Social change is an instance in which people reform the conventions of society. The behavior and attitudes of people determine the direction and significance of change, while the environment or society influence these behaviors. Here are 10 facts about social change.
10 Facts About Social Change
- Modernization and Technology: Social change is a combination of many factors. Different events, technologies or people can affect the behavior or norms within society. Modernization and technology have been two of the largest driving forces of social change throughout history. The Industrial Revolution in many countries forced governments to become more liberal as their citizenry became more valuable and leveraged for more rights at work.
- Social Order and Coordination: Social norms are central in social order or social coordination. Social norms are informal laws that dictate a group’s or society’s behaviors. A social norm can range from wearing a suit to work or holding the door for someone behind you to voting in the presidential election. Social change does not occur without a significant number of people coming together and changing the traditional behavior within a society.
- Social Justice: Social change often looks to change social norms that negatively affect social justice. Social justice is the idea that every aspect of society can achieve justice and equity rather than in only certain cases or for some individuals.
- Causes of Social Change: There are different types of social changes. Since social changes are whenever a group changes social behavior and consciousness, many factors can cause such an outcome. War, protests, strikes and nonviolent demonstrations are all ways social change comes about.
- Negative Social Change: Social change is not always a positive form of change. An extreme example is the Nazi regime and its persecution of the Jewish population that occurred because of a change to Germany’s social norms. It is up to people to choose which form of change is worth pursuing.
- Length of Time to Instigate Social Change: Often change takes place over many generations. The breaking down of social norms requires time to turn new ideas from fringe to conventional. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi are prominent social figures. These men exemplify the multiple generation struggle, as all of them inherited a society in need of change and utilized the time to achieve social justice.
- Importance of Nonprofits: Nonprofits are vital in social change. Nonprofits are often the driver of awareness, bringing solutions to communities affected by a lack of progress. Groups like Oxfam International strive to uplift the poverty-stricken and decrease poverty around the world. By working in more than 90 countries, the organization has affected millions of people. The group looks to provide clean water and food to those without such necessities and diminish the effects of climate change in developing countries. In many of its efforts, it also looks to increase the economic well-being of developing countries to ensure their citizens are provided with enough resources to live and flourish.
- Theories About Social Change: Sociologists and anthropologists have studied social change and social norms extensively. These significant studies have led to many different theories of the causes and reasons for social change. Many see Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber as the most influential sociological thinkers, each offering differing theories on the progression of society. All three focused on the division of labor and how that affected social progress. Durkheim argued that with an increase in population, there is more competition for resources. To obtain social harmony as opposed to constant competition, people will look to specialize their skills and find new ways to make a living. Marx also analyzed the division of labor and the effect of work on people and society. Marx, however, believed that people often look to meet their human needs, and are in a constant struggle with the market or their owners of production to obtain financial security to live. Marx believed that life was a constant struggle between classes and that social change emerges from this struggle. While Marx believed that class solidarity would lead to social change, Weber believed that society required a charismatic leader to spark such change. Weber emphasized a transition to rational thought, and because rationality usually comes with collaboration, Weber believed bureaucracy would be essential to change.
- Difficulty to Instigate Social Change: Traditions are often difficult to change and violence is a common response to social movements. People in power often do not want to relinquish their power and the traditional system often provides the parameters and rules for those people to rise to that position. As a result, they see a change to the system as a threat to their status. What started as peaceful protests against an extradition bill has turned into months of clashes between protestors in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists began protesting in March 2019 against a bill that would extradite citizens of Hong Kong to Beijing. Activists saw this bill as an encroachment on their autonomy and held demonstrations to voice their opposition. After multiple peaceful demonstrations, police responded with force against protestors, and this use of force caused protestors to increase the intensity of their protests. Since the beginning of these protests, there have been constant clashes between protestors and police, including batons, rubber bullets, tear gas and even the shooting of multiple protestors with live rounds. Protestors have attacked businesses and police. Awareness and pressure are powerful deterrents to violence on both sides.
- Nonprofits for Peaceful Change: There are groups all around the world working for peaceful change. The Borgen Project is just one among many groups that look to uplift the impoverished and oppressed peoples of the world. Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote public health around the world. Bill and his wife Melinda look to provide millions around the world with resources and education to live healthily. The Foundation strives to reduce inequities in healthy by providing resources and education to countries with insufficient health care programs.
These 10 facts about social change show that change is constant within society and that with the level of technological advancement, the rate of societal change will only increase. With so many groups working for social justice and their ability to reach more people with their message, the time is right for societies around the world to become more inclusive. Inspired by social justice figures of the past, there has been an emphasis recently on the peaceful pursuit of social change. The number of groups striving for social justice around the world encourages people to live without conflict, without injustice or prejudice and to receive the necessary resources to live a healthy, fulfilling life. With technology as a spark for social change and the technological advances of today, there is the possibility of creating a world where uplifting those in need, even in different countries, is the norm.
– Jared Hynes