Social change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and cultural values and norms. It is omnipresent and occurs in small increments and reveals long-term patterns of growth. Social change may be driven by cultural, religious, economic, scientific or technological forces.
There are many approaches in explaining the dynamics of social change. I will briefly explain some of the theories by the early fore fathers of sociology.
- Auguste Comte considered the Father of Sociology. He based his analysis on improvements in social knowledge through theological, metaphysical, and positive stages.
- Max Weber focused on the relationship of production and social class. He believed in bureaucracy- those who had power, wealth, and prestige control society.
- Karl Marx believed social change was needed for the better advancement of society, and that was by class conflict. He believed that the capitalists controlled the land, business, etc and they were exploiting the working class.
- Emile Durkheim looked at the connectedness of individuals and society. Individuals are products of society.
I am going to focus on Gerhard Lenski’s analysis of socio-cultural evolution. Lenski shows how technology advancement has changed human societies. Supporting the idea that there is an overall evolutionary pattern in social change and this pattern has the tendency to move in one direction and that is forward, not many societies reverse and return to a previous state. Lenski postulated the following types of societies based on types of technology (Lenski, Nolan, Lenski, 1995):
- Hunter and gatherer
- Simple agricultural or horticultural (lacking plow)
- Advance agricultural
With the advancement of each society, food is an important commodity. Each society differs in the way food is obtained, consumed, and used. Earlier societies didn’t have the power struggle in regards to food as we do now.
Lenski, G., Nolan, P., & Lenski, J. (1995). Human Societies: An Introduction to Marosociology (7th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill.