Essay on Causes of Social Change

A. Internal Causes of Social Change

1. Strain and Conflict:

Conflict of interests is always present to some extent in all the social systems. It is more evident in the political field. The concept of power virtually implies the idea of conflicting purposes. In the stable social systems conflicts of interest are settled largely within institutionalised rules. No society is free from conflicts. Any attempt to resolve the conflict would lead to some kind of change or the other.

A latent conflict is always present at all times between those whom the existing system is benefiting more and those whom it is benefiting less. This conflict will become manifest if the disadvantages are made to feel that the existing order is not the only realisti­cally possible order.

2. Social Problems:

Problems such as caste prejudices, prostitution, juvenile delinquency, over ‘population, unemployment, poverty, beggary, the need for slum clearance, etc., involve a good deal of social conflict, in the course of which social change occurs. These are social problems. They arise mainly due to some internal deficiencies.

Therefore, if they are to be solved or reduced, the existing social order will have to be changed to some extent. Thus, an attempt to tackle social problem may contribute to social change.

For example, in order to reduce the size of the growing population in India, people may have to be convinced of the importance of following birth control measures, family planning, etc. This may affect the value system, marriage and family system and moral system of India.

3. Revolutions and Upheavals:

The most intense conflict in a society is found during a revo­lution. Various internal factors may contribute to it. For example, the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution took place due to several factors such as – exploita­tion, suppression of liberty, hunger, tyranny, bad roads, commercial restrictions, corruption, military or diplomatic defeat, famine, high prices, low wages, unemployment, and so on. These revolutions brought about far-reaching changes.

4. Cultural Change:

Cultural innovation also contributes to social change. An innovation is a new combination of old elements which may come from the innovator’s own society or from some other. The diffusion of culture within society and from one society to another has been a great source of social and cultural change in every society.

B. The Impact of the Social and Nonsocial Environment

The environment, whether social or nonsocial, has its own influence on social structure. As far as social change is concerned, the impact of the social environment is more important than the impact of the nonsocial environment.

The impact of the non-social environment on the social structure is relatively slight under normal conditions. Changes in the non-social environment (which are due to human engineering) such as – soil erosion, deforestation, exhaustion of mineral resources, etc., may bring about some social changes.

Changes in the nonsocial environment due to nature itself such as – floods and famines, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, cyclones and hurricanes, etc., may sometimes cause adoptive social changes.

The influence of the social environment is more significant in bringing about social changes. Shifts of political alliances, military invasions, peaceful immigration, trade shifts, etc., can present difficult problems of adjustment to the social system. Any one of these changes is likely to affect some parts of the social structure first and then have effects in other parts later.