What comes to your mind when you hear the word social change? Is it about a group of activists demanding the government (stop) doing something? Or about changing levels of gender-based domestic violence in a district? In this article, I will discuss what we are really talking about when we discuss social change, examples of social change, and why those of us who may never have thought of ourselves as activists or “SJWs” should care about social change.
Social Change Definition
According to Selo Soemardjan who is considered the father of sociology in Indonesia, social change is a change in the social system that is influenced by changes in social institutions (infrastructure) which include values, attitudes, and behavior patterns.
Meanwhile, according to the famous sociologist Emile Durkheim, social change is a change in the conditions of people’s lives from traditional conditions bound by mechanistic solidarity, to modern conditions bound by organic solidarity. Organic solidarity has a clear division of labor as a result of the industrial revolution. In society, an individual is more required to master one thing than to know many things superficially. In organic solidarity, legal issues are more restitutive, namely encouraging the restoration of disturbed social relations to their original condition1.
Kingsley Davis said that social change is changes that occur in the structure and function of society2. And according to Robert Mac Iver, social changes are changes that occur in social relations or the balance of social relations3.
Examples of Social Change
An example of social change is the emergence of information technology which makes the dissemination of information faster and access to information more democratic. In the past, humans could only communicate verbally. Time passes and humans can communicate through media such as letters, email, Whatsapp, and so on. The faster the communication media, the wider the availability of the information. In the past it was difficult for the people to voice their complaints, now it is easier for the government to hear people’s complaints (if they want to).
Another example is the change in the role of women in society which was previously considered less important, but is now considered equal. In the 19th century, an anti-patriarchal movement by women began to emerge in the world. The emergence of the women’s movement in the world influenced the women’s movement in Indonesia. Even though R.A. Kartini initiated the gender equality movement in Indonesia, women in Indonesia are the drivers of this change. Women in Indonesia improve the quality of education for women and form women’s associations in various regions. Educated circles in Indonesia see very basic differences between Europeans and Indonesians, such as in the level of stratification and lifestyle. Then came the female figures who pioneered freedom and equality due to concerns about the condition of these women4.
Then there is also a movement from the LGBTQ community that changes institutions and cultural norms. According to the Trans Legal Mapping Report released in 2020, there are 96 countries that allow the transgender community to legally change their gender5. In certain countries, the law supports the LGBTQ community to have equal rights such as regarding education, employment and legal participation.
Social change can also be supported by new laws that apply. For example, Law number 16 of 2019 concerning Marriage. This law changes the minimum marriage limit for men and women who will marry at least 19 years old. In the past, the age limit for marriage for men was 19 years and for women 16 years6. The benefit of this law is the prevention of child marriage. Social changes that occur as a result of this law can include improvements in education, health, and economic aspects.
In addition, natural phenomena such as the COVID-19 pandemic can also encourage social change. With conditions that are not safe for humans to gather, many social activities are eliminated or modified such as gathering together, religious activities, political activities and so on. Work which is a big part of social life is also changing.
8 Reasons Why We Should Care About Social Change
1. Social Change Has a Powerful Impact
Judging from the examples of social change in the past and what is happening, we can agree that social change is long-term and has a very broad scope. Social change is a universal thing, meaning that it affects all individuals so we should care about this change, whether positive or negative.
2. Change Starts with How We Interact with Each Other
It seemed that making those changes was a big and troublesome thing. You may be wondering why you should be involved in making social change. Nevertheless, the changes actually came from small things. For example, how we interact in everyday life. Do we respect the opinions and viewpoints of others who have different backgrounds from ours?
3. We Can Determine the Direction of Social Change
Change is inevitable, it’s just a matter of how we respond to it. Collectively, we all have the power to shape the future and determine social change for the better. As we interact with others, conflicting perspectives emerge. We need to keep sharing different perspectives until we find agreement and find values that we both believe in that ultimately lead to the social change we all want together.
4. Social Change Is Good For You
According to research, doing good for others can promote self-development and prolong happiness7. Using fMRI technology, it was found that doing good activates the same parts of the brain as stimulation from food and sex. We also know the old adage that alms will not make you poorer.
5. Social Change Promotes Gender Equality
The world today is still fighting for gender equality. The world of economics and politics is still dominated by men. Actions needed to promote gender equality include removing the glass ceiling, increasing access to education, and providing access to health for women. Over time, these small actions can develop into a significant change.
6. Social Change Is Good For Business
Research shows that a diverse work environment can increase productivity8. A socially responsible company can improve its reputation, attract employees’ attention, and increase market share9. Social change is one of the determinants of whether the company is competitive in the industry.
7. Social Change Saves Us and Future Generations From The Climate Crisis
Humans have greater influence on the environment than any other creature. Humans cause direct damage to air, soil, and water and interfere with the safety of all living beings. Climate change can be prevented by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be started from individuals, but it will be more effective if companies and governments are also involved. Therefore, social change is needed. Social change is a very long process. We cannot expect that we will reap the harvest. Instead we are doing selfless actions for our children and grandchildren.
2. Abdulsyani. (1992). Sosiologi Skematika Teori dan Terapan. Bumi Aksara.
3. Wrahatnala, Bondet. (2009). Sosiologi 3 : untuk SMA dan MA Kelas XII. Jakarta: Pusat Perbukuan, Departemen Pendidikan Nasional.
4. Amar, Syahrul. (2017, Desember). Perjuangan Gender Dalam Kajian Sejarah Wanita Indonesia Pada Abad XIX. Fajar Historia. Retrieved from http://download.garuda.ristekdikti.go.id/article.php?article=978638&val=15057&title=PERJUANGAN%20GENDER%20DALAM%20KAJIAN%20SEJARAH%20WANITA%20INDONESIA%20PADA%20ABAD%20XIX
5. Wareham, J. (2020, September 30). New Report Shows Where It’s Illegal To Be Transgender In 2020. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiewareham/2020/09/30/this-is-where-its-illegal-to-be-transgender-in-2020/?sh=2b3257785748
6. Batas Usia Menikah 19 Tahun Diberlakukan. Media Indonesia. Retrieved from https://mediaindonesia.com/humaniora/265859/batas-usia-menikah-19-tahun-diberlakukan
7. Santi, Jenny. The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4070299/secret-to-happiness
8. What is Social Change. Human Rights Career. Retrieved from https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/what-is-social-change/
9. Klein, Paul. (2012, Februari 15). Why Social Change is Good for Business. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/csr/2012/02/15/why-social-change-is-good-for-business/?sh=1937c9b65779