicts is a rather rare phenomenon, since it depends on the mobilization of power resources by social actors and on their social organization. Therefore, conflict theory assumes that societies and other forms of social organization usually exhibit rather stable structures of dominance and coercion, punctuated only infrequently by manifest conflicts. However, apart from some authors like Randall Collins (see Contemporary Works of the Conflict Theory Paradigm), only few contemporary sociologists use the label conflict theory to identify their paradigmatic stance. Thus, conflict theory has not become an established paradigm in social theory (see History and Overviews). However, apart from the notion of conflict theory as independent theoretical paradigm, the term is often used in at least three other important meanings: firstly, to summarize the theoretical tradition in sociological theory, which deals with conflict, power, domination and social change, exemplified by authors like Karl Marx, Max Weber (b. 1864–d. 1920), and Georg Simmel (b. 1858–d. 1918) (see Classics of the Conflict Theory Tradition). Secondly, it is applied to denote the analysis and explanation of social conflicts in different sociological paradigms and in other behavioral sciences (see Multiparadigmatic Conflict Theory and Perspectives from Other Disciplines). Finally, the label conflict theory is often applied to substantive research on power structures, domination, conflict, and change (see Fields of Conflict). Conflict theory as a paradigm had a kind of catalytic function in the social sciences. It was able to show that the sociological classics also had a focus on phenomena of power and conflict (see Classics of the Conflict Theory Tradition), it inspired other theoretical paradigms to broaden their focus to include hitherto neglected issues (see Multiparadigmatic Conflict Theory), and it contributed to the emergence of conflict-oriented research in several fields of sociology (see Fields of Conflict). In contemporary sociological discussions, therefore, conflict theory is less important as an independent sociological paradigm than in the various forms of conflict theorizing it has inspired.