Some of the important factors that determine the rate and direction of social change are: I. Biological Factors II. The Physical Factors III. The Technological Factors IV. The Cultural Factors—the Cultural Lag.
Social change has occurred in all societies and in all periods of time. But the rate of social change differs from society to society.
In one society the rate is rapid while in another it is necessarily slow. There are various factors which determine the rate and direction of social change. Here we shall briefly examine them.
I. Biological Factors:
Under biological factors of social change we include
(i) The plants and animals in the area and
(ii) human beings themselves.
The non-human biological environment affects human, social and cultural life. Man utilizes the available plant and animal life in ways determined by his culture. Thus, Indians worship snakes and holy fig tree. Many a plant are used for medicinal purposes which has given birth to Indian system of medicine. Cow is regarded sacred among Hindus. Man wards off bacteria, poisonous plants, insect pests and dangerous animals with the best means he has been able to invent.
Changes in geographic conditions such as change in climate, change in soil composition, drying up of lakes or streams kill some organisms and give birth to others. These changes affect the nature of man’s struggle for existence. The disease producing micro-organisms present constant new problems of adjustment.
The human biological environment includes the factors that determine the numbers, the composition, the selection, and the hereditary quality of the successive generations. The human element in society is always changing. Every life is a different distribution of qualities and potentialities. If we compare ourselves with our parents, we will know that we are different from them in our make-up, in ideas and in most other things. No new generation is an exact replica of the old. Each new generation is a new beginning.
The changes in population both in numbers and composition have a far reaching effect on society. In a society where the number of girls is greater than the number of male children one will find a different system of courtship, marriage and family organization from that where the case is reverse. The last hundred years the population of most countries has increased, of some with unusual rapidity.
The swift and steady decline of both the birth rate and the death rate in the past witnesses to a great social transformation. With the improved sanitary conditions, medical facilities and with the aid of other physical sciences the population has greatly increased inspite of the falling birth rate.
The growth of population has given birth to a great variety of social problems—unemployment, child labour, use of contraceptives, wars, competition and production of synthetic goods, etc. It has also led to urbanisation with all its attendant evils. Since the death rate too has diminished so in society there are more of the older people than there used to be about a century back. Naturally there is a change in the social attitudes and beliefs.
Moreover, if the growth of population is checked it would mean a higher standard of living, the emancipation of woman from child-bearing drudgery, better care for the young and consequently a better society. The countries with growing population and relatively limited resources have an incentive to imperialism and to militarism.
When the growth of population threatens the standard of living, it inspires a change of attitude. Thus, in the nineteenth century contraceptives were designated immoral, but today they are not so regarded, rather their use is encouraged and patronised by the society.
With the decrease of the size of the family, the facility of marriage and of divorce, the relations between husband and wife, the relations between children and parents, the mode of upbringing of children, the position of the mother in the house and the degree of economic self-sufficiency of the family have all been changing. Thus, it is evident that the changes in the numbers and composition of population are causing a number of changes in social relations.
Besides, there is a close relationship between the growth of population and the level of physical health and vitality of the people. Because there are many mouths to feed, therefore, none gets enough to eat with the result that chronic malnutrition and associated diseases become prevalent, and these induce physical incompetence, apathy and lack of enterprise.
It may be noted that all the subsistence populations of the world are socially backward and unprogressive and their indifference to improve their material welfare is largely a consequence of their low level of physical well being. An underfed, disease-ridden people are a lethargic people.
The following are the defects of population growth:
(i) high birth rate, (ii) high death rate, (iii) greater number of children, (iv) greater number of old people, (v) great number of widows and widowers, (vi) disproportionate number of male and female population, (vii) large number of disabled people, (viii) large number of rural people, (ix) high rate of infant mortality, (x) short span of age.
All these defects affect the quality of population, and consequently, affect the social structure and social institutions adversely. Needless to say that on account of high population growth all the Indian society is passing through a critical period of great poverty, unemployment, moral degeneration, criminality and backwardness.
Natural and Social Selection:
Before proceeding further we may at this juncture give thought to the two principles of natural and social selection. Selection in general is “the act or process by which, in accordance with a given norm or end, certain things are retained or promoted and others discarded.” It is an act of preference for certain objects, for example, we prefer MacIver’s Society lo any other book on Sociology. Selection is not change because changes means replacing a thing by another.
The principle of natural selection is quite old, but it received a sociological treatment at the hands of Herbert Spencer who based it on Darwin’s theory. According to this theory, there is a struggle for existence going on in nature. In this struggle only those survive who are the fittest.
Spencer applied this theory to human society and held that in human society only those beings survive who are the fittest i.e., who have adjusted themselves to nature. Those who fail to adjust will be killed by nature. According to Herbert Spencer, natural selection was the master key to social evolution.
Every being an institution had to be adjusted lo its environment. This, adjustment could be brought about only by going through the corresponding structural changes. Moreover, it was thought that the very exigencies of environment were instrumental in bringing about these changes in the institution by which adjustments become possible.
Those who could not make the responses congenial with the situation were doomed to extinction: only the fittest survived. The role of the physical environment was to select those organisations which were better equipped for survival and to eliminate the unfit. Nature ruthlessly eliminates those who are weak either in their biological build-up or in their capacity for adaptability.
Any efforts to protect the physically weak and sick persons who would otherwise be disposed of by natural forces perpetuate the biologically unfit at the expense of the fit. Malnutrition, disease, poor housing and arduous physical labour are somehow “good” for the human race.
There are two forms of natural selection—elimination and absorption. The beings who cannot adapt themselves to nature are eliminated by it. Natural selection acts through death rate. Those who cannot adapt themselves to the nature are killed by it.
Pearson has diagnosed four premises of natural selection:
(i) Qualities are variables;
(ii) Qualities are inherited;
(iii) Nature acts through death;
(iv) Death rate is selective.
The principle of natural selection, however, has been criticised on various grounds.
(i) Fitness is always relative to environment, and there are many potential environments as well as many ways of adaptation to them.
(ii) Secondly, the individual who proves to be the fittest in the struggle for survival may be the worst in social, moral or intellectual qualities. The biological capacity to survive has nothing to do with social values, it may even be at variance with them. The concept of biological fitness to survive must be superseded by the concept of human worth which has great social value.
(iii) Thirdly, it should also be admitted that while survival through struggle and elimination plays an important part in the animal kingdom, co-operation and peaceful living also play a great part in its survival. With regard to man co-operation is so indispensable in society that without it society cannot exist. What underlies the social life of man is not competition but cooperation, not strife but harmony, not dissension but agreement.
(iv) Fourthly, man is not a purely passive factor in the process of adjustment. While it is true that every organism, including man, has to be adjusted to its environment, it is the man who is to decide in what way the adjustment has to be made. A sound and healthy human being is not a survivor of natural competition but a product of social protection.
(v) Fifthly, the idea of the physical perfection of “natural” man is a mere fable. In nature freedom from malnutrition and disease is the exception rather than the rule. Unless men so control their own numbers that they need not compete with one another for survival, they will be few in number and small in size.
(vi) Sixthly, the social heritage everywhere modifies the stark alternatives of natural selection. Society may even reject certain of the ways which natural selection prescribes for those who have no social heritage. Lloyd Morgan writes: “While mental evolution as such is still dependent upon organic evolution, it is no longer wholly subservient to organic needs; nor is it, save to a limited extent, conditional and controlled by natural selection. Mind to some extent escapes from its organic thraldom and is free to develop in accordance with the laws of its own proper being, but in relation to a new environment. And although continuity of mental development in the race is still rendered possible by organic heredity, mental progress is mainly due not to inherited increments of mental faculty but to the handing on the results of human achievements by a vast extension of that which we have seen to be a factor in animal life, namely tradition.”
(vii) Seventhly, the principle of natural selection completely disregards the difference between the animal and the human societies.
In short, natural selection is a “constantly diminishing factor in the evolution of civilized man.”
The application of the principle of natural selection is also least visible in the field of folkways and mores. No doubt, folkways which lose their utility with the change in environment and whose continuance any longer is injurious to the group or has deleterious effects upon the group sapping its vitality must be eliminated. But we know that some folkways continue to survive. Their survival is no proof of their fitness. Unfavourable folkways reared up by ignorance and superstition may persist and erect formidable barriers against favourable change.
In India the persistence of child ‘marriages, magical devices for controlling God’s fury, untouchability and taboos against certain foods may be cited as example of such folkways. As between folkways natural selection does not act vigorously. Groups have been eliminated in warfare or invasion of other groups but this cannot be a test of the application of natural selection to folkways because besides the character of folkways so many factors enter in e.g. economic resources, possession of superior weapons, military organisation, leadership, etc.
Primitive peoples have been wiped out by the imposition on them of the conditions of an alien civilization but this can hardly be called natural selection. In short, a survey of the customs and institutions of many peoples leads to the same conclusion that natural selection is little in evidence in the evolution of civilized man.
Social selection is the result of the forces unleashed or controlled by men which are operative in society. Defining social selection MacIver writes, “In so far as force generated within human society and operating through social relationships create conditions which affect the reproduction and survival rates of the population as a whole and differentially of the various groups within it, we can term the process social selection.”
The working of social selection is due to the combined effect of the forces of culture and civilization which are placed at the service of man: who has also been devising schemes and using tools whereby the possible effects of natural selection have been modified.
As civilization advances and man’s control over nature increases, natural selection becomes an ever-decreasing factor in human life; while social selection becomes more and more prominent. Man faces environment as an intelligent being and tames it with his intelligence and technique.
In its modes of operation social selection stands in marked contrast to natural selection. MacIver states, “Natural selection acts solely through the death rate, selecting between beings already in existence and only thus determining who shall come into existence. Social selection also acts on the death rate, but its more characteristic action is directly on the birth rate.
Natural selection offers only the alternatives of death or adaptation; social selection offers many alternatives. It is not merely or mainly eliminative, it is in part preventive and in part creative, determining who are to be born and not only who are to survive.” As we saw above there are no standards in natural selection.
It demands simply adaptation to a given environment. Social selection creates its standards in accordance with the society. Before natural selection the individual remains passive or merely resistant. But before social selection he plays an active role setting up the values according to which not only the individual may survive, but even attain a definite position in life.
Social selection operates within a far wider range than natural selection and offers various solutions to one and the same situation. The physically weak man is no longer unfit to live; by his moral and intellectual attainments he may become one of the ablest members of society.
Many persons who in a purely natural environment would be living a precarious life may not live as the fittest members of society. It is evident that the qualities favoured by natural selection such as physical fitness and bodily strength are often less important than those favoured by social selection, inasmuch as they may be opposed to the higher values of society.
Nature in fact does not make any selection. It sustains or eliminates but blindly without following any definite standard. On the other hand, in social life there is a norm consciously formulated or accepted, according to which certain things are kept and favoured while others dropped and eliminated.
To briefly summarise, these are the following differences between natural selection and social selection:
(i) Natural selection acts only through the death rate while social selection lays emphasis on birth rate.
(ii) Natural selection knows only two ways of adaptation birth and death while in social selection there are many alternatives. It is preventive as well as creative.
(iii) In natural selection man has to come to terms with nature which he can alter little, social selection is made by man’s effort.
(iv) Natural selection is the way of competition and conflict while social selection is the way of co-operation and benevolence.
(v) In natural selection an individual has to adapt to a particular environment, in social selection there are many environments.
(vi) Natural selection is based upon natural conditions, while social selection is based upon social conditions.
Modes of Social Selection:
Social selection acts, a MacIver tells us, in two ways—one way is the mere sequel of social conditions established with different ends in view. It is the indirect way. The other is the direct result of social planning towards the end aimed thereby.
It is the direct way:
Sometimes, the organisation of society alters the reproduction and survival balance without in any way intending such a result. Thus, poor working conditions in the factory may lead to high mortality among the working class or living in slum conditions may cause mortality from tuberculosis. Herein the lethal forces of nature are implemented by the condition for which society is responsible.
If mortality is checked by better nutrition, and hygiene and improved medical facilities, here the lethal forces of nature are checked by socially created conditions. Thus when the rules regarding economic employment, length of the working hours, distribution of occupations responsive to technological change and the working conditions in the factory change, they also affect the modes of social selection.
But often, the society controls the forces of nature directly. Thus, it makes rules concerning sanitation and hygiene, provides medical facilities, regulates the conditions of work to safeguard its members against hazards and prescribes penalties for infanticide, homicide and abortion.
It also controls marriage by laying down the marriage age, prohibits bigamy, denies divorce and sometimes requires a certificate of health before marriage. It disseminates information regarding birth control, encourages birth control by permitting rebate in income-tax, and uses other devices for limiting the size of a family. Thus, we find society controlling reproduction and survival rate through deliberate social planning.
However, we may note that controls through the mores or customs of each group are more effective than controls through state legislation. The mores set up the various standards on which mating, the conditions of marriage and the size of the family depend. The social system only establishes the conditions within which these standards operate.
Mores work as an important agency of social selection. A group characteristically responds to the selective mores. Various researches confirm the thesis that fertility everywhere varies with the conditions and the mores of specific social groups. The differential fertility rates indicate very clearly that the social factor and not the biological factor is the predominant one.
Whatever biological changes are involved in the changes of fertility rates are set in motion by changes within the mores. In short, social selection is at work everywhere though its results may not be so visible. The causes of social selection are clear, but the results are hidden as it is difficult to disengage the effects of social selection from those of natural environment.
There are various forms of social selection. These are as follows:
(i) Military Social Selection:
War is a great selecting force. Healthy and brave people are selected for war who get killed and thereby the society is deprived of its best people. Further, the death of soldiers in war increases the number of widows in society. The soldiers being away from their families for a long time, the birth rate is also affected.
(ii) Political Form:
In civil wars and independence movements the intelligent and honest people are killed. People like Lala Lajpat Rai, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose were killed during the Indian freedom movement.
(iii) Religious Form:
Some religions lay emphasis on celibacy. The religious leaders remain unmarried which affects the birth rate and also deprives the society of intelligent children being born.
(iv) Social Form:
The folkways, mores and customs also play their part in social selection. We have to put on clothes which obstruct the sun rays from exercising its good influence on our body. We get sick and thus the death rate is affected. The social customs like Purdah system, child offering, child marriage, prohibition of widow remarriage etc. affect the society in numerous ways. On account of our moral norms we allow the disabled, the insane and lepers to procreate which increases the burden of society.
(v) Legal Form:
The laws of the country also act as social selection. The murderers are hanged which again affects the birth rate. Sometimes, the law protects institutions like prostitution, birth control, divorce and abortion etc. Birth control and abortion affect the birth rate.
(vi) Economic Form:
There are some economic pursuits which increase the death rate. Thus minors and other workers working in risky factories like those of explosives are open to death risk. It has been observed that unskilled workers procreate more than white collar workers.
(vii) Urban Form:
People living in urban areas procreate less than those living in rural areas. Moreover, the death rate in urban areas is higher than in the rural areas due to slums, insanitary conditions, and lack of fresh air and sun. The urban people practise birth control methods which reduce the birth rate.
II. The Physical Factors:
The surface of our planet is never at rest. There are slow geographical changes as well as the occasional convulsions of nature in storm, earthquakes and floods. Besides the seasonal changes there are sometimes epochal changes which raise and submerge portions of the earth’s surface.
These changes in the physical environment sometimes bring about important changes in society. The floods in India may hasten the birth of model villages in place of those which have been washed off or they may lead to the construction of dams in order to prevent future floods.
The great volcanic eruption of Yakohama in 1923 was responsible for the new kind of architecture in Japan while London may be called a blessing of the great fire that destroyed it. It is contended by some thinkers that the great civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia withered away because the ideal climate that nurtured these civilizations began to deteriorate. The leaders of the geographical school insist that only physical environment is alone responsible for the growth of human society.
It may also be remembered that physical environment governs the social conditions. Every culture develops in some sort of physical setting. Environment, as we have seen earlier, limits or permits the growth of civilization. At the poles and in the deserts there can be no cities, for there is no economic surplus. Every civilization is exploitative of the resources of its environment.
Its birth and continuance depends, among other things, on the presence of certain natural resources and the ability to or find substitutes for them. At the poles and in the deserts there can be little art and no learning for all the available time is spent in the business of keeping alive. Stability is maintained and whenever any change is made it is both slow and insignificant. In the more temperate climates there are rapid changes in society.
The absence of some factors can prevent the change in a certain direction. The non-availability of coal, iron and oil within the borders can prevent a large and populous nation from becoming a great military power. But the physical habitat in no way “causes” the culture. It only sets the stage for social life, a wide and elaborate stage or a small and barren one as the case may be. Davis says, But the geographical environment, unaffected by man, changes very slowly and, therefore, cannot explain most social changes.
Nothing much happened to the climate of Europe during the last five centuries yet the social system was tremendously transformed by industrial revolution. The same geographical environment may support extremely different civilizations, and similar civilizations can exist in quite different physical settings. In most cases in which geographical change is alleged to produce social change, it will be found that the alleged geographical setting is in part man-made and therefore, itself socially determined.
III. The Technological Factors:
Technology affects society greatly in that a variation in technology causes a variation in some institution or custom. The introduction of machine technology as a result of the discovery of the new sources of energy has had such far-reaching consequences that it is often described as a “revolution,” Invention and discovery are significant characteristics of our age. The present age is often called the “age of power”, the “scientific age.’
It has been well said that, “the most novel and pervasive phenomenon of our age is not capitalism but mechanization, which modern capitalism may be merely a by—product. Mechanization has changed not only the economic structure c society but has also led to a steady devaluation of old forms c social organisation and old ideologies. Ogburn says, “Technology changes society by changing our environments to which we in turn adapt. This change is usually in the material environment and the adjustment we make with changes often modifies customs and social institutions.”
Changes in the Production Technology:
Our attitudes, belief and traditions have crumbled before technological advance. The spirit of craftsmanship, the divine ordering of social classes traditions regarding the spheres of the sexes, the prestige of birth all have felt the shock of mechanization. Take a familiar example of the status of women in the industrial age. Industrialism has destroyed the domestic system of production, brought women from the home to the factory and the office and distinguished their earnings.
It has meant a new social life for women. The invention of gun power changed the very technique of war. Standardization of goods, an evident consequence of modern technology, has made possible not only cheap production of goods but highly organized, efficient, mass distribution of goods.
The textile plant has brought about organisation of labour, and a complicated system of production and distribution. Increased productive efficiency in industry released a considerable proportion of the population for service functions.
A large body of men, such as engineers, book-keepers, buyers of raw material and sellers of finished products, not actually engaged in doing production work grew. Changes in production and trade posed new problems of political regulation. The functions of law expanded. The number of law-makers, of bureaucrats to apply the law, of lawyers to interpret the laws increased.
The application of science to industry, agriculture and health gave rise to a host of new service activities. The industrial worker went down in social status and the social functionaries rose to a high status. If we just look around us we will realize the enormous change that is going on in society owing to technological inventions. The most spectacular invention of our age, the atomic energy, has vastly influenced our life.
As an agent of war it brought about the most appalling annihilation of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As an agent of peace it may bring an unprecedented era of plenty and prosperity. We can see how the automobile expands the range of social relationships and reduces the communal character of the neighbourhood.
The rise of standard of living, the transformation of class structures and of class standards, the rise of middle class, the undermining of local folkways and the disintegration of the neighbourhood, the breaking up of the old family system, the increasing dominance of urban ways over those of the country, the improvement in the conditions of women: the birth of new conceptions and movements like communism and socialism, are the result of the changes in production technology. Men have grown pragmatic in their philosophies. They are more devoted to quantity than to quality, to measurement than to appreciation. Their attitude is mechanistic. The life of reflection is at a discount.
Changes in the agricultural techniques have affected the rural community. With the invention of new agricultural tools and chemical manures, agricultural production has increased thereby raising the standard of living of the rural people. Fewer people are i now needed for agriculture. Consequently many agricultural labourers have shifted to cities to find employment.
Changes in the Means of Communication:
Not only the techniques by which the members of a society produce the necessities of life have changed effecting a change in the social relationship, the changes in the means of communication also have affected social life greatly. Changes in the techniques by which modern communication devices are produced have the same social implications as do the changes in the production technology. But changes in communication devices have additional implication because the uses to which they are put have by themselves profound social significance.
The basic function of all communication devices is the conquest of time and space. The techniques of communication limit the scope, and to a considerable extent the character, of the organisations that man can develop. Communication is an important factor determining our social life. Its techniques definitely limit the kind of organised life that a people can have.
The primary techniques of communication are speech and gesture since these techniques provide the base upon which all other modes of communication are built. Writing is speech put in graphic form; radio communication is the transportation of speech through space. Gestural and linguistic differences are a significant deterrent to the growth of intimacy and understanding between people of different societies and groups.
In the past few centuries significant developments have taken place in the field of secondary techniques of communication. These developments have been encouraged by technological change. Alphabetical writing is superior to ideographic writing, the first form of graphic symbolization in point of historical developments.
A flexible and simple system of writing permits the rise of secondary forms of political organisation. Where men are wholly dependent upon primary techniques of communication, no enduring, complex and highly integrated organisation can exist. The alphabetical writing facilitates the invention and diffusion of cultural elements.
The invention of the printing press made possible for the first time in human history comparatively cheap and easy reproduction of cheap matter. The rise of science was in large measure stimulated by the development of the printing press. The recording and printing of scientific findings has resulted in the accumulation of locally unusable knowledge.
The printed records have thus become a storehouse of wisdom upon which they would be inventor ^an draw at will. The printed word also makes for a wide and rapid diffusion of inventions and discoveries within the members of a society and between societies. It gives to many what would otherwise have been the monopoly of the few. The rapidity, with which cultural changes have been occurring in modern age can be attributed to the greatly increased use of the printed word as a means of communication. The press has influenced entertainment education, politics and trade. It has brought to the country dweller
Knowledge of the urban life and has often led him to want the things of the city or go to the city.
Similarly, the invention of radio, telegraph and telephone has influenced the business, recreation, public opinion and furthered the development of new modes of organisation. Ogburn has listed 150 both immediate and distant social effects of radio on uniformity and diffusion of culture, recreation and entertainment, transport, education, dissemination of information, religion, industry and business, occupations, government and politics and on other inventions.
Changes in the Means of Transportation:
The changes in the modes of transportation have variously affected our social relationships. Transportation is the physical conquest of space. The methods and means of transportation determine how easily men can move themselves and how easily they can meet peoples of other places or other societies to exchange goods or ideas. The importance of transportation in modern social life, can hardly be stressed.
Modern man lives so much on wheels that he would not be able to live in suburbs and work in the city were it not for the local transport, that he could not leave home for the station with only a few minutes to spare were it not for the automobile, that he could not use many a thing for breakfast were it not for the ships and trains that tie the many places of the world together commercially. If the wheels of transportation were to stop for a single day, the life of the modern society would be put out of gears.
Transportation is an important factor in the determination of spatial aspect of social relationships. As the means of transportation have changed, the spatial relationships of the members of the group have also changed. The rapid means of transportation now available have encouraged the growth of intercontinental trade and the interdependence of countries.
The intermixing of people belonging to various countries led to the removal of much of misunderstanding and feeling of hatred and jealousy were replaced by sympathy and co-operation. This assisted in the progress of the sense of universal brotherhood. The latest invention in the field of transport, the aeroplanes have brought swift delivery of good. The growth of cities with their consequent problems of urban life is another important result of the development of the means of transport.
There is a greater mobility of population today in which the modern rapid means of transport have played an importantly part. They have broken the barriers to cultural isolation. A people, who because of physical isolation are culturally isolated, may under the modern means of transportation technology become a host for all the world.
The new modes of transportation have played significant role in the diffusion of cultural elements. The steamship, the railroad, the automobile and the aeroplane may, in short, be regarded along with the printing press and the radio as devices that have lessened cultural isolation and paved the way for cultural uniformity.
The transportation developments of the past few centuries, most especially of the hundred years just past, have played a vital role in the economic integration of the peoples of regions, of nations and of the world at large, though social integration is yet to develop. In this way, technological changes have affected social values and norms.
Family ties have broken and there is a movement away from family and community loyalty, to a movement towards individualism. They have also intensified social and psychological up rootedness. They have promoted hedonism. Individualism has supplanted traditionalism. Bureaucracy has grown in number and power. Human relations have become impersonal and secondary.
Derivative Social Effects:
It may also be noted that when an invention has an influence on some institution or custom, the influence does not stop there but continues on and on. Ogburn gives us an example to explain the point. The influence of the cotton gin in the United States was to increase the planting of cotton, since it could be processed more quickly and with less labour.
But cotton production could not be increased without more labour, so additional Negroes were brought from outside; and slavery grew very rapidly. The increase in slavery was a second derivative influence of the cotton gin. The increase in slavery led to the Civil War, the third derivative influence of the cotton gin. However, as explained by Ogburn, the addition of the gin should not be regarded as the sole cause of slavery system and civil war which were caused by many other factors.
Therefore, to get a correct picture of the influence of invention it should be noted that a given invention is only one of the several factors producing a particular result and similarly the primary result of an invention is itself one of many factors producing the secondary derivative influence. It is common knowledge that a social phenomenon is almost never produced by one factor alone.
The derivative influences of inventions become often quite slight when the second and third derivatives are reached. The influence of the inventions producing cheap fibres in breaking down class barriers through the cheapness and abundance of fibres is overshadowed by other factors. Indeed we should not go too far in tracing the influence of a single invention of distant derivatives.
Social Effects of Converging Material Inventions:
When a number of inventions converge or accumulate on the same place, their influence becomes significant. Manufacturing, transport and communication inventions, like factory machines, the electric railway, the telephone, the radio, the cinema brought about the city.
These inventions are all very different material objects have different uses, yet all are centered as one result, namely, the creation of cities, whatever may be other purposes they serve. The purpose of the telephone inventor was not to create the cities, nor was that the aim of the maker of electric railway.
But the social forces have grooved the uses of these inventions to aid the development of cities. Just as a single invention has a derivative effect, similarly, a group of converging inventions may jointly have a derivative effect. Thus, the growth of urban communities, a more or less direct effect of manufacturing, communication and transportation inventions, posed such technological problems as that of providing safe and efficient means of artificial lighting.
The development of modern lighting technology led to the development of kerosene. A bye-product of the distillation of kerosene was gasoline which was a tempting source of power and led to the invention of internal combustion motor. Around the internal combustion motor was developed the entire automobile complex.
And as developments, in lighting technology reduced the demand for kerosene, the Surplus kerosene encouraged further developments in technology. It was converted into gasoline and led to the production of better motor fuels. The motors using this fuel were devised. Thus changes in one system of technology have led to changes in other systems.
Moreover, the city is the cause of crime; family disintegration, suicide, ugliness and expanding State control. The social workers need keep this point in view that crime a phenomenon of city life, in fact flows from the power invention that made the cities. Many of the evils of city life are truly the effects of the newer transportation and communication inventions of the twentieth century.
From the above account it is clear that changes have first occurred in one and then another system of techniques. Whenever a change has occurred in the element of a system of techniques, the entire system was disturbed which led to changes in all its elements.
The effects of technology on major social institutions may be summed up as follows:
(I) Effects on Family Life. Modern technology has changed the family organisation and relations in several ways. The main effects are the following:
(i) It has led to the disintegration of joint family system.
(ii) The employment of women in factories and offices has changed the form of husband-wife relationship and affected the family structure and functions in several ways.
(iii) It has led to the liberation of women. The ‘bib movement’ is the consequence of technology.
(iv) Love-marriage, inter-caste marriage, late-marriage are the other effects of technology.
(v) The invention of birth control devices has reduced the size of the family.
(vi) It has increased the number of divorces.
(vii) It has lessened the importance of family as an agency of social control.
(II) Effects on Economic Life.
These effects are the following:
(i) Industry has been taken from the household and new type of economic organisations like factories, agencies, stores and banks have come up. Economy has acquired a global character.
(ii) It has led to the concentration of industries into huge closely packed cities.
(iii) It has given birth to capitalism and its attendant evils.
(iv) It has brought in higher standard of living.
(v) Division of labour and specialization are the products of technology.
(vi) It has caused economic depression, unemployment, industrial disputes, accidents and diseases.
(vii) It has given birth to trade-union movement.
(viii) It has created a middle class of white collar employees.
(III) Effects on Social Life.
Some of these effects are as follows:
(i) It has led to the decline of community life.
(ii) It has grown the sense of individualism.
(iii) It has created the problem of houses and slums in the cities.
(iv) Recreation has become commercialized.
(v) It has changed the basis of social stratification from birth to wealth.
(vi) It has narrowed the gap of caste system.
(vii) It has grown psychic conflicts and diseases. The modern man suffers from great mental strain, emotional instability and economic insecurity.
(viii) It has led to ‘Consumerism’.
(IV) Effects on State.
Technology has affected the state in the following ways:
(i) A large number of functions have been transferred from the family to the state. The idea of social welfare state is an offshoot of technology. The scope of state activity has been enlarged.
(ii) The influence of pressure-groups over the state has been increased.
(iii) It has led to a shift of functions from local government to the central government.
(iv) The barriers of nationalism have been broken and the idea of world-state is gaining ground.
(v) Democracy has become the common form of government.
(vi) It has made the slate secular.
(vii) It has increased the size and power of bureaucracy.
(V) Effects on Religious Life:
With the growth of scientific knowledge the role of superstitions has decreased. There is now more of religious toleration. The followers of different religions have shed off their orthodoxy and mix with each other. Religion has now become more secular and scientific. Religious fundamentalism is on the decline.
Opposition to technological inventions:
Technological inventions have been opposed from time to time in history by eminent men. In 1826 an expert engineer expressed the view that a rate or speed exceeding six miles per hour would lead to disaster. In 1906, the astronomer Simon Newcomb maintained that attempts at long distance flying were destined to fail because the laws of physics and the state of the industrial arts made the idea impracticable.
In the field of medicine William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood was ridiculed by Caspar Hoffmen of Nuremberg who accused the discoverer of having “impeached and condemned nature of folly and error.” Similarly, Pasteur’s discoveries in bacteriology were opposed vehemently. Freud, the psychologist, is opposed even Lo this day. In England the locomotive, in the early days of railroad, was called a “hell on wheels” and the “devil wagon.” Innovations in transportation were all vigorously opposed; some were even outlawed.
The British Parliament in 1861 outlawed what is leered “horseless carriage,” In the United States, the railroad was denounced as danger to life and limb and a socially disruptive influence. Recently the employees of different sectors in India protested against the use of computing machines on the ground that it will lead to their retrenchment. Such opposition of people to the discoveries which later proved not only valid but indeed a blessing to man makes a strange reading today.
Technological inventions may also give rise to what Ogburn calls social inventions. By social invention he means any “invention that is not material and that is not a discovery in natural science.” Boycott, woman suffrage, non-co-operation movement, proportional representation, old age pensions, juvenile court, matrimonial bureau, civil service, bonus to wage-earners, visiting teacher, psychological clinics, rotary club, research institute, United Nations, are some of the examples of social inventions. So non-material inventions are social inventions.
Though some times mechanical inventions go into the creation of a social invention, yet often mechanical influence may be slight, negligible or even non-existent, for example, boycott, a social invention, does not depend on any immediate mechanical invention. Neither does woman suffrage. In should not be concluded, therefore, that mechanical elements are necessary to social inventions. However, like mechanical inventions, social inventions spring from the perception of some adjustment need.
Social Inventions Bring Social Changes:
That social inventions bring about social changes, is quite evident. The inventions of language, which is perhaps the greatest of all inventions, made possible the development of the sciences which have in turn made possible most of the important modern physical inventions.
A graduated income-tax has the social effect of redistributing wealth. Bonus to wage earners brings about a higher standard of living to workers. Woman suffrage has brought the women into the political field thus affecting our family life. Legislation making school attendance compulsory has reduced the control of parents over their children.
Prohibition has altered the drinking habits of the population. The enactment of Hindu Code has changed the customs retiling lo marriage and divorce. The control system has created the black-market, the anti-corruption department and new ideas of morality.
The two world wars influenced the whole range of social institutions. There was hardly any industry that was not affected. Farmers felt the shortage of labour. The marriage rate and the birth rate were lowered. News were censored and prices went up. It may be concluded, then, that social inventions like mechanical inventions have far-reaching effects on society.
Opposition to Social Inventions:
Just as technological inventions have been opposed by people, similarly resistance to social inventions has been stubborn and long-lasting. To use old forms is easier than Lo make or adopt new ones. In the United States the abolition of slavery and in Britain the introduction of woman suffrage were stubbornly resisted. It was only after a prolonged and devastating war that the abolition of slavery could be accomplished.
It took virtually centuries for the democratic form of government Lo become established. In India the people opposed the enactment of Hindu Code and now there is opposition to the enactment of a uniform civil Code. The Vajpayee Govt, had to climb down on the issue.
In France Government reform was opposed so vigorously by those in power that the culmination was a revolution in 1789. “It is a curious phenomenon,” write Ogburn and Nimkoff, “that some of the greatest blessings of the human race should have been bitterly resisted, at times with the spilling of blood, before humanity was allowed to profit by them…. It is as though there were enemies within the gates; as though many of us did not want to increase our blessings.”
Why people oppose social change:
There are a number of reasons why people oppose social change.
The following are the important reasons:
(i) Desire for stability:
The first important reason is that people want stability. The individual must feel secure in his future expectations if he is to co-operate efficiently with others. Change disturbs the existing equilibrium and people are apprehensive of the future.
There is always present a fear of the new. Instead of taking to new things, about whose utility they are not sure; they prefer to cling to the status quo because what guarantee is there that the new will not be more painful than the present. Stability naturally is a sine quo non of any society and any society, therefore, is on its guard against change.
(ii) Inadequacy of Invention:
Secondly, at first inventions are inadequate for one reason or another. Some break too often when used by the consumer. Sometimes repairs are difficult to obtain because of the special skills needed.
Some inventions have disadvantages not compensated for sufficiently by the advantages they possess, for example, too much noise or vibration. In some cases the costs are prohibitive. Social inventions too have imperfections in the beginning. Their inadequacies could be remedied in the course of time if people were patient, sympathetic and co-operative.
(iii) Ignorance. Ignorance is another reason for opposition:
It usually takes a considerable time for a new discovery to be understood. The prevailing ignorance about the new germ theory of disease was not easy to dispel. It took many generations for the iron plough to be generally accepted.
It was thought that the iron would somehow injure the soil and the seed. Similarly, fear of the new invention may be dispelled by showing experiments to the resisters and dispelling their fear about the new inventions. But in the social sphere concrete demonstration is extremely difficult and so resistance continues indefinitely.
(iv) Habit and Tradition:
Habit is another obstacle to social change. Individuals do things mostly by habit and custom. They dislike the unfamiliar. Adoption of an invention requires the substitution of a new habit for an old one, a difficult task especially for the older people whose habits are fixed. Traditions or reverence for the past and a belief in the supernatural check the people from adopting new attitudes.
Thus, they may be opposed to birth control methods and countess other innovations. Man is essentially a conservative creature. The religion-conservative tendencies in human nature are stronger than the innovating tendencies. Sentiment is built up around institution to which loyalty is felt. Innovation fails to appeal to such mind.
That is why that resistance to social change is more pronounced in a fixed society. Social isolation is inimical to invention. Both are mutually antithetical. For the acceptance of inventions, a secularized environment is necessary which can be produced by cross-cultural fertilization, i.e., by the circulation of diverse ideas and customs.
(v) Economic Costs:
Economic costs to bring an invention may also prove an obstacle to its adoption in modern times; to launch an invention, mechanical or social, costs money. Thus for the adoption of national compulsory health insurance, large sums of money may be needed. Hence the mere cost of adopting inventions and reforms may prove an obstacle. Moreover, if the view in a previous trial proved to be expensive and socially disruptive, it would be opposed now and in the future.
(vi) Vested interests:
Sixthly, the power of “vested interests” constitutes an obstacle to innovation. The people who feel that social change endangers their interests fight every proposal when their rights are threatened. For instance, Zamindari Abolition was opposed by the people who derived great advantages from the zamindari system.
Similarly, the construction of a railway line is often opposed by the people whose lands might be acquired for the purpose. Their opposition rests on their selfishness. The Indian Brahmins opposed reforms in Hindu Code because it attacked their interest. Changes in the university curricula are generally not favoured by the those who have their old books approved already by the university. The male politicians have opposed the Women Revolution Bill seeking to give thirty three per cent reservation in Parliament.
Likewise the move for a uniform civil code has been opposed in the name of religious minorities to create ‘vote- bank’. It is to be noted, too, that self-interest seeks change when it brings power, wealth or reputation, for example, the political card played in the name of OBC’s empowerment.
The number of vested, interests in society today is quite large. In addition, they exercise great influence upon the government because of their position and resources. Whenever any social change injures their interests, they constitute a formidable opposition to it. The opposition of vested interests is to be met boldly.
(vii) Intellectual laziness:
Lastly, the fact of inertia and intellectual laziness leads man to oppose any change. He would much rather borrow than try a new path. Change cannot come unless there is a desire for change and a confidence that it will be helpful.
Opposition not Always Harmful:
From the above discussion it should not, however, be concluded that opposition to social change is always unjustifiable. There is sometimes considerable doubt about the merits of numerous changes. The proposal that a totalitarian type of government be substituted for the democratic system is an instance of a reform that is considered definitely harmful.
Opposition to technological inventions is justifiable if they are impractical or unworkable, or if they are more disadvantageous than advantageous. It is not the function of scientists to say whether or not changes wrought by inventions are good or bad.
It is the concern of social scientists to note the effects of inventions and to predict their probable consequences on the social relationships. While technological factors are important they should be manoeuvred according to human ends which are culturally agreed. In the present technical age it may be impossible to destroy the machine but it is possible with intelligence Lo reason those institutions which do harm. There should be cautious and considerable evaluation of consequences before an invention is adopted.
IV. The Cultural Factors—the Cultural Lag:
Before we examine the influence of cultural factors on social change, we shall first explain the concept of ‘social lag’ or ‘cultural lag.’
The concept of cultural lag has come Lo occupy an important place in the writings of eminent sociologists. It is a concept that has a particular appeal in an age in which technological invention and innovation of many kinds are constantly disturbing the older ways of living. Ogburn was the first sociologist Lo elaborate the idea of cultural lag and to formulate a definite theory, though in the writings of other sociologists particularly Sumner. Muller, Lyer, Wallas and Spencer the existence of a cultural lag is implied. Ogburn has defined “cultural lag” in these words:
“The thesis is that the various parts of modern culture are not changing at the same rate; some parts are changing much more rapidly than others; and that since there is a correlation and inter dependence of parts, a rapid change in one part of our culture requires readjustments through other changes in the various correlated parts of culture……….. where one part of culture changes first, through some discovery or invention, and occasions changes in some part of culture dependent upon it, there frequently is a delay in the changes occasioned in the dependent part of the culture.”
Cultural lag explained:
Ogburn distinguishes between ‘material’ and ‘non-material’ culture. By material aspects of culture he means things like tools, utensils, machines, dwellings, the manufacture of goods and transportation. In the non-material aspects he includes family, religion, government and education. When changes occur in the material aspects, those in turn stimulate changes in the non-material aspects. Above we have described how automobile and radio affected family life.
The non-material culture, according to Ogburn, is often slow to respond to the rapid inventions in material culture. When non- material culture does not adjust itself readily to the material changes it falls behind the material culture and the result is a lag between the two. This lag between non-material and material culture has been called “cultural lag”. In Ogburn’s words, ‘The strain that exists between two correlated parts of culture that change at unequal rates of speed may be interpreted as a lag in the part that is changing at the slowest rate for the one lags behind the other.”
In material culture, discoveries and inventions are rapidly made to which the non-material culture, is to adjust itself and if it cannot, a lag occurs. If society is to maintain an equilibrium, both the parts of culture, material and non-material should be properly adjusted. Ogburn, therefore, concluded that the problem of adjustment in modern society is chiefly one of enabling the non-material aspects of culture to catch up with the material aspects. It implies action which requires a high degree of planning.
The failure of the modern society to make quick and effective adaptations to changes in the material culture is not due to its technical inability to do so but due to the rigidity of the ideological system. The lags that have appeared in our society during the past few hundred years have generally been between a rapidly advancing technology and old elements of belief and organisation. In other words, man in order to remove the gap’s between two parts of culture should adapt his ways of thinking and behaving to the stale of his technology.
Various Examples Cited:
In a sense, modern societies suffer from too lithe than too much change. People have changed their methods of cultivating the soil, but not the methods of owning the land. They have changed their habitations but not the life they lead within them. They have changed their methods of warfare but not the forms of political organisations that make recurrent wars.
The patriarchal type of family, adapted to agricultural conditions, is continued in a largely industrial, urban society. The major problems faced by the modern family come from its persistence in an obsolete form. Similarly, the old concepts of sovereignty are still held despite the obvious changes that have brought nations close to each other and made them much more inter-dependent than in the past. It is not the atomic bomb that threatens the future of civilization, it is rather, the eighteenth century system of nationalism that, in view of the atomic bomb, poses this threat.
Another instance of a lag is the discrepancy between the number of police officials and the growth of population. The growing cities have not increased their police force fast enough, nor decreasing cities have reduced theirs soon enough. The change in the number of police officials lags behind the change in the population.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century industry changed first, and the family lagged behind in its change. Women were slow in following their jobs outside the home. Thus after citing various examples Ogburn concluded that “the many and frequent technological innovations of our modern age by occurring prior to the social changes they precipitate, are the causes of many cultural lags in society.” Among the various technological developments and inventions that are producing cultural lags in contemporary society Ogburn included the telephone, motor-car, wireless, cinema, power-driven agricultural machines, printing, photography, alloys, electrical goods, welding, the aeroplane, air-conditioning, artificial lighting, contraceptives, television, etc.
These are resulting in a terrific impact on society, its social institutions, its customs and its philosophies. While changes in the field of technology are being made rapidly, the related systems have in most instances adapted slowly or failed to adapt. The present age is called the age of science and rationalism but concerning beliefs and rituals etc. it is not much rational and scientific.
The result is a vast accumulation of cultural lags. Lumley writes, “It seems as if many pedestrian soldiers or a complete army are marching out of step or as if some of the performers of an orchestra are playing last year’s music and still others last century’s music or even more ancient music at the same time.”
As explained above, the cause of cultural lag is that the various elements of culture possess varying degrees of changeability. The material culture changes more rapidly than non-material culture. But cultural lag is also due to man’s psychological dogmatism.
Man is given to traditions. He is wedded to certain ideologies regarding sex, education and religion. On account of his dogmatism and ideologies he is not prepared to change his institutions. The failure to adapt the social institutions to the changes in the material culture leads to cultural lag.
Ogburn’s hypothesis of cultural lag has been accepted by many a sociologist but it has also been criticized by others, the man points of criticism are as follows:
(i) The distinction between material and non-material culture is not scientific:
Firstly, it is said that the distinction between ‘material’ and ‘non-material’ culture is not a workable one.Davis holds that the aspects of culture cannot be divided into material and non-material and that this distinction in no way helps us to understand the nature of technology.
(ii) Change in material culture is not always in advance of the non-material culture: Secondly, if we cling to the old fashioned ways when under new conditions our needs could be better served by changing them we cannot properly say that the lag is between the material and non-material. Nor should it be assumed that it is always the ‘material’ that is in advance of the ‘non-material’ or that the main problem is of adjusting non- material to the material culture.
In some instances changes have occurred more rapidly in one phase of ideology or organisation than in the material technology. For example, in India which has emerged from colonial rule, massive new education programmes are being undertaken before the country has begun to grow rapidly in the economic sector.
Educational advances are preceding the economic ones, indeed, educational advances are putting pressures on the society to develop its economy so that die educated personnel may be absorbed. India is experiencing a lag, but the lag is just the reverse of that postulated by Ogburn.
(iii) The term ‘lag’ is not an exact term:
Thirdly, MacIver observes that the term ‘lag’ is not properly applicable to relations between technological factors and the cultural pattern or between the various components of the culture pattern itself. He has used ‘cultural conflict’ and ‘cultural ambivalence’ for the resulting imbalance in the different parts of culture.
(iv) Over Simplification:
According to Sutherland and Wood Ward, Ogburn is guilty of over simplifying the process of social change. Social change is a complex phenomenon. It cannot be explained by simply saying that change first takes place in material culture and thereafter in non-material culture. Ogburn has taken an over simple materialistic view of society.
(v) No Universal Theory:
The theory of cultural lag does not apply as a universal lag. W. Ogburn qualified his theory by saying that “the lags in adaptive culture are expected to be a problem of only modern times. In very early times changes were not sufficiently numerous and frequent to give rise often to any significant problem of this nature.”
(vi) Lack of Measurement:
Ogburn does not provide any scales to comparatively measure the units of material and non- material culture. Without a common measure, it is difficult to trust the assertion that one changes faster than the other.
Ogburn’s theory of cultural lag can be helpful in the understanding of the cultural process only under certain limitations
Influence of culture on social charm. Coming to the influence of cultural factors on social relationships it has been acknowledged by all that there is an intimate connection between our beliefs and our institutions, our valuations and our social relationships. The social and cultural are so closely interwoven that all cultural change involves social change.
Culture is not something static. It is always in flux, not merely because civilization changes, but because changefulness inheres in it. Culture is not merely responsive to the influences from without or to changing techniques, it itself is a force directing social change. It creates itself or develops by itself. It is men who plan, strive and act.
The social heritage is never a script that is followed slavishly by people. A culture gives cues and directions to social behaviour. Men are beset by stresses and strains for which the past offers no guideline. New ideologies cause significant changes in the modes of group life. It was the social philosophy of Marxism wrought into a dynamic evangelism and finding its opportunity in the suffering and disillusionment of a catastrophic war, which gained control of the economic and political order in Russia.
In India Gandhism has influenced to an extent the economic and social order. According to some thinkers religion is the prime initiator of social change. Max Weber in his Sociology of Religion pointed out that there is a direct relation between the practical ethics of a community and the character of its economic system. He found out a close relation between certain forms of Protestantism and early capitalism.
Hinduism and Budhism had a great influence on Indian social institutions. Our religious beliefs determine the structure of our institutions. No institution can endure an instant longer than it is maintained by the contemporary beliefs and attitudes of social beings. Social systems are directly or indirectly the creations of cultural values and any change in valuations on the part of social groups makes its effect felt upon social institutions.
As Hobhouse said, there is “a broad correlation between the system of institutions and mentality behind them.” Our view of the role of sex in human life having undergone a change has changed the family organisation and interests. Thus there is a definite relation between changing attitudes and beliefs and changing social forms.
It may also be noted that culture not only influences our social relationship, it also influences the direction and character of technological change. It is not only that our beliefs and social institutions must correspond to the changes in technology, but our beliefs and the social institutions determine the use to which the technological inventions will be put. The apparatus of civilization is indifferent to the use we make of it.
The atomic energy can be used for munidons of war or for production purposes. The industrial plant can turn out armaments or necessaries of life. Steel and iron can be used for building warships or tractors. The indifference of the means of production to the use to which they are put expresses the degree in which culture is itself a determinant factor. Dawson and Gettys rightly remark, “Culture tends to give direction and momentum to social change to set limits beyond which social change may not go.”
Men must know how to make and use material objects before they can have them. Their knowing how to use material objects is more important to maintenance of society than is their having on hand a stock of material objects. Even if the peoples of the world were to lose in one great catastrophe all the material objects, the loss would not mean the end of the various societies of the world.
For the people who survive the catastrophe would still possess the ability to construct houses, roads, cities, machines and rehabilitate their fields. In other words, we may say that as long as the non-material aspects of a culture survive, so can the society. It may, therefore, be said that non-material aspect of a culture is more important than the material aspects. The burning of ancient Rome did not destroy Roman society, nor has the physical devastation of Europe destroyed European civilization.
We are apt to think that the new industrial civilization has dethroned the old culture. No doubt there are many illustrations which point in that direction as we have seen earlier when discussing the role of technological factors. Every new invention disturbs the old adjustment.
The transformation of class structures, the breaking up of traditional family system and the disintegration of social nearness are some of the consequences of changes in technology which appear to be the enemy of our culture. The machines brought ugliness, shoddiness, haste and standardization.
They brought congestion, slums, new hazards, new diseases and Industrial fatigue. But culture began to reassert itself and redirect the civilization. It ceased to tolerate the inhumanity of the new civilization and endowed the machine with beauty. New arts blossomed in the ruins of the old.