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Social Change

Prof. Fathia Mohammad Baheshwan

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       Social change is a natural and continuous phenomenon to which all societies are subjected. However, there are phenomena that change and develop faster than others. It is enough to look at the different human societies to see the extent of the change that has affected them throughout history.

       Social change is any change that occurs to the social structure in its functions, values ​​and social roles during a limited period of time. This change may be positive and it is called progress, or it may be negative and it is called backwardness. Change, then, does not have a specific direction. Change is a natural thing to which all aspects of the universe and life affairs are subjected.

       On the nature of change, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is a universal law of existence and stability is death and nothingness. He illustrated the idea of ​​chan by the flow of water, he said: "You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on."

       Various human societies have undergone change since the dawn of their inception and throughout their history. Social change in it is not limited to one aspect of human and social life. If it appeared so, it would be difficult to stop as a result of the interdependence and functional support between social systems and social organization, in general. The social systems in society are interconnected, overlapping and complementary- structurally and functionally- and any change that occurs in a phenomenon must lead to a series of sub-changes that affect most aspects of life to varying degrees. The phenomenon of social change is crystal clear in all aspects of social life. This led some thinkers to say that there are no societies, but social interactions and processes that remain in constant change and continuous interaction.

        The observer of the dynamics of social interaction can reveal the quantitative and qualitative change that occurred in the interaction pattern, social standards and moral values. The change in the value system is a very slow type of change, unlike the material and technological elements.


         The change in values ​​results in a change in the set of interaction patterns, relationships, positions and social roles. The change in the social life pattern - such as the transition from the feudal pattern of society to the commercial-industrial pattern which is accompanied by a change in the values ​​associated with the ethics of these two classes in the view of work and the value of those in charge of it - led to a change in the societal view of the nature of the professions themselves. For example, equestrianism and working in the army were among the best social professions. Yet, in the modern era this has changed. Economic activity, establishing financially profitable industrial and economic projects, obtaining high positions, and possessing wealth, economic and political power together have become important things that an individual seeks.

       The change in the social structure leads to a change in the quality of social systems, their forms and functions in society and a change in the quality of social roles. The property system changed from private to public ownership in the socialist society - the former Soviet - and this change, in turn, led to a change in the system of production, labor relations, the quality of social classes, and the tendency to encourage private enterprises. This also resulted in a change in the concept of freedoms in its general sense and the freedom of individual ownership.

Social change is characterized by a number of characteristics, including it comes from within the group, is rapid, may occur in a stage or in several stages, works to comprehensively change the phenomenon from its root, in all its aspects, and  addresses the social change that occurs in society.

Among the most important factors that play an effective role in social change are technology and progress, intellectual factors and prevailing beliefs, the political factors represented by wars and revolutions as well as leaders and presidents, and civilized and cultural contact between societies as communication between societies contributes to the transfer of culture and civilization.

However, there are obstacles that may stand in the way of this change, including self-interest that threatens the interests of individuals and groups. Stalk holders resist change out of concern for their privileges, of fear of the new, of reverence for the past and its sanctification, or of doubt about the new and what will come with it. As long as societies resist every change that is inconsistent with their well-established concepts, they will become stagnant. Among the taken-for-granted concepts in Arab societies are those related to women work, education, travel abroad, and/or modern technology. These obstacles become increasingly difficult to deal with on traditional terms, particularly, when the elderly are the people of loosing and binding; as they grow up, it become too difficult for them to change their old customs and inherited traditions.

The family in Arab societies has witnessed tangible changes in the relationship between its members, especially its role in socialization due to economic factors and consumption aspirations. These changes quickly led to a contradiction between the values ​​of parents and their efforts to raise their children in the way they think is the best and what young people receive from their surroundings, their colleagues, and the local and international media, let alone what the community imposes on the individual and the values ​​it demands of obedience and compliance, which causes a widening gap between the public and the private in the lives of young people.

The concept of change that societies are witnessing is no longer limited to those transformations that occur on specific cultural elements or features, but extends to include the general whole or the so-called relationships and social construction. Hence, any change in these relations is reflected in the social structure as a whole, which consists of a set of interconnected parts with a set of relations and links that in turn contribute to the differentiation of this social structure and to the strengthening of cohesion among its members; each member occupies a certain position and plays a specific role in social life. Thus, these changes do not occur in certain types of relationships and activities without others, but rather include all patterns prevailing in society.

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