The term social change is used to indicate the changes that take place in human interactions and interrelations.
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Society is a web of social relationships and hence social change means change in the system of social relationships. These are understood in terms of social processes and social interactions and social organization.Auguste Comte the father of Sociology has posed two problems- the question of social statics and the question of social dynamics, what is and how it changes. The sociologists not only outline the structure of the society but also seek to know its causes also. According to Morris Ginsberg social change is a change in the social structure.
Evolutionary theories are based on the assumption that societies gradually change from simple beginnings into even more complex forms. Early sociologists beginning with Auguste Comte believed that human societies evolve in a unilinear way- that is in one line of development.
According to them social change meant progress toward something better. They saw change as positive and beneficial. To them the evolutionary process implied that societies would necessarily reach new and higher levels of civilization.
L.H Morgan believed that there were three basic stages in the process: savagery, barbarism and civilization.Auguste Comte's ideas relating to the three stages in the development of human thought and also of society namely-the theological, the metaphysical and the positive in a way represent the three basic stages of social change. This evolutionary view of social change was highly influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of Organic Evolution. Those who were fascinated by this theory applied it to the human society and argued that societies must have evolved from the simple and primitive to that of too complex and advanced such as the western society.
Herbert Spencer a British sociologist carried this analogy to its extremity. He argued that society itself is an organism. He even applied Darwin's principle of the survival of the fittest to human societies. He said that society has been gradually progressing towards a better state. He argued that it has evolved from military society to the industrial society. He claimed that western races, classes or societies had survived and evolved because they were better adapted to face the conditions of life.
This view known as social Darwinism got widespread popularity in the late 19th century. It survived even during the first phase of the 20th century. Emile Durkheim identified the cause of societal evolution as a society's increasing moral density.Durkheim viewed societies as changing in the direction of greater differentiation, interdependence and formal control under the pressure of increasing moral density. He advocated that societies have evolved from a relatively undifferentiated social structure with minimum of division of labor and with a kind of solidarity called mechanical solidarity to a more differentiated social structure with maximum division of labor giving rise to a kind of solidarity called organic solidarity.