Forces of Social Change
Group Activity
• Working in groups of 3-4 , take out a piece of
– As a group, list the social changes that have taken
place in your life, community, city, country and
even globally. Think of changes in the past give,
ten, fifty and one hundred years.
• One member from each group please come to
the board and write out the list you and your
group members came up with.
• Article reading as a class- see handout- will be
given in class.
“Everyone over the age of forty
is an immigrant”
- Margaret Mead
What does she mean by
this? Do you agree?
What is Social
• Social Change: Changes in the way
society is organized, and the beliefs
and practices of the people who believe in it
• All societies are involved in a process of social change, however
this change may be so subtle and slow that society is hardly
aware of it
• The opposite of social change is social continuity which means
that there are structures within society which are built to resist
Positive or Negative
• Social change can be positive or negative,
depending on your perspective
– I.e. Government cutbacks that reduce social
services and reduce taxes can be seen by some as
positive and others as negative
• In your view, what are some positive social
changes and what are some negative ones?
Examples of Social
• Question 1 – How has the development
of housing in Toronto, Milton….(any other areas)
• Question 2: How has public opinion shifted regarding
social issues such as:
• -Smoking
-Domestic Violence
-premarital sex
- Equal rights for gay and lesbian coupes
• Discuss in your groups
Group Presentation
• In groups- 4-5
• Research one of the
social issues and
present to the class
– Social issue
– History of this social issue in
– Have there been some
changes regarding this social
– What are some examples of
this social issue in our
– How do you perceive this
social issue?
– Suggest some strategies to
address this social issue.
• Individually complete the worksheet titled, “
Identifying Social Change”
• You will get your answers from the photocopied
reading from the text pages 70-75.
Conditions Necessary for Social Change
• Change within society is a natural process
that must take place.
• Social institutions in society (i.e.
government) hold a fair degree of respect
as long as they: (a) fulfill the needs of most
people and (b) the institutions recognize
they must change over time as conditions
and popular opinions change.
• Some conditions that would justify the
Forces that Impact Social Change
Charismatic leader that promises change
Role of the elites (when there isn’t ONE leader to take
charge, there can be a group of ‘modernizing elites’)
A populace ready for change
Technological advancements
Environmental factors
External events
Society suffers a major catastrophe or triumph
There is a clash of traditions and values
Charismatic Leadership
• Originally, the term ‘charismatic’ had an
exclusively religious meaning
• Christians used the term to describe a person who
was inspired by the Holy Spirit and chosen by God
to as a leader
• Sociologist Max Weber broadened the meaning of
this term
• What is charismatic leadership?
– A leader who is characterized by: large vision, magnetic
style, strong popular support and has aspects of an
extraordinary character
Power of the Individual(s)?
• Sociologist Max Weber claimed that one of the most important
components of social change was a LEADER with CHARISMA (large
vision, magnetic style, strong popular support and extraordinary
character). This leader places great demands on his or her
followers, promises rewards for their support . Examples?
• Sociologist Samuel Eisenstadt
claimed that in most societies,
there exists one or more
of people who create significant
social change and influence the
direction it goes
A Populace Ready for Change
• Charismatic leadership and a group of elites can
redirect a society down a certain path
• BUT if a population isn’t ready for the changes a
leader or a group of elites propose, nothing will
• For this relationship to work, the vision of the
leader(s) have to match the mood of the public –
otherwise no one will listen and the potential
leader(s) will be quickly forgotten
Natural Forces of
Social Change
• This is when the natural
lay of the land has affected
the way societies have developed Examples?
• Natural disasters can also drastically change a society (floods,
earthquakes, volcanoes)
• Pollution, garbage, ozone, car emissions, smog, recycling
• national, provincial and local programs that address
environmental problems
• Effects?
External Events as Forces
of Social Change
• External events are events that have occurred on a
large scale affecting an entire nation or several
• These events have a large and immediate impact on
social change
• American Civil War – abolished slavery
• WWII – forced women into the workforce and they never
returned home
• September 11/2001 – a change of thought regarding national
threat and security
Poverty and
• Karl Marx was first to point
sociology to study inequality
in society
• Income inequalities:
gap between earnings of the rich and poor
• Is social inequality an inherent part of human social structures?
• Does society have a responsibility in trying to deal with the
effects of income inequality?
• Effects? - education, crime, housing
• Examples?
Values and Social Change:
• Singularity- belief that everyone in society should act and think
the same way
• Pluralism- widespread acceptance of differences in culture,
religion, values and lifestyle
• Inclusiveness- all law abiding people, regardless of their
particular background, should be able to play a constructive
role in the life of the nation
• Examples: struggle for inclusiveness with women obtaining
equal roles and status to traditionally ‘male’ roles
• Technology has strongly
affected the way societies
are designed and how they
keep changing
• People receive their
information more quickly
now, can communicate in
different ways
• Greatest invention of the
millennium? Guesses?
• Impact…
Coping with Technological Change –
Positive or Negative???
Over dependency
Creation of ‘mass culture’
Changes in Gender roles
Social Isolation
Positive and Negative
• Luddites: People who oppose
new technologies are often
called “luddites” after a secret
society whose goal it was to
destroy new textile machines
during the early years of the
Industrial Revolution
• In groups define;
– Alienation
– Conformity
– How do these terms link to social
change/challenges- discuss in your group
• Behaviour in agreement with generally
accepted standards and practices; pressures
that encourage us to accept social norms
• Social norms: A standard shared by members
of a group, to which members are expected to
conform. The most typical behaviour, attitudes
or opinions found in a group.
Conformity of the
• Conformity is the act of maintaining
a certain degree of similarity
(in clothing, manners, behaviors,
etc.) to those in your general social
circles, to those in authority, or to
the general status quo. Usually, conformity implies a tendency to
submit to others in thought and behavior other than simply clothing
• Informational Influence: human desire to accept information that
another, admired person tells us is valid (ie. Parent, teacher, coach)
• Normative Influence: pressure to conform to the positive
expectations of others (ie. Follow in footsteps of parent’s career)
• Effects?
Asch Line Experiment
Everyday Conformity
• Examples:
– Lines at a fast-food restaurant
– Bus stops as people wait for a bus
– Students’ clothing. Are they all 'individuals, or
do they conform to an implicit dress-code?
– Are people conforming to posted rules, or do
they conform to informal norms?
• What ways have you changed your
behaviour to fit in with a group?
Conformity in Contemporary Society
• Most people conform to the standard values
and norms without even realizing they are
doing so
• Some degree of conformity is necessary for
societies to function
• i.e. Stopping at a red light means that you are
conforming to the law and the good and
safety of society
Conformity and Youth
• Pre-teens and teenagers face many issues related
to conformity
• Pulled between the desire to be seen as unique
individuals and desire to belong to a group
where they feel accepted
• i.e. wearing the latest fashion, cutting your hair
into a certain style, smoking, changing the type
of music you listen to
• All of these are examples of conforming to a
social norm
Experiencing Nonconformity
• If you violate norms of civility, people will react.
– On a crowded bus, hum loudly or sing out loud.
– Try to barter for a small purchase at a fast food restaurant.
– When someone says "Hi, how are you," ask them "Do you
mean physically, mentally, or financially?"
– Shopping from others’ carts in a grocery store. When
questioned, respond simply that the item in the cart had
been more convenient to reach than the one on the shelf.
– Stand very, very close to a person while otherwise
maintaining an inoffensive conversation
Adapting to Change: Alienation
• A feeling that one does not share in the major
values and goals of society
• Early sociologists (19th century) lived in a time
of extensive change as society adapted to
urban life and industrial processes
• They observed a social condition among many
in society who had difficulty adapting
Durkheim and Marx
• Sociologist Emile Durkheim (1859-1917) coined the
term anomie to describe the conditions of industrial workers who
had no roots or norms as they struggled to survive
• Sociologist Karl Marx (1818-1883) took this term and applied it the
proletariat (working people) and the bourgeoisie (unemployed
– He claimed the workers were exploited and controlled (i.e. in their
ability to find paid employment and housing) and could never reach
their full human potential
• Marx’s notion of alienation has been expanded to mean anyone who
does not share the major values of society and feels like an outsider.
• Encourages social interaction
• Creates predictable behaviour
• Maintains social order
Conformity…. BAD?
• Discourages social change
• Can lead people to resist the temptation to do things
• Can encourage people to accept practices that are wrong
• An unwillingness to conform could risk social rejection
• An individual who is deliberately excluded from a social
relationship or social interaction is a victim of social rejection.
• Conformity acts as a scapegoat in order to avoid bullying and
criticism from peers.
• I.e. Milgram experiment
• Spurs reformers into action
• Leads individuals to struggle with the status
• Leaders and movements in society are born
• Can be so severe that people give up and
accept life in the margins of society
• Can lead to suicide or substance abuse
• See Merton
Discussion Questions: Society
• In today’s society – are there pressures to
conform? In what ways?
• What are the repercussions to not
• How different would life be?
Activity: Small Group Discussion
• In small group list all the different ways you
are pressured to conform in society
• Do you Conform? What happens if you don’t?
• How much of a role does family, friends and
school play in the pressure in your life to
• Do you notice this pressure on a daily basis?
• Does society need its citizens to conform to
function effectively?
Key Questions for Today
• What groups in society may feel socially
• Why is this?
• What groups in society are forced to conform?
• Discuss the following questions with your
• A) What are the triggers to conform in this
• B) What feelings did the person in the
situation feel to potentially make them change
their behaviour?
• C) What would you have done in this
Scenario 1
• You are waiting to cross the street
and the light is red. A group of
pedestrians start to cross the street
before the green light even though
there remains some risk of oncoming
traffic. What do you do?
Scenario 2
• You are looking for garbage at a
concert. You find one but it is full
and you see people just throwing
garbage on the ground around
the garbage can. What do you
Scenario 3
• You have been standing in line for
hours waiting to buy tickets for a
concert / sports game. A group of 6
people try to ‘bud’ in line with a
friend. The people waiting start
yelling and objecting as there are
only a specific amount of tickets.
What do you do?
Scenario 4
• A senior student approaches you and
a bunch of your friends offering to
sell you his / her old assignments and
copy of tests for a class. All of your
friends agree to this and are waiting
for your decision. What do you do?
Scenario 5
• You have just started a new job and
are sitting around with your new coworkers. Someone tells a joke that is
very racist and everyone is laughing
and starts telling more racist jokes
that you find offensive. What do you
Scenario 6
• A bunch of you are at a friends for
dinner—after dinner all your friends
get up from the table and leave their
plates as you are late for a party. You
have been brought up to always clear
your plate from the table and help
clean up. What do you do?
• Which situation would be the most
easy and most difficult in terms of
resisting conformity?
• Why?
• Known as a state of seclusion
• i.e. a lack of contact with people
• May stem from:
– Bad relationships
– Deliberate choice
– Contagious disease
– Repulsive personal habits
– Mental illness
Isolation in society
• Feeling marginalized in society could force
people to resist the social norm
• Unrest in society could lead to isolation, not
feeling included in society