Showing posts with label Basic Concepts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Basic Concepts. Show all posts

Monday, 24 January 2022

Is conflict inevitable in society? Briefly discuss Karl Marx’s theory of social change.

Marx’s theory of social change is much interlinked with his concept of social classes and class conflicts. Marx’s focus on the process of social change is so central to his thinking that its shadow pervades all his writings.

The motor force of history for Marx is not to be found in any extra-human agency but in man himself. “Marx insisted that men make their own history. Human history is the process through which men change themselves….” (Coser).

Marx declared that “Violence is the midwife of history”. In a similar tone, Mao who was one of the strong supporters of Marxian views wrote that “Change comes from the barrel of a gun”. Marx who is the most prominent and eloquent exponent of the “conflict theory of social change”, holds that change is caused by tensions between competing interests in society.

Marx believed that the class struggle was the driving force of social change. Marx and Engels wrote in “The Communist Manifesto” (1848): “All history is the history of conflict.” Marx believed that “the character of social and cultural forms is influenced by the economic base of society specifically by the mode of production that is used and by the relationships that exist between those who own and those who do not own the means of production.

History is the story of a conflict between the exploiting and the exploited classes. This conflict repeats itself again and again until capitalism is overthrown by the workers and a socialist state is created. Social­ism is the forerunner to the ultimate social form of communism”

Thus it is clear that the Marxism theory of social change is essentially conflict-oriented. It is appropriately called the “Conflict theory of Change”. Marx as a conflict theorist considers society fundamentally dynamic, not static. He regards conflict as normal, not an abnormal process and he believes that The existing conditions in any society contain the seeds of future social changes.

Marx conceived of four major successive modes of production in the history of mankind after the first stage of primitive communism: The Asiatic, the Ancient, the Feudal, and the Modern bourgeoisie form.

Each of these came into existence through contradictions and antagonisms that had developed in the previous order. “No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed, and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society” (as quoted by Lewis Coser).

Free men and slaves, patricians and plebians, barons and serfs, guild masters and journeymen, exploiters and the exploited, have confronted one another from the beginning of recorded times. The “class antagonisms specific to each particular mode of production led to the emer­gence of classes whose interests could no longer be asserted within the framework of the old order..” (Coser)

However, “the bourgeoisie relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production.” When they have been overthrown by a victorious prole­tariat, “the prehistory of human society will have come to an end.” and the dialectical principle that ruled the previous development of mankind ceases to operate, as harmony replaces social conflict in the affairs of men. These ideas portray Marx’s wishful thinking rather than his dreams.

As a creative thinker, Marx had very strongly supported social change. “Philosophers have already interpreted the world; our present task is to change it” – Marx used to say. He never depended on the status quo. But in his analysis of social change, he placed a high premium on economic factors and neglected religious, political and other factors. He made conflict the driving force of history and undermined the importance of harmony and consensus.

Though Marx called man the main instrument of change, in his analysis of capitalism he reduced man to the level of a helpless creature. Nobody can indeed stop the future course of history. But it need not necessarily follow the particular course as expected and insisted upon by Marx and his followers.


The term ‘progress’ has been applied to social change and it connotes a valuation and such valuation is made according to certain principles. When a subjective analysis confuses ‘progress’ with ‘happiness’ or material comforts, the conclusions tend to remain on the wrong side of value-free judgments and the sociologist must always guard against such pitfalls in reasoning.

The term ‘development’, means formal and structural changes in an organism. Even though society is not an entity like the living organism, the term as applied to such organism can have its valid application in social matters. Just as life grows from the simple to the complex form, society develops in the sense that its ‘energy’ accumulates collectively, such energy is ‘organized’ for functioning in a definite direction, and ‘harmony’ is achieved between the different social organs for the purpose of effecting an overall development.

‘Progress’ and ‘development’ are often used interchangeably. For many people, both words mean the same thing and present the same goal. However, progress and development have few differences in the details. One of the main differences between progress and development is that the word ‘progress’ gives the extra idea of ‘movement’. On the other hand, the word ‘development’ does not give the extra idea of ‘movement’.


  1. Sometimes the word ‘progress’ gives the additional sense of ‘continue’ as in the sentence ‘The argument is progressing’. On the other hand, the development consists of the act or an instance of growth or the process of being grown. Development always indicates a stage of growth or advancement. It relates to an event or a circumstance.

  2. ‘Progress’ and ‘development’ are similar but not exactly alike. Progress denotes a picture of a straight and upward movement while development favours the depiction of wholesome growth in all aspects and sides.

  3. Development deals more with a wholesome activity while progress deals with the particulars of the same action. In short, progress contributes to development.

  4. Progress deals with the current status of the activity which includes the tasks done and the undone tasks while development also looks at the current status but on a macro level.

  5. Progress is part of the development. Development is the wholesome approach or status of a particular activity whether a plan or a project.

  6. Progress and development are also reflected in work and the individual. Progress is concerned with the results while development deals with the process. Progress looks at the end of labour and the evaluative results while development concentrates on the methods and techniques.

  7. Economic progress and development also are relative concepts. Progress is seen as the economic growth of a country while development refers to the distribution of progress to the members of society.

In a way, development and progress have a symbiotic or a two-way relationship. If there is internal development, whether in a group or in an individual, it can affect the status of progress in work or in a plan.

Differences between Social Evolution and Revolution

Evolution and Revolution are two words that are often confused due to the appearing similarity in their concepts. Actually, there are some differences between the two words. Evolution refers to the change in the behaviour of man over a period of time. It also speaks about the changes in social conditions over a period of time.

According to Herbert Spencer, “Evolution is an integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion, during which the matter passes from a relatively indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to a relatively definite, coherent heterogeneity and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.”


Evolution is a process of differentiation and integration. The term ‘evolution’ comes from the Latin word ‘evolvere’ which means ‘to develop’ or to ‘to unfold’. It is equivalent to the Sanskrit word ‘vikas’. It means more than growth. The word ‘growth’ connotes a direction of change but only a quantitative character, e.g. we say population growths.

Social evolution takes place through the process of differentiation. In order to understand this, the history of society need to study over a long period of time, and you will find that its associations, institutions, etc., are constantly evolving or developing. In social evolution new and ever newer circumstances and problems are constantly appearing and in order to cope with the new associations and institutions are evolving. For example, the community in a town. Previously, when the town had been a small community its management was the responsibility of a panchayat or a town area committee. Now that town has become a big commercial centre, its management is in the hands of a dozen different committees. One of them looks after the educational facilities; another after sanitation, a third is deputed to look after the octroi while a fourth manages the markets, and so on. In this way, this differentiation increases with the evolution of the town.

The principle of social evolution maintains that there is linear progress in society, but all scientists do not accept social evolution as a linear process. Some scholars believe it to be unilineal while others consider it to be cyclical. According to Morgan, Haddon and Engels, the evolution of every society passes through the three following stages:

  1. Savagery

  2. Barbarism

  3. Civilization. 

In the same way, these scholars have held that there are four stages in the economic development of every society:

  1. Hunting

  2. Pastoral

  3. Agricultural

  4. Industrial stage. 

According to evolutionary principle, there are three recognized stages in the development of technology:

  1. Stone Age

  2. Bronze Age

  3. Iron Age. 

In the same way, the evolutionists have attempted to show that there are stages of development in the various institutions of human society, such as marriage, family, religion, property, law, government, etc.

Thus evolution deals with the changes that take place in populations over a period of time. It deals also with the theories that speak about these changes. It is important to note that evolution is based on observations, empirical data and tested hypotheses. The various theories about the evolution of man are arrived at by observation of man’s response to social conditions, his behavioural changes over a period of time brought about by the influence of growth in civilization, and the like.


On the other hand, the word ‘revolution’ is derived from the Latin word ‘revolutio’ meaning ‘a turn around’. It consists of a fundamental change in organizational structures or political power that takes place in a staggeringly short period of time. This is the major difference between the two words evolution and revolution.

Whereas in revolution, it is a rapid change to some degree. When we overview the existing and traditional institutions, dogmas, customs, mores and traditions etc., becomes continuously less capable of satisfying the needs of the people, the society becomes marked with unrest and perturbation and disturbance. The people revolt. And the residents of urban districts have a particular role in the revolt. Because of the more facile availability of the means of suggestions and propaganda in the urban areas in comparison with the rural areas, revolutionary ideas circulate more rapidly among the urban population, on the whole, is more in favour of progress and novelty and opposed to tradition and stagnation. And it is in this class that the revolutionary spark finds the most receptive substance and it easily produces a conflagration.

On the other hand, the connotation of the term revolution is clarified and explained by the distinction drawn between it and the process of evolution. It is employed in the following senses:

  1. Political revolutions and uprisings are common and almost normal incidents in the histories of most nations since revolutions of this kind keep taking place from time to time. Revolution denotes the sudden and abrupt change in the customs, behavioural patterns, values, etc., of a society. In this process, the beliefs, attitudes and habits of the general public are completely changed.

  2. Cultural revolution comprehends religious and economic revolutionary process but the most comprehensive is the social revolution in which process the entire social structure or organization undergoes very considerable change and modifications as a result of which the patterns of social institutions, classes, status, action, etc., are suddenly and greatly changed.

According to Aristotle, there are two types of political revolution and they are a complete change from one constitution to another constitution and modification of an existing constitution. It is indeed true that human history has seen several revolutions over different periods of time. It is important to know that revolution brings about changes in culture, economy and even socio-political conditions. Sometimes, the word revolution is used to denote changes that take place outside the political arena. There were a number of cultural revolutions and social revolutions too in the past. Philosophical revolutions also shook the world in the times of the past.



In the earlier theories of biological evolution, the concept of social evolution was intimately connected with social progress. For the social evolutionists of the nineteenth century from Auguste Comte to Herbert Spencer and Lester F. Ward, social evolution was, in effect, social progress. Modern sociologists, particularly Americans, do not hold this proposition.

They point out that evolution does not mean progress, because when a society is more evolved it does not necessarily follow that it is more progressive. If it would have been progressive, Maclver and Page remark that people in the more evolved society are better or better fitted to survive or more moral or more healthy than those we call primitive. Even if the opposite were true, it would not refute the fact that their society is more evolved.

Social evolution should also be distinguished from social progress. Firstly, L. T. Hobhouse says, evolution means a sort of growth while social progress means the growth of social life in respect of those qualities to which human beings attach or can rationally attach value. The relation between the two is thus a ‘genus-species’ relation. Social progress is only one among many possibilities of social evolution; any or every form of social evolution is not a form of social progress. For example, the caste system in India is a product of social evolution. But it does not signify progress. Hobhouse concludes, that it is good, the fact that society has evolved is no proof that it progressed.

Secondly, evolution is merely a change in a given direction. It describes a series of interrelated changes in a system of some kind. It refers to an objective condition that is not evaluated as good or bad. On the contrary, progress means a change in a direction determined ideally. In other words, it can be said, progress means change for the better not for the worse. It implies a value-judgement. The evolutionary process may move in accordance with our notion of desirable change, but there is no logical necessity that it should. The concept of progress necessarily involves a concept of end. And the concept of end varies with the mentality and experience of the individual and the group.

The affirmation of evolution “depends on our perception of objective evidences, whereas the affirmation or denial of progress depends on our ideals.” It follows that evolution is a scientific concept and progress is an ethical concept. Evolution is a demonstrable reality; the term progress is very much subjective and value-loaded and is not demonstrable with a degree of certainty.

While social evolution is clearly distinguished from social progress, we must not loose sight of their relationships. Ethical valuations or ideas (Progress) are socially determined and hence determine the objective phenomena (Evolution) of society. They have always been powerful in shaping and moving the world. In some manner, they are active in every process of social change. “All social change has this double character.”

Though the three concepts, social change, social evolution and social progress share many common reference points, they have different intellectual frameworks. They all articulate the same consequential effects. In all the three processes, one cause produces a number of effects, the effect and cause get intermixed to produce other new effects, again new connections between cause and effect are established and so on goes the process.


The term social change is used to indicate the changes that take place in human interactions and interrelations. Society is a web of social relationships and hence social change means a change in the system of social relationships. These are understood in terms of social processes, social interactions and social organization. The meaning of the term “Social Change” can be better understood if we will discuss a few definitions formulated by eminent sociologists.

Social change occurs due to various factors. Some of these factors are:

  1. Technological Factors: 

The technological factor has an immense influence on social change. The incessant increase in new machines and methods due to new discoveries had a very great influence on social relationships. The form of society is changing as a result of the development and invention of electric, steam and petrol driven machines for production, the means of transport and communication and various mechanical appliances in everyday life. Even institutions like family and marriage have not remained immune to the effect of these developments. The explicit effects of technological advances are labour organization, division of labour, specialization, high speed of life, increase in production, etc. in the modern age technological factors are among the predominant causes of social change.

  1. Urbanization Factors: 

Urbanization has had important consequences for many aspects of social, political, and economic life. The earliest cities developed in ancient times after the rise of horticultural and pastoral societies made it possible for people to stay in one place instead of moving around to find food. Because ancient cities had no sanitation facilities, people typically left their garbage and human waste in the city streets or just outside the city wall (which most cities had for protection from possible enemies); this poor sanitation led to rampant disease and high death rates. Some cities eventually developed better sanitation procedures, including, in Rome, a sewer system.

If urbanization occurs too fast, infrastructure cannot support the population (transportation, public health issues, housing, schools, emergency services, jobs etc). This can result in poverty and class conflict.  Class conflict and poverty may also result if large urban areas experience a loss of jobs.

  1. Cultural Factors: 

The main cause of social change is the cultural factor. Social changes accompany changes in the culture. Max Weber has proved this hypothesis by a comparative study of religious and economic institutions. Culture gives speed and direction to social change and determines the limits beyond which social changes cannot occur. This, however, does not warrant the conclusion that there is no distinction between social and cultural change.

  1. Biological Factors: 

Biological factors have some indirect influence on social change. Among the biological factors is the qualitative aspect of the population related to heredity. The qualitative aspect of the population is based upon powerful and great men and their birth is dependent to a large extent. In addition to this, the biological principles of natural selection and the struggle for survival are constantly producing alterations in society.

  1. Population Factors: 

Even changes in the quality and size of the population have an effect upon the social organization as well as customs and traditions, institutions, associations, etc. Increase and decrease in population, a change in the ratio of men and women, young and old, have an effect upon social relationships. Decrease or increase in the population has an immediate effect upon economic institutions and associations. The ratio of men to women in a society affects marriage, family, and women's condition in society. In the same way, the birth and death rates, etc., also influence social change.

  1. Environment Factors: 

The geographists have emphasized the impact of the geographical environment upon human society. Huntington has gone so far as to assert that an alteration in the climate is the sole cause of the evolution and devolution of civilizations and cultures. Even if these geographists' claims are discarded, it cannot be denied that such natural occurrences modify floods, earthquakes, excessive rain, and these.

  1. Psychological Factors: 

Most sociologists regard psychological factors as important elements in social change. The cause of social changes is the psychology of man himself. Man is, by nature, a lover of change. He is always trying to discover new things in every sphere of his life and is always anxious for novel experiences. As a result of this tendency, the mores, traditions, customs, etc., of every human society are perpetually changing. This does not mean that man always considers the new to be superior to the old. While he is always attending to what is new and unique he also wants to preserve what is old. The form of social relationships is constantly changing when an interaction between these two are being formed. Old traditions are respected but time demands change and adaptation to changing conditions. Change is the law of life. When changes do not occur at the appropriate time revolutions occur, wars are fought, epidemics spread and changes are violently introduced.

  1. Political Factors: 

Law act as an instrument of socio-economic and political change in society. It protects the interests of the weaker sections of society, particularly those belonging to the scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other backward castes in India. Law also protects the interests of women, children and other disadvantaged sections of society. In 1829, a law was passed banning Sati. A century later, another law fixed the minimum age for marriage. Still, later, another law has banned the practice of giving and taking dowry. Article 17 of the Indian constitution has abolished untouchability. Thus, law's role as an instrument of social change finds full expression where the law comes in confrontation with social customs. The role of elections is also an important factor in social change. The right to vote stimulates interest in public affairs and is an important means of imparting education to masses. It teaches a sense of self-respect and responsibility among the citizens.

  1. Economic Factors: 

Economic factors influence the quality and direction of social change. We can explain by studying the following theoretical evidence:

  1. Marxian View: 

Karl Marx is the chief architect of the economic theory of social change. He believes that social change is the result of economic factors. The mode of production determines the social, cultural, religious and political aspects of society. Thus, he traced society's development from agricultural to feudalism to capitalism and finally, to socialism. A revolution carried out by the workers against the capitalist would end the ills of capitalism and lead to the establishment of a socialist society.

  1. Industrial Revolution: 

The Industrial Revolution which started in Europe in the late 17th century slowly found its way across the globe bringing about the following changes:

  1. Production moved out of households to factories.

  2. Capital acquired a greater role in the production process.

  3. The occupational structure of the workforce changed from largely agrarian to an increasingly larger industrial workforce.

  4. People from all strata of society took to industrial activity.

  5. Women moved out of homes in large numbers and entered the workforce.

  6. Barriers of religion, belief etc. crumbled as the demand for labour increased.

  7. Urbanization took place at an accelerated pace.

  8. It triggered changes in other spheres like mass transport and communication, thus radically altering the existing social structure.

  1. Green Revolution: 

As the population rise, consequently, the demand for food grew, the situation warranted a close look at increasing agricultural productivity and the answer that finally helped India to become self-sufficient in food has been termed the “Green Revolution” which is a name given to the dramatic changes brought about in the field of agriculture since the late 1960s.

Social change is a continuous and unending process in every society. All societies traditional and modern are constantly evolving. Social change is a process of alteration with no reference to the quality of change. And changes in society are related to changes in culture. Several factors trigger social change as for instance demographic, political, social, cultural, economic and educational factors. Changes are most often gradual and barely perceptible till we attempt an inter-temporal analysis. However, occasionally, there are events that bring about dramatic changes in society.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Social Mobility

Mobility stands for shift, change and movement. The change may be of a place or from one position to another. Further, change is value free i.e it cannot be said that change is for good or bad. When we prefix “social‟ along with mobility it would imply that people or individual occupying a social position, move to another position or status. 

In the social ladder, this movement may be upward or downward or it may be inter-generational or intragenerational. In short, social mobility stands for change in the position of an individual or a group of individuals from one status to another. 

On mobility Sorokin was the first sociologist who wrote the book “Social and Cultural Mobility”. He was of the opinion that there is no society that is closed (Caste System in India) and no society which is completely open (Class System). He further contended that no two societies are exactly the same in the amount of movement allowed or discouraged. Further, the speed of movement or change may differ from one period of time to another. The rate of change depends upon the level of modernization of a given society. 

For example, a rickshaw puller’s son becomes a lawyer; a clerk’s son becomes a doctor. In each case, a change in role between father and son provides the latter with more of the good things of life. The roles of lawyer, doctor and engineer require initiative, training and self-sacrifice. 

Persons are motivated according to a complex variety of factors to work toward new roles, with their higher status and greater rewards. The good things of life are scarce and individuals must compete, conflict and cooperate with others to gain them. The mobile individual must constantly adapt to socially unfamiliar situations a new class, new norms, new values. A member of a closed society spends his life in an environment that is familiar to him. In other words, an open society, with its high degree of mobility, does not guarantee happiness.

Definition of Social Mobility:

  1. P. A. Sorokin, “Social mobility is understood any transition of an individual or social object or value anything that has been created or modified by human activity from one social position to another”.

  2. Wallace and Wallace: “Social mobility is the movement of a person or persons from one social status to another”.

  3. W. P. Scott: Social mobility refers to “the movement of an individual or group from one social class or social stratum to another”.

Difference between horizontal and vertical social mobility:

Source: Social and cultural mobility by Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin (1941:136)

P. A. Sorokin (1941: 133-134) has distinguished between two principal types of social mobility, horizontal and vertical. These forms of social mobility are differentiated in the following—

  1. Horizontal Social Mobility: By horizontal social mobility or shifting, it meant the transition of an individual or social object from one social group to another situated on the same level. It indicates a change in position within the range of the same status. For instance, we see the transitions of individuals, as from the Baptist to the Methodist religious group, from one citizenship to another, from one family (as a husband or wife) to another by divorce and remarriage, from one factory to another in the same occupational status, are all instances of social mobility.

For examples:

  1. A college graduate with a degree in chemistry planned to work in the research department of a large chemical company, but after a year he finds that the work seems dull and repetitive, with no improvement in sight. He quits that job and instead becomes a professor of chemistry at a nearby university. Because the two occupations are at roughly the same level his mobility involved no essential change of status; it was simply a move to a more satisfying job.

  2. An engineer working in a factory may resign his job and join another factory as an engineer and may work in more or less the same capacity, or join an engineering college and start working as a professor. In this example also, though there is a change of workplace and work, the general status of the person does not change much.

  1. Vertical Social Mobility: By vertical social mobility is meant the relations involved in a transition of an individual (or a social object) from one social stratum to another. According to the direction of the transition, there are two types of vertical social mobility: 

    1. Ascending (social climbing): The ascending currents exist in two principal forms: 

      1. As infiltration of the individuals of a lower stratum into an existing higher one.

      2. As a creation of a new group by such individuals, and the insertion of such a group into a higher stratum instead of, or side by side with, the existing groups of this stratum.

    2.  Descending (social sinking): The descending current has also two principal forms: 

      1. The first consists in a dropping of individuals from a higher social position into an existing lower one, without degradation or disintegration of the higher group to which they belonged. 

      2. The second is manifested in a degradation of a social group as a whole, in a basement of its rank among other groups, or in its disintegration as a social unit.

On the above points, the first case of “sinking” reminds one of an individual falling from a ship; the second of the sinking of the ship itself with all on board, or of the ship as a wreck breaking itself to pieces.

For example::

  1. Movement from the status of a plumber to that of a corporation president, or vice versa, is an example of vertical mobility.

  2. Movement of people from the poor class to the middle class, from the occupation of labourers to that of bank clerks, from the position of the opposition to that of the ruling class, etc.

Sorokin attributes these differences mainly to inherent biological causes, and fears that the “racial fund” of vigour and talent may be depleted through differential fertility. He finds that high mobility has historically been associated with versatility, invention, and discovery; but also with cynicism, social isolation of the individual, skepticism, moral disintegration, and suicide.