Sunday, April 22, 2007

Research on Ogburn’s Theory of Social Change

Social Change:
A general term which refers to:
change in the nature, the social institutions, the social behaviour or the social relations of a society, community of people, or other social structures.
any event or action that affects a group of individuals that have share values or characteristics.
acts of advocacy for the cause of changing society in a normative way (subjective).
Social change could be:
slow, gradual, incremental, and evolutionary; in this it might be barely noticeable
fast, radical, sudden and revolutionary; it might even take people by surprise.
wide in scope, affecting almost all people in a society
limited in scope, affecting only a small number of people.
William Fielding Ogburn: (June 29, 1886April 27, 1959)

- A US sociologist
- He served as the president of American Sociological Society in 1929.
- Also known for his idea of "culture lag" in society's adjustment to technological and other changes.
- He played a pivotal role in producing the groundbreaking Recent Social Trends during his research directorship of President Herbert Hoover's Committee on Social Trends from 1930 to 1933.

Ogburn’s Theory of Social Change:
Ogburn first described the theory of cultural lag in 1915, although he began developing the theory as early as 1912. Ogburn’s definition of cultural lag is:
“A cultural lag occurs when one of two parts of culture which are correlated changes before or in greater degree than the other part does, thereby causing less adjustment between the two parts that existed previously (Ogburn 1957).”
When Ogburn described socio-cultural change and culture in terms of "parts" he relied on a very common model of the day that compared society and culture to an organic model in which the various "parts" were analogous to the organs of the human body. Later Ogburn used the term to indicate a more mechanical model that likened society to machinery that ran either well or poorly depending on the state of the various “parts”. While neither of these models remains in great favor, they do provide ways of looking at society.
Ogburn described societies in which changes are occurring rapidly and contrasts this to societies in which change is occurring slowly (Ogburn 1950). Generally, according to the theory of cultural lag, more examples of cultural lag can be found in societies in which change occurs rapidly than in societies where changes occur slowly.
According to Ogburn, four critical factors drive cultural change. These four factors are: invention, accumulation, diffusion, and adjustment (Ogburn 1950). Ogburn believed that as new inventions were introduced into existing society, maladjustment would occur and a period of adjustment would be required. This underlying idea forms the basis for the theory of cultural lag. Inventions can be formed in a society from within the society by awareness of new possibilities. The accumulation of inventions over time also results in new inventions as two or more ideas are combined.

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