What are the factors affecting social change?

Social change is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon. There are both endogenous (internal to the society concerned) and exogenous (external to the society) factors influencing social change. The following are the important factors contributing to social change:

  1. Environmental factors: Geological and climatic phenomena like earthquakes, flood, draught, tornado, tsunami etc. cause drastic changes in the economy or material assets of a society which in turn leads to social change. Variation in the availability of water resources and mineral resources (eg. Petroleum) can also affect social change.
  2. Biotic factors: Fluctuation in agricultural productivity, availability of fishery wealth, spread of diseases affecting man, crops and domesticating animals, changes in population structure, sex ratio, age ratio etc. can also contribute to significant changes in life style and thereby in the culture.
  3. Cultural factors: The main cause of social change is the cultural factor. The basic elements of culture like language, religion, philosophy, literature, faith and values will take long time to change due to the influence of another culture. The co-existence of two different cultures for a long period can cause cultural diffusion leading to changes in both. India, for example, discarded age long customs like Sati and Child marriage because of her contact with the Europeans.
  4. Demographic factors: Changes in population factors such as birth rate, death rate, migration or immigration can cause changes in sex ratio, age-ratio and other vital population parameters. Such changes affect marriage norms, familial relations, conditions of the marginalized etc. ultimately influencing social change.
  5. Technological factors: Technological advancement has resulted in the production of surplus food, population growth, urbanization and industrialization. All these have affected family size, occupational divisions, gender roles, interdependency, social competition etc. Developments in the field of transportation and communication reduced the social distance which gave momentum to cultural diffusion and thereby to social change.
  6. Ideological factors: Political, social and religious ideologies can bring forth radical changes in social structure and social relationships. For example, the spread of communist political ideology in Kerala brought an end to feudalism followed by drastic changes in class structure which reflected even on family relations. The social philosophies of persons like Sree Narayna Gurn, Sahodharan Ayyappan, Ayyankali etc. resulted in the vertical mobility of oppressed communities in Kerala which brought lasting changes in the social sphere of the state.
  7. Psychological factors: Man, by nature, is a lover of change. The inherent tendency to look for novelty compel man to experiment new ideas which may sometimes results in the establishment of new social setup. Change in attitude of society towards family planning, dowry, caste system, women's education etc. which brought about radical changes in society are primarily psychological in nature.
  8. Other factors: In addition to above mentioned factors other elements such as wars, ethnic tensions, competition for resources, trade unionism, banking system, human rights movement, enhanced environmental awareness etc. have resulted in wide spread social variation and modification.

Reference: Arjunan,N.K.(2010). Philosophical and Sociological Bases of Education (2nd Ed.). Palakkad: Yuga Publications.