Social Change

Definitions of Change

-Change is the act, process, or result of altering or modifying.
-Change is defined as the replacing of one thing for another; substitution.
-Change is a transformation or transition from one state, condition, or phase to another.


Social Change

Social change is a general term which refers to:

Change in social structure: the nature, the social institutions, the social behaviour or the social relations of a society, community of people, and so on.

Any event or action that affects a group of individuals that have shared values or characteristics.

Acts of advocacy for the cause of changing society in a normative way (subjective).


The term is used in the study of history, economies, and politics, and includes topics such as the success or failure of different political systems, globalization, democratization, development and economic growth. The term can encompass concepts as broad as revolution and paradigm shift, to narrow changes such as a particular cause within small town government. The concept of social change imply measurement of some characteristics of this group of individuals. While the term is usually applied to changes that are beneficial to society, it may result in negative side-effects or consequences that undermine or eliminate existing ways of life that are considered positive.


Social change is a topic in sociology and social work , but also involves political science, economics, history, anthropology, and many other social sciences.


Among many forms of creating social change are theater for social change, direct action, protesting, advocacy, community organizing, community practice, revolution, and political activism.

Models of Change

Hegelian: The classic Hegelian dialectic model of change is based on the interaction of opposing forces. Starting from a point of momentary stasis, Thesis countered by Antithesis first yields conflict but subsequently results in a new Synthesis.

Kuhnian: Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argued with respect to the Copernican Revolution that people are unlikey to jettison an unworkable paradigm, despite many indications that the paradigm is not functioning properly, until a better paradigm can be presented.

Heraclitan: The Greek philosopher Heraclitus used the metaphor of a river to speak of change thus, "On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow." (DK22B12) What Heraclitus seems to be suggesting here, later interpretations notwithstanding, is that in order for the river to remain the river change must constantly be taking place. Thus one may think of the Heraclitan model as parallel to that of a living organism, which, in order to remain alive must contantly be changing.

Daoist: The Chinese philosophical work Dao De Jing, I.8 and II.78 uses the metaphor of water as the ideal agent of change. Water, though soft and yielding, will eventually wear away stone. Change in this model is to be natural, harmonius, and steady, though imperceptible.


Organizational Change

Organisational change is defined as change that has an impact on the way that work is performed and has significant effects on staff. This could include changes:


-In the structure of an organisation
-To organisational operation and size of a workforce
-To working hours or practices
-In the way roles are carried out
-To the the scope of a role that results in a change to the working situation, structure, terms and conditions or environment.


Organisational change can have an impact irrespective of whether changes are viewed as large or small.