Social Change characterizes every society. However its direction, speed and nature are affected by several factors.
Main factors which affect social change can be discussed a follows:
1. Natural Factors:
Natural forces and factors play an important role in unifying or disintegrating the society. Although human beings have made tremendous progress during the last 150 years or so, yet they have not been able to wield full control over the nature.
A storm, earthquake, flood, drought, disease and similar natural events even today can disrupt the social system. Natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, draughts, famines and other natural disasters always force changes in the social conditions and life of the affected people.
On the one hand these factors and forces act as a source of big loss for the victims; on the other hand these initiate efforts aimed at rapid reconstruction and development. As such, the natural factors can on the one hand, cause havoc in physical conditions of social life, these may also affect the social conditions in a positive way.
Large scale floods in Pakistan in August 2010 inflicted very heavy losses on more than 10 million people of the country. At the same time, these gave rise to very comprehensive human attempts at socio-economic reconstruction and development. Haiti is now getting rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 2010.
2. Geographical Factors of Social Change:
The geographical conditions always affect the social system and act as factors of social change. The cultural life of the people depends upon the physical environment. Progress also depends upon the availability of natural resources, their exploitation and how are these being recouped and preserved.
The climate always affects the socio-economic activities of the people. For instance, there is little economic activity at both poles (North and South) due to intense and long spells of cold the speed of social change remains negligible. On the other hand, there is always an intense activity in temperate regions (neither too cold nor too warm), and consequently the speed of social changes is quite fast.
It is necessary to remember that physical environment changes slowly and in a society social change can come at a fast rate. As such geographic factors are not the sole determining factors of social change.
Social Change never comes due to any single factor. During the last several countries there have been no appreciable change in the physical environment of Europe and yet during the same period a big social change came in European societies under the impact of the technology revolution of the 20th century.
3. Biological Factors:
Biological factors also affect social change. Biological factors are those factors which determine the structure, selection and hereditary qualities of generations. The human element is ever changing. Each new generation is different from previous generation. It is different in form, ideas and in many other ways from the one gone before.
Darwin and Spencer are of the opinion that each generation and its members have to compromise with the physical environment. Only those persons survive in the struggle for life who are fit and are able to live, or those, in other words, who have the ability to face the physical conditions. The weak ones get destroyed. The process of the survival of the fittest affects the social organization.
4. Demographic Factors:
The Demographic factors always influence the process and nature of Social Change. The population increase or decrease always brings social problems. When the birth-rate in a society exceeds death-rate, population begins to rise. A constantly rising population gives birth to poverty, unemployment, disease and several other related problems.
On the other hand, a low birth-rate means leads to decrease in the size of the population. When population is low, there are fewer skilled hands available and the country cannot make full use of the natural resources. The social conditions deteriorate the size of families shrink and it affects the social relations.
Even the sex ratio of in a society greatly influences social order. When in a society the number of women is more than men, the custom of polygamy sets in. On the contrary, if there are more men than women, it often gives rise to polyandry. When women outnumber men, dowry system becomes common, when men outnumber women the custom of bride valuation starts.
Falling ratio of females in society always creates a dangerous imbalance in society. Population always influences social institutions, relations, social structure, values and ideals. Demographic factors have large and profound bearing on the society as well as on the process of social change.
5. Socio-economic Factors:
The economic factors constitute an important factor of social change. Marx said that the entire social structure of a country is determined by economic factors i.e the means of production and distribution of material means of production and distribution. When there are changes in the means of production i.e the material productive forces of society, it is always changes the social organization.
The birth of the institutions of marriage and family took place under the influence of the means of production of material means of livelihood. With the birth of family wealth and possessions became important.
When the society graduated to agricultural stage, the social organization grew more complex. People settled down at a particular place for raising crops. Life became stable and located and the villages came into being. Agriculture gave rise to allied industries. With the division of labour the society got divided into several classes. The institution of kingship and feudalism was born during this period.
The agriculture stage gave way to the industrial stage. In the era of Industrial revolution several inventions came to be made and machine system of production came into existence. All this brought about drastic changes in the social set-up.
The problem of housing cropped up in the cities. Urbanisation came into play. The problem of maintaining law and order and the need for providing civic amenities came to very big. More and more ways of entertainment came to be developed.
The joint family system suffered a decline and the nucleus family came to be the basic social unit. Women also became a work force. Male-female relations got changed when women also started working in factories, offices and shops.
The condition of women got ameliorated in developed societies. The social values, norms and traditions underwent a big change. Thus, socioeconomic factors have been and continue to be fundamentally important factors of social change but these are not the only determinants of.
6. Cultural Factors:
The cultural factors also play a role in bringing about social change. Our social life depends upon our beliefs, ideas, values, customs, conventions, institutions and the like. When there is a change in these, it influences the social life. For example, let us (consider the system of marriage. To begin with, the ceremonies were religious and people regarded marriage as something sacred and irrevocable.
Today we hold a different view. Marriage is held be good for personal comfort. It has affected the thinking in favour of irrevocability of marriage and consequently the number of divorcees has registered a big increase.
The view regarding the issues (children born out of marriage) has undergone a change. Today all western societies have been living with children born to unwed mothers and children belonging to broken families. In India, the mad love of a male child and the short-sighted view of girl-child as a burden have together given rise to the evil and inhuman and dangerous, practice of female feticide. The pressures of modern industrial culture have forced the people to practice small family norms.
The relations between the parents and children have undergone a big change. The new love and need for working couples has acted j as a source of big change in family relations and culture. Thus, socio-economic and cultural factors always act as big and formidable factors of social change.
7. Science and Technology as factors of Social Change:
In contemporary times science and technology happens to be the most important factor of social change. New scientific inventions and technologies always greatly influence the social life. Ogburn and Nimkoff rightly observe, “The most wonderful and universal phenomenon of modern life is not capitalism, but science and technology and capitalism is only it’s by product.”
Mechanisation brings changes in the economic structure and relations. This leads to a change in old values, norms and ideals. Technology brings about changes in the physical environment and the material culture of each society which in turn gives birth to social change.