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Chapter 17


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Western University
Sociology 1021E
Kim Luton

Chapter 17: Social Change Introduction • We look at the larger social forces and patterns if interteraction that create change unwittingly • The study of social change requires a comparative and international orientation • Cultural lag-when particular aspects of culture have not caught up with the changes in other parts of the same society Early Societies and the Beginning of Social Change: Hunting and gathering societies • For most of our existence, humans have lived in hunting and gathering societies • Survived by hunting wild game and gathering edible plants • There was considerable diversity among hunting and gathering societies • However they were similar in certain ways; groups tended to be small • Most were nomadic, usually following an indirect route, moving only when food supply became low • Deeply spiritual, shared key resources, practised abortion and infanticide, domestic violence • Division of labour based on gender • Women did the gathering of plants and rearing of young children and men did the hunting • The best storytellers enjoyed high prestige • State-organization that has a control on the legitimate use of force -Weber • In our society, groups may acquire more power and wealth than others and may exploit others Farming Societies • Farming created a sustained economic surplus which gave rise to the issue of who would have access to the surplus. Still an issue we have today • Those who have surplus production at their disposal are able to use some of it to bolster their power • Second dimension of social stratification: inequality of power • State legitimacy derived from religious beliefs and ideologies that maintained that the ruler was a god or in some special relationship with god • Imperialism-control or exploitation of one society by another, usually by conquest • Another important change in farming societies after the invention of the plow was the decline in status of women • Horticultural societies- societies that grow their own food but do not use plows The Modern Era • The revolutions transformed many countries from agrarian nations into industrial ones • Some of the foundations of modern ways of thinking can be traced to the development of the 18 century • Century of Enlightenment(18 century)- many of the doctrines of the agrarian age were challenged, especially those relating to the forms of domination prevalent at the time • Enlightenment thinkers viewed scepticism as a good thing, saw reason and observation as the best means to acquire knowledge. • Proclaimed people should not be persecuted for what they say or believe Theories of Social Change Evolutionism • Evolutionism and evolutionary theories of change have a long history in sociology • Herbert Spencer- first coined the term survival of the fittest and popularized the term evolution • Theory of Societal Evolution- human societies evolve from small, disjointed, undifferentiated groups of people into larger entities composed of heterogeneous, interdependent parts • The development of each aspect of society is explained in terms of the function it fulfills in particular how it enhances the society’s survival potential • For Spencer, growing differentiation and integration in human societies results primarily from conflict • War is said to be conductive to cooperation within a society • For Spencer, it was the increased size, complexity, and internal cooperation generated by war that creates civilization • Spencer’s approach to social change is incorporated both in functionalist and conflict perspectives • Regarding the future, he though that industrial societies would evolve to the point where engaging in the higher activities would be the primes focus of people’s lives • Critics argue that there is too much inequality, conflict, disruption within modern societies to justify a model that assumes that the various parts of society interact in an integrated fashion • Also implication that some societies are superior to others is seen as offensive an d ethnocentric • Evolutionary theory aka neo-evolutionary theory maintains that an evolutionary model can be devised to explain social change • Lenski’s Ecological-Evolutionary Theory- society is influenced by its technology -societies evolve as their technology becomes more sophisticated • human history is divided into 4 major period’s: hunting and gathering era, horticultural era, agrarian age, and industrial age • societies are influenced by their biophysical and social environments in important ways • the social environment refers to all societies that affect a given society • Lenski points out that the vast majority of human societies that ever existed are now extinct • Diffusion- adoption of an innovation by a society that did not create it • Innis’s staple thesis- the economic, political and cultural formation of Canada was shaped by its geography and the natural resources (staples) available for exports -the export framed the basis of the Canadian economy and strongly influenced settlement patterns • A theme in his work is that a reliance on the export of raw materials throughout history limited Canada’s development and made Canada vulnerable to shifting needs Developmental Theories • Auguste Comte- 3 stages that societies go through •
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