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Social change is the alteration of the social order of a society which may include changes in social institutions, social behaviours or social relations. Sustained at a larger scale, it may lead to social transformation or societal transformation.
Social change may not refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic structure, for instance the transition from feudalism to capitalism, or hypothetical future transition to some form of post-capitalism.
Social development refers to how people develop social and emotional skills across the lifespan, with particular attention to childhood and adolescence. Healthy social development allows us to form positive relationships with family, friends, teachers, and other people in our lives.
Accordingly, it may also refer to social revolution, such as the Socialist revolution presented in Marxism, or to other social movements, such as women's suffrage or the civil rights movement. Social change may be driven through cultural, religious, economic, environmental, scientific or technological forces.
Change comes from two sources. One source is unique factors such as climate, weather, or the presence of specific groups of people. Another source is systematic factors. For example, successful development generally has the same requirements, such as a stable and flexible government, enough free and available resources, and a diverse social organization of society. On the whole, social change is usually a combination of systematic factors along with some random or unique factors.
Many theories attempt to explain social change. One view suggests that a theory of change should include elements such as structural aspects of change (like population shifts), processes and mechanisms of social change, and directions of change.
Social changes can vary according to speed and scope and impetus. Some research on the various types of social change focuses on social organizations such as corporations.
Different manifestations of change include:
Main article: Demographics of the world
One of the most obvious changes currently occurring is the change in the relative global population distribution between countries. In recent decades, developing countries have become a larger proportion of the world population, increasing from 68% in 1950 to 82% in 2010, and the population of the developed countries has declined from 32% of the total world population in 1950 to 18% in 2010. China and India continue to be the largest countries, followed by the US as a distant third. However, population growth throughout the world is slowing. Population growth among developed countries has been slowing since the 1950s and is now at 0.3% annual growth. Population growth among the less developed countries excluding the least developed ones has also been slowing since 1960 and is now at 1.3% annually. Population growth among the least developed countries has slowed relatively little; as of 2022, the annual growth rate is 2.33%.
In much of the developed world, changes from distinct men's work and women's work to more gender equal patterns have been economically important since the mid-20th century. Both men and women are considered to be great contributors to social change worldwide.
Marx believed the struggle between social classes would drive social change.
The pressures for change influence the type of change experienced – its speed and scope, and how it is introduced and planned. Change can be anywhere on a scale from radical to gradual. It may be imposed from above or initiated from below.
The only choice would be to accept Fabian change, whether it was desirable or not [...].
Revolutionary change is a special kind of social change, one that involves the intrusion of violence into civil social relations.
Transformational change is always stochastic: it is the outcome of established systems having been disturbed by n unpredictable change.
Open-ended change is characterised by a radical change, followed soon by another, and perhaps more to come.
[...] leaders who impose top-down change tend to overestimate both their ability to spread change through [an] antire organization without getting adequate buy-in and their ability to fully assess the scope of problems [...].
Bottom-up change tries to unlock ideas and initiative at lower organizational levels and let them percolate upward.