UPSC Sociology Syllabus – Chapter 10 – Social change in Modern Societies
(a) Sociological theories of social change.
(b) Development and dependency.
(c) Agents of social change.
(d) Education and social change.
(e) Science, technology and social change.
- Sociologists define social change as a transformation of cultures, institutions, and functions.
- Most change isn’t instantaneous.
- Social change has been defined by sociologist Wilbert Moore as ‘a significant alteration in structure over time in behavior patterns and culture, including norms and values’.
- Social Change has two broad aspects – Structural and Cultural.
- Structural changes include urbanization, industrialization etc.
- Cultural changes include – emancipation of women, dilution of caste, change in family forms and social values and so on.
- The notion of social evolution which is used in linear theories was taken from the theories of biological evolution.
- Some theorists which have employed a Linear Model or Evolutionary Model include Comte, Tylor, Spencer, Morgan, Hobhouse, Marx, Durkheim, Tonnies etc.
- The evolutionary theory of social change gained prominence in the 19th century.
- Sociologists latched on to Darwin’s theory of evolution, applying it to society. Auguste Comte, known as the “father of sociology,” believed in the evolutionary model.
- Comte used a progressive sequence accounting for new forms in his ‘Law of the Three Stages’. These stages of history were designated theological, metaphysical, and positivistic. In theological stage, thinking was guided by religious ideas and beliefs that society was an expression of God’ will. Metaphysical stage started with Renaissance in which society was seen in natural terms. Positivistic stage started with new scientific discoveries. Comte believed that eventually man would be able to measure empirically and explain conclusively all forms of social behavior in the latter stage. Another aspect of his idea of social change is that some aspects remain constant which he termed as ‘social statics’ and some change which he described through ‘social dynamics’.
- Spencer took a classic evolutionary view and he often termed as a ‘Social Darwinist’ as his ideas were influenced by biological theory of evolution offered by Darwin. According to him evolution involves differentiation of simple things into complex or differentiated things. He also believed in the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’. According to him, like organisms, societies are also made up of large number of interconnected parts and these parts evolve into more complex ones as needs of society grow. He also identified certain stages of evolution of societies – simple, compound, doubly compound and trebly compound. Spencer also offers a theory of evolution from ‘militant’, which were involved in warfare, to ‘industrial’ societies, which are based on friendship, altruism, elaborate specialization, recognition for achievements etc.
- Tonnies – a German sociologist – used Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to account for the same phenomena. These two social groups exist due to existence of two types of will viz – ‘Essential will’ and ‘Arbitrary will’. Essential will is associated with peasants and artisans, while arbitrary will is associated with businessmen, scientists, political class etc. People of groups belonging to the first type of will are called Gemeinschaft or community and those associated with the latter are called Gesellschaft or society. Societies also evolve from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft.
Unilinear evolutionary theories maintain that all societies pass through the same sequence of stages of evolution to reach the same destiny.A second category for grouping classical views of evolutionary social change is the Dialectic theories. Marx (Conflict Theory) too viewed history as moving in a dialectic pattern. Linear theories are criticized for their value bias and hence lacked objectivity, a precondition forscientific study. Their nomenclature (‘savage’, ‘primitive’ etc referring older societies) reflects their bias. Further, the various theorists also don’t agree upon the various stages as well.