Writing in Encyclopedia Britannica (reference below), Nico Wilterdink and William Form define social change as “the alteration of mechanisms within the social structure, characterized by changes in cultural symbols, rules of behaviour, social organizations, or value systems.”
Wilterdink and Form elaborate:
“Throughout the historical development of their discipline, sociologists have borrowed models of social change from other academic fields. In the late 19th century, when evolution became the predominant model for understanding biological change, ideas of social change took on an evolutionary cast, and, though other models have refined modern notions of social change, evolution persists as an underlying principle.
“Other sociological models created analogies between social change and the West’s technological progress. In the mid-20th century, anthropologists borrowed from the linguistic theory of structuralism to elaborate an approach to social change called structural functionalism. This theory postulated the existence of certain basic institutions (including kinship relations and division of labour) that determine social behaviour. Because of their interrelated nature, a change in one institution will affect other institutions.
“Various theoretical schools emphasize different aspects of change. Marxist theory suggests that changes in modes of production can lead to changes in class systems, which can prompt other new forms of change or incite class conflict. A different view is conflict theory, which operates on a broad base that includes all institutions. The focus is not only on the purely divisive aspects of conflict, because conflict, while inevitable, also brings about changes that promote social integration. Taking yet another approach, structural-functional theory emphasizes the integrating forces in society that ultimately minimize instability.
“Social change can evolve from a number of different sources, including contact with other societies (diffusion), changes in the ecosystem (which can cause the loss of natural resources or widespread disease), technological change (epitomized by the Industrial Revolution, which created a new social group, the urban proletariat), and population growth and other demographic variables. Social change is also spurred by ideological, economic, and political movements.”
Atlas topic, subject, and course
William Form and Nico Wilterdink, Social Change, Encyclopedia Britannica, at https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-change, accessed 11 December 2018.
Page created by: Alec Wreford and Ian Clark, last modified on 11 December 2018.
Image: Bust Social Change, Twitter, at https://twitter.com/bustpsualtoona, accessed 11 December 2018.