Society and Culture
Action research is carried out be people who usually recognize a problem or limitation in their workplace situation and, together, devise a plan to counteract the problem, implement the plan, observe what happens, reflect on these outcomes, revise the plan, implement it, reflect, revise and so on. Action research can be though of as a spiral of planning, acting, observing and reflecting, occruing through time until the most desirable outcomes for all participants are achieved. | The Nature of Social and Cultural Continuity and Change|
Understanding continuity and change through:| Identifying the nature of social and cultural continuity and change| The concepts of continuity and change are commonly used in our society, but for many of us they are hard to define. These terms share the feature of time being a determining factor. It is the opportunity of time that allows a society to develop and modify itself to change. Likewise when we observe a particular culture or community over a period of time we can oberve clear continuities.
The term ‘social change’ is a term used within sociology and applies to modifications in social relationships or culture (the term ‘cultural change’ is the term used within anthropology). Since society and culture are interdependent, ‘sociocultural change’ is a more accepted term. The study of sociocultural change is the systematic study of variation in social and cultural ‘systems’. There are inherent methodological problems of identification and measurement of change, and rarely does one cause produce one effect.
All societies are involved in a process of social change, however, this change may be so incremental that the members of the society are hardly aware of it. People living in very traditional societies would be in this category. Societies are characterised by change: the rate of change, the processes of change, and the directions of change. The actions of individuals, organisations and social movements have an impact on society and may become the catalyst for social change.
The actions of individuals, however, occur within the context of culture, institutions and power structures inherited from the past, and usually, for these individuals to effect dramatic social change, the society itself is tripe’ for change. Broad social trends, for example, shifts in population, urbanisation, industrialisation and bureaucratisation, can lead to significant social change. In the past, this has been associated with modernisation, the process whereby a society moves from traditional, less developed modes of production (like small-scale agriculture) to technologically advanced industrial modes of production.
Trends like population growth and urbanisation have a significant impact on other aspects of society, like social structure, institutions and culture. Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century social theorists focused fairly extensively on modernisation, but they tended to present on oversimplified “grand narrative” which resulted from heavily ideological interpretations of the contrast between tradition and modernisation. They also attempted to externalise absolutes, “social laws” as they saw them, and they argued that these social laws were operative in structurally similar societies.
Social continuity cannot simply be defined as the absence of social change, that is, things remaining the same, because social change is a continual process in all societies. Nothing “remains the same”. However, within societies there are structures which are inherently resistant to change, and in this sense, we can talk about them as being social continuities. Individuals within societies need social continuities to a lesser or greater extent, depending on significant factors like age, gender, education, access to power, wealth, vested interest, etc.
Even “rock-solid” institutions like the family, the law, and religions are subject to change, even though they represent social continuity. There has always been ‘family’ and it is still the foundational institution for society and the primary agent of socialisation, however the composition of ‘family’ has changed in recent years, leading to different kinds of families and different socialisation experiences for their members. The same ideas can be applied to law and religion.
Social and cultural continuities can be likened to individuals’ habits – comfortable patterns of behaviour that give individuals a sense of security and personal control – a haven or a respite in a sea of social and cultural change. There is a high correlation between the rate of social and cultural change and resistance to that change. In times when members of a society feel that change is ‘out of control’, it is likely that the desire for continuity becomes more extreme, resulting in backward-looking idealisations of the past.
While social change is itself a continuity, certain periods of human history have created “great transformations” (Polanyi 1973). The Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution created one such Great Transformation. Polanyi saw it as beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries and continuing today, characterised by:| | | • the rise of a capitalist, global economy and growth in production and wealth • a ‘scientific revolution’ – new ways of thinking about causation, moving from religious to secular • a new concept of time population growth, immigration and urbanisation political move to ‘nation’, which involved governments expanding their control to social, economic and cultural life, followed by the extension of that control to other, less advanced” countries (colonialism/imperialism) either through military conquest or trade conquest and today, perhaps, characterised by conquest through communication (eg. the Americanisation or westernisation of culture). | | | According to Bessant and Watts (1999: 20):”A key sign of the magnitude of the changes in that first Great Transformation is found in the ways people continued talking about the experience of loss, ‘the world we have lost’.
Phrases like ‘the death of God’, ‘demise of the family, and the ‘loss of community’ reflect the long-standing feelings of bereavement and loss that accompanied the modernising experience. Polanyi would argue that similar feelings of loss and bereavement are expressed, in similar terms, today in our post-modern society where rapid, often dramatic change has become almost the norm. Although many individuals, for example, Marx, Toennies, Comte and Spencer developed different versions of what Comte called ‘sociology’, the ‘science of society’, it wasn’t until the late 1 9th century that sociology as established as an academic discipline. Social theories came out of this ‘new’ discipline, as attempts to explain, or account for, social change. Social theories were, and still are today, products of their times and are characterised to a greater or lesser extent by the prevailing views and ideologies of their eras. When studying social theories, and using one or more of them in an attempt to explain social and cultural change, it is important to recognise this fact about them and to be conscious, if not critical, of the biases, values and assumptions inherent in them.
Sociological theory can be roughly divided into periods during which different schools of theoretical thought tended to be dominant:| | | • from the late Nineteenth/early Twentieth Century until the 1 92Os, while Sociology was establishing itself as an academic discipline in Its own right (there was, at the same time, a development of Anthropology) ‘Social Darwinism’, early evolutionary theory, which was functionalist in its perspective, was a dominant school of thought • the 1940s -1960s was the era of ‘Structural Functionalism’ (Parsons, Spencer, Durkheim and Comte) by the mid-1 960s (1 960s – 1 980s), Marxism, Weberian sociology, Feminism and Symbolic Interactionism were dominant • most recently, Post-Modernism (also called Post-Structuralism) has tended to dominate sociological thinking. | | | This division isn’t absolute in that different schools of sociological thought agreed with, disagreed with, borrowed and rejected aspects of each other’s premises. Even within the different schools of thought, there is acceptance and rejection of other proponents’ ideas. | | * TIME Past| Present| Future| What was it like? Why? | What’s changed?
Why? What’s the same? Why? | What will change? Why? What will remain? Why? | | Examining the impact of continuity change upon the lives of people in the micro and macro worlds| Family structures- there is no doubt that the nature of structures within the family unit have also changed over the last few decades. In Australian society post WW2, the culture of the day was changing dramatically. Australians for the first time, in some cases, were being exposed to different patterns of living and cultural values with the arrival of many immigrants from many countries around the world.
This tradition of immigration to Australia has continued, often as a reaction to world events. Prior to the second WW the most common family model was known as nuclear, two generations living together. However in the past few deceased it has become more common for families to extend. This has been due to either older relatives needing to live with younger generations, or for cultural reasons. In addition to this, the increase of divorce has resulted in a range of new family structures forming. These new structures can range from single-parents to blended families.
There are also indicators that tell us though that there are some aspects of the family unit that are changed over the past few decades- continuity-particularly when we look at its purpose. In modern western societies the responsibility of child raising lies with the immediate family. This is one aspect of the role of the family unit that is still a cultural norm. Parents are still seen to be the primary care givers and with the help of other adults around them take on the responsibility for all aspects of their Childs development.
All members of that family have a responsibility to that distinct group. This sense of belonging to a distinct social group complete with mutual rights and obligations is also largely unchanged. In western cultures, it is still the family that has one of the most crucial roles in socialising children. This socialisation enables these children to participate in their given society as an adult. Characteristics of students-Many of the changes that have occurred in the way young people approach their education are reflective of the societal change that all of us experience on a daily basis in our society.
It is clear that in a relatively short space of time approaches to learning and communication have changed dramatically. In relation to learning specifically, the Millennials: -favour group activity- are able to multi-task with ease-respond and adapt to new technologies very quickly-are positive in their attitude to learning-use technology such as the internet for work and leisureBy that comparison we need to keep in mind, for many Generation X-ers the computer was not commonly used during their peak years of formal education.
Technology has also influenced the manner in which students wish to communicate with other students and their teachers. As young people are now used to being able to message people immediately and have a quick response, the manner in which they want to communicate in their general relationships in their micro world has also changed dramatically by comparison to the students before them. Clearly there has been significant change in the way in which young people approach technology and their learning generally.
Continuity- the benefit of using different strategies in learning such as visual, linguistic, audiotry, kinaesthetic in order that learning is well balanced has always been evident. While there has always been different trends in approaches to learning, it has been acknowledged for decades that there are many modes of learning on offer to us as students. The need for students to learn from and communicate to others around them during the learning process has also been seen of value for a long period of time. Distinguishing between personal experience and public knowledge | | Examining the role of power and authority in social and cultural continuity and change| | Introducing theories of social change and evaluating their role in explaining continuities and changes in society| | Explore continuity and change through examination of the following questions:When we discuss change we are referring to cultural and social change.
Human society according to Toffler has gone through three specific stages of change:- the agrarian revolution: the change in settlement patterns from nomadic to stable communities. Much technological change with regard to ways of working e. g. use of the plough- The industrial revolution: the era of machine replacing muscle, the advent of the use of steam in factories. Production rates increased dramatically as the factory system developed. The development of the new merchant class and a middle class were the major social changes of the day.
The working classes also grew with both agricultural workers and urban workers. -The information revolution- this has been referred to as the era of machine replacing the mind. The development of technologies particularly in relation to communication and information technologies. Suter reminds us that there is a correlation between the agrarian revolution, industrial revolution and information revolution and the concepts of power and authority. – Agrarian Revolution=monarchy: feudal system, kings and queens, emperors, pharaohs, maharajas. A rule by hereditary elites. Industrial Revolution=Nation State: Rise of democracy, republics, communism: informed public now choose their government, such as voting for the president or electing a prime minister-Information Revolution=? Is this change yet to be define? Who is really running the world? Corportation? Macro groups like the EU? What is the role of the UN, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank? Al-Qaeda? | Is all change necessarily progress? | | Which groups benefit from change? Which do not? | | Are westernization, modernization and industrialization inevitable? | |