What do you mean by social change?

Social change is change in social behavior, social patterns and value system. Social change occurs when two different cultures meet each other and share their beliefs, habits, food clothing etc. in short, we can say that it is the diffusion of cultures habits etc.

For example- when the person is crossing the river again if he crosses it might be the river that changes or that person.

Society is a flex.

Before independent child marriage, sati paratha etc. but this change.

Social change is the ever-present phenomenon of society.

According to Karl Marx- change is the unchanged law of society. Which means change is a constant phenomenon.


Kingsley Doris-By social change is meant only such alteration as occur in social organization I.e. the structure & function of society.

Merrill &Elbridge-social change means, that a large number of persons are engaging in activities that differ from those which they or their immediate forefathers engaged in some time before.

Gillin & Gillin-social change are variations from an accepted mode of life, whether due to alteration in geographical condition, in cultural equipment, the composition of the population. Or ideologies or whether bought about the diffusion or inventions within the group1

1 Social change, definitions of social change available at(https://www.civilserviceindia.com) (last visited 29/3/20)

Different factors of social change
  • Environment- environment plays a major role in social change because of the environment there are a lot of changes like if there is hot weather people may avoid going out, which lead to less of social gathering.


Earthquake and other calamities may bring change in society.

Human history is full of examples that flourishing civilizations fell prey to natural calamities. The distribution of the population over various regions, the variations in the population densities, the agricultural production, flora and fauna, the joys and hardships—all indicate a change when a change in the physical environment occurs.

  • Disease- like in contemporary conditions of the world spreading of then disease COVID-19 lead to social distancing and which lead to less interaction and change in clothing habits of the people. Like wearing masks and wear more clothes in case of safety purposes.
  • Political factor- political condition is one of the major phenomena of social change due to the current government behavior of the people also changes. Major example is of South Africa, where the black fight with apartheid and gain a social position in their country.


And in India during the time of independence.

Now due to staggering speeches of the numerous ruler’s, people are dividing themselves on the basis of their political thinking leading to disturbance in the society.

The type of political leadership and individuals in power also influences the rate and direction of social change. In many societies, political leadership controls the economy also. Scientific-technological and non-technological change are also dependent on political development which indirectly affects social change.

There is a direct relationship between the type of political organization and social change. In hunting and gathering societies, there was no political organization capable of mobilizing the community, as such; there were minimal changes in the societies. In all other types of society, however, the existence of distinct political agencies, such as chiefs, lords, kings and governments strongly affect the course of development of society takes. A ruler may choose to channel resources into building up his castle, for example, even when this impoverishes most of the population.

Economic factor-

reflect the social behavior for example if your economic condition is not so good then you will avoid social interaction and vice versa.

Of economic influences, the most far-reaching is the impact of industrialization. It has revolutionized the whole way of life, institutions, organizations and community life. In traditional production systems, levels of production were fairly static since they were geared to habitual, customary needs. Modern industrial capitalism promotes the constant revision of the technology of production. A process into which science is increasingly drawn.

Cultural factor- it is said that if there is a change in culture then there will be change in society.

Social and cultural aspects are closely interwoven. Thus, any change in the culture (ideas, values, beliefs etc.) brings a corresponding change in the whole social order. Social institutions cannot live on life shells within which life is extinct.

Theories of social change
  1. Evolutionary theory
  2. Cyclic theory
  3. Conflict theory
  4. Functional theory


Evolutionary theory

The theory of evolution by natural selection, first formulated in Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioural traits.

Evolutionary theories are based on the assumption that societies gradually change from simple beginnings into even more complex forms.

There are three basic stages of evolution;
  1. Savage
  2. Barbary
  3. Civilization


Early sociologists beginning with Auguste Comte believed that human societies evolve in a unilinear way. That is in one line of development.

Saw change as positive and beneficial. To them, the evolutionary process implied that societies would necessarily reach new and higher levels of civilizational Morgan believed that there were three basic stages in the process: savagery, barbarism and civilization.

Savage was the earliest form whereas barbarism is medieval and civilization is a modern form. Where there are a lot of inventions and living habits got to change.

This evolutionary view of social change was highly influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of Organic Evolution.

Herbert Spencer a British sociologist carried this analogy to its extremity. He argued that society itself is an organism. He even applied Darwin’s principle of the survival of the fittest

to human societies. This view known as social Darwinism got widespread popularity in the late 19th century. It survived even during the first phase of the 20th century.

Emile Durkheim identified the cause of societal evolution as a society’s increasing moral density.

He advocated that societies have evolved from a relatively undifferentiated social structure with a minimum of the division of labor and with a kind of solidarity called mechanical solidarity to a more differentiated social structure with the maximum division of labor giving rise to a kind of solidarity called organic solidarity.

Cyclic theory

Cyclical theories of social change focus on the rise and fall of civilizations attempting to discover and account for these patterns of growth and decay. Spengler, Toynbee and Sorokin are the champions of this theory.

According to key- challenges and response. every society faces some challenges if your response you will survive challenges.

There are various challenges such as


Enemies- internal and external

Nature of response if you will not die.

Each civilization learns from its mistake.

Each civilization is like a biological organism and has a similar life-cycle, birth, maturity, old-age and death. After making a study of eight major civilizations including the west. He said that the modern western society is in the last stage i.e. old age. He concluded that the western societies were entering a period of decay. As evidenced by wars, conflicts and social breakdown that heralded their doom.

Conflict theory

Karl Marx (1818–1883), who saw society as being made up of individuals in different social classes who must compete for social, material, and political resources such as food and housing, employment, education, and leisure time. Social institutions like government, education, and religion reflect this competition in their inherent inequalities and help maintain the unequal social structure.

German sociologist Max Weber agreed with Marx but also believed that, in addition to economic inequalities, inequalities of political power and social structure cause conflict. Weber noted that different groups were affected differently based on education, race, and gender and that people’s reactions to inequality were moderated by class differences and rates of social mobility, as well as by perceptions about the legitimacy of those in power.


Just as structural functionalism was criticized for focusing too much on the stability of societies, conflict theory has been criticized because it tends to focus on conflict to the

exclusion of recognizing stability. Many social structures are extremely stable or have gradually progressed over time rather than changing abruptly as conflict theory would suggest.