Sie sind auf Seite 1von 23

Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. The Changing Social Order

3. Historical Background


b. Neo-functionalism
e. Multiple perspectives and change

5. Patterns of Social Change

a. Cyclic Change
b. One-directional change
c. Combined patterns of change

6. Explanations of social change

a. Natural environment
b. Demographic processes
c. Technological innovations
d. Economic processes
e. Ideas
f. Social movements
g. Political processes

7. Mechanisms of Social Change

a. Mechanisms of one-directional change: accumulation, selection, and
b. Mechanisms of curvilinear and cyclic change: saturation and exhaustion
c. Conflict, competition, and cooperation
d. Tension and adaptation
e. Diffusion of innovations

8. Planning and institutionalization of change


a. The need of change
b. Alternative strategy

10. Conclusion
A social change may be immigration. With new nationalities migrating into a
country social change is inevitably unavoidable. Communities experiencing an influx of
Latino immigrants most likely will develop new establishments that are based around
Latin Americans, thus a social change. Religion is another example. Say new pastor
moves into your community that teaches a new kind of religion. Some people may
decide they like it and start to go to his church instead of the Catholic Church down the
block evoking a social change in the community. Economic situations may bring a social
change. Times of hardship change almost every aspect of daily life. Economic downfalls
can destroy communities. Neighbors may no longer live across the street because they
can't afford their mortgage payments on their little house. It all leads to social change.

In sociology, the alteration of mechanisms within the social structure,

characterized by changes in cultural symbols, rules of behavior, social organizations, or
value systems.

Throughout the historical development of their discipline, sociologists have

borrowed models of social change from other academic fields. In the late 19th century,
when evolution became the predominant model for understanding biological change,
ideas of social change took on an evolutionary cast, and, though other models have
refined modern notions of social change, evolution persists as an underlying principle.

Other sociological models created analogies between social change and the
West’s technological progress. In the mid-20th century, anthropologists borrowed from
the linguistic theory of structuralism to elaborate an approach to social change called
structural functionalism. This theory postulated the existence of certain basic institutions
(including kinship relations and division of labour) that determine social behaviour.
Because of their interrelated nature, a change in one institution will affect other

Various theoretical schools emphasize different aspects of change. Marxist theory

suggests that changes in modes of production can lead to changes in class systems, which
can prompt other new forms of change or incite class conflict. A different view is
conflict theory, which operates on a broad base that includes all institutions. The focus is
not only on the purely divisive aspects of conflict, because conflict, while inevitable, also
brings about changes that promote social integration. Taking yet another approach,
structural-functional theory emphasizes the integrating forces in society that ultimately
minimize instability.

Social change can evolve from a number of different sources, including contact
with other societies (diffusion), changes in the ecosystem (which can cause the loss of
natural resources or widespread disease), technological change (epitomized by the
Industrial Revolution, which created a new social group, the urban proletariat), and
population growth and other demographic variables. Social change is also spurred by
ideological, economic, and political movements.12

The Changing Social Order
Social change in the broadest sense is any change in social relations. Viewed this
way, social change is an ever-present phenomenon in any society. A distinction is
sometimes made then between processes of change within the social structure, which
serve in part to maintain the structure, and processes that modify the structure (societal

The specific meaning of social change depends first on the social entity
considered. Changes in a small group may be important on the level of that group itself
but negligible on the level of the larger society. Similarly, the observation of social
change depends on the time span studied; most short-term changes are negligible when
examined in the long run. Small-scale and short-term changes are characteristic of
human societies, because customs and norms change, new techniques and technologies
are invented, environmental changes spur new adaptations, and conflicts result in
redistributions of power.

This universal human potential for social change has a biological basis. It is
rooted in the flexibility and adaptability of the human species—the near absence of
biologically fixed action patterns (instincts) on the one hand and the enormous capacity
for learning, symbolizing, and creating on the other hand. The human constitution makes
possible changes that are not biologically (that is to say, genetically) determined. Social
change, in other words, is possible only by virtue of biological characteristics of the
human species, but the nature of the actual changes cannot be reduced to these species

Historical Background

Several ideas of social change have been developed in various cultures and
historical periods. Three may be distinguished as the most basic: (1) the idea of decline
or degeneration, or, in religious terms, the fall from an original state of grace, (2) the idea
of cyclic change, a pattern of subsequent and recurring phases of growth and decline, and
(3) the idea of continuous progress. These three ideas were already prominent in Greek
and Roman antiquity and have characterized Western social thought since that time. The
concept of progress, however, has become the most influential idea, especially since the
Enlightenment movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. Social thinkers such as Anne-
Robert-Jacques Turgot and the marquis de Condorcet in France and Adam Smith and
John Millar in Scotland advanced theories on the progress of human knowledge and

Progress was also the key idea in 19th-century theories of social evolution, and
evolutionism was the common core shared by the most influential social theories of that
century. Evolutionism implied that humans progressed along one line of development,
that this development was predetermined and inevitable, since it corresponded to definite
laws, that some societies were more advanced in this development than were others, and
that Western society was the most advanced of these and therefore indicated the future

of the rest of the world’s population. This line of thought has since been disputed and

Following a different approach, French philosopher Auguste Comte advanced a

“law of three stages,” according to which human societies progress from a theological
stage, which is dominated by religion, through a metaphysical stage, in which abstract
speculative thinking is most prominent, and onward toward a positivist stage, in which
empirically based scientific theories prevail.

The most encompassing theory of social evolution was developed by Herbert

Spencer, who, unlike Comte, linked social evolution to biological evolution. According
to Spencer, biological organisms and human societies follow the same universal, natural
evolutionary law: “a change from a state of relatively indefinite, incoherent,
homogeneity to a state of relatively definite, coherent, heterogeneity.” In other words, as
societies grow in size, they become more complex; their parts differentiate, specialize
into different functions, and become, consequently, more interdependent.

Evolutionary thought also dominated the new field of social and cultural
anthropology in the second half of the 19th century. Anthropologists such as Sir Edward
Burnett Tylor and Lewis Henry Morgan classified contemporary societies on an
evolutionary scale. Tylor postulated an evolution of religious ideas from animism
through polytheism to monotheism. Morgan ranked societies from “savage” through
“barbarian” to “civilized” and classified them according to their levels of technology or
sources of subsistence, which he connected with the kinship system. He assumed that
monogamy was preceded by polygamy and patrilineal descent by matrilineal descent.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels too were highly influenced by evolutionary
ideas. The Marxian distinctions between primitive communism, the Asiatic mode of
production, ancient slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and future socialism may be
interpreted as a list of stages in one evolutionary development (although the Asiatic
mode does not fit well in this scheme). Marx and Engels were impressed by Morgan’s
anthropological theory of evolution, which became evident in Engels’s book The Origin
of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884).

The originality of the Marxian theory of social development lay in its

combination of dialectics and gradualism. In Marx’s view social development was a
dialectical process: the transition from one stage to another took place through a
revolutionary transformation, which was preceded by increased deterioration of society
and intensified class struggle. Underlying this discontinuous development was the more
gradual development of the forces of production (technology and organization of labour).

Marx was also influenced by the countercurrent of Romanticism, which was

opposed to the idea of progress. This influence was evident in Marx’s notion of
alienation, a consequence of social development that causes people to become distanced
from the social forces that they had produced by their own activities. Romantic
counterprogressivism was, however, much stronger in the work of later 19th-century
social theorists such as German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. He distinguished between
the community (Gemeinschaft), in which people were bound together by common

traditions and ties of affection and solidarity, and the society (Gesellschaft), in which
social relations had become contractual, rational, and nonemotional.

Emile Durkhmein and Max Weber, sociologists who began their careers at the
end of the 19th century, showed ambivalence toward the ideas of progress. Durkheim
regarded the increasing division of labour as a basic process, rooted in modern
individualism, that could lead to “anomie,” or lack of moral norms. Weber rejected
evolutionism by arguing that the development of Western society was quite different
from that of other civilizations and therefore historically unique. The West was
characterized, according to Weber, by a peculiar type of rationality that had brought
about modern capitalism, modern science, and rational law but that also created, on the
negative side, a “disenchantment of the world” and increasing bureaucratization.

The work of Durkheim, Weber, and other social theorists around the turn of the
century marked a transition from evolutionism toward more static theories. Evolutionary
theories were criticized on empirical grounds—they could be refuted by a growing mass
of research findings—and because of their determinism and Western-centred optimism.
Theories of cyclic change that denied long-term progress gained popularity in the first
half of the 20th century. These included the theory of the Italian economist and
sociologist Vilfredo Pareto on the “circulation of elites” and those of Oswald Spengler
and Arnold Toynbee on the life cycle of civilizations. In the 1930s and ’40s, Harvard
professor Pitirim Sorokin developed a cyclic theory of cultural change in the West,
describing repetitions of change from the ideational to the idealistic and sensate and back

Although the interest in long-term social change never disappeared, it faded into
the background, especially when, from the 1920s until the 1950s, functionalism,
emphasizing an interdependent social system, became the dominant paradigm both in
anthropology and in sociology. “Social evolution” was substituted for the more general
and neutral concept of “social change.”

The study of long-term social change revived in the 1950s and continued to
develop through the 1960s and ’70s. Neoevolutionist theories were proclaimed by
several anthropologists, including Ralph Linton, Leslie A. White, Julian H. Steward,
Marshall D. Sahlins, and Elman Rogers Service. These authors held to the idea of social
evolution as a long-term development that is both patterned and cumulative. Unlike 19th-
century evolutionism, neoevolutionism does not assume that all societies go through the
same stages of development. Instead, much attention is paid to variations between
societies as well as to relations of influence among them. The latter concept has come to
be known by the term acculturation. In addition, social evolution is not regarded as
predetermined or inevitable but is understood in terms of probabilities. Finally,
evolutionary development is not equated with progress.

Revived interest in long-term social change was sparked by attempts to explain

the gaps between rich and poor countries. In the 1950s and ’60s, Western sociologists
and economists developed modernization theories to help understand the problems of the
so-called underdeveloped countries. Some modernization theories have been criticized, 5
however, for implying that poor countries could and should develop—or modernize—in
the manner of Western societies. Modernization theories have also been criticized for
their lack of attention to international power relations, in which the richer countries
dominate the poorer ones. These relations have been brought to the centre of attention by
more recent theories of international dependency, typified by the “world capitalist
system” described by American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein. His world systems
theory, however, has been attacked for empirical reasons and for its failure to account for
the collapse of Soviet regimes and their subsequent movement toward capitalism and
democracy. Wallerstein’s theory has also drawn criticism for failing to explain
significant Third World economic development such as that seen in South Korea,
Singapore, and Hong Kong.


FUNCTIONALISM (relates to Linear development models of social change)

Theory of order and stability or Equilibrium theory: concept of stability is a

defining characteristic of structure, defines activities that are necessary for the survival of
the system, i.e. society has functional requisites or imperatives where different functional
requisites produce differentiated structures that specialize in accomplishing the

Parson’s Evolutionary Theory:

• System maintenance – most common: restoring a previous pattern of

• Structural differentiation- very common: increasing differentiation of
subsystem units into patterns of functional specialization and

• Adaptive upgrading: new mechanisms of integration, coordination and

control are developed to incorporate the integrative problems by having
structural differentiation

• Structural change – least common change: when key features of the

system, e.g. basic cultural values, goals, distribution

• Key evolutionary universals that were evident in transition from pre-

modern to modern societies (describes modernism but does not explain

• social stratification

• bureaucratic organization

• cultural legitimating of existing structural arrangements

• money economy and markets

• generalized or universalistic social norms

• democratic associations6


Tension-management system (society is not an equilibrium system): if there are 7

strains or tensions, organization will initiate compensatory, adjustive or counterbalancing
actions to counter disruptions change will be confined to internal features, if these strains
are so severe or prolonged that such actions cannot compensate, organizational features
will be altered or destroyed and entire organization changes


• Deals mainly with gradual evolutionary change, less able to deal with
revolutionary, fundamental, rapid transformations, or emergence of new values
• sources of strains ambiguous unless exogenous in origin

• see change as good - views modernism as a benevolent trend. Societal growth

produces differentiation, and problems with increased complexity stimulate
adaptive change with new coordination and control mechanism. Increased
bureaucratic specialization and complex division of labour in mass societies
provide rationality, efficiency, high levels of mass consumption, decline in
cultural parochialism and forms of intolerance and superstition

Mass society theory - Functionalist critique of modernity

• along with modernity have erosion of traditional life and culture

• replacement of local community with bureaucratic depersonalization and

• weaker and impersonal ties of functional interdependency

• argued that mass developed societies are in a process of demassification

CONFLICT THEORIES (relates to Dialectical models of social change)

Strains are inherent in social structures. Source of strains/contradictions is the

inherent scarcity of certain goods and values. Thus inequality is source of conflict.

Marxism (see other course notes - if you are a sociology major/minor, you should know
this already)

Neo-Marxism - differs from Marxism in the following ways:

• Sources of conflict - traditional Marxism too narrow an understanding of
structural basis of conflict, doesn’t always derive from struggles in control of the
means of production; other conflicts based on politics, religion, ethnic or
ideological differences, e.g. class, status and power
• Role of culture: symbolic realm of ideas, values and ideologies are semi-
autonomous and not merely derivative of material base (Critical theorists analyze
cultural and cultural ideologies in modern society as manifested in popular
literature and mass media); culture is viewed as symbolic formations and
ideologies that become tools in social struggles between various groups and
classes, i.e. ideas and values produce solidarity and unity (as functionalists agree)
but also social control associated with interests of particular groups; same as
Marxism, i.e. dominant culture stems from dominant groups in society;
production of culture is one way that existing system reproduces itself; when
there is widespread disillusion, disbelief or cynicism about dominant symbols in
society, a legitimacy crisis - change occurs

• Inevitability of revolutionary change: neo-Marxists less deterministic about

outcomes, not simply total system transformation or revolution, nor inevitable;
one result of contradictions could be reaffirming of dominance, or ongoing
stalemate, or gradual reform and piecemeal changes.

Conflict can be:

• unregulated: e.g. terrorism, sabotage, disorder

• regulated by social norms: e.g. economic boycotts, parliamentary debate,
marketplace competitions

• intense conflict: high degree of mobilization, commitment, emotional


• violent conflict: random, unorganized

• pluralized conflict: many conflicts but not necessarily related and thus not much
change, gradual

• superimposed conflict: dyadic conflicts, large cleavage between us and them,

dramatic/intense change, not necessarily

Conflict can result in:

• stability as ongoing stalemate OR

• defeat of established or insurgent groups OR

• total or partial system change

Any settlement of conflict is only temporary; each restructured system carries

within itself the seeds of its own transformation – thus a dialectical theory. Unlike
Marxism which sees a utopian society with no conflict in the end, neo-Marxists are
antiutopian. Conflict is engine of change - has both destructive and creative
consequences, destroy old orders, create new ones.


• What about change not rooted in conflict? E.g. cultural or technological change
• Sees only dichotomous authority relations rather than continuous gradations of

• What of non-institutionalized power relationships – deals with authority, only one

form of power; what of violence, or age/gender/race and associated conflicts not
based on economics


Derived from Weber whose focus was not solely on overt behaviour and events 8
but also on how these are interpreted, defined and shaped by cultural meanings that
people give to them, i.e. interpretive understanding of social action – verstehen. All
types of interpretive theories focus on way actors define their social situations and the
effect of these definitions on ensuing action and interaction; human society is an
ongoing process rather than an entity or structure, as humans interact they negotiate
order, structure and cultural meanings. Reality is an ongoing social symbolic
construction put together by human interaction.

For Functionalists and Conflict theorists, the starting point of sociological

analysis of change is structure.


For Interpretivists, change itself (interaction, process, negotiation) is the starting

point, and structure is a by-product and temporary. Social change is the constant
creation, negotiation and re-creation of social order. Social change can be understood by
looking at change in meanings and definitions. Groups, societies, organizations become
real only insofar that the actors believe they are to be real, thus a negotiated consensus
about what is real emerges; i.e. society is literally a social construction, an outcome of
historical process of symbolic interaction and negotiation. In complex societies, there is
only a partial consensus on what constitutes objective social reality, instead there is a
virtual tapestry of contending realities.

When external factors change, this does not automatically produce social change.
Rather when people redefine situations regarding those factors and thus act upon revised
meanings, i.e. alter social behaviour, then there is social change.


• Not much said about structural sources of redefinitions,

• Argue humans are less constrained by external factors, thus these theories are less
• Doesn’t say whether actors seek to reconstruct reality by engaging in cooperative
joint action or conflict with others so consistent with either functionalism or
conflict theory.

Multiple perspectives and change:

Structures have potential to operate, agents (individuals) have potential to act;

combination of agents working within, creating and being limited by structures is
referred to as human agency. Praxis is the interface between operating structures and
purposely acting agents, i.e. the combination of actions of people and operation of
structures in the actual outcomes of social interaction or in praxis.

• Buckley’s morphogenesis: unique capacity of social systems to elaborate or

change their form, structure or state, emphasizing the active, constructive side of
social functioning9

• Archers’ double morphogenesis: both structure and agency are cojoint products
of interaction, agency is shaped by and reshapes structure where structure is
reshaped in the process.

• Etzioni’s active society: society is a macroscopic and permanent social

movement engaged in intensive and perpetual self-transformation

• Touraine: making of society and history is carried out by collective action,

through the agency of social movements

• Gidden’s Structuration theory: replaced static concept of structure with dynamic

notion of structuration - more later (see my thesis information).

Patterns of Social Change

Theories of social change, both old and new, commonly assume that the course of
social change is not arbitrary but is, to a certain degree, regular or patterned. The three
traditional ideas of social change—decline, cyclic change, and progress—have
unquestionably influenced modern theories. Yet because these theories are not
scientifically determined, they fail to make an explicit distinction between decline and
progress. In fact, the qualities of decline and progress cannot be derived scientifically
(that is, from empirical observations) alone but are instead identified by normative
evaluations and value judgments. If the study of social change is to be conducted on
scientific and nonnormative terms, then, only two basic patterns of social change can be
considered: the cyclic, as identified above, and the one-directional. Often the time span
of the change determines which pattern is observed.

Cyclic Change

Much of ordinary social life is organized in cyclic changes: those of the day, the
week, and the year. These short-term cyclic changes may be regarded as conditions
necessary for structural stability. Other changes that have a more or less cyclic pattern
are less predictable. One example is the business cycle, a recurrent phenomenon of
capitalism, which seems somewhat patterned yet is hard to predict. A prominent theory
of the business cycle is that of the Soviet economist Nikolay D. Kondratyev, who tried to
show the recurrence of long waves of economic boom and recession on an international
scale. He charted the waves from the end of the 18th century, with each complete wave
comprising a period of about 50 years. Subsequent research has shown, however, that the
patterns in different countries have been far from identical.

Long-term cyclic changes are addressed in theories on the birth, growth,

flourishing, decline, and death of civilizations. Toynbee conceived world history in this10
way in the first volumes of A Study of History (1934–61), as did Spengler in his Decline
of the West (1918–22). These theories have been criticized for conceiving of civilizations
as natural entities with sharp boundaries, thinking that neglects the interrelations between

One-directional change

This type of change continues more or less in the same direction. Such change is
usually cumulative and implies growth or increase, such as that of population density, the
size of organizations, or the level of production. The direction of the change could,
however, be one of decrease or a combination of growth and decrease. An example of
this last process is what American cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz has called
“involution,” found in some agrarian societies when population growth is coupled with a
decrease in per capita wealth. Yet another change may be a shift from one pole to the
other of a continuum—from religious to secular ways of thinking, for example. Such a
change may be defined as either growth (of scientific knowledge) or decline (of

The simplest type of one-directional change is linear, occurring when the degree
of social change is constant over time. Another type of social change is that of
exponential growth, in which the percentage of growth is constant over time and the
change accelerates correspondingly. Population growth and production growth are
known to follow this pattern over certain time frames.

A pattern of long-term growth may also conform to a three-stage S curve. In the

first phase the change is slow enough as to be almost imperceptible. Next the change
accelerates. In the third phase the rate of change slackens until it approaches a supposed
upper limit. The model of the demographic transition in industrializing countries exhibits
this pattern. In the first (premodern or preindustrial) stage both the birth rate and the
mortality rate are high, and, consequently, the population grows very slowly; then
mortality decreases, and the population grows much faster; in the third stage both the
birth rate and the mortality rate have become low, and population growth approaches

zero. The same model has been suggested, more hypothetically, for the rates of
technological and scientific change.

Combined patterns of change

Cyclic and one-directional changes may be observed simultaneously. This occurs

in part because short-term change tends to be cyclic while long-term change tends to
follow one direction. For example, production rates of industrializing countries exhibit
the pattern of short-term business cycles occurring within long-term economic

These patterns cannot be applied simply and easily to social reality. At best, they
are approximations of social reality. Comparing the model with reality is not always
possible, because reliable data are not always available. Moreover, and more important,
many social processes do not lend themselves to precise quantitative measurement.
Processes such as bureaucratization or secularization, for example, can be defined
through changes in a certain direction, but it is hard to reach agreement on the
dimensions to be measured.

It remains to be seen whether long-term social change in a certain direction will 11

be maintained. The transformation of medieval society into the Western nations of the
20th century may be conceived in terms of several interconnected long-term one-
directional changes. Some of the more important of these changes include
commercialization, increasing division of labour, growth of production, formation of
nation-states, bureaucratization, growth of technology and science, secularization,
urbanization, spread of literacy, increasing geographic and social mobility, and growth of
organizations. Many of these changes have also occurred in non-Western societies. Most
changes did not originate in the West, but some important changes did, such as the
Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism. These changes subsequently had a strong
impact on non-Western societies. Additionally, groups of people outside western Europe
have been drawn into a global division of labour, with Western nation-states gaining
dominance both politically and economically.

The extent to which these changes are part of a global long-term social
development is the central question of social evolution. Although knowledge concerning
this question is far from complete, some general trends may be hypothesized. One trend
is seen in the technological innovations and advances in scientific knowledge that have
harnessed natural forces for the satisfaction of human needs. Among these innovations
were the use of fire, the cultivation of plants, the domestication of animals (dating from
about 8000 bce), the use of metals, and the process of industrialization. These long-term
developments, combined with long-term capital accumulation, led to rising production
and paved the way for population growth and increasing population density. Energy
production and consumption grew, if not per capita, then at least per square mile.

Another trend stems from production methods based on the division of labour
and social differentiation. The control of natural forces, and the ensuing social progress,
was achieved only by utilizing the division of labour—and the corresponding
specialization of knowledge—to raise productivity beyond natural limits. One
consequence of this growth of productivity and technological innovation, however, was
social differentiation. More people, in other words, could specialize in activities that
were not immediately necessary for survival. Growth in the size and density of
populations and increases in social differentiation heightened the interdependence of
more and more people over longer distances. In hunting-and-gathering societies people
were strongly interdependent within their small bands, depending on very little from
outside their groups. In modern times most of the world’s people are linked by networks
of interdependence that span the globe.

These processes are not inevitable in the sense that they correspond to any “law”
of social change. They have had the tendency, however, to spread whenever they
occurred. For example, once the set of transformations known as the agrarian revolution
had taken place anywhere in the world, their extension over the rest of the world was
predictable. Societies that adopted these innovations grew in size and became more
powerful. As a consequence, other societies had only three options: to be conquered and
incorporated by a more powerful agrarian society, to adopt the innovations, or to be
driven to marginal places of the globe. Something similar might be said of the Industrial
Revolution and other power-enhancing innovations, such as bureaucratization and the
introduction of more destructive weapons. The example of weapons illustrates that these
transformational processes should not be equated with progress in general.12

Explanations of social change

One way of explaining social change is to show causal connections between two
or more processes. This may take the form of determinism or reductionism, both of
which tend to explain social change by reducing it to one supposed autonomous and all-
determining causal process. A more cautious assumption is that one process has relative
causal priority, without implying that this process is completely autonomous and all-
determining. What follows are some of the processes thought to contribute to social

Natural environment

Changes in the natural environment may result from climatic variations, natural
disasters, or the spread of disease. For example, both worsening of climatic conditions
and the Black Death epidemics are thought to have contributed to the crisis of feudalism
in 14th-century Europe. Changes in the natural environment may be either independent
of human social activities or caused by them. Deforestation, erosion, and air pollution
belong to the latter category, and they in turn may have far-reaching social

Demographic processes

Population growth and increasing population density represent demographic

forms of social change. Population growth may lead to geographic expansion of a
society, military conflicts, and the intermingling of cultures. Increasing population
density may stimulate technological innovations, which in turn may increase the division
of labour, social differentiation, commercialization, and urbanization. This sort of
process occurred in western Europe from the 11th to the 13th century and in England in

the 18th century, where population growth spurred the Industrial Revolution. On the
other hand, population growth may contribute to economic stagnation and increasing
poverty, as may be witnessed in several Third World countries today.

Technological innovations

Several theories of social evolution identify technological innovations as the most

important determinants of societal change. Such technological breakthroughs as the
smelting of iron, the introduction of the plow in agriculture, the invention of the steam
engine, and the development of the computer have had lasting social consequences.

Economic processes

Technological changes are often considered in conjunction with economic

processes. These include the formation and extension of markets, modifications of
property relations (such as the change from feudal lord-peasant relations to contractual
proprietor-tenant relations), and changes in the organization of labour (such as the
change from independent craftsmen to factories). Historical materialism, as developed by
Marx and Engels, is one of the more prominent theories that gives priority to economic
processes, but it is not the only one. Indeed, materialist theories have even been 13
developed in opposition to Marxism. One of these theories, the “logic of
industrialization” thesis by American scholar Clark Kerr and his colleagues, states that
industrialization everywhere has similar consequences, whether the property relations are
called capitalist or communist.


Other theories have stressed the significance of ideas as causes of social change.
Comte’s law of three stages is such a theory. Weber regarded religious ideas as important
contributors to economic development or stagnation; according to his controversial
thesis, the individualistic ethic of Christianity, and in particular Calvinism, partially
explains the rise of the capitalist spirit, which led to economic dynamism in the West.

Social movements

A change in collective ideas is not merely an intellectual process; it is often

connected to the formation of new social movements. This in itself might be regarded as
a potential cause of social change. Weber called attention to this factor in conjunction
with his concept of “charismatic leadership.” The charismatic leader, by virtue of the
extraordinary personal qualities attributed to him, is able to create a group of followers
who are willing to break established rules. Examples include Jesus, Napoleon, and
Hitler. Recently, however, the concept of charisma has been trivialized to refer to almost
any popular figure.

Political processes

Changes in the regulation of violence, in the organization of the state, and in

international relations may also contribute to social change. For example, German
sociologist Norbert Elias interpreted the formation of states in western Europe as a
relatively autonomous process that led to increasing control of violence and, ultimately,
to rising standards of self-control. According to other theories of political revolution,
such as those proposed by American historical sociologist Charles Tilly, the functioning
of the state apparatus itself and the nature of interstate relations are of decisive
importance in the outbreak of a revolution: it is only when the state is not able to fulfill
its basic functions of maintaining law and order and defending territorial integrity that
revolutionary groups have any chance of success.

Each of these processes may contribute to others; none is the sole determinant of
social change. One reason why deterministic or reductionist theories are often disproved
is that the method for explaining the processes is not autonomous but must itself be
explained. Moreover, social processes are often so intertwined that it would be
misleading to consider them separately. For example, there are no fixed borders between
economic and political processes, nor are there fixed boundaries between economic and
technological processes. Technological change may in itself be regarded as a specific
type of organizational or conceptual change. The causal connections between
distinguishable social processes are a matter of degree and vary over time.14

Mechanisms of Social Change

Causal explanations of social change are limited in scope, especially when the
subject of study involves initial conditions or basic processes. A more general and
theoretical way of explaining social change is to construct a model of recurring
mechanisms of social change. Such mechanisms, incorporated in different theoretical
models, include the following.

Mechanisms of one-directional change: accumulation, selection, and


Some evolutionary theories stress the essentially cumulative nature of human

knowledge. Because human beings are innovative, they add to existing knowledge,
replacing less adequate ideas and practices with better ones. As they learn from mistakes,
they select new ideas and practices through a trial-and-error process (sometimes
compared to the process of natural selection). According to this theory, the expansion of
collective knowledge and capabilities beyond a certain limit is possible only by
specialization and differentiation. Growth of technical knowledge stimulates capital
accumulation, which leads to rising production levels. Population growth also may be
incorporated in this model of cumulative evolution: it is by the accumulation of
collective technical knowledge and means of production that human beings can increase
their numbers; this growth then leads to new problems, which are solved by succeeding

Mechanisms of curvilinear and cyclic change: saturation and


Models of one-directional change assume that change in a certain direction

induces further change in the same direction; models of curvilinear or cyclic change, on
the other hand, assume that change in a certain direction creates the conditions for
change in another (perhaps even the opposite) direction. More specifically, it is often
assumed that growth has its limits and that in approaching these limits the change curve
will inevitably be bent. Ecological conditions such as the availability of natural
resources, for instance, can limit population, economic, and organizational growth.

Shorter-term cyclic changes are explained by comparable mechanisms. Some

theories of the business cycle, for example, assume that the economy is saturated
periodically with capital goods; investments become less necessary and less profitable,
the rate of investments diminishes, and this downward trend results in a recession. After
a period of time, however, essential capital goods will have to be replaced; investments
are pushed up again, and a phase of economic expansion begins.

Conflict, competition, and cooperation

Group conflict has often been viewed as a basic mechanism of social change,
especially of those radical and sudden social transformations identified as revolutions.
Marxists in particular tend to depict social life in capitalist society as a struggle
between15 a ruling class, which wishes to maintain the system, and a dominated class,
which strives for radical change. Social change then is the result of that struggle. These
ideas are basic to what sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf has called a conflict model of

The notion of conflict becomes more relevant to the explanation of social change
if it is broadened to include competition between rival groups. Nations, firms,
universities, sports associations, and artistic schools are groups between which such
rivalry occurs. Competition stimulates the introduction and diffusion of innovations,
especially when they are potentially power-enhancing. Thus, the leaders of non-Western
states feel the necessity of adopting Western science and technology, even though their
ideology may be anti-Western, because it is only by these means that they can maintain
or enhance national autonomy and power.

Additionally, competition may lead to growth in the size and complexity of the
entities involved. The classic example of this process, as first suggested by Adam Smith,
is the tendency in capitalism toward collusion and the establishment of monopolies when
small firms are driven out of the competitive marketplace. Another example came from
Norbert Elias, who suggested that western European nation-states were born out of
competitive struggles between feudal lords. Competition also dominates theories of
individualism, in which social change is seen as the result of individuals pursuing their
self-interest. Game theory and other mathematical devices, however, have shown that
individuals acting in their own self-interest will in certain conditions cooperate with one
another and thereby widen the existing social networks.

Tension and adaptation

In structural functionalism, social change is regarded as an adaptive response to

some tension within the social system. When some part of an integrated social system
changes, a tension between this and other parts of the system is created, which will be
resolved by the adaptive change of the other parts. An example is what the American
sociologist William Fielding Ogburn has called cultural lag, which refers in particular to
a gap that develops between fast-changing technology and other slower-paced
sociocultural traits.

Diffusion of innovations

Some social changes result from the innovations that are adopted in a society.
These can include technological inventions, new scientific knowledge, new beliefs, or a
new fashion in the sphere of leisure. Diffusion is not automatic but selective; an
innovation is adopted only by people who are motivated to do so. Furthermore, the
innovation must be compatible with important aspects of the culture. One reason for the
adoption of innovations by larger groups is the example set by higher-status groups,
which act as reference groups for other people. Many innovations tend to follow a
pattern of diffusion from higher- to lower-status groups. More specifically, most early
adopters of innovations in modern Western societies, according to several studies, are
young, urban, affluent, and highly educated, with a high occupational status. Often they
are motivated by the wish to distinguish themselves from the crowd. After diffusion has
taken place, however, the innovation is no longer a symbol of distinction. This motivates
the same group to look for something new again. This mechanism may explain the
succession of fads, fashions, and social movements. (See social class, social status.)

Planning and institutionalization of change

Social change may result from goal-directed large-scale social planning. The
possibilities for planning by government bureaucracies and other large organizations
have increased in modern societies. Most social planning is short-term, however; the
goals of planning are often not reached, and, even if the planning is successful in terms
of the stated goals, it often has unforeseen consequences. The wider the scope and the
longer the time span of planning, the more difficult it is to attain the goals and avoid
unforeseen or undesired consequences. This has most often been the case in communist
and totalitarian societies, where the most serious efforts toward integrated and long-term
planning were put into practice. Most large-scale and long-term social developments in
any society are still largely unplanned, yet large-scale changes resulting from laws to
establish large governmental agencies, such as for unemployment insurance, old-age
pensions, or guaranteed medical care, have produced significant institutional changes in
most industrial societies.

Planning implies institutionalization of change, but institutionalization does not imply

planning. Many unplanned social changes in modern societies are institutionalized; they
originate in organizations permanently oriented to innovation, such as universities and
the research departments of governments and private firms, but their social repercussions
are not controlled. In the fields of science and technology, change is especially
institutionalized, which produces social change that is partly intended and partly


The law regulates the social interests, arbitrates conflicting claims and demands security
of persons and property of the people and is an essential function of the state. It could be
achieved through instrumentality of law. Undoubtedly, there is a cross cultural conflict
where living law must find answer to the new challenges and the courts are required to
mould the sentencing system to meet the challenges. The contagion of lawlessness would
undermine social order and lay it in ruins. Protection of society and stamping out
criminal proclivity must be the object of the law, which must be achieved by imposing
appropriate sentence. Therefore, law as a corner stone of the edifice of “order” should
meet the challenges confronting the society. The social impact of the crime, e.g. where it
relates to offences against women, dacoity, kidnapping and other offences involving
moral turpitude or moral delinquency which have great impact on social order and public
interest, cannot be lost sight of and per se require exemplary treatment. The law in order
to be legitimate and legal must also satisfy the mandates of the Constitution of India. The
Constitution of India is not intended to be the arena of legal quibbling for men with long
purses. It is made for the common people. It should generally be so construed as that
they can understand and appreciate it. The more they understand it the more they love it
and the more they prize it. It is really the poor, starved and mindless millions who need
the court’s protection for securing to themselves the enjoyment of Human Rights. The 17
Constitution precedents cannot be permitted to be transformed into weapons for
defeating the hopes and aspirations of our teaming millions, half-clad, half-starved, half-
educated. These hopes and aspirations representing the will of the people can only
become articulate through the voice of their elected representatives. If they fail the
people, the nation must face the death and destruction. Then, neither the court nor the
Constitution will save the country. The Constitution, unlike other Acts, is intended to
provide an enduring paramount law and a basic design of the structure and power of the
State and rights and duties of the citizens to serve the society through a long lapse of
ages. It is not only designed to meet the needs of the day when it is enacted but also the
needs of the altering conditions of the future. It contains a framework of mechanism for
resolution of constitutional disputes. It also embeds its ideals of establishing an
egalitarian social order to accord socio-economic and political justice to all sections of
the society assuring dignity of person and to integrate a united social order assuring
every citizen fundamental rights assured in part III and the directives in part IV of the
Constitution. In the interpretation of the Constitution, words of width are both a
framework of concepts and means to achieve the goals in the preamble. Concepts may
keep changing to expand and elongate the rights. Constitutional issues are not solved by
mere appeal to the meaning of the words without an acceptance of the line of their
growth. The intention of the Constitution is, rather, to outline principles than to engrave
details. Thus, law should sub serve social purpose. Judge must be a jurist endowed with
the legislator's wisdom, historian's search for truth, prophet’s vision, and capacity to
respond to the needs of the present, resilience to cope with the demands of the future and
to decide objectively disengaging himself/herself from every personal influence or
predilections. Therefore, the judges should adopt purposive interpretation of the
dynamic concepts of the Constitution and the Act with its interpretative armory to
articulate the felt necessities of the time. The judge must also bear in mind that social
legislation is not a document for fastidious dialects but a means of ordering the life of the
people. To construe law one must enter into its spirit, its setting and history. Law should
be capable of expanding freedoms of the people and the legal order can, weighed with
utmost equal care, be made to provide the underpinning of the highly inequitable social

order. In this background we will discuss the “need” of amending the Information
Technology Act, 2000(Act).

The need of change

The Act has been enacted “primarily” to deal with e-governance and e-
commerce. The “legislature” was, however, cautious and wise enough to incorporate
provisions dealing with “contraventions” and “offences” using the information
technology. A “Constitutionally ideal amendment initiative” must consider the following

(a) Nature of amendment: The concept of “indepth review” suggests that the present
Act is “improper” rather than “imperfect”. The stress seems to be on “complete change’
rather than “necessary minor modifications”. This is a wrong strategy that has
unfortunately been adopted by the government.

(b) Need of amendment: The need of amendment is not based on “germane reasons”
but is primarily guided by the recent “MMS controversy”. The law is meant for the 18
“People of India” and not for any particular “segment”. The most embarrassing moment
of the Indian Legal System was not the “ arrest” of the CEO of the but the
“interference of the USA in the sovereign governance of India”. It must be noted that the
managing of e-commerce business requires certain safeguards to be followed by those
who are deriving benefits out of it. If these ‘minimum safeguards” are not followed than
the law will take it very seriously. The “rule of law” does not recognize any appeal of a
“foreign country” or “domestic pressures”. Thus, the amendment of the Act must be
guided by germane reasons only and it should not be based on irrelevant, arbitrary,
unreasonable and extraneous considerations.

(c) Areas of amendment: The law exists to serve the needs of the society, which is
governed by it. If the law is to play its allotted role of serving the needs of the society, it
must reflect the ideas and ideologies of that society. It must keep time with the heartbeats
of the society and with the needs and aspirations of the people. As the society changes,
the law cannot remain immutable. The early nineteenth century essayist and wit, Sydney
Smith, said, ‘Then I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, I am convinced that he is an
unalterable fool." The law must, therefore, in a changing society march in tune with the
changed ideas and ideologies. At this stage the words of Justice Bhagwati in the case of
National Textiles Workers Union v P.R.Ramakrishnan need to be set out. They are:
“We cannot allow the dead hand of the past to stifle the growth of the living present.
Law cannot stand still; it must change with the changing social concepts and values. If
the bark that protects the tree fails to grow and expand along with the tree, it will either
choke the tree or if it is a living tree it will shed that bark and grow a living bark for
itself. Similarly, if the law fails to respond to the needs of changing society, then either it
will stifle the growth of the society and choke its progress or if the society is vigorous
enough, it will cast away the law, which stands in the way of its growth. Law must
therefore constantly be on the move adapting itself to the fast-changing society and not
lag behind. The Act require amendment to fill in the following “grey area” on a priority

(i) The “right to information” as flowing out of Article 19(1)(a) pf the Constitution,
(ii) The “right to know” as flowing out of Article 21 of the Constitution,

(iii) The “right to privacy” as flowing out of Article 21 of the Constitution,

(iv) The need of protecting the “electronic data property”. The “paper based data
property” can be sufficiently protected by the Indian Copyright Act, 1957,

(v) The need of providing a “sound e-governance base” that should include effective e-
justice administration facilities,

(vi) The need for providing a more stronger e-commerce base,

(vii) The need to strengthen the “Internet Banking” infrastructure,19

(viii) The need to strengthen the “ Cyber Insurance Business infrastructure”,20

(ix) The need to protect people of India from “Cyber Terrorism” in India,

(x) The need of adoption of the “techniques of aggressive defence” in India, etc.

These are the issues that need an immediate attention of the “legislature” and not
other “self serving changes” which will leave the Act more vulnerable to

(d) Place of amendment: One of the thriving needs of change is in the field of “cyber
forensic”. The Act, however, is not the right “place” to make the change. In India we
have both “substantive” and “procedural” laws. The Indian Penal Code and Information
Technology Act are “substantive laws” whereas the Indian Evidence Act and Criminal
Procedure Code are “procedural laws”. Thus, the inter-mingling of procedural laws into
substantive laws is not a desirable exercise. This mandates the amendment of the
“Evidence Act” rather the “Information Technology Act”.

(e) Ancillary matters: The ancillary matters like “cyber-café regulations”, “blocking of
web-sites”, etc are not the fit subject for “amendment”. As far as the regulation of the
cyber-café is concerned, the respective “State Governments” can do so through
“notification method”. Similarly, the authority for the blocking of web sites has already
been constituted under the provisions of the Act; hence duplicating the efforts and
wasting the valuable resources will serve no useful purpose.

If these areas are “ignored” either in the zeal of amendment process or due to
pressure tactics, then the law in this regard would be a “remedy worst than the malady”
hence its amendment should not be undertaken at any cost. If such an amendment were
proceeded with, then it would definitely be tested on the touchstone of the provisions of
Constitution of India and will not survive the test of “constitutionality”.

Alternative strategy

The cumbersome, time consuming and expensive process can be avoided by issuing
“simple notifications” by the government that will clear the mist surrounding the present
atmosphere. Similarly, since the matter is before the court the same can also be taken
care by the courts in India. Legislatures are not best fitted for the role of adapting the law
to the necessities of the time, for the legislative process is too slow and the legislatures
often divided by politics, slowed down by periodic elections and overburdened with
myriad other legislative activities. This task must, therefore, of necessity fall upon the
courts because the courts can by the process of judicial interpretation adapt the law to
suit the needs of the society. Thus, Courts in India can provide a much better solution to
this situation by adopting the “purposive and updating modes of interpretation’ of the
provisions of the Act. It is presumed that the Parliament intends the court to apply to an
ongoing Act a construction that continuously updates its wordings to allow for changes
since the Act was initially framed. While it remains law, it has to be treated as always
speaking. This means that in its application on any day, the language of the Act though
necessarily embedded in its own time, is nevertheless to be construed in accordance
with the need to treat it as a current law

The causes of social change are diverse, and the processes of change can be identified as
either short-term trends or long-term developments. Change can be either cyclic or one-

The mechanisms of social change can be varied and interconnected. Several mechanisms
may be combined in one explanatory model of social change. For example, innovation
by business might be stimulated by competition and by government regulation.

To the degree that change processes are regular and interconnected, social change itself
is structured. Since about 1965 there has been a shift in emphasis from “structure” to
“change” in social theory. Change on different levels—social dynamics in everyday life
and short-term transformations and long-term developments in society at large—has
become the focus of much attention in the study of society.

The role model for governance and decision taken thereon should manifest equity, fair
play and justice. The cardinal principle of governance in a civilized society based on rule
of law not only has to base on transparency but also must create an impression that the
decision-making was motivated on the consideration of probity. The government has to
rise above the nexus of vested interests and nepotism and eschew window-dressing. The
act of governance has to withstand the test of judiciousness and impartiality and avoid
arbitrary or capricious actions. Therefore, the principle of governance has to be tested on
the touchstone of justice, equity and fair play. Though on the face of it the decision may
look legitimate but as a matter of fact the reasons may not be based on values but to
achieve popular accolade, that decision cannot be allowed to operate. Any decision of the

government ignoring these “mandates” will be declared to be unconstitutional, no
matter22 how much pressure is put on it.23