Social change is a shift in the characteristics of culture and societies over time. There have been four social revolutions:
The domestication of plants and animals, from which pastoral and horticultural societies arose;
The invention of the plow, leading to agricultural societies;
The industrial revolution, which produced industrial societies
The information revolution, resulting in postindustrial societies.
Different sociologists have focused on different forces in order to explain the changes that took place in society at the time of the Industrial Revolution.
Karl Marx identified capitalism as the basic reason behind the breakup of feudal societies. He focused his analysis on the means of production (factories, machinery, tools): those who owned them dictated the conditions under which workers would work and live.Max Weber saw religion as the core reason for the development of capitalism.
As a result of the Reformation, Protestants no longer felt assured that they were saved by virtue of church membership and concluded that God would show visible favor to the elect. This belief encouraged Protestants to work hard and be thrifty.
An economic surplus resulted, stimulating industrialization. Modernization (the change from agriculture to industrial societies) produces sweeping changes in societies. 1. Modern societies are larger, more urbanized, and subject to faster change. They stress formal education and the future and are less religiously oriented.
They have smaller families, lower rates of infant mortality, and higher life; they have higher incomes and more material possessions With modernization, people’s view of the world, their fundamental beliefs about what life should be like, and their attitudes towards one another changed.
When technology from the industrialized world is brought into traditional nations, the impact on society is evident, as demonstrated by introduction of medicine. 4. The export of Western medicine to the least industrialized nations reduced death rates but did not affect high birth rates.
5. Rapidly increasingly populations strain the resources of these nations, leading to widespread hunger and starvation, and the mass migration to cities and to the industrialized nations. A world system began to emerge in the 16th century; in the 18th and 19th centuries, capitalism and industrialization extended the economic and political ties among the world’s nations.
1. Dependency theory asserts that because nations that were not industrialized became dependent on those that had industrialized, they were unable to develop their own resources. 2. The world’s industrial giants (the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan – the G7) have decided how they will share the world’s markets; by regulating global economic and industrial policy they guarantee their own dominance, including continued access to cheap raw materials from the less industrialized nations.
The recent resurgence of ethnic conflicts threatens the global map drawn by the G7. Social movements are also powerful forces for social change. To examine the most important issues in an industrialized society, one must look at the social movements which point to the areas that contain the greatest pressure for change.