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Social movements are more likely than individuals to affect direct change in social organization.

Social Conflict Changes Organization

Organization can NEVER satisfy the needs and interests of everyone equally; there is always struggle over what it offers to its members (struggle over rights, power, money, prestige, who pays taxes, who is deviant, and what ideas and values shall be adhered to). As long as human differences exist in organized life—and this will always be so—there will be social conflict; as long as there is social conflict, there will be social change.

External Social Organizations and Environments Change Social Organization

The social and physical environments have two paths of influence on social change. On one hand, they directly influence change: they favor some classes, some institutions, some cultural values, ideas and rules. They destroy others. Cities are destroyed by earthquakes or fire or plague; changes in the climate destroy agriculture or alter the way people live. The industrialists from the West open up trade in a rural society, and they bring to power a rising middle class or they create a new industrialized urban poor.

On the other hand, environmental changes bring about change indirectly. They create social conflicts in society: scarcity brings struggle over what is left to fight for, new classes rise up against the old, those who follow tradition are fought against by those who believe in progress.

Technology Changes Social Organization

Why do we act in the world the way we do? Max Weber pointed out that much of the way people do things can be divided into tradition and rationality.

We act the way we do because that is the way people like us have always acted (tradition).

We act the way we do because it works for the problems we need to solve (rationality).

Weber described modern society as increasingly rational.

There is an increasing tendency to escape traditional action and replace it with rational action: the application of knowledge to solving problems. This is the meaning of technology, and although there has been technology in every human society, modern life is thoroughly technological, and wherever new technology is introduced, change in society occurs.

People do not normally create technology to change society. Instead, they do it to solve a problem at hand. They do it, for example, to conquer a disease or put up a sturdier building. However, these developments together have profound effects on the nature of society, on its social structure, culture, and institutions.

The development of birth control devices, whatever their original purpose, has made a tremendous difference in a woman’s ability to control her life, and this, in turn, has had great effects on equality of men and women and the nature of the family.

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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