Social change refers to the transformations witnessed or experienced in cultures, institutions, and functions that define various elements of society. This change is triggered by an array of factors, most of which seek to maintain the status quo. Some of the common sources of social change include the government, the natural environment, and available resources, among others. Change is inevitable; thus, it is important for human interactions to have an orientation towards embracing it at the right time. Some things that people can do to create an environment for social change include talking about politics in a constructive manner, dropping the doctrine of dualism, empowering the media, as well as seeking innovations beyond the technology industry (Harrikari and Rauhala 38). Although all societies are expected to undergo certain changes with time, research has shown that there are no obvious reasons for this observable fact. Human beings have an ethical responsibility of achieving positive social change in order to improve both human and social conditions for a better society by creating an inclusive environment that supports the needs and interests of all elements that comprise social institutions.
Over the years, sociologists have relied on three theories, namely evolutionary, functionalist, and conflict, to explain the dynamics of social change. According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, just as organisms develop from one stage to another, with time, societies also tend to evolve into higher levels. Societies that do not have effective adaptive strategies tend to lag behind with regard to advanced levels. Although social evolutionists argued that all societies go through the same cycle of transformation, contemporary theorists have established that extended social groups can evolve differently (Chase-Dunn and Lerro 33). According to the functionalist theory, society is similar to a human body, where it has organs that are interdependent. It works towards stabilizations, therefore, it is necessary for all its parts to be harmonious because when one suffers, the others have to adjust accordingly. The conflict theory argues that by nature, societies are imbalanced and competitive. According to Karl Marx, most societies are characterized by a phenomenon where the rich and powerful belong to an elite group of few people who control the rest who are highly vulnerable to exploitation (qtd. in McGee and Pettit 68). This observable fact sows conflict, which in turn triggers social change.
Some of the notable examples of social change that has been witnessed over the years include the green movement, the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the American civil rights movement, and the LGBT rights movement. According to sociologists, social change is important, and the global society ought to embrace it by creating an environment that supports its propagation (Harrikari and Rauhala 70). Social change has helped in bringing the world closer to achieving gender equality. Steps such as bridging the gender pay gap and increasing access to education for women have contributed to lasting social change in cultures across the world. Although such changes start small, the impacts are usually felt when more individuals and interest groups get on board and add their voice to the course. Research has also established that social change is good for business (Chase-Dunn and Lerro 131). Contemporary workplace environments are characterized by employees from diverse cultural backgrounds. This has, in turn, helped in improving the productivity of businesses because it has necessitated the need for employers to create an inclusive workplace environment that suits the needs and interests of everyone.
Environment and Social Change
Change within a society is often determined by the nature of the environment that people create through their interactions. Social change is often triggered by three main environmental elements, namely demographic change, conflict, and cultural transformation. It can be stated that change is inevitable when the demographic of society evolves. This refers to the statistics characterizing segments of the human population in a society often broken down by age, sex, or income (Chase-Dunn and Lerro 162). These changes are necessitated by factors such as an increase in births, reduced deaths, and heightened immigration, among others. This means that an increase in population will definitely affect the manner in which the available resources will be utilized, thus necessitating any needed social changes. Additionally, economic empowerment also affects the demographic of a society because the spending power of people is directly proportional to their income (McGee and Pettit 100). The more money people have to spend, the more the economy will expand through the creation of industries offering various services that people need.
Conflict is also an element that provokes social change across the world. Human conflicts are caused by inequalities that develop out of differences aligned to factors such as one’s gender, religion, race, class, and sexual orientation, among others. If these diverse elements are not handled effectively, they tend to foster incompatible feelings, which in turn develop into anger and conflict (Harrikari and Rauhala 119). In order to manage conflicts and other forms of misunderstandings, people organize themselves into interest groups that are used to champion change. Although social change is a prolonged process that happens in stages, it can also happen instantaneously depending on the dynamics of the existing conflict. Restructuring and overthrowing governments are good examples of inevitable changes that are instantaneous.
Cultural evolution also plays a pivotal role in necessitating social changes within a society. Examples of changes in a society’s culture that often trigger social progression include awareness creation, development of new technology, and introduction of new discoveries, among others. For example, the internet is a contemporary invention that has changed the way people communicate and interact within cultures across the world (McGee and Pettit 121). Social networking sites that rely on the internet have increased the connectivity of human beings across the world, to the extent of many businesses and organizations shifting their operations to e-commerce platforms. Studies have shown that discoveries have a considerable degree of impact on the way a society’s culture changes (Chase-Dunn and Lerro 232).
Awareness creation regarding critical elements such as gender, race, religion, sexuality, education, and work influence the way the culture of society changes over time. In the contemporary world, people have become more receptive to issues concerning members of the LGBT community across the globe. This change has manifested itself across all spheres of life, as society has recognized the need to protect their rights. Over the years, gender roles have changed a lot, and society has had to make changes in the way the roles of both men and women are perceived (McGee and Pettit 159). Affirmative action has led to the empowerment of women across the world, as they now have equal access to education and employment opportunities within the society.
Benefits of Social Change
Social change helps to improve the level of accountability in governments. Studies have shown that power can corrupt if there are no avenues for accountability among the leaders (Harrikari and Rauhala 129). Over the years, many governments across the world have been accused of committing human rights violations against the people who elected them into office. This phenomenon is usually necessitated by a lack of accountability within these governments. However, social change has the ability to highlight these injustices, as well as create an environment that helps societies transform into more effective and inclusive systems. However, it is important for social change geared towards restructuring a government to be effected in a gradual manner through democratic processes such as elections. The main reason for this is the fact that violent and instantaneous strategies such as a civil war can easily erode the benefits of past social changes.
Social change plays a pivotal role in empowering citizens towards meeting their obligations. Sociologists argue that social change only occurs when and if people agree to come together for a common course. This often involves taking note of the aspects that are faulty or ineffective within their cultural setting and taking the necessary measures towards making improvements. A desire to achieve social change inspires citizens to unite and remain committed to effecting the desired changes even when they face momentous opposition (McGee and Pettit 190). Through social change, achieving sustainable development across generations becomes a reality. It empowers people to meet their basic needs using the available resources without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Social change has an orientation towards making the life of future generations better and more fulfilling (McGee and Pettit 192). The fact that such changes are gradual, many activists understand that the generations that will come after them are the ones to reap any benefits that will be achieved. Such selfless acts of fighting battles on behalf of future generations is crucial in setting the foundation for future success within every society.
Human activities in the contemporary world have necessitated the need for social changes geared towards protecting the environment. Research has shown human beings have the biggest impact on the environment in terms of the destruction caused (Chase-Dunn and Lerro 411). Over the years, the green movement activism has focused a lot on the need for human beings to reorient their activities towards earth-friendly initiatives. Initiatives such as promoting personal responsibility, awareness creation on climate change, and protection of endangered species have the potential to change the way people perceive the importance of environmental protection.
Social change refers to alterations in the order of institutions, behaviors, and relations within a society. Change is inevitable within every social setting, and it is important to embrace it by creating an inclusive environment that will support its propagation. Although the causes of social change are varied and numerous, the most notable ones are the environment, population, innovations, as well as social institutions. Social change is important because it helps to create a better life for future generations, as well as increasing awareness on crucial issues such as climate change and the protection of human rights. Some of the ways through which social change can be achieved include constructive discussion of politics, eradicating the ideologies of dualism, promoting sustainable development, as well as practicing random acts of kindness as a way of achieving the common good. Human beings have an ethical responsibility of reorienting their activities towards achieving positive social change in order to improve both human and social conditions for a better society.
Chase-Dunn, Christopher, and Bruce Lerro. Social Change: Globalization from Stone Age to the Present. Routledge, 2016.
Harrikari, Timo, and Pirkko-Liisa Rauhala. Social Change and Social Work: The Changing Societal Conditions of Social Work in Time and Place. Routledge, 2016.
McGee, Rosemary, and Jethro Pettit. Power, Empowerment and Social Change. Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.