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Social Change Definition

Change can be defined as any change, variation, or modification that occurs through time in a condition or an object. The phrase "social change" refers to changes in how people interact. Since society is a "web of social relationships," "social change" necessarily refers to a change in the social relationship system.

Social Change Definition

Social interactions, processes, and organizations are used to understand social relationships. Thus, "social change" refers to a desired change in social interaction, processes, and organizations. It involves changes to things like social structure and functions.

Social Change

Sociologists describe social change as an evolution in cultures, institutions, and responsibilities. Most change takes time to be noticeable. Change in society is frequently slow. Various factors and forces are at play, most opposing changes to the status order. Some types of changes occasionally occur in every society.

Social Change Definition

The idea of "social change" explains how time, interactions, and relationships between people can affect social and cultural institutions, norms, and values. The change has been described by sociology as a global phenomenon that happens slowly and gradually.

Social changes are not instantaneous in the sense that you can immediately notice the change. Internal and external factors in any society contribute to shifting assumptions and changing society and culture. Social change shows how human behavior affects society and its long-term effects.

Theories of Social Change

A society will inevitably experience social change, but the reasons for these changes are not always clear. According to sociology, many social change theories could help clarify the topic of social movement and social change.

Social Change Definition
  • Evolutionary Theory

One of the most well-known sociologists, Auguste Comte, supported the evolutionary theory of social change. Pareto and Spencer are two sociologists who have significantly contributed to this theory.

Charles Darwin's Theory of Organic Evolution significantly influenced the sociology theory of social change, popular in the 19th century. It established the standard for describing social change, its root causes, and its social consequences.

The fundamental idea of evolutionary theory is that change is gradual, inevitable, and happens in stages. It highlights the idea that society will develop linearly, moving from simple to more complex levels and that those who don't adapt quickly will fall behind.

The evolutionary theory holds that evolution is progressive and ongoing in sociology. Every society will go through the same growth and development stages, and these social transformation stages are irreversible.

  • Functionalist Theory

The functionalist theory of social change in sociology contrasts society to the human body, where each component is an essential organ, and each organ depends on the others to function. According to the philosophy, each component of society has a vital role to play and needs to coexist peacefully.

A problem in one area of society will harm society, making it vulnerable and eventually collapsing. Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons are two important sociologists who contributed significantly to this sociological idea.

According to the functionalist sociology theory, society always exists in equilibrium. According to this idea, society strives for a stable condition. When a problem arises, it will only last for a short while, and other components must pay attention to fix it.

According to the functionalist theory of sociology, social change happens when things happen quickly, the equilibrium is threatened, and when the system experiences creative ideas.

  • Conflict Theory

According to the conflict theory of social change in sociology, social structure is competitive and unequal by nature and is always in a state of conflict. Because there are strong groups that can preserve the status order, many sociologists argue that institutions still have an impact on society. Fighting may continue between individuals and groups to fully utilize the advantages offered.

Marx and Engels are two important authors who contributed significantly to conflict theory sociology. They held the opinion that conflict plays a significant role in social change and is in some way connected to all different kinds of social change.

Social Change Characteristics

  • Social change is a universal phenomenon or a fundamental law.
  • Change at various rates creates a basic society. (Adaptation was slower)
  • Change is generally unpredictable. Revol is a method of social change. It isn't easy to forecast how quickly and in what kind the transformation will occur.
  • Social change is community change.
  • Typically, the direction of social change shifts. Three social change patterns can be identified:
    • Linear failure change: It generally results in advancement (positive change) that can't cycle, vehicle, rail, or plane.
    • Fluctuating change: There could be an upward or downward change. The economic change also results from demographic change.
    • Cyclical change: The change happens in cycles. Karl Max suggested that fashion can occasionally be seen from an economic perspective.

Features of Social Change

Social Change Definition
  • Universality: Change is a constant, eternal, universal law of nature. Social change is inevitable and necessary. Social change is global since it occurs in all societies around the world.
  • Continuity: Social transformation is an ongoing process. It doesn't happen only at one particular time. It occurs constantly everywhere, but there are some changes that we may predict.
  • Variation: Social change is time relative, and depending on the time frame, the rate of change may be low or high. Each culture experiences change at a different rate and intensity depending on the circumstances.
  • Criteria of larger population: Only those changes that impact wider populations are classified as social changes. Social change is regarded as such only if most people acknowledge it in their lives, behavior, and beliefs.
  • Independence: The desires and intentions of the members of society have no impact on social change.
  • Forces: There are both internal and external forces that contribute to social change.
  • Planned and unplanned: There was a period when changes happened randomly and without purpose. However, in the modern day, adjustments can be designed to meet society's goals.
  • Functional or structural: Social change is any function or social structure alteration.

Social Change Types

Social Change Definition

Based on how much change they urge and whether they target specific people or the entire society, cultural anthropologist David F. Aberle has suggested four types of social reforms. The types are:

  • Alternative Change: Alternative social change argues for a little modification in a person's behavior at the individual level.

For example, campaigns against using a phone while driving aim to modify a small amount of behavior.

  • Redemptive Change: It also functions at the individual level, although it encourages a dramatic transformation within the individual.

For example, religious campaigns against drunkenness are becoming more popular as they aim for dramatic personal transformation for a certain segment of the community.

  • Reformative Change: It works on a large scale and aims to change how things are currently or in certain aspects of life.

For example, there is a movement to end the Sati system and to allow same-sex couples to marry.

  • Revolutionary Change: It pursues a dramatic shift that significantly restructures society on a large scale.

For example, the Maoist Armed Revolution in Nepal (between 1996-2006 AD) and the French Political Revolution (1789-1799 AD).

Social Change Source

Social Change Definition

Either a society's members or outsiders can bring about social change.

  • Internal sources of social change are elements that begin in a particular society and, alone or with other elements, influence social structures and institutions.

For example, biological variables (such as population and heredity), religion, the economy, and legal issues.

  • External sources of social change are activities that begin outside of the community to bring about change to social structures or institutions.

For example, the rise of globalization, the environment, etc.

Social Change Factors

Social Change Definition

Numerous factors cause social change. Some significant factors are covered below:

  1. Geographical factors (physical environment): Geographical factors or the physical environment play a part in social change. Floods, earthquakes, starvation, epidemics, fires, excessive or insufficient rainfall, hot or cold weather, and other calamities affect people's way of life. Floods may accelerate the emergence of model cities.
  2. Biological factors: Heredity and other biological elements create the path for social change. The overall and glandular composition of the offspring is determined by biological heredity, which is directly related to personality traits, intelligence, physique, level of activity, and other potentials of individuals.
    factors lead to better-equipped or less-equipped individuals, powerful or weak individuals, and several additional changes in social set-up.
  3. Demographic factors (population factor): Population significantly impacts social change. The potential for social change is also impacted by population growth or decline. Immigration, death, birth rates, and other factors influence the population. Migration also brings social change due to overpopulation, food storage, and political factors (such as the partition of India).
  4. Scientific and technological factors: Scientific and technological advances, such as new tools and machinery, are important factors of social change. They dismantle regional barriers by offering quick and simple transportation and communication. The media, radio, and airlines have sped up global communication and facilitated cross-cultural interactions.
    Social change is seen to be significantly influenced by scientific discoveries in the areas of medicine, public health, community organization, transportation, the means of information transmission and interaction, and the physical environment.
  5. Ideological factors: Ideological factors contribute to social change. Ideas run the world. Ideas from politics, philosophy, and science have a big impact on social change.
  6. Cultural factor: Change is constant in human culture. An equivalent alteration to the social order follows any alteration to the cultural order.
  7. Psychological factors: Important components of social change include psychological factors. Man is, by nature, a change-loving creature. He strives to learn something new in every aspect of his life and constantly seeks new experiences. This tendency causes all human societies to experience constant change in their mores, traditions, conventions, and other aspects of society.
  8. War: War also affects the population, the economy, the male-to-female ratio, and other factors, which leads to social change.
  9. Legislation: Legislation plays a significant part in bringing about intended social change.
  10. Education: The most effective factor of social change is education.

Process of Social Change

Social Change Definition

According to American sociologist William Fielding Ogburn, social change happens in culture, and cultural evolution is the consequence of the processes listed below:

  • Invention

"An invention is a new application of knowledge," according to Linton. Social change occurs when something already existing in culture is brought to attention and made visible to the general public. The following three factors all contribute to the invention:

Mental Ability: A person in a culture has to be mentally capable of inventing something. The number of talented people would increase with population size. Therefore, a source of social change in society is mental ability.

Demand: People's demands for limited resources lead to inventions, which bring about social change. The invention process would go faster as customers' demand for physical goods increased.

Existence of Cultural Elements: Smaller cultures experience slower change than larger ones. The speed of invention will increase with the number of cultural components. For an invention and social change, cultural resources and elements are crucial.

  • Accumulation

More novel aspects are added to culture as a result of innovation. The accumulation process is brought about by fusing these cultural aspects with traditional elements. The accumulation will increase as new elements are created and merged with existing ones.

  • Diffusion

A significant factor in social change is cultural diffusion. The diffusion process begins when a cultural element or invention spreads from one culture to another. An invention or the diffusion of a cultural component to another civilization was made possible by quick transportation and communication.

  • Adjustment

Adjustment is the final component in the process of social change. After cultural elements have been invented, accumulated, and diffused, an individual must adapt to that culture. All cultural components are interconnected, yet as a culture undergoes a material shift, the material culture also slowly changes.

However, the gap becomes filled as time passes, and new elements are adjusted in that society. So, due to adjusting to social change, the invention of new elements becomes a part of the culture.

What Causes Social Change?

Although no society remains the same forever, what motivates it? There are three basic causes of social change:

  • Conflict

The history of the world demonstrates that social change is sparked by conflict. Dissatisfaction and rage are encouraged by inequalities due to class, race, gender, religion, and other factors.

Groups band together to push for change to address their situation. Governments are subject to overthrow or transformation. Change can also occur suddenly though it often occurs gradually over time.

  • Demographic change

When the demographics of a society evolve, social change is unavoidable. When birth rates rise, or as people live longer, the demographics of society frequently alter. The availability of resources and their distribution is impacted by population growth. A rise in emigration and immigration has an impact on society as well.

  • Cultural change

Discoveries, innovations, and the spread of ideas influence cultural changes. Explore the influence of the internet. It has transformed the culture of particular nations and the globe. It has changed how we communicate and how many different industries are structured. Discoveries can impact a society's culture.

Think at the rate things changed when Europeans "discovered" America. This illustration demonstrates how social change does not always benefit everyone. New perspectives on gender, racism, religion, the workplace, education, and other topics change society.

Social Change Examples

Social movements frequently result in social change. Multiple examples can be found throughout history in every nation on the planet. The most well-known examples, many of which are still active or developing, include:

  • The Reformation
  • The abolition of the transatlantic slave trade
  • The Civil Rights movement
  • The feminist movement
  • The LGBTQ+ rights movement
  • The green movement

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