Explained: Top 6 Factors of Social Change

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Factors that influence how one lives are referred to as sociologically factors. These might include money, religion, consumer habits, education level, family size and structure, and population density. What’s acceptable in one nation may not be in another. Some of the most important factors of social change are as under.

Physical Environment

The effect of the environment on society is undeniable. Extreme weather, storms, social decline, earthquakes, floods, droughts and other factors have a huge impact on our lives. Human existence is extremely dependent on the earth’s geographical conditions.

Natural disasters have beset many flourishing societies throughout history, and human development is no exception. The distribution of people over various areas, variations in population density, agricultural production, vegetation and fauna, and pleasures and difficulties all suggest a shift when the physical environment changes.

The geography of a country, its natural resources, and its weather all influence what to talk about: rise and fall of civilizations, even our daily lives—clothes, food material, customs, shelter architecture, and so on. In general, bodily environment modifications bring many people together in enormous numbers and create significant changes in social life and cultural values. Migration itself promotes change because it introduces a group into a new setting with new social interactions and challenges it with new issues.

Physical environment, on the other hand, is considered to be a minor element in influencing human society. Despite the fact that physical surroundings are deemed to have a significant impact on social life, it cannot be declared to be the only influence behind societal evolution. Some geographical determinists (Buckle, Huntington, Miss Sample, J. Huxley etc.) held extreme views regarding this subject and maintained that geographical location determines (family, marriage, economy, religion and government) society’s shape and explains social change. However , this is no longer true today.

The ability of man to effect change in his physical environment has now been attained. Men adapt themselves to their surrounds, but they also have the power to alter their physical surroundings to meet their demands and requirements. Bennett and Tumin (1949) correctly stated that it is “perhaps as reasonable, if not more so,” to demand that men change their external world rather than vice versa.

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Demographic (biological) Factor

Demography is the study of human population in all its forms. The social structure of a society is closely linked to changes in population size, composition, and distribution. The birth rate, death rate, and migration (immigration and emigration) are the main factors that influence population size.

The demographic structure of a society is determined by such factors as age, sex, marital status, illiteracy, and others. Changes in demographic structure brought on by mortality fluctuations may cause modifications in the proportion of breadwinners to dependents.

A population change of this magnitude can have a significant impact on family, kinship, political, and other institutions. The size of the population has an enormous influence on each one of us. Whether we are born into a growing or declining population has a significant effect on our education, when we marry, whether we can get employment, and how much tax we pay.

A study of population trends and economic, social, and cultural variables such as poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, family structure, forms of marriage, employment etc has revealed a link between changes in population size and economic development. Poverty is primarily caused by rapid population growth.

Poverty is linked to health and family size. Nations with a large population (such as China and India) are more impoverished than nations with a small population. The types of marriage are influenced by the sex ratio (monogamy or polygyny). It was observed that communities with more males than females used the polyandry system. Polygyny was prevalent in such areas where there were more women than men.

Every society’s population is always changing in number and makeup. Population growth has been disrupted throughout human history owing to migration, warfare, pestilence, changing morals, and other factors. Two man-made methods to increase the population size have been adopted throughout history: birth control and abortion.

As a result of the decline in birth and death rates, social transformation occurs. Changes in composition are associated with changes in size. While the birth rate is decreasing, the proportion of younger people is declining, while elders are increasing, resulting in significant social change.

Cultural Factor

There is a significant link between our beliefs and social organizations, as well as our values and social interactions. Culture is made up of the fundamental components such as values, beliefs, ideas, and institutions. Social change is always a part of cultural transformation.

Social and cultural aspects are inextricably linked. As a result, any change in culture (ideas, values, beliefs, and so on) has the potential to impact the entire social structure. Social institutions cannot survive if they exist solely within dead shells of life.

Social systems are molded by cultural beliefs. The influence of culture is evident throughout history, as demonstrated by numerous examples. A religious belief that has remained constant for many years has had an impact on society’s development. For example, the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex have influenced the way Catholics think about it to this day.

The major cultural influence is that culture has the power to mold and direct social change. “Culture gives speed and direction to social change, and it determines the boundary beyond which social change is impossible.” (Dawson and Gettys, 1948). If we travel by ship, our destination is determined not by the design of the ship but rather by our culture. The city we dock in remains a choice based on our customs.

The importance of culture cannot be overstated because it influences technological progress as well as steering its course and character.

Cultural change in society has two major aspects

  • Cultural change by discovery and invention, and
  • Cultural change by diffusion and borrowing.

The first comes from within a society and culture, while the second arrives from a different culture outside of it. A discovery or invention adds to our verified knowledge base, which becomes a tool for social change later on. Many changes in human behavior resulted as a result of the awareness of bacterial infection, including prevention and treatment of sickness.

People from all over the world are also responsible for sociocultural changes. Diffusion occurs when cultural characteristics or patterns move from group to group. The adoption of a cultural trait by individuals who do not possess it is known as borrowing. We’ve taken on many Western cultural customs (such as using a knife and fork while eating).

Culture not only serves as a source of change directly, but it also has an impact on the utilitarian order indirectly. This concept was best exemplified by Max Weber’s work on sociology of religion, which was completed while he resided in India.

Weber argued in his book that the Protestant Reformation, particularly Calvinism, may be credited with the rise of modern capitalism. Protestantism placed a premium on the individual’s independence and self-reliance rather than on dependence on the church, clergy, or ritual. Weber claimed that Calvinist Protestantism pushed individuals to pursue worldly success. It placed a premium on cold logic, the desire to accumulate for long-term gain and success, and the promotion of commercial achievement as a moral quality.

Protestantism aided the rationalisation (an essential element of capitalism) of Western society by providing a component. Weber did not simply focus on religious faith in explaining capitalist development, but also suggested that when combined with other elements from a political, economic, and social standpoint, religion might lead to societal change.

Ideational Factor

The development of science and secularisation of thought have helped to create the critical and inventive character of the modern worldview, among other things. We no longer adhere to ancient practices or habits just because they are tradition. Rather, our customs and habits have grown more rational over time.

At a more general level, sociological theorists have established that all social change is ideational in nature. They claimed that ideas might play a role in the direction of social transformation. For them, ideational changes are significant contributing elements to many or most types of social change. Ideas and ideologies working together are strong driving forces for social transformation.

The way we think, as well as the content of our ideas, has altered dramatically in recent decades. Self-improvement, liberty, equality, and democratic participation are ideals that were largely created during the previous two or three centuries. Such ideals have been used to promote social and political change through reform movements and revolutions.

Economic Factor

The most far-reaching influence of economic factors is industrialisation’s impact. It has changed the whole way of life, institutions, organizations, and community life. Because they were designed for regular, customary requirements, levels of production in traditional production systems remained consistent. Modern industrial capitalism encourages continual technology improvement through constant technological change.

We can immediately observe the influence of industrialization (science and technology) on Indian family structure (joint family) and caste system. (For a more thorough analysis of the influence of economic factors, see Marx’s views addressed in Economic Theory of Social Change).

Political Factor

The State is the most powerful body that controls social interaction. It has the authority to created new legislation, repeal old ones, and effect social change in society. Child marriage, widow remarriage, divorce, inheritance and succession laws are just a few examples of how laws regulating these topics have brought about substantial modifications to India’s social structure.

The rate and direction of social change are also influenced by the nature of political leadership and officials in power. In many countries, political leadership has control over the economy as well. Political development influences scientific-technological and non-technological change indirectly through economic development.

A political organization’s form has an important influence on social change. In hunting and gathering cultures, there were no political organizations powerful enough to bring the community together; only minor adjustments occurred in these civilizations. However, the presence of distinct political agencies such as chiefs, lords, kings, and governments has a significant impact on society’s development. Even when this drains most of the people out of their resources, a ruler may choose to invest in increasing his castle.

The influence of economic change on political development is no less than the influence of political development on economic activity. The role played by governments in stimulating (and, in some cases, stalling) rates of economic growth is considerable. There is a lot of government intervention in production in all industrial countries.

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