Meaning And Definition Of Social Change: Agencies And Theories

Table Of Contents

  • Meaning Of Social Change
  • Factors That Lead To Social Change
  • Agencies Of Social Change
  • Theories Of Social Change

Meaning Of Social Change

Change is inevitable in every human society. Individuals right from birth undergo some processes of transformation. This they do through their relationship with their fellow beings. The relationship comes through interaction and brings about change. Social change entails mainly the differences that occurred over time. From the emergence of human society, there have been tremendous stages of change. The society has transformed from the simple primitive to a more complex society.

Social change according to Defleur (1977) refers to alterations in the pattern of social organization of specific groups within a society or even of the society itself. Social change is the changing ways in which human beings relate themselves to one another, the processes which institutions and organizations undergo, the transformation of the social structure and the forces that bring them about. Because of the dynamic nature of our society, we cannot do without change.

The above definitions of social change centre on ‘alterations’ in any society ot social organization. By alteration, it means the development of new norms, the modification of role expectations, a shift to new types of sanction, the development of different criteria for ranking and the introduction and use of new production techniques.

Factors That Lead To Social Change

There are so many factors that lead to change in the society. They are as follows:

1. Population Growth

The popluation of every community has changed both in numbers and in composition. This has greatly led to changes in the society. This is true as changes in on unit of the society are usually accompanied by changews in some other units and even the whole. Population increase brought both positive and negative consequences in the society.

2. Technological Growth

New inventions are rife in our society. They have developed and brought about rapid social change. Invention means creating something that has not previously been part of the culture of society. Every society today is at the verge of technological advancement.

3. Ideology, Belief & Custom

The beliefs and customs of the people constitutte certain behaviour expected of them. This belief that always form the basics of rationalizing people’s actions are termed ideology. The ideology, belief and custom of the early men in their traditional society were quite different from that of the modern society. Ideology in several cases leads to change in the society. Peoples way of life, orientation and general upbringing constitute change. The guided and stipulated norms create positive changes in the society. All these in turn lead to social change.

4. Cultural Diffusion

This is one of the factors that lead to social change in the society. By cultural diffusion, it entails when certain aspects of a society’s culture are adopted by another society. This method of change undergoes some gradual process in its manifestation. It is always achieved through habitation, migration, social organization etc.

5. Conflict

Conflict leads to social change in the society. This is in line with Marxian conflict assumption of society. He believes that the economic resources generate conflict in the society. This conflict emanates from peoples struggle over the scarce economic resources. They struggle for dominance over the means of production. It therefore brought the division of the society into two groups i.e. the owners of production and the labourers. The labourers in the process revolted due to injustice in the economic distribution. The revolution brough great changes in the society.

All these explained above are the factors that bring about social change.

Agencies Of Social Change

Certain agencies are responsible for social change. The social institutions are the most agents that direct changes in the social system. These agencies will be treated accordingly. They are as follows:

1. The Government

The institution of the government directs changes in Nigeria. This is so as power and authority lie in their hands. The improvement of countries facilities and existing infrastructures lies in the hands of government. Government directs change through the provision of certain developmental projects like the construction of roads, building of schools and hospitals, location of industries and the provision of electricity and pipe-borne water.

2. The Economy

This is another agency that directs change in our society. It is one of the oldest agents of social change. Its emergence can be traced down in the 18th century during the industrial revolution that took place in England. During this period, manufacturing of goods with hands and small tools was changed to manufacturing with heavy machines. It brought about social change.

Furthermore, the growth and development of the economic position of any country directs the level of change in the syste,. Economic growth leads to industrialization and modernization.

3. Education

The institution of Education enhances change in the society. This is the institution responsible for the training and re-training of people. It changes the values and beliefs of the people. Education at all level direct change. During the pre-colonial time, the traditional system of education was prevalent. People were trained by elders in various families. They were taught of family values and norms. These guilded them and shaped their orientation. Presently, the introduction of western education greatly leads to societal transformation.

Theories Of Social Change

The theories of social change provide explanations on how changes occur in the society. These theories will be analyzed based on the contributions of the founding fathers of sociology such as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx.

1. Auguster Comte Analysis On Social Change

Comte indicated that sociology could be studied by studying its internal structure (statics) and also the study of the dynmics of society. He believes that a complete sociological analysis of the society should base on statics and dynamics of the society. That is the changing nature of the social system. He is of the notion that a complete understanding of the society means the total combination and study of the laws of statis and dynamics. Statics are forces for social stability and order while dynamics are forces for social conflict and change.

2. Herbert Spencer Analysis On Social Change

Spencer is the father of evolution. His law of evolution encapsulates every other law. It applies to all organisms and society. This is simply the law of change. The law of evolution subjects itself to its own will. It is not subjected to man’s manipulation. His evolutionary theory viewd society like an organism with interdependent parts that constitute to make a whole.

In continuation, he also operated his evolutionary law in terms of the principle of the survival of the fittest. He recognized that the evolution of society and the survival of those within it was directly linked to their ability to adapt to changing conditions.

3. Emile Durkheim Analysis On Social Change

Durkheim is also an evolutionist but not as detailed as Comte and Spencer. His account on social change is based mainly on mechanical to organic solidarity. This is the transition of society from the simple to complex stage. This transition encouraged the dissolution of old ties which bound people together (mechanical) in pre-industrial society to a new complex social relationship that exist in modern societies (organic).

4. Max Weber Analysis On Social Change

Weber subscribes two types of theories of change in his sociology. These are the linear evolutionary change and the cyclical evolutionary change. The linear evolutionary change is also referred to as cultural change. By this, we mean change in one direction that is non-reversible. When one stage is passed, others will follow. There is not retrogression in this stage.

Weber dealt with cyclical change as his second type of theory of change. By this he means changes that go in circle. This is a reversible change and he explains it as a result of charismatic leadership movement. There is always a change from one leadership movement to another.

5. Karl Marx Analysis On Social Change

Marx believes that change is the resultant of class conflict. For him, conflict is not evil because it is in the attempt to resolve conflict that qualitative changes occur.

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