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Social change

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Title: Social change  
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Subject: Globalization, Sociology of education, Sociology of law, Sociology of the family, Social movements
Collection: Social Change, Social Issues, Social Movements, Sociology Index
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Social change

The 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the United States is an example of a social movement. Pictured are marchers at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. Social change may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours, or social relations.


  • Definition 1
  • Prominent theories of social change 2
  • Current social changes 3
    • Global demographic shifts 3.1
    • Gendered patterns of work and care 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Social change may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic structure, for instance a shift away from feudalism and towards capitalism. 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 by cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological forces. Developmental psychology can play a role in social change.

Prominent theories of social change

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.[1]

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.[2]

  • 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 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.

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.[3]

Gendered patterns of work and care

In much of the developed world, changes from distinct men's and women's work to more gender equal patterns have been economically important since the mid 20th century.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Gene Shackman, Ya-Lin Liu and George (Xun) Wang. "Why does a society develop the way it does?." 2002.
  2. ^ Haferkamp, Hans, and Neil J. Smelser, editors. "Social Change and Modernity." Berkeley: University of California Press, c1992 1991.
  3. ^ Shackman, Gene, Xun Wang and Ya-Lin Liu. 2011. "Brief review of world population trends - Population.". Retrieved May 2013.
  4. ^  

Further reading

  • Eisenstadt, SN (1973). Tradition, Change, and Modernity. Krieger Publishing.
  • Giddens, A (2006). Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Haralambos, M and Holborn, M (2004). Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London: HarperCollins.
  • 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.  
  • 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.

External links

  • Understanding The World Today – Reports about global social, political, economic, demographic and technological change.
  • Social Change in India
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