The Analysis of Social Change Reconsidered: A Sociological Study

By J. A. Ponsioen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
CONCLUSION: RAPID SOCIAL CHANGE IN DEVELOPING SOCIETIES
What does social change mean? To many who are dealing with development problems, social change is identical with industrialization as we analysed it in the preceding chapter; and with urbanization as a consequence of this industrialization. This, however, is narrowing down the concept. Villages in India in which education and agricultural improvement are introduced, undergo a change wider than that in the field of education and work. Tribes in Central Africa, before the period of colonization, were often in continuous movement, looking for better soils, fighting each other, and were thus highly dynamic until peace was imposed and they became static.
Reviewing the theories we have studied so far, and which have been selected for the understanding of the change in overall societies (thus eliminating micro-sociology), we should now ask what has been understood by the term social change. Most authors unconsciously had in mind a certain historical change of a certain part of the world. Tönnies and Durkheim were trying to understand the changes going on in their time and in their own culture: Tönnies referred to a picture of the past, Durkheim referred to a picture of non-literate societies. Gurvitch and others who developed a theory of stages, just like Pirenne and other writers on the process of urbanization, were looking for a trend in the history of each civilization, but mainly of the West. Toynbee and Sorokin, the first more descriptively, the second in a more abstract way, dealt with the succession of civilizations. Their period of study was that of mankind. Marx, Mannheim and Burnham limit their study (or their study is only relevant) to fairly recent developments in Western industrializing countries. On the other hand, Obrebski, and most anthropologists dealing with acculturation problems, think in terms of rather recent developments outside the Western world. Only a few theorists develop a general theory, some on facts which will always occur: Pareto speaking about the circulation of élite, Weber with his theory of routinization of

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