DIVISION OF LIBERAL ARTS
(Notes from Sociology – John J. Macionis)
Social change is the transformation of culture and social institutions over time. The process of social change has four general characteristics.
i) Social change is universal although the rate of change varies. Social change affects all areas of society from social patterns related to death to the payment of taxes. Some societies change faster than others. The more technologically advanced societies become, the greater the pace of social change. Some cultural elements change more quickly than others. William Ogburn’s theory of cultural lag recognizes that material culture usually changes faster than nonmaterial culture, e.g, medical devices which prolong the life of seriously ill persons have developed more rapidly than have ethical standards for deciding when and how to employ this technology.
ii) Social change is sometimes intentional but often unplanned. Industrial societies actively encourage many kinds of change. Automobiles manufacturers understood that cars would allow people to travel in a single day distances that would have taken weeks or months a century before. But no one foresaw how profoundly the mobility would affect families and reshape cities and suburbs.
iii) Social change often generates controversy. Every social transformation wins support from some people and provokes opposition from others. Capitalists welcomed the industrial revolution but workers resisted the machinery which they thought would make their skills obsolete.
iv) Social change has variable consequences. Some social changes have only passing significance, whereas other transformations have far-reaching ramifications. E.g. many fashion trends are just passing fads but members of society are still trying to adjust to powerful technological advances such as television half a century after its introduction.
Causes of Social Change...