Difference Between Social Change and Cultural Change

Key Difference – Social Change vs Cultural Change 

 

Although some believe that social change and cultural change can be used interchangeably as they are very much connected, there is a clear difference between cultural and social change. The reason as to why some consider social change and cultural change as similar is because human culture is also a construct of society. Hence, cultural change leads to social change. However, in order to comprehend the distinction between social change and cultural change, we should first define the two terms. Social change should be understood as the changes that come about in the society, in relation to human relationships and social institutions. On the other hand, cultural change refers to the changes that come about in both the material and nonmaterial cultural elements. This is the key difference between social change and cultural change. Through this article let us attempt to highlight the difference.

What is Social Change?

As mentioned above, Social change refers to the changes that come about in the society in relation to human relationships and social institutions. When looking at human history you will notice that no society remains unchanged. With the passing of time ever society undergoes changes, this leads to a transformation in the society. Social changes occur mainly due to the changes that take place in social institutions. In every society, there are a number of social institutions such as the family, economy, religion, politics and education. It is the interconnected functioning of these institutions that create a society.

When the functioning of a single institution is disrupted, it not only affects the internal performance of the institution, but it also affects other social institutions as well. In order to comprehend this idea of social change, let us take Marx’s theory. Marx speaks of ‘modes of production.’ These are different societies that have existed over the years. According to Marx, due to the power imbalance between the haves and have-nots in the society, social change takes place. As a result of this, a new form of society is created. For example, during the feudal society there were landowners and serfs. Due to the excessive exploitation of labor in the society, the social change occurred collapsing the feudal society and paving the way for the capitalist society. In this sense, the roots for social change lies in the economic institution. But, unlike the social change, in cultural change, a different process can be observed.

Difference Between Social change and Cultural change

What is Cultural Change?

Cultural change refers to the changes that come about in both the material and non-material cultural elements. As we all know culture refers to the system of values, attitudes, norms, mores, practices, behaviors of a group of people. In this sense, culture is a social construct that assists a society to continue. Unlike in the case of social change, in cultural change, an ideological transformation takes place. The impact of technology, ideology, new practices, and lifestyles can lead to a cultural change.

This can very well be understood when observing the lifestyles of people. Due to the influence of technology, globalization has become a part of all our lives. This has led to a homogenization of our cultures. The unique practices and ways of life that were upheld by the society are now disappearing as people embrace a pop culture. This can be understood as cultural change. As you can see, cultural change and social change are not the same and should be understood as two different concepts. However in most situations these two are very much related.

Social change vs Cultural change

What is the Difference Between Social change and Cultural change?

Definitions of Social change and Cultural change:

Social Change: Social change should be understood as the changes that come about in the society in relation to human relationships and social institutions.

Cultural Change: Cultural change refers to the changes that come about in both the material and nonmaterial cultural elements.

Characteristics of Social change and Cultural change:

Roots:

Social Change: The roots can be identified in social institutions.

Cultural Change: The roots can be identified in ideology, technology, and ways of life.

Change:

Social Change: It can lead to changes in relationships.

Cultural Change: It can lead to changes in cultural elements.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Tompkins square riot 1874” by Matt Morgen(?); Illustration in: Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, 1874 Jan. 31, p. 344. – [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Supanova Sydney 2010” by Saberwyn – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons