Social order is maintained by people with the greatest political, economic and social resources. According to political theorist Karl Marx, power is unevenly distributed in society, which means that social order is directed by an elite few at the expense of the majority. Social order can be constructive when achieved through voluntary participation of the majority class. It is oppressive when administered through an authoritarian government.
The notion that the elite members of society maintain social order is called conflict theory. According to this theory, social order emerges because of conflicts between the working class, or proletariat, and the elite class. The rich and powerful elite class force social order on the working class by controlling access to resources and developing programs that are only beneficial to their interests as opposed to the interest of the majority. As a result, conflict arises between both classes, which eventually leads to a social revolution and restructuring of the social order.
Given the complex nature of society and the wide range of values expressed by each group, social order is subject to change at any given time. History has shown how members of different racial, gender, religious, political and economic groups have redefined social order through social revolution.