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What Is Social Change Sociology?

By Angela Farrer
Updated: May 23, 2024

Social change sociology is a discipline focused on how shifts in the social order affect different groups of people, particularly their behaviors and ideologies. This field of sociology usually entails studies of how change affects daily interactions between people. It also examines the sources and implications of change, whether from technology, political shifts, or large-scale catastrophes that disrupt the normal social order. These types of sociology studies sometimes attempt to answer the questions of why many people are resistant to significant social changes and why they develop certain collective means of coping with those changes.

Scholars who study social change sociology often attempt to classify and trace the origins of changes that directly impact people's interactions with others. They report that change usually comes from innovations, new discoveries, or collective dissatisfaction with the current social order. Each of these changes usually occurs gradually over a number of years or even generations depending on the circumstances. The factor that they have in common is that these changes alter the way people in a given society perceive and define themselves. Case studies of past social upheavals are often required reading for a sociology degree, and some sociology students may also be assigned tasks of creating what-if scenarios in which a certain part of the social change is different for a given situation.

The study of sociology frequently includes examining various established theories, and social change sociology has a few different schools of thought. Some sociologists draw ideas from theories of Social Darwinism to support their views that social changes are natural and for the greater good. Others illustrate how certain factors can contribute to more sudden social changes and their associated impacts on different groups of people. These theories of social change sociology typically have different applications depending on the societies that are the focuses of given research.

An additional focus of social change sociology is the study of factors that bring on social change, including climate shifts, contact between different cultural groups, and fluctuations in population trends. Some scholars combine the study of sociology with environmental science in order to understand how changes in the physical environment impact the behavior of groups who are heavily dependent on it. Much of this research concerns how rural agrarian societies react to the effects of modernization, including deforestation and loss of soil fertility in their farmland. These factors are often connected to shifts in these societies' structures as well as their day-to-day dealings with outsiders and with one another.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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