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Social Sci LibreTexts

14: Social Change - Population, Urbanization, and Social Movements

This chapter examines the types and sources of social change. We begin by looking generally at social change to understand its overall significance. We then turn to the study of population, as changes in population can and do have important implications for changes in society itself. We also look at urbanization, which over the centuries has changed the social landscape profoundly. Finally, we look at social movements, which involve purposive efforts by groups of people to bring about changes they think necessary and desirable in society.

  • 14.0: Prelude to Population, Urbanization, and Social Movements
    Societies change just as people do. The change we see in people is often very obvious, as when they have a growth spurt during adolescence, lose weight on a diet, or buy new clothes or get a new hairstyle. The change we see in society is usually more gradual. Unless it is from a natural disaster like an earthquake or from a political revolution, social change is usually noticeable only months or years after it began.
  • 14.1: Understanding Social Change
    Social change refers to the transformation of culture, behavior, social institutions, and social structure over time. We are familiar from earlier chapters with the basic types of society: hunting and gathering, horticultural and pastoral, agricultural, industrial, and postindustrial. In looking at all of these societies, we have seen how they differ in such dimensions as size, technology, economy, inequality, and gender roles.
  • 14.2: Population
    We have commented that population growth is an important source of other changes in society. A generation ago, population growth was a major issue in the United States and some other nations. Zero population growth, or ZPG, was a slogan often heard. There was much concern over the rapidly growing population in the United States and, especially, around the world, and there was fear that our “small planet” could not support massive increases in the number of people.
  • 14.3: Urbanization
    An important aspect of social change and population growth over the centuries has been urbanization, or the rise and growth of cities. Urbanization has had important consequences for many aspects of social, political, and economic life.
  • 14.4: Social Movements
    Social movements in the United States and other nations have been great forces for social change. At the same time, governments and other opponents have often tried to thwart the movements’ efforts. To understand how and why social change happens, we have to understand why movements begin, how they succeed and fail, and what impact they may have.
  • 14.S: Population, Urbanization, and Social Movements (Summary)