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Social Change: Meaning, Factors promoting Social Change

Social Change: Meaning

Meaning of social Change

Social change implies structural and functional change in society. Many functions which our forefathers used to perform but we do not perform now or the functions which a society performed earlier are not performed by it now. Since this change takes place in society it is called social change. For example, the customs and conventions, traditions and the styles of living that existed in Indian society do not exist now. We can say that there has been considerable change in the structure of Indian society. This change is called social change.

Concept of Social Change

Change is the law of life and changes in society are always taking place. Changes may be slow, so slow that people may not even perceive them; there are times when they are so rapid and drastic. In all spheres of life, things are changing in the economic sphere, in the political fields, in the sphere of education and so on. Social changes, to a great extent are brought about through the process of education.


According to MacIver and Page, “Change in social structure is social change.” Social structure is the network of relationship in a society, involving social status, social roles and social norms.

According to Dawson and Gettys, “Cultural change is social change, since culture is social in its origin.”

According to Jones, “Social changes are a term used to describe variations in, or modifications of any aspect of social processes, social patterns, social interaction or social organization.”

According to Gillin and Gillin, “Social changes are variations from the accepted modes of life; whether due to alterations in geographical conditions, in cultural equipment, composition of the population, or ideologies and whether brought about by diffusion or invention within the group.”

According to Fairchild, “Social change means variations or modifications in any aspects of social processes, patterns or form.”

According to Ginsberg, “By social change, I understand change in social structures, such as the size of a society, the composition or balance of its part or the type of its organization.”

Factors that determine Social Change

  1. The Physical Factor- The environment or the nature continues to change and this change may bring about change in the society. Geographical conditions of the earth affect human life. Man has to adapt himself in the physical environment but if he is not able to adapt to the physical environment he change either the physical environment or the mode of his own life. Famine, earthquake, excessive rains etc. brings about social change.
  2. The Biological Factor- McIver and Page have correctly said that biological conditions change and prepare the way for social change. Heredity is a biological factor. Human birth is the result of intermixture of the mother’s body and father’s body. An intermixture brings the emergence of a new condition which is purely biological. Those who are weak in biological factors are pushed down and the strong ones climb to the top or upper layer, when the upper layer becomes strong it brings about social changes.
  3. The Technological Factor- Man comes across new techniques to meet his needs and this is responsible for technological development which in turn causes social change.
  4. The Cultural Factor- Culture is the style of living. Culture changes and the modes in which culture is socially expressed also changes. It is continuous process. Any change in culture is accompanied by a corresponding change in the whole society.
  5. Social Investigation- Social investigations are non-physical investigations. There are collective investigations or inventions. It would not be inappropriate if we call ‘law’ as a social investigation. Similarly social law is also a determinant of social change. For example laws like widow marriage act, sati prohibition act, special marriage act, child marriage prohibition act, abolition of untouchability etc. are social laws and are result of social investigation. They can very well be referred to as a cause of social change.
  6. Demographic reasons of Social Change- The increase or decrease in population may also a reason of social change. In other words social change also depends on density of population. There are lesser social changes in a country where population is not dense. In our country the birth rate is greater than the mortality rate. The increasing population has left great impact on foods, living standards, dresses and many other things. The uncontrolled increase in population may cause scarcity of food grains, residential accommodation and at the worst it may starvation and famine. All these factors are responsible for social change. In fact the society which is over populated is quite different from the society where population is limited. This is worth noticing that whenever there is change in population it definitely has left its effect on society and social change are bound to take place. The population in urban areas is denser than that of rural areas. The reform in social life in urban areas can be easily noticed.

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