Social change


Social change may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic structure, for instance a shift away from feudalism and towards capitalism.

Social Development refers to how people develop social and emotional skills across the lifespan, with particular attention to childhood and adolescence. Healthy social development allows us to form positive relationships with family, friends, teachers, and other people in our lives.[1]

Accordingly, it may also refer to social revolution, such as the Socialist revolution presented in Marxism, or to other social movements, such as Women's suffrage or the Civil rights movement. Social change may be driven through cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological force's.

Prominent theories

Change comes from two sources. One source is random or unique factors such as climate, weather, or the presence of specific groups of people. Another source is systematic factors. For example, successful development has the same general requirements, such as a stable and flexible government, enough free and available resources, and a diverse social organization of society. On the whole, social change is usually a combination of systematic factors along with some random or unique factors.[2]

There are many theories of social change. Generally, a theory of change should include elements such as structural aspects of change (like population shifts), processes and mechanisms of social change, and directions of change.[3]

  • Hegelian: The classic Hegelian dialectic model of change is based on the interaction of opposing forces. Starting from a point of momentary stasis, Thesis countered by Antithesis first yields conflict, then it subsequently results in a new Synthesis.
  • Marxist: Marxism presents a dialectical and materialist concept of history; Humankind's history is a fundamental "struggle between social classes".
  • Kuhnian: The philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn argues in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions with respect to the Copernican Revolution that people are likely to continue utilizing an apparently unworkable paradigm until a better paradigm is commonly accepted .
  • Heraclitan: The Greek philosopher Heraclitus used the metaphor of a river to speak of change thus, "On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow" (DK22B12). What Heraclitus seems to be suggesting here, later interpretations notwithstanding, is that, in order for the river to remain the river, change must constantly be taking place. Thus one may think of the Heraclitan model as parallel to that of a living organism, which, in order to remain alive, must constantly be changing. A contemporary application of this approach is shown in the social change theory SEED-SCALE which builds off of the complexity theory subfield of Emergence.
  • Daoist: The Chinese philosophical work Dao De Jing, I.8 and II.78 uses the metaphor of water as the ideal agent of change. Water, although soft and yielding, will eventually wear away stone. Change in this model is to be natural, harmonious and steady, albeit imperceptible.
  • Four Levels of Action: Will Grant of the Pachamama Alliance describes "Four Levels of Action" for change:
  1. Individual
  2. Friends and family
  3. Community and institutions
  4. Economy and policy

Grant suggests that individuals can have the largest personal impact by focusing on levels 2 and 3.[4][5]

Current social changes

Global demographic shifts

One of the most obvious changes currently occurring is the change in the relative global population distribution between countries. In the recent decades, developing countries became a larger proportion of world population, increasing from 68% in 1950 to 82% in 2010, while population of the developed countries has declined from 32% of total world population in 1950 to 18% in 2010. China and India continue to be the largest countries, followed by the US as a distant third. However, population growth throughout the world is slowing. Population growth among developed countries has been slowing since the 1950s, and is now at 0.3% annual growth. Population growth among the less developed countries excluding the least developed has also been slowing, since 1960, and is now at 1.3% annual growth. Population growth among the least developed countries has slowed relatively little, and is the highest at 2.7% annual growth.[6]

Another social change in the world that is getting more public recognition is Afrocentrism. Many people get "being black" and African mixed-up. The difference between black and African is, Black is a color and African focuses on people that are from African descent. Afrocentrism is the movement of research and study educating others from the perspectives of historical African people. Afrocentrism takes a stance towards European assumptions and myths about African history. People believe that the movement is totally denying Asian and European impact on African history and only focusing on African culture and technology. Afrocentrism holistic view is to mainly focus on the history of Africa and its role in African American culture and Greek philosophy around us[7]. Through Afrocentrism we have many other things, such as Kwanzaa, The Harlem Renaissance, also a way out from mental bondage.

Gendered patterns of work and care

In much of the developed world, changes from distinct men's work and women's work to more gender equal patterns have been economically important since the mid-20th century. Both men and women are considered to be great contributors[8] to social change worldwide.[9]

See also


  1. "Social development".
  2. Gene Shackman, Ya-Lin Liu and George (Xun) Wang. "Why does a society develop the way it does?." 2002.
  3. Haferkamp, Hans, and Neil J. Smelser, editors. "Social Change and Modernity." Berkeley: University of California Press, c1992 1991.
  4. Will Grant Four Levels of Action, retrieved 2019-09-28
  5. "The Drawdown Project to Reverse Global Warming — Educational Resources". Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. April 29, 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  6. Shackman, Gene, Xun Wang and Ya-Lin Liu. 2011. "Brief review of world population trends - Population.". Retrieved May 2013.
  7. Asante, Molefi Kete (2009), "Afrocentricity", Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, Inc., doi:10.4135/9781412959384.n10, ISBN 978-1-4129-5937-7
  8. Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura), 118
  9. Bjørnholt, M. (2014). "Changing men, changing times; fathers and sons from an experimental gender equality study" (PDF). The Sociological Review. 62 (2): 295–315. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12156.

Further reading

  • Eisenstadt, SN (1973). Tradition, Change, and Modernity. Krieger Publishing.
  • Giddens, Anthony (2006). Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Haralambos, Michael and Holborn, Martin (2008). Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0007245955
  • Harper, CL (1993). Exploring Social Change. New Jersey: Engelwood Cliffs.
  • Oesterdiekhoff, Georg W. (2014). "The Role of Developmental Psychology to Understanding History, Culture and Social Change". Journal of Social Sciences. 10 (4): 185–195. doi:10.3844/jssp.2014.185.195.
  • Polanyi, Karl. (1944). The Great Transformation. New York: Farrar & Rinehart.
  • Tilly, Charles. (1988). "Misreading, then Rereading, Nineteenth-Century Social Change." Pp. 332–58 in Social Structures: A Network Approach, eds. Barry Wellman and S.D. Berkowitz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tilly, Charles. (2004). Social Movements, 1768-2004. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. ISBN 1-59451-043-1.
  • Vago, Steven. (1999). Social Change, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-679416-5.
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