CHAPTER 2 SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY It is often said that change is the earth for approximately 500,000 (fiveonly unchanging aspect of society. lakh) years, but they have had aAnyone living in modern society does civilized existence for only about 6,000not need to be reminded that constant years. Of these civilized years, it is onlychange is among the most permanent in the last 400 years that we have seenfeatures of our society. In fact, the constant and rapid change; evendiscipline of sociology itself emerged within these years of change, the paceas an effort to make sense of the rapid has accelerated only in the last 100changes that Wester n European years. Because the speed with whichsociety had experienced between the change happens has been increasingseventeenth and nineteenth centuries. steadily, it is probably true that in the But though social change last hundred years, change has beenseems such a common and obvious faster in the last fifty years than infact about moder n life, it is – the first fifty. And within the last fiftycomparatively speaking – a very new years, the world may have changedand recent fact. It is estimated that more in the last twenty years than inhuman beings have existed on planet the first thirty… The Clock of Human History Human beings have existed on earth for about half a million years. Agriculture, the necessary basis of fixed settlements, is only about twelve thousand years old. Civilisations date back no more than six thousand years or so. If we were to think of the entire span of human existence thus far as a day (stretching from midnight to midnight), agriculture would have come into existence at 11:56 pm and civilisations at 11:57. The development of modern societies would get underway only at 11:59 and 30 seconds! Yet perhaps as much change has taken place in the last thirty seconds of this human day as in all the time leading up to it. From: Anthony Giddens,2004 Sociology, 4th edition, p.40.
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 23 Activity 1 big impact spread over a large sector of society – in order to qualify as social Talk to your elders and make a list change. of the things in your life that: (a) did not exist when your parents were Even after this kind of your age; and (b) did not exist when specification, social change still your grandparents were your age. remains a very broad term. Attempts Eg: Black & white/colour TV; to further qualify it usually try to milk in plastic bags; zip fasteners on classify it by its sources or causes; by clothes; plastic buckets; etc. – did it its nature, or the kind of impact it has exist in your parents’/grandparents’ on society; and by its pace or speed. childhood? For example, evolution is the name Can you also make a list of things given to a kind of change that takes that existed in your parents/ grandparents time but don’t exist in place slowly over a long period of time. your time? This term was made famous by the natural scientist Charles Darwin, who proposed a theory of how livingSOCIAL CHANGE organisms evolve – or change slowly‘Social change’ is such a general term over several centuries or even millenia,that it can be, and often is, used to by adapting themselves to naturalrefer to almost any kind of change not circumstances. Darwin’s theoryqualified by some other term, such as emphasized the idea of ‘the survival ofeconomic or political change. the fittest’ – only those life formsSociologists have had to work hard to manage to survive who are bestlimit this broad meaning in order to adapted to their environment; thosemake the term more specific and that are unable to adapt or are too slowhence useful for social theory. At the to do so die out in the long run. Darwinmost basic level, social change refers suggested that human beings evolvedto changes that are significant – that from sea-borne life forms (or varietiesis, changes which alter the ‘underlying of fish) to land-based mammals,structure of an object or situation over passing through various stages thea period of time’ (Giddens 2005:42). highest of which were the variousThus social change does not include varieties of monkeys and chimpanzeesany and all changes, but only big ones, until finally the homo sapiens orchanges which transfor m things human form was evolved. Althoughfundamentally. The ‘bigness’ of Darwin’s theory refered to naturalchange is measured not only by how processes, it was soon adapted to themuch change it brings about, but also social world and was termed ‘socialby the scale of the change, that is, by Darwinism’, a theory that emphasisedhow large a section of society it affects. the importance of adaptive change. InIn other words, changes have to be contrast to evolutionary change,both intensive and extensive – have a change that occurs comparatively
24 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYquickly, even suddenly, is sometimes previous chapter.) For example, thecalled ‘revolutionary change’. It is used emergence of paper money asmainly in the political context, when currency marked a major change inthe power structure of society changes the organisation of financial marketsvery rapidly through the overthrow of and transactions. Until this changea former ruling class or group by its came about, most forms of currencychallengers. Examples include the involved precious metals like gold andFrench revolution (1789-93) and the silver. The value of the coin wasSoviet or Russian revolution of 1917. directly linked to the value of the goldBut the term has also been used more or silver it contained. By contrast, thegenerally to refer to sharp, sudden and value of a paper currency note has nototal transformations of other kinds as relationship to the value of the paperwell, such as in the phrase ‘industrial it is printed on, or the cost of itsrevolution’ or ‘telecommunications printing. The idea behind paperrevolution’, and so on. money was that a medium or means for facilitating the exchange of goods Activity 2 and services need not itself be Refer to the discussions about the intrinsically valuable. As long as it French Revolution and the Industrial represents values convincingly — i.e., Revolution which you have come as long as it inspires trust — almost across before in your textbooks. anything can function as money. This What were the major kinds of change idea was the foundation for the credit that each brought about? Would market and helped change the these changes qualify to be called structure of banking and finance. ‘social change’? Were these changes These changes in turn produced fast enough and far reaching enough to qualify as ‘revolutionary change’? further changes in the organisation of What other kinds of social change economic life. have you come across in your books Changes in values and beliefs can which might not qualify as also lead to social change. For revolutionary change? Why would example, changes in the ideas and they not qualify? beliefs about children and childhood have brought about very important Types of change that are identified kinds of social change, there was aby their nature or impact include time when children were simplystructural change and changes in considered small adults — there wasideas, values and beliefs. Structural no special concept of childhood aschange refers to transformations in such, with its associated notions ofthe structure of society, to its what was right or wrong for childreninstitutions or the rules by which to do. As late as the 19th century forthese institutions are run. (Recall the example, it was considered good anddiscussion of social structure from the proper that children start to work as
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 25soon as they were able to. Children some industries in our country thatwere often helping their families at even today depend on child labour atwork from the age of five or six; the least partially (such as carpet weaving,early factory system depended on the small tea shops or restaurants, match-labour of children. It was during the stick making, and so on), child labour19th and early 20th centuries that is illegal and employers can beideas about childhood as a special punished as criminals.stage of life gained influence. It then But by far the most common waybecame unthinkable for small of classifying social change is by itschildren to be at work, and many causes or sources. Sometimes thecountries passed laws banning child causes are pre-classified intolabour. At the same time, there inter nal (or endogenous) andemerged ideas about compulsory exter nal (or exogenous) causes.education, and childr en wer e There are five broad types of sourcessupposed to be in school rather than or causes of social change:at work, and many laws were passed environmental, technological,for this as well. Although there are economic, political and cultural. Students in a classroom
26 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY A child doing skilled workEnvironment their environment. The same was true for people living in very cold climates,Nature, ecology and the physical or in port towns, along major tradeenvironment have always had a routes or mountain passes, or in fertilesignificant influence on the structureand shape of society. This was river valleys. But the extent to whichparticularly true in the past when the environment influences societyhuman beings were unable to control has been decreasing over time with theor overcome the effects of nature. For increase in technological resources.example, people living in a desert Technology allows us to overcome orenvironment were unable to practise adapt to the problems posed bysettled agriculture of the sort that was nature, thus reducing the differencespossible in the plains, near rivers and between societies living in differentso on. So the kind of food they ate or sorts of environments. On the otherthe clothes they wore, the way they hand, technology also alters natureearned their livelyhood, and their and our relationship to it in new wayspatterns of social interaction were all (see the chapter on environment indetermined to a large extent by the this book). So it is perhaps morephysical and climatic conditions of accurate to say that the effect of
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 27 The earth caves in after heavy floods may have shaped societies, but how did it play any role in social change? The easiest and most powerful answer to this question can be found in natural disasters. Sudden and catastrophic events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, or tidal waves (like the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Andaman Islands and parts of Tamil Nadu in December 2004) can change societies quite drastically. These changes are often irreversible, that is, they are permanent and don’t allow a return to the way things were. For example, it is quite possible that many of those whose livelihoods were destroyed by the tsunami will never be able to return to them again, and that many of the coastal villages will have their social structure completely altered. There are numerous instances of natural disasters leading to a total transformation and sometimes total destruction of societies in history. Environmental or ecological factors need not only be destructive to cause change, they can be constructive as well. A good example is the discovery of oil in the desert regions of West Asia (also called the Middle East). Like the discovery of gold in California in the 19th century, oil reserves in the Middle East have completely transformed the societies in which they were found. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates would be very different today without their oil wealth.nature on society is changing rather Technology and Economythan simply declining. But how, you might ask, does this The combination of technological andaffect social change? The environment economic change has been responsible
28 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYfor immense social changes, specially international trade and migration.in the modern period. Technology Both these developments createdaffects society in a wide variety of gigantic ripples of change whichways. As seen above, it can help us to affected not only the economy but alsoresist, control, adapt to or harness the social, cultural and demographicnature in dif ferent ways. In dimensions of world society.combination with the very powerful The importance and impact ofinstitution of the market, technological steam power became visible relativelychange can be as impressive in its quickly; however, sometimes, thesocial impact as natural factors like a social impact of technological changestsunami or the discovery of oil. The becomes visible only retrospectively.most famous instance of massive and A technological invention or discoveryimmediately visible social change may produce limited immediatebrought about by technological change ef fects, as though it were lyingis the Industrial Revolution itself, dormant. Some later change in thewhich you have already read about. economic context may suddenly You will surely have heard of the change the social significance of themassive social impact made by the same invention and give it recognitionsteam engine. The discovery of steam as a historic event. Examples of thispower allowed emerging forms of large are the discovery of gunpowder andscale industry to use of a source of writing paper in China, which hadenergy that was not only far stronger only limited impact for centuries untilthan animals or human beings, but they were inserted into the context ofwas also capable of continuous modernising Western Europe. Fromoperation without the need for rest. that vantage point, given theWhen harnessed to modes of transport advantage of enabling circumstances,like the steam ship and the railway, it gunpowder helped to transform thetransformed the economy and social technology of warfare and the paper-geography of the world. The railroad print revolution changed societyenabled the westward expansion of forever. Another example closer homeindustry and trade on the American is the case of technological innovationscontinent and in Asia. In India too, in the textile industry in Britain. Inthe railways have played a very combination with market forces andimportant r ole in shaping the imperial power, the new spinning andeconomy, specially in the first century weaving machines destroyed theafter their introduction in 1853. handloom industry of the IndianSteamships made ocean voyages subcontinent which was, until then,much faster and much more reliable, the largest and most advanced in thethereby changing the dynamics of world.
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 29 Activity 3 Politics Have you noticed other such In the old ways of writing and technological changes which have recounting history, the actions of social consequences in your own life? kings and queens seemed to be the Think of the photo-copying machine most important forces of social and its impact. Have you ever change. But as we know now, kings thought of what things were like and queens were the representatives before photo-copying became so of larger political, social and economic cheap and freely available? Another example could be the STD telephone trends. Individuals may indeed have booths. Try to find out how people had roles to play, but they were part communicated befor e these of a larger context. In this sense, telephone boths had appeared and political forces have surely been very few homes had telephone among the most important causes of connections. Make a list of other social change. The clearest examples such examples. are found in the history of warfare. When one society waged war on Sometimes changes in economic another and conquered or wasorganisation that are not directly conquered, social change was usuallytechnological can also change society. an immediate consequence.In a well-known historical example, Sometimes, conquerors brought theplantation agriculture — that is, the seeds of change and planted themgrowing of single cash crops like wherever they went. At other times,sugarcane, tea or cotton on a largescale — created a heavy demand for the conquered were actuallylabour. This demand helped to successful in planting seeds of changeestablish the institution of slavery and among the conquer ors andthe slave trade between Africa, Europe transformed their societies. Althoughand the Americas between the 17th there are many such examples inand 19th centuries. In India, too, the history, it is interesting to consider atea plantations of Assam involved the modern instance — that of the Unitedforced migration of labour from States and Japan.Eastern India (specially the Adivasi The United States won a famousareas of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh). victory over Japan in the Second WorldToday, in many parts of the world, War, partly through the use of achanges in customs duties or tariffs weapon of mass destruction neverbrought about by inter national seen before in human history, theagreements and institutions like the nuclear bomb. After the JapaneseWorld Trade Organisation, can lead to surrender, the United States occupiedentire industries and occupations and ruled over Japan for several years,being wiped out or (less often) sudden bringing about lots of changes,booms or periods of prosperity for including land refor m in Japan.other industries or occupations. Japanese industry, at that time, was
30 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYtrying very hard to copy American through the redistribution of powerindustry and learn from it. By the across different social groups and1970s, however, Japanese industrial classes.techniques, specially in fields like car Considered from this viewpoint,manufacturing, had gone far ahead of universal adult franchise — or the ‘onethe Americans. Between the 1970s person, one vote’ principle — isand 1990s, Japanese industry probably the single biggest politicaldominated the world and forced change in history. Until modernchanges in the industrial organisation democracies formally empowered theof Europe and specially the United people with the vote, and untilStates. The industrial landscape of elections became mandatory forthe United States in particular was exercising legitimate power, societydecisively altered by the impact of was structured very differently. KingsJapanese industrial technology and and queens claimed to rule by divineproduction organisation. Large, right, and they were not reallytraditionally dominant industries like answerable to the common people.steel, automobiles and heavy Even when democratic principles ofengineering suffered major setbacks voting were first introduced, they didand had to restructure themselves not include the whole population —according to Japanese technological in fact only a small minority couldand management principles. vote, or had any say in the formationEmerging fields like electronics were of the government. In the beginning,also pioneered by the Japanese. In the vote was restricted to those whoshort, within the space of four were born into high status socialdecades, Japan had turned the tables groups of a particular race or ethincity,on the United States, but through or to wealthy men who ownedeconomic and technological means property. All women, men of lowerrather than warfare. classes or subordinated ethnicities, Political changes need not only be and the poor and working people ininter national — they can have general were not allowed to vote.enormous social impact even at home. It is only through long strugglesAlthough you may not have thought that universal adult franchise came toof it this way, the Indian independence be established as a norm. Of course,movement did not only bring about this did not abolish all the inequalitiespolitical change in the form of the end of previous eras. Even today, not allof British rule, it also decisively countries follow democratic forms ofchanged Indian society. A more recent rule; even where elections are held,instance is to be found in the Nepali they can be manipulated; and peoplepeople’s rejection of monarchy in can continue to be powerless to2006. More generally, political influence the decisions of theirchanges bring about social change government. But despite all this, it
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 31cannot be denied that universal adult social change. In India too we findfranchise serves as a powerful norm many examples of religion bringingthat exerts pressure on every society about social change. Among the bestand every government. Governments known are the impact of Buddhism onmust now at least appear to seek the social and political life in ancient India,approval of the people in order to be and the widespread influence of theconsidered legitimate. This has Bhakti Movement on medieval socialbrought massive social changes in structure including the caste system.its wake. A different example of cultural change leading to social change canCulture be seen in the evolution of ideas aboutCulture is used here as a short label the place of women in society. In thefor a very wide field of ideas, values, modern era, as women have struggledbeliefs, that are important to people for equality, they have helped changeand help shape their lives. Changes society in many ways. Women’sin such ideas and beliefs lead naturally struggles have also been helped orto changes in social life. The hindered by other historicalcommonest example of a socio- circumstances. For example, duringcultural institution that has had the Second World War, women inenormous social impact is religion. western countries started to work inReligious beliefs and norms have factories doing jobs that they hadhelped organise society and it is hardly never done before, jobs which hadsurprising that changes in these always been done by men. The factbeliefs have helped transform society. that women were able to build ships,So important has religion been, that operate heavy machinery, manufacturesome scholars have tended to define ar maments and so on, helpedcivilisations in religious terms and to establish their claims to equality. Butsee history as the process of it is equally true that, had it not beeninteraction between religions. for the war, they would have had toHowever, as with other important struggle for much longer. A veryfactors of social change, religion too different instance of change producedis contextual — it is able to produce by the position of women can be seeneffects in some contexts but not in in consumer advertising. In mostothers. Max Weber’s study ‘the urban societies, it is women who takeProtestant Ethic and the Spirit of most of the everyday decisions aboutCapitalism’ showed how the religious what to buy for their households. Thisbeliefs of some Christian Protestant has made advertisers very sensitive tosects helped to establish the capitalist the views and perspectives of womensocial system. It remains one of the as consumers. Significant proportionsmost famous examples of the impact of advertising expenditure are nowof cultural values on economic and directed at women, and this in turn
32 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYhas effects on the media. In short, upper class centre of authoritythe economic role of women starts a (England). Similarly, the completechain of changes which can have a world dominance of the West Indieslarger social impact. For example, cricket team during the 1970s andadvertisements may tend to show 1980s, was also an expression ofwomen as decision-makers and as racial pride on the part of a colonisedimportant people in ways that would people. In India, too, beating Englandnot have been considered or at cricket was always seen asencouraged before. More generally, something special, particularly beforemost advertisements used to be independence. At another level, theaddressed to men; now they are immense popularity of cricket in theaddressed as much to women, or, in Indian sub-continent has altered thesome sectors like household commercial profile of the game whichappliances and consumer goods, is now driven by the interests of Southmainly to women. So it is now Asian fans, specially Indians.economically important for advertisers As will be clear from the aboveand manufacturers to pay attention discussion, no single factor or theoryto what women think and feel. can account for social change. The Yet another instance of cultural causes of social change may bechange bringing about social change internal or external, the result ofcan be found in the history of sports. deliberate actions or accidentalGames and sports have always been events. Moreover, the causes of socialexpressions of popular culture that change ar e often interrelated.sometimes acquir e a lot of Economic and technological causesimportance. The game of cricket may also have a cultural component,began as a British aristocratic politics may be influenced bypastime, spread to the middle and environment… It is important to beworking classes of Britain, and from aware of the many dimensions ofthere to British colonies across the social change and its varied forms.world. As the game acquired roots Change is an important subject foroutside Britain, it often turned into a us because the pace of change insymbol of national or racial pride. modern and specially contemporaryThe very different history of intense times is much faster than what itrivalry in cricket shows the social used to be before. Although socialimportance of sport in a very telling change is better understoodmanner. The England-Australia retrospectively — after it has alreadyrivalry expressed the resentment of occurred — we also need to be awarethe socially subordinated colony of it as it happens, and to prepare for(Australia) against the dominant it in whatever ways we can.
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 33SOCIAL ORDER Activity 4The meaning of social events or We are used to thinking of samenesspr ocesses often becomes clear as boring and change as exciting; thisthrough contrasts, just as the letters is also true, of course — change canon the page that you are reading be fun and lack of change can be really dull. But think of what lifebecome legible because they contrast would be like if you were forced toagainst the background. In the same change all the time… What if youway, social change as a process never, ever got the same food foracquir es meaning against the lunch — every day somethingbackdrop of continuity or lack of different, and never the same thingchange. It may sound odd, but twice, regardless of whether youchange makes sense as a concept liked it or not? Here is a scarieronly if there are also some things that thought — what if every time youare not changing, so that they offer came back from school there were different people at home, differentthe possibility of comparison or parents, dif ferent brothers andcontrast. In other words, social sisters…? What if whenever youchange has to be understood together played your favourite game —with social or der, which is the football, cricket, volleyball, hockeytendency within established social and so on — the rules were differentsystems that resists and regulates each time? Think of other areas ofchange. your life where you would like things Another way of looking at the to not change too quickly. Are thererelationship between social change areas of your life where you wantand social order is to think about the things to change quickly? Try to think about the reasons why youpossible reasons why society needs to want or don’t want change inprevent, discourage, or at least control particular instances.change. In order to establish itself asa strong and viable social system, The above argument was anevery society must be able to abstract and general one about therepr oduce itself over time and possible reasons why societies maymaintain its stability. Stability need to resist change. But there arerequires that things continue more or usually more concrete and specificless as they are — that people continue reasons why societies do in fact resistto follow the same rules, that similar change. Remember what you readactions produce similar results, and about social structure and socialmore generally, that individuals and stratification in Chapter 1. Mostinstitutions behave in a fairly societies most of the time are stratifiedpredictable manner. in unequal ways, that is, the different
34 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYstrata are differently positioned with may be more or less efficient inrespect to command over economic dif ferent contexts, but howeverresources, social status and political efficient it is, it can never completelypower. It is not surprising that those erase the will of the individual. Inwho are favourably placed wish for other words, socialisation cannot turnthings to continue as they are, while people into programmed robots — itthose who are suffering disadvantages cannot pr oduce complete andare anxious for change. So the ruling permanent consent for all norms ator dominant groups in society all times. You may have experiencedgenerally resist any social changes this in your own lives: rules or beliefsthat may alter their status, because which seem very natural and right atthey have a vested interest in stability. one point of time, don’t seem soOn the other hand, the subordinated obviously correct at other times. Weor oppressed groups have a vested question things we believed in theinterest in change. ‘Normal’ conditions past, and change our minds aboutusually favour the rich and powerful, what we regard as right or wrong.and they are able to resist change. Sometimes, we may even return toThis is another broad reason why beliefs we once held and thensocieties are generally stable. abandoned, only to rediscover them However, the notion of social order afresh at some later stage of life or inis not restricted to the idea of different circumstances. So, whileresistance to change, it also has a socialisation does take on much of themore positive meaning. It refers to the burden of producing social order, it isactive maintenance and reproduction never enough by itself.of particular pattern of social relations Thus, most modern societies mustand of values and norms. Broadly also depend on some form of power orspeaking, social order can be achieved coercion to ensure that institutionsin one of two ways — when people and individuals conform to establishedspontaneously wish to abide by a set social norms. Power is usually definedof rules and norms; or when people as the ability to make others do whatare compelled in various ways to obey you want regardless of what theysuch norms. Every society employs a themselves want. When a relationshipcombination of these methods to of power is stable and settled, and thesustain social order. parties involved have become Spontaneous consent to social accustomed to their relative positions,order derives ultimately from shared we have a situation of domination. Ifvalues and nor ms which are a social entity (a person, institutioninternalised by people through the or group) is routinely or habitually inprocess of socialisation. (Revisit the a position of power, it is said to bediscussion of socialisation in dominant. In normal times, dominantIntroducing Sociology). Socialisation institutions, groups or individuals
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 35exercise a decisive influence on and justice. We have already seen howsociety. It is not as though they are power is defined in society; power innever challenged, but this happens itself is simply a fact — it can be eitheronly in abnormal or extraordinary legitimate or not. Authority is definedtimes. Even though it implies that by Max Weber as legitimate power —people are being forced to do things that is, power considered to bethey don’t necessarily want to do, justified or proper. For example, adomination in normal times can be police officer, a judge, or a schoolquite ‘smooth’, in the sense of teacher all exercise different kinds ofappearing to be without friction or authority as part of their jobs. Thistension. (Revisit the discussion of authority is explicitly provided to them‘forced cooperation’ from Chapter 1. by their official job description — thereWhy, for example, did women not want are written documents specifying theirto claim their rights in their families authority, and what they may and mayof birth? Why did they ‘consent’ to not do.the patriarchal norm). The fact that they have authority Domination, Authority and Law automatically implies that otherHow is it that domination can be non- members of society — who have agreedconfrontational even when it clearly to abide by its rules and regulationsinvolves unequal relationships where — must obey this authority within itscosts and benefits are unevenly proper domain. The domain of thedistributed? Part of the answer we judge is the court room, and whenhave already got from the discussion citizens are in the court, they areof the previous chapter — dominant supposed to obey the judge or defer togroups extract cooperation in unequal her/his authority. Outside therelationships because of their power. courtroom, the judge is supposed toBut why does this power work? Does be like any other citizen. So, on theit work purely because of the threat of street, S/he must obey the lawfulthe use of force? This is where we authority of the police officer. Whencome to an important concept in on duty, the policeman or woman hassociology, that of legitimation. authority over the public actions of all In social terms, legitimacy refers citizens except her/his superiorto the degree of acceptance that is officers. But police officers do not haveinvolved in power relations. jurisdiction over the private activitiesSomething that is legitimate is of citizens as long as they are notaccepted as proper, just and fitting. suspected of being unlawful. InIn the broadest sense, it is different way — different because theacknowledged to be part of the social nature of the authority involved is lesscontract that is currently prevailing. strictly or explicitly defined — theIn short, legitimacy implies conformity teacher has authority over her/histo existing norms of right, propriety pupils in the classroom. The authority
36 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYof the teacher does not extend into the as an individual agree with ahome of the pupil where parents or particular law, it has binding force onguardians have primary responsibility me as a citizen, and on all otherand authority over their children. citizens similarly regardless of their There may be other for ms of beliefs.authority that are not so strictly So, domination works throughdefined, but are nevertheless effective power, but much of this power isin eliciting consent and cooperation. actually legitimate power or authority,A good example is the authority a large part of which is codified in law.wielded by a religious leader. Although Consent and cooperation are obtainedsome institutionalised religions may on a regular and reliable basis becausehave partly formalised this authority, of the backing of this structure ofbut the leader of a sect or other less- legitimation and formal institutionalinstitutionalised minor religious group support. This does not exhaust themay wield enor mous authority domain of power or domination —without it being formalised. Similarly there are many kinds power that arereputed scholars, artists, writers and effective in society even though theyother intellectuals may wield a lot of are illegitimate, or if legitimate are notauthority in their respective fields codified in law. It is the mix ofwithout it being formalised. The same legitimate, lawful authority and otheris true of a criminal gang leader — he kinds of power that determines theor she may exercise absolute authority nature of a social system and also itsbut without any formal specifications. dynamics. The difference between explicitlycodified and more informal authority Contestation, Crime and Violenceis relevant to the notion of the law. Alaw is an explicitly codified norm or The existence of domination, power,rule. It is usually written down, and legitimate authority and law does notthere are laws that specify how laws imply that they always meet withare to be made or changed, or what is obedience and conformity. You haveto be done if someone violates them. already read about the presence ofA modern democratic society has a conflict and competition in society. Ingiven body of laws created through its a similar way, we need to recogniselegislature, which consist of elected more general forms of contestation inrepresentatives. The laws of the land society. Contestation is used here asare enacted in the name of the people simply a word for broad forms ofof that land by the people’s insistent disagreement. Competitionrepresentatives. This law forms the and conflict are more specific thanformal body of rules according to this, and leave out other forms ofwhich society will be governed. Laws dissent that may not be well describedapply to all citizens. Whether or not I by such terms.
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 37 One example is that of ‘counter Although it generally carries acultures’ among youth or ‘youth strong moral charge, the notion ofrebellion’. These are protests against crime is strictly derived from the law.or refusal to conform to prevalent A crime is an act that violates ansocial norms. The content of these existing law, nothing more, nothingprotests may involve anything from less. The moral worth of the act is nothairstyles and clothing fashions to determined solely by the fact that itlanguage or lifestyle. More standard violates existing law. If the existing lawor conventional forms of contestation is believed to be unjust, for example,include elections — which are a form a person may claim to be breaking itof political competition. Contestations for the highest moral reasons. This isalso include dissent or protest against exactly what the leaders of thelaws or lawful authorities. Open and Freedom Movement in India weredemocratic societies allow this kind of doing as part of their ‘Civildissent to different degrees. There are Disobedience’ campaign. Whenboth explicit and implicit boundaries Mahatma Gandhi broke the salt lawdefined for such dissent; crossing of the British government at Dandi,these boundaries invites some form of he was committing a crime, and hereaction from society, usually from the was arrested for it. But he committedlaw enforcement authorities. this crime deliberately and proudly, As you know very well, being and the Indian people were also proudunited as Indians does not prevent us of him and what he stood for. Offrom disagreeing with each other. course, these are not the only kindsDifferent political parties may have of crime that are committed! There arevery different agendas even though many other kinds of crime that cannotthey may respect the same claim any great moral virtue. But theConstitution. Belief in or knowledge important point is that a crime is theof the same set of traffic rules does breaking of the law — going beyondnot prevent heated arguments on the the boundary of legitimate dissent asroad. In other words, social order need defined by the law.not mean sameness or unanimity. On The question of violence relates atthe other hand, how much difference the broadest level to the basic definitionor dissent is tolerated in society is an of the state. One of the defining featuresimportant question. The answer to of the moder n state is that it isthis question depends on social and supposed to have a monopoly over thehistorical circumstances but it always use of legitimate violence within itsmarks an important boundary in jurisdiction. In other words, only thesociety, the boundary between the state (through its authorisedlegitimate and the illegitimate, the functionaries) may lawfully uselegal and the illegal, and the violence — all other instances ofacceptable and the unacceptable. violence are by definition illegal. (There
38 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYare exceptions like self defense meant of the major changes in socialfor extraordinary and rare situations). structure brought about by theThus, technically, every act of violence transition from nomadic ways of lifeis seen as being directed against the based on hunting, gathering food andstate. Even if I assault or murder some transient agriculture to a more settledother individual, it is the state that form of life. With the development ofprosecutes me for violating its sedentary forms of agriculture — ormonopoly over the legitimate use of forms that did not involve moving fromviolence. place to place — social structure also It is obvious that violence is the changed. Investment in land andenemy of social order, and an extreme technological innovations inform of contestation that transgresses agriculture created the possibility ofnot only the law, but important social producing a surplus – something overnorms. Violence in society is the and above what was needed forproduct of social tensions and survival. Thus, settled agricultureindicates the presence of serious meant that wealth could beproblems. It is also a challenge to the accumulated and this also broughtauthority of the state. In this sense it with it social differences. The morealso marks the failure of the regime of advanced division of labour alsolegitimation and consent and the open created the need for occupationaloutbreak of conflicts. specialisation. All of these changes together shaped the emergence of theSOCIAL ORDER AND CHANGE IN VILLAGE, village as a population settlementTOWN AND CITY based on a particular form of socialMost societies can be divided into rural organisation.and urban sectors. The conditions of In economic and administrativelife and therefore the forms of social terms, The distinction between ruralorganisation in these sectors are very and urban settlements is usuallydifferent from each other. So also, made on the basis of two major factors:therefore, are the forms of social order population density and the proportionthat prevail in these sectors, and the of agriculture related economickinds of social change that are most activities. (Contrary to appearances,significant in each. size is not always decisive; it becomes We all think we know what is difficult to separate large villages andmeant by a village and by a town or small towns on the basis of populationcity. But how exactly do we size alone.) Thus, cities and townsdifferentiate between them? (see also have a much higher density ofthe discussion in Chapter 5 on Village population — or the number ofStudies in the section on persons per unit area, such as aM.N. Srinivas). From a sociological square km — than villages. Althoughpoint of view, villages emerged as part they are smaller in terms of absolute
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 39numbers of people, villages are spread for the first time in human history, theout over a relatively larger area. world’s urban population willVillages are also distinguished from outnumber its rural population.towns and cities by the larger share of Indian society is also experiencingagricultural activities in their urbanisation: the percentage of theeconomic profile. In other words, population living in urban areas hasvillages will have a significant increased from a little less than 11 perproportion of its population engaged cent in 1901 to a little more thanin agriculture linked occupations, 17 per cent in 1951, soon aftermuch of what is produced there will independence. The 2001 Censusbe agricultural products, and most of shows that almost 28 per cent of theits income will be from agriculture. population now lives in urban areas. The distinction between a townand city is much more a matter of Social Order and Social Change inadministrative definition. A town and Rural Areascity are basically the same sort of Because of the objective conditions insettlement, differentiated by size. An villages being different, we can expect‘urban agglomeration’ (a term used in the nature of social order and socialCensuses and official reports) refers change to be different as well. Villagesto a city along with its surrounding are small in size so they usually permitsub-urban areas and satellite more personalised relationships; it issettlements. A ‘metropolitan area’ not unusual for members of a villageincludes more than one city, or a to know all or most other members bycontinuous urban settlement many sight. Moreover, the social structuretimes the size of a single city. in villages tends to follow a more Given the directions in which traditional pattern: institutions likemodern societies have developed, the caste, religion, and other forms ofprocess of urbanisation has been customary or traditional socialexperienced in most countries. This practice are stronger here. For theseis the process by which a progressively reasons, unless there are speciallarger and larger proportion of the circumstances that make for ancountry’s population lives in urban exception, change is slower to arriverather than rural areas. Most in villages than in towns.developed countries are now There are also other reasons foroverwhelmingly urban. Urbanisation this. A variety of factors ensure thatis also the trend in developing the subordinate sections of societycountries; it can be faster or slower, have much less scope for expressingbut unless there are special reasons themselves in rural areas than theirblocking it, the process does seem to counterparts in cities. The lack ofoccur in most contexts. In fact, the anonymity and distance in the villageUnited Nations reports that by 2007, makes it difficult for people to dissent
40 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYbecause they can be easily identified major impact on rural societies. Thus,and ‘taught a lesson’ by the dominant measures like land reform which altersections. Moreover, the relative power the structure of land ownership haveof the dominant sections is much more an immediate impact. In India, thebecause they control most avenues of first phase of land refor ms afteremployment, and most resources of all independence took away proprietarykinds. So the poor have to depend on rights from absentee landlords andthe dominant sections since there are gave them to the groups that wereno alternative sources of employment actually managing the land and itsor support. Given the small population, cultivation in the village. Most of theseit is also very difficult to gather large groups belonged to intermediatenumbers, particularly since efforts castes, and though they were often nottowards this cannot be hidden from the themselves the cultivators, theypower ful and are very quickly acquired rights over land. Insuppressed. So, in short, if there is a combination with their number, thisstrong power structure already in place factor increased their social status andin a village, it is very difficult to dislodge political power, because their votesit. Change in the sense of shifts in mattered for winning elections. M.N.power are thus slow and late to arrive Srinivas has named these groups asin rural areas because the social order the ‘dominant castes’. In manyis stronger and more resilient. regional contexts, the dominant castes Change of other sorts is also slow became very powerful in economicto come because villages are scattered terms and dominated the countrysideand not as well connected to the rest and hence also electoral politics. Inof the world as cities and towns are. more recent times, these dominantOf course, new modes of communication, castes are themselves facingparticularly the telephone and the opposition from the assertivetelevision have changed this. So the uprisings of castes further below them,cultural ‘lag’ between villages and the lowest and the most backwardtowns is now much shorter or non- castes. This has led to major socialexistent. Communication links of upheavals in many states like Andhraother sorts (road, rail) have also Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh andgenerally improved over time so that Tamil Nadu.few villages can really claim to be In the same way, changes in the‘isolated’ or ‘remote’, words often technological organisation ofunthinkingly attached to villages in agriculture also has a large andthe past. This has also accelerated immediate impact on rural society.the pace of change somewhat. The introduction of new labour saving For obvious reasons changes machinery or new cropping patternsassociated with agriculture or with may alter the demand for labour andagrarian social relations have a very thus change the relative bargaining
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 41strength of different social groups like natural advantage. So did cities thatlandlords and labourers. Even if they were well located from the point of viewdon’t directly affect labour demand, of military strategy. Finally, religioustechnological or economic changes places attracted large numbers ofcan change the economic power of pilgrims and thus supported an urbandifferent groups and thus set in economy. In India too we havemotion a chain of changes. Sudden examples of such old cities, includingfluctuations in agricultural prices, the well known medieval trading townsdroughts or floods can cause havoc of Tezpur on the Brahmaputra riverin rural society. The recent spate of in Assam or Kozhikode (formerlyfarmer suicides in India is an example known as Calicut) on the Arabian Seaof this. On the other hand, large scale in northern Kerala. We also havedevelopment programmes aimed at many examples of temple towns andthe rural poor can also have an places of religious pilgrimage, such asenormous impact. A good example Ajmer in Rajasthan, Varanasi (alsoof this is the National Rural known as Benaras or Kashi) in UttarEmployment Guarantee Act of 2005. Pradesh, or Madurai in Tamil Nadu. As sociologists have pointed out, Activity 5 city life and modernity go very well Find out more about the National together; in fact, each may be Rural Employment Guarantee Act. considered an intimate expression of What does it aim to do? Why is it the other. Though it houses large and considered such an important very dense populations, and though it development programme? What has been known throughout history as problems does it face? What would the site for mass politics, the city is also be the likely consequences if it the domain of the modern individual. succeeds? In its combination of anonymity and the amenities and institutions that onlySocial Order and Social Change in large numbers can support, the cityUrban Areas of fers the individual boundlessIt is well known that though the city possibilities for fulfillment. Unlike theitself is very old — even ancient village, which discourages individualitysocieties had them — urbanism as a and cannot of fer much, the cityway of life for large segments of the nurtures the individual.population is a modern phenomenon. But while the many artists, writers,Before the modern era, trade, religion and scholars who have celebrated theand warfare were some of the major city as the haven of the individual arefactors that decided the location and not wrong, it is also true that freedomimportance of cities. Cities that were and opportunity are available only tolocated on major trade routes, or had some individuals. More accurately,suitable harbours and ports had a only a socially and economically
42 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYprivileged minority can have the luxury Most of the important issues andof a predominantly free and fulfilling problems of social order in towns andlife. Most people who live in cities have cities are related to the question ofonly limited and relative freedoms space. High population density placeswithin larger constraints. These are a great premium on space and createsthe familiar economic and social very complex problems of logistics. Itconstraints imposed by membership in is the primary task of the urban socialsocial groups of various kinds, already order to ensure the spatial viability ofknown to you from the previous the city. This means the organisationchapter. The city, too, fosters the and management of things like:development of group identities — housing and residential patterns; massbased on factors like race, religion, transit systems for transporting largeethnicity, caste, region, and of course numbers of workers to and from work;class — which are all well represented arranging for the coexistence ofin urban life. In fact, the concentration residential, public and industrial land-of large numbers in a relatively small use zones; and finally all the publicspace intensifies identities and makes health, sanitation, policing, publicthem integral to strategies of survival, safety and monitoring needs of urbanresistance and assertion. governance. Each of these functions A doctor checking a patient
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 43is a huge undertaking in itself and with no pr oper civic facilitiespresents formidable challenges of (sanitation, water supply, electricityplanning, implementation and and so on) and homes made of allmaintenance. What adds to the kinds of building materials rangingcomplexity is that all of these tasks from plastic sheets and cardboard tohave to be performed in a context multi-storeyed concrete structures.where the divisions and tensions of Because of the absence of ‘settled’class, ethnicity, religion, caste and so property rights of the kind seenon are also present and active. elsewhere, slums are the natural For example, the question of urban breeding ground for ‘dadas’ andhousing brings with it a whole host of strongmen who impose their authorityproblems. Shortage of housing for the on the people who live there. Controlpoor leads to homelessness, and the over slum territory becomes thephenomenon of ‘street people’ — those natural stepping stone to other kindswho live and survive on the streets and of extra-legal activities, includingfootpaths, under bridges and flyovers, criminal and real estate-related gangs.abandoned buildings and other empty Where and how people will live inspaces. It is also the leading cause for cities is a question that is also filteredthe emergence of slums. Though through socio-cultural identities.official definitions vary, a slum is a Residential areas in cities all over thecongested, overcrowded neighbourhood world are almost always segregated by A girl child looking after the sibling
44 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY A commercial centre in a city Women at work in cotton field
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 45class, and often also by race, ethnicity, process. This has happened in manyreligion and other such variables. cities in India, most recently in GujaratTensions between such identities both following the riots of 2002. Thecause these segregation patterns and worldwide phenomenon of ‘gatedare also a consequence. For example, communities’ is also found in Indianin India, communal tensions between cities. This refers to the creation ofreligious communities, most commonly affluent neighbourhoods that areHindus and Muslims, results in the separated from their surroundings byconversion of mixed neighbourhoods walls and gates, with controlled entryinto single-community ones. This in and exit. Most such communities alsoturn gives a specific spatial pattern to have their own parallel civic facilities,communal violence whenever it erupts, such as water and electricity supply,which again furthers the ‘ghettoisation’ policing and security. Various kinds of transport in an urban area
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 47 Activity 6 Daily long distance commuters can become an influential political Have you come across such ‘gated constituency and sometimes develop communities’ in your town or city, elaborate sub-cultures. For example, or in one you have visited? Find out the sub-urban trains of Mumbai — from your elders about such a popularly known as ‘locals’ — have community. When did the gates and many infor mal associations of fences come up? Was there any commuters. Collective on-train opposition, and if so by whom? What activities include singing bhajans, reasons might people have for celebrating festivals, chopping wanting to live in such places? What vegetables, playing card and board effects do you think it has on urban games (including tournaments), or society and on the neighbourhoods surrounding it? just general socialising. Finally, housing patter ns are The form and content of sociallinked to the economy of the city in change in urban areas is also bestcrucial ways. The urban transport understood in relation to the centralsystem is directly and severely affected question of space. One very visibleby the location of residential areas element of change is the ups andrelative to industrial and commercial downs experienced by particularworkplaces. If these are far apart, as neighbourhoods and localities. Acrossis often the case, an elaborate mass the world, the city centre – or the coretransit system must be created and area of the original city – has had manymaintained. Commuting becomes a changes of fortune. After being theway of life and an ever present source power centre of the city in the 19thof possible disruption. The transport and early 20th century, the city centresystem has a direct impact on the went through a period of decline in the‘quality of life’ of working people in the latter half of the 20th century. Thiscity. Reliance on road transport and was also the period of the growth ofspecially on private rather than public suburbs as the af fluent classesmodes (i.e., cars rather than buses) deserted the inner city for the suburbscreates problems of traffic congestion for a variety of reasons. City centresand vehicular pollution. As will be are experiencing a revival now in manyclear to you from the above discussion, major western cities as attempts tothe apparently simple issue of regenerate community life and the artsdistribution of living space is actually bear fruit. A related phenomenon isa very complex and multi-dimensional ‘gentrification’, which refers to theaspect of urban society. conversion of a previously lower class neighbourhood into a middle and
48 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYupper class one. As real estate prices Changes in modes of massrise, it becomes more and more transport may also bring aboutprofitable for developers to try and significant social change in cities.effect such a conversion. At some Affordable, efficient and safe publicpoint, the campaign becomes self- transport makes a huge difference tofulfilling as rental values increase and city life and can shape the socialthe locality acquires a critical character of a city apart fromminimum of prosperous businesses influencing its economic fortunes.and residents. But sometimes the Many scholars have written on theeffort may fail and the neighbourhood difference between cities based ongoes back down the class scale and public transport like London or Newreturns to its previous status. York and cities that depend mainly Activity 7 on individualised car -based Have you noticed any ‘gentrification’ transport like Los Angeles. It remains or ‘up-scaling’ taking place in your to be seen, for example, whether the neighbourhood? Do you know of new Metro Rail in Delhi will such instances? Find out what the significantly change social life in that locality was like before this city. But the main issue regarding happened. In what ways has it social change in cities, specially in changed? How have these changes rapidly urbanising countries like affected different social groups and classes? Who benefits and who India, is how the city will cope with loses? Who decides about changes constant increase in population as of this sort — is there voting, or some migrants keep streaming in to add form of public discussion? to its natural growth. GLOSSARY Customs Duties, Tariffs: Taxes imposed on goods entering or leaving a country, which increase its price and make it less competitive relative to domestically produced goods. Dominant Castes: Term attributed to M.N. Srinivas; refers to landowning intermediate castes that are numerically large and therefore enjoy political dominance in a given region. Gated Communities: Urban localities (usually upper class or affluent) sealed off from its surroundings by fences, walls and gates, with controlled entry and exit. Gentrification: The term used to describe the conversion of a low class (urban) neighbourhood into a middle or upper class neighbourhood
SOCIAL CHANGE AND SOCIAL ORDER IN RURAL AND URBAN SOCIETY 49 Ghetto, Ghettoisation: Originally from the term used for the locality where Jews lived in medieval European cities, today refers to any neighbourhood with a concentration of people of a particular religion, ethnicity, caste or other common identity. Ghettoisation is the process of creation of ghettoes through the conversion of mixed composition neighbourhoods into single community neighbourhoods. Legitimation: The process of making legitimate, or the grounds on which something is considered legitimate, i.e., proper, just, right etc. Mass Transit: Modes of fast city transport for large numbers. EXERCISES 1. Would you agree with the statement that rapid social change is a comparatively new phenomenon in human history? Give reasons for your answer. 2. How is social change to be distinguished from other kinds of change? 3. What do you understand by ‘structural change’? Explain with examples other than those in the text. 4. Describe some kinds of environment-related social change. 5. What are some kinds of changes brought about by technology and the economy? 6. What is meant by social order and how is it maintained? 7. What is authority and how is it related to domination and the law? 8. How are a village, town and city distinguished from each other? 9. What are some features of social order in rural areas? 10. What are some of the challenges to social order in urban areas? REFERENCES GIDDENS, Antony. Sociology. 4th edition. GERTH, HANS and C. WRIGHT MILLS. (eds) from Max Weber. KHILNANI, SUNIL. 2002. The Idea of India, Penguin Books, New Delhi. Patel, Sujata and Kushal Deb (eds). 2006. Urban Sociology (Oxford in India) Readings in Sociology and Social Anthropology series). Oxford University Press, New Delhi. SRINIVAS, M.N. Social Change in Modern India.