In this article we will discuss about Social Change. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Meaning of Social Change 2. Type of Social Change 3. Characteristics 4. Factors Influencing.
Meaning of Social Change:
When change in social structure, social order, social values, certain customs and traditions, socio- cultural norms, code of conduct, way of conducting oneself in the society, standards, attitudes, customs and traditions of the society and related factors take place, it is said that there is social change.
When there is social change, the process of socialization also changes accordingly. The individual who is an active member of the society becomes an agent and target of social change. He brings social changes and also is influenced by such changes.
In a particular period or after a gap of several years each and every member of the universe is subjected to face social change. A particular social order does not continue for several decades, say hundred years or more. There is bound to be some change.
In a particular period people of the society are guided by certain rules and regulations, customs, traditions values and beliefs, the way every one has to manage and guide himself, people have to manage their style of living, their work, business, profession and conduct. Individuals of the society, young and old are guided by these rules and belief.
Socialization of children is also influenced by these frame of reference. The DOS and Donts of the society, as we know influence the process of socialization. But after a certain period, due to evolution or revolution we find slight or remarkable change in the above aspects of social life.
In some cases, these changes may be slow or fast, may be a matter of degree or kind. In some cases it may be substantial and drastic while in other cases it may gradual and of low order.
Type of Social Change:
From the ensuing discussion it appears that social change can be categorised to two types:
(1) Evolutionary Social Change
(2) Revolutionary Social Change.
(1) Evolutionary Social Changes:
Evolutionary changes occur in course of a long period slowly and gradually and through evolutionary process. Such changes are not very drastic or remarkable. They proceed gradually like the process of conditioning and people learn to adjust with such changes gradually.
During our school and college days we were wearing saree and nobody then could dream of a married any a women wearing even Salwar and Kameez. We also used to put veil on our head, after marriage. I remember after my marriage in 1960,I used to put veil on my head for 35 years while in job and at home as well.
But this system has changed gradually. Now what about girls, married women is Orissa also wear Salwar Kameez, various other western dress and normally do not put veil on their head. This practice has been gradual and it has also been accepted by parents, relations in laws and other members of the society.
So much so that when today a girl attends, college wearing a saree others around look at her with raised eyebrows. Even some of her friends start joking at her calling her ‘Chudaa’. means, old fashioned.
Using lipstick and going to beauty parlours were considered as taboos so for women in Orissa some decades back. But now even college going girls including many women teachers go to school and colleges using various kinds of make-up. This is not considered a taboo now.
Gradually people have adjusted to such evolutionary changes may be due to urbanization and western influence. Some years back while I was in Government job and went to Delhi to attend a meeting, one of my lady colleagues who was also attending the same meeting wanted to go to a beauty parlour on our wayback to hotel.
She also asked me to join her. But she was astonished when I told her that I have never visited a beauty parlour even when I was young and I would not like to do it now.
Though I as a member of the society have accommodated to certain social changes which I consider beneficial or may be not harmful, I do not accommodate to those changes which are harmful for our society for our social values, culture and finally our conduct in the society. Still many people are there is the society who follow me.
People are able to adjust better with evolutionary social changes as the process is slow and gradual and hence easy to adjust. We also find today many male members wearing pants and shirts while sitting in Puja which was not acceptable several years back.
Use of Jeans and T. shirts in place of half pants and shirts have become common sights in schools and colleges, in public life and members of the society have gradually coped with this.
Even old and aged people of India are now found wearing such westernised dresses without any conflict or guilt feeling, since society has gradually accepted it. Similarly women going for higher education, studying in coeducational institutions, do join army, navy and airforce, for becoming pilots, going to space to join politics, doing various jobs which were earlier meant for men only.
Doing various jobs outside the domestic front, which were not acceptable several decades back for women is now accepted. Husbands in Indian society doing domestic chores which were not acceptable hundred years back have become common practices to-day in Indian societies. This has been possible due to gradual, evolutionary social change. This change has not occurred instantly, suddenly, abruptly.
Earlier many people did not pay tax, but now people have developed the mind set to pay tax considering it as legal and are paying tax voluntarily. These are simple examples of important evolutionary changes which occur gradually within sufficient time perspective.
(2) Revolutionary Changes:
It is the opposite of evolutionary change. When the changes in various sectors of our social system occur suddenly, drastically and sufficiently so as to differentiate it from gradual, slow change, it is called revolutionary social change.
The change in other words is great in degree, remarkable. The changes are such that they change the whole social order and the course or style of living, conduct and concept of do’s and donts. They are a matter of kind which occur due to some movement, revolution war, rapid technological changes, due to sudden change in social events.
They occur very quickly and within a short period or short duration. Let us take some examples. The changes in social structure and social system which occurred after various famous revolutions like the French, the Russian, the Chinese and the American Revolution and more recently the revolutionary changes that occurred or are still occurring in various Afro-Asian countries occur due to revolutions and movements India’s freedom movement or revolution for independence from ‘British Raj’ is a case of revolutionary movement.
Besides India’s small or big movements to eradicate the evils of colonialism, caste and class system economic disparity, tribal life style, superstition, to fight against suppression and oppression, are valid examples. Introduction of widow marriage, abolition of child marriage, and Satidaha Pratha, acceptance of intercaste and inter religion marriage are to some extent examples of revolutionary change.
In short, those remarkable and drastic changes which occur in the social system of a country or society in a very short span of time are possible due to revolution and movements big or small. Such drastic changes not only change the life style of people in a society, they also transform the relationship between individual across countries including within the countries.
Various cross cultural studies lead to support this observation. Attitude change is an important example of the effect of social change which may happen either due to evolutionary or revolutionary change.
Because of various social changes attitude of people also change towards the social system. It is therefore rightly viewed that man is not only an agent, but also a target of social change. In short, man is indispensable in bringing social changes as well as is influenced by the same social changes.
He makes or changes the society where he lives and is again influenced by such a changed society. Social activities who fight against dowry system and are able to pass a law in that regard are also influenced by the abolition of dowry system. When their sons and daughters get married they cannot claim or give dowry.
Characteristics of Social Change:
When either evolutionary or revolutionary changes take place in the social system one lives,, observable changes take place in the social values, customs, traditions, cultural heritage, age old beliefs, style of living, dress, attitude, superstitions stereotype, way of conducting oneself in the society, process of socialization and overall behaviour of its members.
Thus the chief characteristics of social change is the change in various areas of the social system where man is born, grown and dies. Such changes influence his attitude towards various stimuli, values, faiths and beliefs, his emotions and sentiments, his moral and religious standard, his conscience and super ago.
The characteristics and nature of social change influence a mans Id, ego and super ego, his entire psycho physical system, his mental and physical characteristics, and his overall nature, conduct, response and behaviour in the environment in which he moves, such as his family, neighbourghood, his response to social members, and how he reacts to them.
When remarkable difference is observed in ones attitude towards widow marriage, towards dishonesty, towards various cultural conditions, towards unwed motherhood, single parenting, divorce, infanticitis, family planning, girl child, legalized abortion and population control, we say that social change has occurred.
Further such changes in the attitude and values of a person should be more or less durable, relatively permanent and whole heartedy acceptable and practised by a majority of the society. A social change must continue for a considerable period. When certain social orders are “out” and in their place new or alternative social orders arc “in”, when such changes are perceivable we say that there has been social change.
However such acceptances of the change by a few members would not be called social change. If a few accept the changes and majority oppose it, it gradually disappears and people will again go for the old values and customs. Sometimes it is found than when majority people experience that the changed social system does more harm than good, they again go back to the old social order.
Ayurvedic medicine and yoga which were used and practiced by most people during the ancient time and were given up in between have now again become very popular and people are again taking their help to get cured and keep oneself sound and fit.
Man being the prime motivator of social change, social change cannot be given shape without the human being. Majority of the people ultimately have to conform the social change for its continuity and durability.
Factors Influencing Social Change:
Social change do not occur automatically. Certain factors do influence social change.
They are discussed below briefly:
(i) Social Movement and Social Revolution:
Pages of world history records several important social movements and revolutions such as French revolution, American revolution, Russian revolution, Chinese revolution and so on.
A social movement originates when either people are discontent and unhappy with the existing social system or social order, when people try to establish a new order of life or a new style of living or when the social system is established in a condition of unrest.
According to Blumer (1946) social movements derive their motive from dissatisfaction with the current form of life and also from wishes and hopes for a new scheme or system of living. According to Turner and Killian (1957) a social movement is a collective acting with some continuity to promote changes or resist a change in the society or group of which it is a part.
Then, what social movement exactly means? A social movement refers to collective efforts to establish a new order of life which ultimately brings changes in the existing social system of that society, state or country.
Movements organised by minority groups initially may be accepted and practised by people collectively. Heberice (1951) holds that a social movement basically attempts to bring about fundamental changes in the social order particularly in the basic field of property and labour relationships.
Currently the law to properly rights to Hindu Women has changed, specially due to the active efforts of various women organisations in India who are pushing their movements for women empowerment. Women in India and in many parts of the word arc still considered as socially disadvantaged and economically weak.
They are still exploited by their male counterparts and even powerful women members at the domestic front. Domestic violence has been rampant in India as surveys show. Therefore various women organisations have started movements to give women their right to property, right to work, right to earn right to birth right to economic independence, right to education and finally right to live dignifiedly.
The repeated and frequent rise in social movements in a country hints at the discontentment and unhappiness with the existing social order. The purpose of such revolutions is to bring changes in the existing social order which are considered evil and discriminative by the members of the society.
Cameron is of the opinion that a social movement occurs when a fairly large number of people band together in order to alter or support some portion of the exiting culture or social order.
Human Rights movements among the African-Americans in the United States serve as an example. In India even several Human Rights Organisation are starting movements to change the existing attitude of the higher socio-economic groups towards their lower counter parts.
Similarly the right to information is a kind of human right which has been constitutionally legalised in India and abroad serves a fine example of change in social order and social system.
Keeping in view the purpose of social change Sherif and Sherif have given the following comprehensive definition of social movement.
According to them A social movement consists of a pattern of attempts over time prompted by a state of common unrest, discontent or aspiration shared by large number of individuals to bring about change in, to establish, the maintain or to suppress a definite scheme of human relations and values through pronouncement, literature, meetings and direct collective action, (e.g., rallies, boycotts, marches, strikes, insurrection etc.).
A social movement may be initiated by suffering, tortured, neglected and humiliated persons who are whole heartedly dissatisfied with the existing social order. Initially the pattern of social movement erratic, being half hazard and unorganised may be started by a few.
But gradually over time, it takes a concrete shape and large numbers of people come forward to participate. Subsequently, it becomes more organised and coordinated. It has a formal leader irrespective of the fact whether finally it is successful or not.
The Narmada Dam Movement is a small social movement which till to-day has not taken a successful shape. But no doubt, it is a social movement initiated for the benefit of some farmers of the area who have been affected directly or indirectly by the construction of the dam.
This project as common man visualizes has its advantages as well as disadvantages. But when advantages are less than disadvantages a social movement becomes difficult to be successful.
(ii) Common Motivation:
In order to make a social movement successful there is a need to coordinate local attempts and to make a comprehensive formulation of the causes of discontentment, the purpose and forms of action to achieve the goal. A social movement breaks down without a leader with leadership qualities and its success also depends upon the co-ordination and cooperation of the affected members.
A social movement which is the basic cause behind social change stands on its motivational base.
There; must be a single motive common to all participants on which the social movement can stand firmly such as causes like woman’s right to vote and property, woman’s empowerment, widespread dissatisfaction of landless people, defects in the existing land reform rules, dissatisfaction over inadequate working conditions, the right to information or civil rights, equal opportunity to every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, community or property, etc.
(iii) Common Need:
Common motivation originates from common need. When a particular social movement includes several spheres of living like change in working condition, right to vote, right to earn, right to information etc. it will fight for broad changes in social system either through evolutionary or revolutionary method.
Interested participants of the social movements are usually those who are directly affected by the existing social order. But sometimes social and human rights activities take leading part in social movements without being directly affected.
Revolutionary movements help immensely in achieving social change quickly. The scope and rate of social changes are culminated and accentuated through such revolutions which involve the need of large number of people, has a firm and dedicated leader who can fight in an organised and coordinated manner.
Need for social change is a powerful factor of influencing and bringing social change. If there is no need to be dissatisfied with the existing social system or social order, an evolutionary or revolutionary social movement cannot start.
Just as need is the mother of invention and motivation, similarly it is the mother of all social, political and religious movements. Thus need works as a powerful cause of social change. The need may be of various types like, economic, political, religious, social, psychological or biological.
The need based on the dissatisfaction over caste system, economic disparity, discrimination in social states, discrimination in facilities available to various racial, communal religions linguistic and social economic groups, backward classes, minority groups, and discrimination over reservation policy leading to dissatisfaction among the affected group.
A strong need or needs based on proper realization, proper planning and proper organisation, work as the back bone of any social movement either major or minor. If the need is not value oriented and is weak, the group will gradually disintegrate and the movement will finally lack cooperation and strength.
Hence need for social change is one of the powerful factors which goads the movement towards the direction of achieving the goal or ideology. A common need helps in inducing a common motivation which further pushes the desire to take forward the social revolution or movements as the case may be.
A women who has experienced the pangs of suffering and evil effects of child marriage may start a movement against child marriage.
Similarly, a leader of the landless labourers who himself is landless and has suffered due to this disadvantage, would feel the greater need of a movement for allotment of land to needy landless labourers. The stronger is the need, the greater is the motive for a social change and the higher is the success rate.
(iv) Long Standing Suffering due to Suppression and Oppression:
This factor influences a lot any social movement aimed at social change based on a single or number of issues.
Suppression by the higher socio economic class of the lower socioeconomic group, suppression of the low caste by the high caste, by the high rank employees of its low rank counterparts, rejection of the genuine demands of the various socially economically and psychologically disadvantaged class, and many more problems of a caste and class based society, racial and communal feeling produce the urge for social change.
People who have been suppressed from generation to generation initially tolerate and remain silent. But gradually they revolt when their limit of tolerance is crossed. At such a cross road some people start a movement and provide leadership.
They discuss with others of the same group having similar needs and form a group. Gradually the number increases as more and more people join the band. The movement becomes more organised, strong and collective and finally takes the shape of a social movement.
Many people of Africa, India and other Asian countries including various tribes who have been subjected to a lot of humiliation, prejudice, torture and inhumanity at least open their month and start revolting like a volcanic irruption.
(v) Impact of Communication:
Many social changes are influenced by various electronic and mass medias like TV, Radio, news paper etc. These agents highlight the woes and sufferings of needy people and encourage a change in the social order. People who read papers, listen to Radio or view television; people who are educated are influenced. They actively or passively directly or indirectly participate in the process of social change.
These medias make the common man aware of their problems, their rights and demands. Their clouded mind is lighted through their information. Modern day information technology has helped a lot in this regard.
These knowledge’s and information’s provoke them to join a movement or fight for their cause wholeheartedly. Through the mass media people come to know what is happening where and accordingly they also start joining the band.
Similarly through participation in group discussions, person to person or face to face communication and contact a lot of information is received. The feedback through this technique is so strong that people are highly motivated to fight for a social change or accept it.
Though man is a target of social change, he is not however, a passive agent in any of the social changes. A social change to be durable must need the active participation and genuine willingness to participate is the decision making process. Otherwise the social change will be temporary and mingle or fade with time.
It cannot sustain if force is used to accept social change. People are to be convinced through communication that such a social change is necessary for his better standard of living and good social, moral and emotional life. All social changes to be durable need the involvement of man himself, need changes in the participant himself, in his outlook, attitude, commitments identifications, realizations etc. It a man preaches one thing and practices another social change will not be possible.
The man has first to follow and implement the yardsticks of social change on himself and his family, before trying to apply it on others. This can be achieved through various means of communication which can convince him to change his attitude and outlook. A person who speaks against dowry system.
Should follow the same at the time of his son’s or daughter’s marriage. In other words he should not claim dowry from the bride’s parents at the time of his son’s marriage or give dowry to his daughter.
Notwithstanding the fact that education is a means of communication, education is discussed here separately as a means of social change because of its specific importance. Educated people are more conscious and aware of the positive and negative points of any social system.
Since education provides knowledge and knowledge increases mans outlook as well as rationality and judgement, education acts as a very powerful force of social change. With the rise in the percentage of educated people in the population it is seen that people have been more conscious of the social evils and are fighting for a change. Hence the importance of education cannot be under estimated is social change.
(vii) Technological Changes:
Technological changes including various inventions also influence social change. Urbanisation and work culture etc. are influenced by a technological society. In the 21st century when man is entering the space huge and making huge technological advances, the social order of that country is bound to change.
Technological advances do influence the life style, way of living, conduct and day-to-day behaviour of a person becomes more urbanised than traditional and more complex than simple. His needs, desire and life style change suddenly. Under such circumstances he experiences the urgent need for a social change.
It has been noticed that in many Western and advanced countries like US, UK, Russia, China, German and Japan various technological changes have brought huge and drastic transformation is social life.
Technological advances have made work easier, life luxurious and have pumped enough money to have a different life style. Even in Indian societies today we find a remarkable difference in the social life compared to what was a few decades back.
Consequently, in various big cities of India today it has become a wide practice by affluent youths to go to pubs, night clubs, parities and dancing sessions. They try to enjoy life through these ways which were considered a taboo two three decades back. Of course in many conservative societies in urban areas in India, these practices are still considered unacceptable by our culture.
Now a days therefore everywhere big cities are doing roaring business by opening night clubs, pubs and even beauty parlours. Even attitude of parents have changed towards those life styles, conduct and dress which were considered taboo and antisocial earlier. Technological advances make life more easy with the use of modern gadgets and hence people get enough time to engage themselves in other activities.