How Does Resisting Social Change Happen?

Updated: 4/28/2022
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16y ago

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The fact is, some people resist social change. In the midst of continual technological breakthroughs, some people harbor vested interests (financial or otherwise) in maintaining the status quo. These people lose something in response to social change. For example, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has lobbied incessantly to prevent clinical psychologists from gaining prescription privileges. Other people may feel insecure about trying to adapt to an ever-changing society. Economic factors take a hand in resisting social change. Conflict theorists complain that capitalistic systems encourage owners to protect their assets at the expense of workers. Protecting their assets may mean ignoring safety standards or putting pressure on government officials to lessen state regulations.

Cultural factors also play a central role in resistance to social change. When technology enters a society, non-material culture must respond to changes in material culture. Culture lag refers to the time during which previous aspects of a society still need to "catch up" to cultural advances. For example, certain religious groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church, promote large families and regard contraceptive methods that limit family size as immoral. In other words, a lag exists between aspects of non-material culture (religious beliefs) and material culture (reproductive technologies). Social movements typically question a culture's established state of affairs. In the United States today, both the gay rights and feminist movements challenge society's definitions of "natural order"-that heterosexuality is the only sexual standard and that females should submit to males. Resistance to such social movements remains predictably strong.


Social change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and cultural values and norms. By "significant" alteration, sociologists mean changes yielding profound social consequences. Examples of significant social changes having long-term effects include the industrial revolution, the abolition of slavery, and the feminist movement. Today's sociologists readily acknowledge the vital role that social movements play in inspiring discontented members of a society to bring about social change.

Efforts to understand the nature of long-term social change, including looking for patterns and causes, has led sociologists to propose the evolutionary, functionalist, and conflict theories of change (discussed in other posts). All theories of social change also admit the likelihood of resistance to change, especially when people with vested interests feel unsettled and threatened by potential changes.

See my original theory postings on "Self Liberation" and "Mass Trance"

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Q: How Does Resisting Social Change Happen?
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