Social change.

Essay by johnsa April 2003

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There are five basic components of the human societies: population, culture, material products, social organization, and social institutions. These components may either deter or promote social change. The size of population will greatly affect the social change. If the population is large, chances are social changes will be promoted. More people will usually result in more ideas


Societies, like species, evolve in directions that are opened or constrained in part by internal forces such as technological developments or political traditions. The conditions of one generation limit and shape the range of possibilities open to the next. On the one hand, each new generation learns the society's cultural forms and thus does not have to reinvent strategies for producing food, handling conflict, educating young people, governing, and so forth. It also learns aspirations for how society can be maintained and improved. On the other hand, each new generation must address unresolved problems from the generation before: tensions that may lead to war, wide-scale drug abuse, poverty and deprivation, racism, and a multitude of private and group grievances.

Slavery in the early history of the United States, for example, still has serious consequences for African-Americans and for the U.S. economy, education, health care, and judicial systems in general. Grievances may be relieved just enough to make people tolerate them, or they may overflow into revolution against the structure of the society itself. Many societies continue to perpetuate centuries-old disputes with others over boundaries, religion, and deeply felt beliefs about past wrongs.

Governments generally attempt to engineer social change by means of policies, laws, incentives, or coercion. Sometimes these efforts work effectively and actually make it possible to avoid social conflict. At other times they may precipitate conflict. For example, setting up agricultural communes in the Soviet Union against the...