Social change refers to the alteration of social order in society and covers a variety of spectrums including social progress, a change in socio-economic structure or a social revolution, such as the end of apartheid.
Change is the redeeming feature in human society. These changes can be driven by cultural, economic, religious, scientific or technical forces. It would be a mistake to explain social change always in terms of a new factor intervenes in an otherwise stable situation. Rather, social change is commonly produced by the same factors producing continuity.
There are six prominent theories of social change:
1) The classic Hegelian model, which is based on the interaction of opposing forces.
2) The Marxist model, which is based on the struggle between social classes.
3) The Kuhnian model laid out by philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn. He argues in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) that people are unlikely to cast aside an unworkable social order until a better model is found.
4) The Heraclitan model, laid out by Greek philosopher Heraclitus. He used the metaphor of a river to explain social change and suggested in order for a river to remain a river, change must constantly take place.
5) The Daoist theory created by Chinese philologer Dao De Jing uses water to explain social change. He states change is natural and harmonious like water which is soft and yielding but will eventually wear away stone.
6) The final theory on social change is the Resource-based Economy model created by Jacque Fresco. It is based on the idea the needs of the global population can be met with the world's natural resources which would replace the need for the current monetary economy.
Social history is given its shape by cumulative social changes. Many of these changes are quite basic, such as the creation of the modern state; others are more minor, such as the invention and spread of the handshake as a form of greeting. Most, such as the development of team sports, fast-food restaurants, and the international, academic conference, lie in the broad area in between.
Cumulative social changes may take place on a variety of different scales, from the patterns of small group life through institutions such as the business corporation or church to overall societal arrangements. Significant changes tend to have widespread repercussions. It is rare for one part of social life to change dramatically without changing other parts.
Experts believe education is a powerful medium of bringing about changes in society. Although changes through education are often slow, they are steady and have a greater impact on social change than those brought about by invasion, revolution or any other abrupt event. French sociologist David Emile Durkheim explained the importance of education in social change as "the socialization of the younger generation."
The use of education to bring about social change can be seen in the United States during the 1960's when the federal government became increasingly education-orientated. President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson lobbied Congress for increased federal aid to education, leading to the creation of new programs. Education became a hotly debated topic because it was closely related to one of the decade's prime social movements, the fight for equal rights for black Americans. This resulted in a change in the way American history was taught, with courses emphasizing diversity and equality. The efforts to use education to implement social change displeased conservative politicians, who were opposed to school integration and believed education policy should be a local issue.
Social change is also brought into the mainstream by social activists, who use the laws of the land to bring about change. They do this in three social distinct ways: instrumental, political, an
d cultural. Instrumental actions emphasize change in the allocation of concrete resources. The political framework views change with the empowerment of marginalized communities; and the cultural framework emphasizes the transformation of assumptions are shared by all members of society. Each action provides activists with a particular order of justification which enables them to justify or to criticize the role of law in social change. The multiplicity of these frameworks sustains the common-sense notion of law as a means for social change. This again can be seen in the 1960's civil rights movement.