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A good point of departure in exploring the concept of social change is the fact that no human society anywhere has ever been or can be static. It is also true that social change is hard to predict. This is mainly because the factors that cause it are not constant. Examination of various aspects of this phenomenon reveals various factors that are now causing it to be faster than in previous centuries. Society need’s changes over time for its own prosperity and development. Change however, means adapting and accepting new ideas leading to evolution. This paper discusses some of the factors responsible for a more rapid social change compared to previous centuries.
Demographic factors are in many ways responsible for accelerated social change. These factors are different today from what they were in previous centuries. Population size, for instance, is an aspect of demographics that impact society directly. Other factors noted to be integral in inducing social changes include migration, mortality, fertility, birth rates, age structure, marriage patterns, life expectancy, sex ratio, morbidity, among others. These factors make social adjustments necessary; for instance the setting up of healthcare programs and economic support initiatives. For example, as Murat and Tulga (2017) inform, the population growth rate has been drastically rising for the last few generations, affecting the trends and speed of social transformations; since with high populations comes the need for adjustments in social structure and organisation. Examples of these adjustments include the measures taken to check population growth such as birth control methods. Additionally, improvements in medicine have led to the longevity of life, in other words, increased life expectancy compared to previous centuries, “in the earliest centuries, unhygienic living conditions and little access to effective medical care meant life expectancy was likely limited to about 35 years of age.” The result of increased longevity of life has been that there are more elderly people in today’s society than in previous centuries, “today most industrialized countries boast life expectancy figures of more than 75 years.” This aspect makes it necessary to come up with programs to take care of the elderly in society.
Economic factors are also responsible for a more rapid social change compared to previous centuries. These can be conceptualised and comprehended through the presentation of some of the most influential theorists, Karl Marx, and Mark Weber. These theorists explore the historical development of capitalism and according to Max change occurs through capitalism and class conflict. On his part, Weber relates change to the presence of ideational value-based factors that work in combination with material factors. For Weber, religion plays a role in capitalism (accumulation of wealth).
In simpler terms, Marx emphasizes the role of material factors and class conflicts while Weber focuses on the ideas and values that drive society. These are likely to change from time to time and definitely, they are likely to have far-reaching social implications.
In relation to technological factors, many advances in technology that are being witnessed these days account for many changes in society. In previous centuries, this technology was either absent or too simple. Technology, however, plays a major role in education due to new teaching-learning processes and resources which did not exist in previous centuries, today, much more people are highly educated and the literacy levels for the world population have risen drastically in the last couple of centuries, as shown in Appendix B, “while only 12% of the people in the world could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 17% of the world population remains illiterate.” leading to social development and thus change. Technology has changed how information is processed, shared, and used. People remain updated on what is happening in different parts of the world and this information can sometimes inspire social change. For example, the Arab spring some years back was motivated by events that started in Tunisia and through technology, people in other Arab countries were able to follow through the events, ultimately initiating revolutions in their own countries. Protesters across the affected countries followed unfolding events through social media and shared with the world through the same platform. By and large, technology facilitated information flow and sharing, creating an unstoppable wave that led to a change of regime in many Arab and Northern Africa countries. The Arab spring is a good example showing the power of information shared through technology.
Additionally, with the increasing population and the need to produce more, industries are being set up to meet the needs of the population. In this regard, industrial production is dependent on technology, which helps increase the volume of production. It should also not be forgotten that technological advancement also accelerates human interaction which impacts culture especially considering that cultural norms and values are being shared across populations at a faster rate, hence changing ways and habits of people’s life.
Cultural factors also play a role in bringing about accelerated social change. Such include religion as well as the norms and values that drive society. These may change over time more so in the face of globalization. Some cultures are being eroded and this definitely impacts social life. Social change may also occur when people convert to other religions and take on new beliefs. Cultural values can often change, perhaps through cultural contact with another society (whose culture is different). Presently, technology has also made it easier for people to move from one point to another and the concept of globalization implies that societies are interacting with others whose cultural orientation is different. This contact is either direct, through migration and trade or indirect through technological devices. In this context, social change occurs through diffusion, a concept that is in these days accelerated through mass media that enables faster transmission of information to bigger audiences. Social change is thus faster than in previous centuries because of these technological factors that work hand in hand with cultural factors.
Last yet important, acceleration of social change is also caused by political factors. To consider Marx’s explanation, society is generally divided into two categories: capitalists and workers. The capitalists or bourgeois are those who own property and therefore the means of production and the workers, those who have no property, are exploited and have to work for property-owners for survival. Based on the difference between these two categories, Marx saw dramatic growth in inequality between the classes, and this is what has happened in recent world history. This inequality has political implications especially rooted in class conflicts between the two groups. Here, social change happens through institutions that are set up to address the implied disputes. (to address disputes arising between the two groups.) Differences between the two classes form the basis of ‘relations of production” that Marx addresses in his discussion. Political factors can also be considered in terms of the decisions that leaders make which affect entire societies. These decisions can be in the context of governance and legislation which can be modified from time to time hence bringing about social change.
In conclusion, the examination of various aspects of social change reveals various factors that are now causing faster social change than in previous centuries. This paper highlighted some of these factors, identifying them broadly as being demographic, cultural, technological, political, and economic.
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