What is Social Change? Discuss

 An introduction

Change is a very broad term. Though there is a lot of change in the world, we don't call all of it social change. As a result, social change doesn't include things like how people grow physically over time, or how the weather changes. When we study sociology, we think of social change as changes that happen in the structure and relationship of the social world. 

The International Encyclopaedia of the Social Science (IESS 1972)looks at change as the important changes that happen in the social structure, or in the way people act and interact in groups. Changes may happen to the norms, values, cultural products, and symbols in a society. The structure and function of a social system are two of the most important things that can change when something is changed. 

The process of social change can change things like the way people work together, how they spend their time, what they do for fun, and other things in society.

From these and other definitions of social change, we can see that: 

  1. Social change is a process of change that doesn't pay attention to how good the change is.This means that changes in society and changes in culture are linked together, so it might be useful to talk about "socio-cultural change" at times.
  2. Some sociologists, on the other hand, say that social change and cultural change are two different things. Social change is when there are changes in the social structure, such as changes in the size of society, or when there are changes in social institutions, or when there are changes in the relationship between institutions. They think that social change is mostly about how people act in real life. When it comes to culture, on the other hand, change refers to things like changes in knowledge and ideas as well as things like art and religion as well as things like morals, values, beliefs, symbol systems, and more. In many cases, it's hard to tell which kind of change is taking place. For example, the rise of modern technology, which is part of the culture, has been closely linked to changes in the economy, which is a big part of society.
  3. Social change can be different in scope and speed, but it can also be slow or fast. We can talk about small or big changes. Changes can happen in a cyclical way, like when there is a lot of centralization and decentralization in administrative groups. It can also be very important. During a revolution, the government in a certain country gets changed. Also, there can be short-term changes (like changes in migration rates) as well as long-term changes in the way the economy works. We can talk about social change when we talk about both the growth and the shrinking of membership and the size of social groups. Change can be a continuous process like specialization, or it can be a one-time event like a new technical or social idea that comes up at some point in the future.
The main sociological theories of change can be grouped in many different ways. A person can, for example, make a difference between evolutionary, (linear), and cyclical theories of social change. Comte, Spencer, Hobhouse, and Marx are some of the most important people who came before them. From these, the most well-known ones are those of Spengler, Pareto, and Sorokin. In this unit, we'll look at a few different perspectives on how things change:

1- Evolution Theory -
  • The idea of social evolution came from the idea of biological evolution
  • Spencer made a comparison between social and organic growth and between society and a group of people. Theory of social evolution is made up of one or more of the following: change and order and direction and progress and perfectibility. 
  • The principle of change says that the system we have now is the result of changes that have been made over time. A lot of evolutionists believe that change has to be done in a certain way. Using the principles of change and order, other evolutionists say that there is a natural linear order of change in society.
  •  Every society goes through different and different stages of existence and orientation as part of the evolutionary process. Comte, for example, came up with a way to think about society. In his talk, he said that society moves from a theological orientation to a metaphysical orientation to a positivistic orientation as it moves through these stages.
Durkheim divided societies into simple and complex groups based on the similarity of their members, or "mechanical solidarity." In simple groups, everyone is the same. In complex groups, people specialize and work together (what he called organic solidarity). This also suggests that evolution moves in a certain direction.
It has been said that in evolutionary theory, it can be hard to tell the simple direction from progress. There is a common theme in a lot of evolutionary literature that says that societies grow and change over time until they end up like western countries. Extreme expressions of this view are found in the idea of perfectibility. In the long run, societies keep moving toward some ideal advanced level of industrialization. Neo-evolutionary ideas, on the other hand, are less certain than the evolutionary theories of the 19th century and early 20th century, which were more certain. These no evolutionary theorists don't say that change always goes in the same direction. That there is a general trend to split up work in a more complicated way
This is because they know that people from different cultures have different ideas about what progress is. One of the biggest flaws in older theories of evolution was that they often made untested, sometimes ethnocentric claims that could not be proven.

 2-Cyclical Theories
  • The basic idea of the cyclical theories is that cultures and civilisations go through stages of change, and they often start and end with the same stage. A cycle is when you go through a lot of different stages. When the cycle is done, it repeats itself over and over again. Cyclic principles can be used to explain the ancient civilizations in Greece, China, and India.
  • There are some cyclical theorists who think that decay is going to happen, so they are pessimistic.
  • Oswald Spengler, who died in 1945, thought that every society starts out, grows, gets old, and dies. The Roman Empire rose to power and then started to fall apart.The British Empire grew strong and then fell apart. Spengler thought that social change could be good or bad, but that no society can stay the same for very long, so it changes.
  • Pareto (1916) came up with a way to look at history that said that groups fight for political power, and that this causes things to change in the world. His theory was bad because it was based on only one example of elites moving around in ancient Rome. His idea of political change didn't take into account the rise of democratic government in modern times.
  • Sorokin (1975) has come up with new theories that have some of the cyclical perspective's characteristics. Sorokin's theory is based on the idea that social and cultural change happens right now. This means that any socio-cultural system (e.g., society and civilisation) changes because of its own forces and properties, so it changes over time. This principle is linked to another principle, which is the principle of limited chances for change. There is a limit to the number of changes that can happen in a system. For example, there is a limit to how much change can happen in a society, and how many new ways of behaving can be found in the world. The system will run out of combinations at some point in time. Is it still alive when the changes happen again? In other words, there is a "rhythm" or "recurrence" in the history of socio-cultural systems.
  • Sorokin also makes a distinction between three broad types of culture: ideational, idealist, and sensate. He thinks that these three types of culture come and go in cycles in the history of societies. Ideational culture is spiritual, mystical, and hard to figure out.
  • Sensate culture is a mix of science and direct sensory experiences that you can see and hear right away. There are some things about idealistic cultures that are common to both ideational and sensate cultures. These three types of cultures are thought of as three different views of reality that change based on the two principles above.
3- Structural Theory 

  • They think that society, like the body, is a well-balanced system. Each institution has a job to do to keep society running smoothly. When things happen outside or inside the society, they can mess with the social order. Social institutions make changes to try to get things back to normal.
  • They also say that most changes happen over time, not in a sudden, violent, or radical way. It doesn't even matter how drastic the changes seem. They haven't had a big or long-lasting effect on the core parts of society or culture. Change comes from three main sources, they say:
  • Growth through structural and functional differentiation (e.g. changes in the size of the population through births and deaths). 
  • New ideas are made by members of groups in society (like inventions, discoveries).
  • According to this school of thought, the most important and basic thing that helps people get along and stay together is that they agree on what values are important.
  • The term "cultural lag" is often used to describe a culture that is out of balance when it comes to material and non-material things. As Ogburn (1886-1959), the person who came up with this term, explained, cultural lag is what happens when two or more parts of a culture change at different rates and become incompatible with each other. 
  • This is called "cultural lag." Ogburn (1922) said that non-material culture (values, beliefs, norms, family, religion, and so on) often doesn't keep up with material culture (technology, means of production, and so on). It's been a long time since family planning technologies (i.e. material culture) changed, but people aren't ready to change their ways. Some people don't like the idea of "family planning," but they still want to have a big family. The same thing happens when there are more people or fewer natural resources. It takes time for society to understand and accept the strain and change its values and institutions to deal with it. But in order to run smoothly, societies have to change how they keep and repair themselves.
There are some people who say that the structural-functionalist perspective can only explain so many changes and only so many types of changes. This way of looking at things doesn't pay attention to big changes that happen quickly. It also doesn't take into account the possibility that a society could go through long periods of disintegration, like when the economy is bad (Eshleman and Cashion: 1983 : 533)

4-Conflict Theory 
  • The conflict theory places the idea of dialectic (opposites) at the heart of social life. It also comes from early sociology, especially the works of Marx. Conflict theorists don't think that societies move up or become more complicated in a smooth way. If you follow this school of thought, you should expect an opposing reaction to everything you do, think, or do in the world. Today, there are a lot of good examples. The anti-abortion movement has been sparked by the legalization of abortion. There has been a reaction from both men and women to the feminist movement. Liberalizing sexual mores has led to a lot of people calling them out. This is the main idea: One of the things that happens when groups fight is that things change in the world. Putting too much emphasis on conflict as the main reason for change is the biggest flaw of this method.
  • If you look at sociological writing now, there is yet another way to think about social change, called the "development perspective." It came from three main sources:
  • It comes from the study of how the economy changes over time. It is important for economists and a lot of other social scientists to look at how many people live in a country's economy and how much money they make to see how far the country has come. Among other things, they point out that GNP (Gross National Product) and per capita income are two ways to measure a country's wealth.
  • Because all societies are put into two groups: those that have a lot of technology and those that don't have a lot of technology. Sometimes, a lot of attention is paid to industrialization, which means that societies that are very industrialized are thought to be more developed than societies that are mostly agricultural.
  • This is based on how the capitalist countries are compared to the socialist or communist countries.
  • People who study social issues have looked at the socialist economy and social structure and compared it to the way things work in the West. For now, I won't talk about this point of view, because you're going to look at it in the next unit.
  • This is because the development approach to social change made clear how important it was to have a broad comparative perspective that took into account all the different and complex relationships between countries that are both developing and advanced. This means that no single theory can explain all of the different ways that people change their lives.


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