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SOCIAL CHANGE-INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

One of the central problems of sociology is change, most especially social change. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the first attempts at sociological analysis were prompted by the need to explain two great waves of change that were sweeping across Europe; namely, industrialisation, and the expansion of democracy and human rights in the wake of the American and French Revolutions. Auguste Comte, in his theory of social dynamics, proposed that societies progressed through a series of predictable stages based on the development of human knowledge. The general tendency of nineteenth-century theories of social change was towards historicism and utopianism.

This century, theories of social change have proliferated and become more complex, without ever wholly transcending these formulations. In the modern world, we are aware that society is never static, and that social, political and cultural changes occur constantly. Change can be initiated by governments, through legislative or executive action (for example, legislating for equal pay or declaring a war), by citizens organised in social movements (for example, trade unionism, feminism); by diffusion from one culture to another (as in military conquest, migration, colonialism) or by the intended or unintended consequences of technology. Some of the most dramatic social changes in modern times have been initiated by such interventions as the motor car, antibiotics, television, and computers. Change can also come through the impact of environmental factors such as drought, famine, and interventional shifts in economic or political change.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. define social change 
  2. describe sources of change 
  3. describe resistance to change. 

3.1 Definition of Social Change

Wilmot (1985: 174) sees social change as “the alteration in the sources or organization of society or its component parts overtime.” This alteration, he says, may be in terms of four variables, viz: size, complexity, direction and functions. In terms of size, a society can, through deliberate policies, bring about a change in itself. A practical example is the creation of local government areas from already existing ones by government. Once size changes, functions, direction and complexity will invariably change.

MacGee etal (1977: 589) refer to social change as the transformation in patterns of social organisation or activity. The emphasis in this definition is on the changes which the transformation process introduced into the older order of society. Therefore, social change can be seen as an overhaul of the socio-political, economic and other structures of society. It is either gradual and imperceptible or sudden.

3.2 Sources of Social Change

Social change can be as a result of the following:

Discovering Parsons (1951) defined discovery as an addition to knowledge. “Discovery refers to such matters as the discovery of new astral bodies, new elements and new treatment for disease (Parsons, 1951: 94).

Education Education, as it is, involves the process of transmitting ideas, knowledge and values to individuals in order to bring about a change in their behaviour. The knowledge and skills gained from education are usually being applied which therefore brings about changes of all sorts.

This is another source of social change. Invention has to do with combining existing elements of culture so that some thing new could be produced. Invention as a source of social change is of two types: material inventions and social inventions. Material inventions have to do with the idea and materials available to the inventor. Social inventions relate to things such as alphabet, constitutional governments, etc.

SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1

Explain the sources of social change.

3.3 Resistance to Change

Several factors have been identified mostly by sociologists as making people to resist change. Some have argued in favour of economic costs of the change; some have also argued in favour of the early imperfections in new inventions.

Change can be resisted due to some other factors which include the threats constituted by the change; strong opposition particularly from concerned groups, the difficulty in adapting to new things developed, etc. All these could make people to resist change of any sort. .

SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 2

What do you understand by resistance to change?

4.0 CONCLUSION

It is a fact to note that change is inevitable and that social change is continuous in all societies though some changes are more notable than others.
The issue of great concern now is that any time change is introduced; it should be taken as something very vital and progressive. This does not mean that people must not assess the change; in actual fact there is need for real assessment of any social change.

5.0 SUMMARY

In this unit, we have dealt with definitions of social change and we have also discussed the sources of social change, and resistance to change. Social change has been identified as the transformation or modification process that brings about an influence on the old methods of doing things which have been identified as old-fashioned.

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT

  1.  What do you understand by the term “Social change”? 
  2. Explain carefully the sources of social change with examples. 
  3. Describe the factors involved in resistance to change 

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