Meaning and Nature

Meaning and Nature

The International Encyclopedia of the Social Science (ICES 1972) looks at change as the important alterations that occur in the social structure, or in the pattern of action and interaction in societies. Alterations may occur in norms, values, cultural products and symbols in a society. Other definitions of change also point out that change implies, above all other things, alteration in the structure and function of a social system. Institutions, patterns of interaction, work, leisure activities, roles, norms and other aspects of society can be altered over time as a result of the process of social change. 33. 2.

I Three Aspects Of Social Change From these and other definitions of social change, we can see that: I) ii) Social hanged is essentially a process of alteration with no reference to the quality of change. Changes is society are related/linked to changes in culture, so that it would be sometimes useful to talk about ‘socio-cultural change. Some sociologists, however, differentiate between social change and cultural change. Social change is defined as alterations in the social structure, (including the changes in the size of society) or in particular social institutions, or in the relationship between institutions.

They feel that social change refers mainly to actual human behavior. Cultural change, on the other hand, refers o variation in cultural phenomena such as knowledge and ideas, art, religion moral doctrines, values, beliefs, symbol systems and so on. This distinction is abstract, because in many situations it is difficult, or nearly impossible to decide which type of change is occurring. For instance, growth of modern technology as part of the culture, has been closely associated with alterations in the economic structures, on important part of the society. Ii) Social change can vary in its scope and in speed. We can talk of small scale or large scale changes. Changes can take a cyclical pattern, e. G. When there is the occurrence of centralization and decentralization in administrative organizations. It can also be revolutionary. Revolutionary change can be seen when there is an overthrow of government in a particular nation. Change can also include short term changes (e. G. In migration rates) as well as long term changes in economic structures. We can include in social change, both growth and decline in membership and size Of social institutions.

Change may include continuous processes like specialization, and also include discontinuous processes such as a particular technical or social invention which appears at mom point of time. Change also varies in scope, in that it may influence many aspects of a society and disrupt the whole social system. The process of industrialization which affected many aspects of society. In contrast, the substitution of matches for rubbing sticks to start a fire had a relatively limited scope. Some changes occur rapidly but others take a long time.

Many of the Western nations took many decades to become industrialized, but developing nations are trying to do it more quickly. They do this by borrowing or adapting from those nations which have already achieved it. Today most sociologists assume that change is a natural, inevitable, ever present part of life in every society. When we are looking at social change, we are focusing not on changes in the experiences of an individual, but on variations in social structures, institutions and social relationship. Social Change 33. 22 Some Allied Concepts Social change is seen to be a neutral concept.

The two other terms that have often been allied with this concept are ‘evolution’ and ‘progress’. I) Evolution expresses continuity and direction of change. It means more than growth. ‘Growth’ implies a direction of change but essentially in size or quality. Evolution involves something more intrinsic, a change not only in size but also of structure. Progress implies change in direction towards some final desired goal. Involves a values judgment. All changes are not evolutionary and all changes are not progressive. Discussion of the direction of change need not involve any value judgments.

The diminishing size of the family, and the increasing size of economic units, are matters of historical fact. ‘Social change’ is a value-neutral term, in the sense that the sociologists do not study social change in terms of “good or bad”, desirable or undesirable. One must admit, however, that it is a difficult task indeed to make a value-free critical analysis of changes, taking place in the Structure Of a society. Check Your progress 1 Note: a) b) 1) use the space given below for your answers. Compare your answers With those given at the end of this unit.

Among the latter, the most prominent ones are those of Spangles, Parent, and Sirloin. In this unit, we shall briefly examine the following perspectives on change: I) ii) iii) iv) the evolutionary perspective, the cyclical perspective, the structural-functional perspective, and the conflict perspective. 33. 3. 1 The Evolutionary Perspective The notion of social evolution was taken from the theories of biological evolution. Spencer propounded an analogy between social and organic growth and between society and an organization.

The theories of social evolution are composed Of one or more Of the following principles-?change, order, direction, progress and perfectibility. The principle of change states that the present system is the outcome, of more or less continuous modification from its original state. Some evolutionists add to the principles of change the notion that change must have an order. Other evolutionists combine the principles of change and order with the principle of direction, hereby suggesting that there is a natural linear order of change in a social system.

The evolutionary process of change implies, that every society goes through distinctive and successive states of existence and orientation. Comet, for instance, proposed a directional theory of society. He suggested that a society evolves from a theological orientation, to a metaphysical orientation to a positivistic orientation. Druthers classified societies into simple societies united by similarity of their members, (what he called mechanical solidarity) and complex societies based on specialization and functional interdependence of members (what he called organic solidarity).

This also suggests a directional evolutionary pattern. It has been pointed out that it is sometimes difficult in evolutionary theory, to differentiate simple direction from progress. The common theme in much of the evolutionary literature is that societies progress over time, to a point where they industrialism and develop in the path and manner of Western nations. Extreme expressions Of this position are contained in the notion of perfectibility. Societies continue to move toward some ideal advanced state of industrialization.

However, the neo-evolutionary theories that have emerged in recent years, are more tentative than the evolutionary theories of the 19th century and early 20th century. These involuntarily theorists do not assert that change proceeds along the same path. They suggest that there is a general trend towards a more elaborate division of labor. They take on a relativistic view, in that they recognize that different cultures have different ideas Of what constitutes progress. One of the greatest problems of older theories of evolution was that they too often contained untellable, sometimes ethnocentric propositions. 3. 3. Cyclical Theories The basic premise of the cyclical theories is: cultures and civilizations pass through stages of change, starting and often ending with the same stage. This passing through stages is called a cycle. The cycle when completed, repeats itself over and over again. The ancient civilizations in Greece, China and India for instance, can be explained by the principle of cycles. Some cyclical theorists are pessimistic in that they think that decay is inevitable. Oswald Spangles (1945) believed that every society is born, matures, decays and eventually dies.

The Roman Empire rose to power and then gradually elapsed. The British empire grew strong, and then deteriorated. Spangles believed that social change may take the form of progress or of decay, but that no society lives for ever. Parent (1916) presented in his theory of the circulation of elites, an interpretation of history according to which social change is brought about, by the struggle between groups for political power. His theory was inadequate in that it was based on a limited instance of the circulation of elites in ancient Rome.

His conception of political change ignored the growth of democratic government in modern times. More gently Sirloin (1975) has presented theories which have some features of the cyclical perspective. Sirloin’s theory is based on the principle of immanent socio-cultural change. This implies that any socio-cultural system (I. E. Society and civilization) alters by virtue of its own forces and properties. This principle is interlinked to another principle, namely, the principle of limited possibilities of change. There is a limit to the number of alterations that can develop in a system.

For example, there is a limit to the new forms of change, and to new patterns of behavior, that can emerge in a society. The yester simply runs out of combinations in due time. If it does not die, it eventually starts running through the changes again. Thus, there is “recurrence” or “rhythm” in the histories of socio-cultural systems. ] Sirloin also makes a distinction between three broad types of culture-additional, idealist and sensate-which he conceives as succeeding each other in cycles, in the history of societies. Additional culture is spiritualistic, mystical and indeterminate.

Sensate culture is the realm of science and of direct sensory experiences. Idealistic culture has certain characteristic of both the additional and sensate cultures. These three types of cultures are looked upon as three views of reality that change according to the two principles mentioned above. Activity 1 Keeping in mind Sirloin’s distinction between three kinds of cultures, additional, idealist and sensate; where will you place society in India? Write an essay on “Indian Society and Culture in the Context of Social Change” in about two pages share your essay with other students and Academic Counselor at the study centre. 7 Sirloin’s work is specially noteworthy not only because it contains a mass of historical analogies and comments on particular social transformations, but also because it saw societies as ‘changing’ rather than necessarily progressing or decaying. 33. 3. 3 Structural Functionalist Perspective Structural functional, as you have read in Unit 25 and 28 has its roots in the work of the early sociologists especially Druthers and Weber. Among contemporary scholars it is most closely associated with the work of Parsons and Morton.

Structural functionalists believe that society, like the human body, is a balanced system. Each institution serves a function in maintaining society. When events outside or inside the society, disrupt the social order, social institutions make adjustments to restore stability. They also argue that change generally occurs in a gradual, adjusting fashion and not in a sudden violent, radical fashion. Even changes which appear to be drastic, have not been able to make a great or lasting impact on the core elements, of the social and cultural systems.

Change according to them comes from basically three sources: I) ii) iii) Adjustment of the system to exogenous change (e. G. War, conquests), Growth through structural and functional differentiation (e. G. Changes in the size of population through births and deaths), Innovations by embers of groups within society (e. G. Inventions and discovery in a society). The most important and basic factor making for social integration and stability, according to this school of thought, is value consensus. The term ‘cultural lag’ is often used to describe the state of disequilibrium between material and non-material aspects of a culture.

Osborn (1886-1959) who coined this word, explained that ‘cultural lag’ occurs when parts of a culture that were once in adjustment with each other change at different rates, and become incompatible with each other. Osborn (1922) pointed out how the on-material culture (values, beliefs, norms, family, religion) often lags behind material culture (technology, means of production output of the economic system). For example, family planning technologies (I. E. Material culture) have advanced, but people take their time to accept them.

Some sections of the population may reject the very idea of ‘family planning’ and believe in having a large family. Again, when an event such as increase in population or a depletion in natural resources cause a strain in society, it takes some time for the society to understand and absorb the strain and alter its values and institutions to adapt to the change. But in order to function smoothly, societies adjust to maintain and restore themselves. Critics have pointed out that the amount and kind of changes that can be explained, with the help of the structural functionalist perspective is limited.

This view neglects revolutionary changes which are profound and sudden. It also overlooks the possibility of a society going through long periods of implementation, as during times of economic recession (Salesman and Occasion: 1 983 : 533) 33. 3. 4 Conflict Perspective 48 The conflict theory takes the principle of dialectic (opposites) as central to social life. Conflict theory also has its origins in early sociology, especially in the works of Marx. Conflict theorists do not assume that societies smoothly evolve to higher or complex levels.

According to this school every pattern of action, belief and interaction tends to generate an opposing reaction. Modern life is full of examples. The legalization of abortion has provoked the anti-abortion movement. The feminist movement has stimulated a reaction from men and women. The liberation’s of sexual mores has led to open denunciation. The basic premise is that one of the outcomes of conflict among groups is social change. The greatest limitation of this approach is that it lays too much emphasis on conflict, as the most important factor of change.

In more recent sociological writing, there is yet another perspective of social change called the ‘development perspective’. The development perspective grew from three main sources: I) From the study of economic growth. Economists and to a great extent other social scientists, view quantitative growth in the economic sphere of life, as an important indicator of a country’s progress. For example, they point out that a country’s prosperity can be measured in terms of GNP (Gross National Product) or per capita income.

From the categorization of all societies into technologically advanced, and less technologically advanced. Sometimes, the emphasis is on industrialization and consequently societies that are highly industrialized, are seen to be more developed than societies which are basically agricultural. From the comparison of the capitalist countries with the socialist or communist countries. Many social scientists have compared the socialist economy and social organization with Western capitalist economy and organization. At this juncture we will not elaborate on this perspective, as you are going to look at it in the next unit.

The development approach to social change, brought into sharp focus, the need for formulating a broad comparative perspective, which would take into account the complex and diverse relationships between developing countries, between technologically advanced countries, and between technologically advanced countries and developing nations. It can be said from the above discussion of the various perspective, that no single theory can account for the complexity of social change. Check Your Progress 2 Note: a) b) 1) Use the space given below for your answers.

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