The Analysis of Social Change Reconsidered: A Sociological Study

By J. A. Ponsioen | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY OF SOCIAL CHANGE

The study of social change is fashionable in to-day's sociology. Yet, the field which this study should attempt to analyse and to elucidate is often not clear in itself. It was not clear at the opening of the third World Congress of Sociology in Amsterdam, which was devoted to this subject. Very distinguished sociologists, such as Von Wiese and Gurvitch, were inclined from the beginning to identify this subject with the entire field of sociology, because social life is life and thus changing. During the further proceedings of the Congress no serious attempt was made to establish a workable definition of social change. Nowadays all textbooks deal with the subject. One can hardly say, however, that the subject has been elucidated since 1956, the year in which the congress in Amsterdam was held.

1 . Indeed, one could argue that social life, whether it is defined as interaction of individuals, or as shared life, or both, is human life and so it cannot be static without being dead. Thus all social life entails social change. Using the term in such a broad sense, however, does not help to define the scope of a specific study on change. If it presents something new at all, it seems to the present author to be the fact that until now most sociologists have taken their societies as data, within which they could study several variables. The present approach is new in the sense that societies themselves are looked upon in their dynamic nature. This is a specific problem, and is a workable subject for the study of social change.

Science, moreover, is not an isolated phenomenon in life, it is a function of life. Social scientists are challenged by the problems of life. Paramount problems of today's world are those dealing with the rise of newly independent nations, the construction of new societies within former colonial frontiers, rapid change in societies, traditional societies whose leaders desire to modernize them, and the relations between

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