Society & Culture Continuity & Change Danielle Mossman Continuity and change



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Society & Culture Continuity & Change Danielle Mossman


Continuity and change

The key concepts

Continuity: the repetition of patterns of thinking and behavior. It can also refer to social trends that have occurred over a long period of time. In this chapter it refers to the social norms and values of a community.

Change: an understanding that values, beliefs, culture and social norms all modify over time.

Values: a system of ideas that can be defined on both and a societal level. These vales apply to the moral decisions a person makes.

Tradition: An activity or belief maintained in a society over a period time, implying continuity.

Cooperation: working together to achieve a common goal or purpose, could involve persons and government, could be in regard to continuities and changes (see government and aboriginal Australians working together to achieve better standard of living)

Social and cultural literacy: You will come across values, customs, beliefs, and behaviors that may differ from your own but you should recognise and accept the difference without making judgments.

Globalisation: emergence of a global culture, brought about by a variety of social and cultural developments such as; the existence of world information systems, emergence of global patterns on consumerism, the growth of transnational corporations, emergence of global sport, spread of global military and economic systems.

Westernisation: Form of globalisation in which the practices and values of western countries, in particular the United States are the basis of the changes that are occurring, this could include the change towards capitalism or industrialisation of previously agricultural societies, or the adoption of western food and drink like Coca Cola and McDonalds, or the acceptance of American film and culture.

Beliefs: widespread and accepted values

Identity: can be personal or national. Are the things that influence a person

Industrialisation: The transition of methods of production to the mass production, utilizing developing technology, has been responsible for the vastly increased wealth-creating capacity of modern societies compared with traditional societies.

Modernisation: Process of social change resulting from the diffusion and adoption of the characteristics (new technology, education and ways of thinking) of expansive and apparently more ‘advanced’ societies through apparently less advanced societies. It involves social mobilisation, the growth of more effective and centralised apparatus of social and political control and the adoption of new technology and thinking that will allow modern approaches.

Institutions: These are accepted and organised patterns of behavior in a society. It may also be an organisation or established way of doing things.

Heritage: Refers to the collective past of a country. It may be a physical heritage or cultural heritage. It has a role it plays in maintaining continuities and can provide a contrast for change

Conflict: This covers disagreements at a variety of levels within society. It may lead to social change. Think about who is in conflict within your focus country and why that conflict exists.

Empowerment: This term is used to describe groups within a society gaining access to power structures and being able to assert some control over their destiny.

The Nature of Social and Cultural Research Methodologies
Examine the nature and characteristics of primary and secondary research

Primary Research: is conducted by you/the researcher to gain first hand information involves going to the direct source – usually by the people involved or area under investigation. Involves people’s interactions, knowledge and understandings e.g. interviews, observation, questionnaires, surveys, personal reflection and content analysis

Secondary Research: is the collection and interpretation of the work of others, usually used to supplement primary research – Ex the information in a textbook is secondary information. E.g. books, newspapers, videos, internet and magazines. Also involves a case study and statistical analysis

Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative research

Quantitative: Research can be measured and compared to a standard; it can be turned into graphs, tables and diagrams and is usually taken as fact. Example surveys, questionnaires.

Qualitative: Research involves research that investigates subjective information i.e. - opinions and experiences to understand and evaluate their topic from a range of viewpoints. Example ethnographic studies, observation, unstructured interviews, focus groups and personal reflection

Examine the characteristics of the following social and cultural research methodologies and techniques

Survey: can provide the researcher to reach large range of people Combines observation, interview and/or a written list of questions about a wide range of issues combination of closed/open-ended questions (questionnaire), observation, structured interview, and data recording. Uses representative samples of specific populations, can be done in large numbers. Study representative sample of specific population



  • Advantages: able to reach large number of different people, Large sample=less bias, Easy to calculate and compare, able to ensure anonymity = more honest answers, Quick to answer, Provide lots of information, cheap

  • Disadvantages: No assurance of honesty, No way if knowing the questions were understood, Standardised form may restrict people and limited by the questions asked and the knowledge of the surveyor, little flexibility

Case study: collection of info related to individual/small group. detailed investigation of a specific social setting or event and people. That is someone else’s experience or story.

  • Advantages: range of ways to collect information, relatively inexpensive, background info for further research and flexibility in use of time

  • Disadvantages: can be often to general, often time consuming and can often be time consuming depending on the persons motives

Participant Observation: allows in depth detailed information. Allows a researcher to gain a realistic view of what they are researching. This type of research is helpful in ethnographic study. It offers the researcher the opportunity to participate and gives opportunity to ask questions. The participant may be self conscious however, qualitative data, subjective. The participant must consider ethical implications: participant-as-observer method operates within awareness of other participants

  • Advantages: primary information and gives firsthand experience of topic researching, involves personal reflection and more reliable data, behavior in action

  • Disadvantages: participants my object to be watched or may change their behavior, influenced and possible limited by the researches interpretation of events

Content Analysis: is useful in analyzing a range of written and visual material, It involves the systematic analysis and interpretation of data, media, TV, movies, advertisements, books journals, websites, collected with the researcher establishing a range of categories. It may target language (written text) or visual stimulus (pictures).

  • Advantages: Provides date to supplement research and provide background info, can be used on a wide range of media and comprise of macro world opinion on the topic, may provide qualified or non qualified data on the topic, provides insight in to alternative interpretations of questions, involves personal reflections of material

  • Disadvantages: difficult to design and limited by the researchers interpretation of events, May be biased, not current and time consuming.

Action research: all participants are researchers. Action research is informal, collaborative, interpretive, qualitative, reflective, and experimental. Group recognizes a shared problem; devises, implements, evaluates a plan to counteract it. It the cycle of planning, acting, observing, reflecting until desirable outcome is reached for everyone. Unfortunately, requires time and resources beyond most students

    • Advantages: detailed info available, researcher is involved and practical application of research

    • Disadvantages: time consuming, difficult to reach conclusions and results may be confusing as often more than one researcher involved

Focus Group: can be used to discuss a particular topic. It is sometimes difficult to select the right participants. 3-8 people assembled for in-depth discussion on a specific topic/issue

  • Advantages: Techniques similar for conducting in-depth interview. Must manage participants, direct discussion, involve everyone, and maintain flexibility to pursue ideas as they arise, not stray, tape recorder essential. Aims to understand opinions – used to complement quantitative results eg. Determining the general electorate opinion before a poll




  • Disadvantages: hard to organize, cost, time and may lead to group conflict effecting outcome

Interview: the process of investigating a topic by questioning informed or involved persons for their expertise and or opinion on the topic. Good way to collect qualitative information, Can be tightly structured to conversational, requires a prior knowledge and interpretation of the topic

  • Advantage: It allows a greater flexibility with questions and information can bring unexpected points, people talk more than they write, Additional info is easily asked for, good supplement to the questionnaire, can be done over the internet, allowing the interviewee time to think and answer questions at leisure

  • Disadvantages: can be time consuming, participate unwilling to cooperate, questions can limit the material gained, hard to compare between responders, no anonymity and difficult to repeat – some research ethics also need to be adhered to (like quoting people)

Questionnaire: collection of questions related to the topic which can be administered to many people, ensures confidentiality and comparable analysis

  • Advantages: can be given to people outside to researcher’s immediate connections, provides both qualitative and qualitative data, quick analysis of information

  • Disadvantages: questions can be confusing or misinterpreted, people may not hand them in, little flexibility of information

Observation: requires the researcher to have a complete detachment from what is being observed. The main disadvantage is that the researcher can only interpret the event within the framework of his or her cultural experience. It may not be as realistic. It gives the freedom of the researcher however to observe what they’d like. Bias from these assumptions of conclusions could reduce the reliability of these findings.

    • Advantages: Can be used as background info for other research. Major inquiry method used for research reflection

    • Disadvantages: Involvement can impact on participants behavior, interpretation based on your values

Ethnographic study: systematic direct observation of everyday life of particular group. Interactive researcher immersed in a different culture so they can gain understanding of customs, beliefs, attitudes – reflected in lifestyle

    • Advantages: In depth info tool for further research, Local people involved so information is more accurate

    • Disadvantages: Cultural bias, Cost, Time and Language barriers

Statistical analysis: Used by researchers to show in mathematical form how many people fit into certain categories. Quantitative, can be used simply in graphic form from a large number of responses. Interpret meaning, make generalisations, and extrapolate trends

    • Advantages: Easy to present large amounts of info, provides background info for further research. Provides answers to research questions

    • Disadvantages: Tables can be difficult to understand, stats not always accurate and stats may be biased


Nature of Continuity and Change

Identify the Nature of Social and Cultural Continuity and Change

Social and cultural change consists of any modification in to the organisation of a society brought about by changes to social structures and processes.

-- Change: is the alteration in patterns of culture, social structures and behaviors over time. It can affect/be represented through many factors like the environmental, cultural and social, technological, economic, political, spiritual and the personal aspects of our lives.

-- Continuity: refers to those social and cultural factors that are retained and unchanged within a society, creating stability and longevity of the culture.

One factor that can contribute to social and cultural change is technology, the knowledge and tools used to manipulate an environment, is often seen as inevitable. This can often accelerate social change such as the discovery and development of the contraceptive pill contributed to the trend towards sexual permissiveness. The change in sexual permissiveness has also had a negative impact on some groups in society, as it could be tied to sexually transmitted diseases, as female persons weren’t scared of becoming pregnant; this decreased the likelihood of using condoms- a protective barrier from STD’s. The contraceptive pill also allowed women to take control of their fertility in a much more effective way; which permitted them to choose when they wanted to have children, which allowed them to lead their own careers, thus take on far more responsible roles in the working life of society.

Social continuity cannot simply be defined as the absence of social change, that is, things remaining the same, because social change is a continual process in all societies. Nothing "remains the same". However, within societies there are structures which are inherently resistant to change. Individuals within societies need social continuities to a lesser or greater extent, depending on significant factors like age, gender, education, access to power, wealth, vested interest, etc. Even "rock-solid" institutions like the family, the law, and religions are subject to change, even though they represent social continuity. There has always been 'family' and it is still the foundational institution for society and the primary agent of socialisation, however the composition of 'family' has changed in recent years, leading to different kinds of families and different socialisation experiences for their members.

Technology has a central role in all cultures in all societies. In modern, Westernized societies such as Australia, there is a vision (perpetuated by the marketing ploys of influential social institutions such as transnational corporations) that the right technological device or application can fix any problem. Technology has been fully enculturated into Australian society; both males and females readily utilize it.

Examining the impact of continuity and change upon the lives of people in the micro and macro worlds

-- Micro world: Change in the micro world is effected by all these factors as my experiences and socialization your world of family, peers and school work. The world you know through personal experience. Can be based on both the past and present personal culture. It occurs as result of macro world change i.e. laws, technology, fashion but also result of age as time goes by, you will respond and interpret the micro and macro words differently as you yourself changes

Micro world (change): a change in physical and the role of personal experience has been influenced by public knowledge. (Society, media).

Micro world (continuity): ANZAC day, school, Family

-- Macro world: continuities are usually referred to as traditions, many cases it may be a generalisation but they are recognised as an aspect of life that has continued across generations and include values, beliefs and customs.

Things like Technology have impact the way I access media and consume popular culture. Television, the internet, the radio, newspapers and magazines have all affected the way I see the world and my place in it. The emergence of a global culture means that Australia is less isolated and has increased the influence of the US and Europe, which on the micro world level means changes in culture Ex; the Celebration of Halloween.

Micro world (continuity): continuity in identity, personality, family heritage and traditions.

Macro world (change): technology has made things easier compared back in the 70’s and 80’s these days there has been a change in more terrism around the world, less personal safety.



Distinguish between public and personal knowledge

Personal experience refers to those experiences you have as you grow and develop as a human being. That personal experience is unique to you as an individual, and can be referred as knowledge gained from things you have actually done. To properly use personal experience, one must engage in personal reflection. This requires you to think about who you are, what you do and why you are living, that nature of the culture you are experiencing and the specific environment you experience.

Public knowledge refers to the collection of knowledge assembled through research and analysis of a wide range of personal experiences. It includes knowledge found in books, lectures and documentaries and using computer technology. Public knowledge is knowledge you have learned from consulting sources.

Examining the role of power and authority in social and cultural continuity and change

Power is to influence others to a point of view or action to which they would not normally allow. (force or control over individuals)

Authority involves the right to determine or settle issues and disputes in society.

Governments can have the power to introduce and manage change from the authority from the people. For example, the Whitlam Government win was the first labour win since 1949 and this change gave them the authority to introduce a program of change (Its time to Change”) that was a break from the 20 years of conservative government.



Introduced theories of social change and evaluate their role in explaining continuities and changes in society

Theories of social change have been developed to help explain why changes have occurred in the world.

There are three theories of social are Socio-cultural evolutionary theory, Conflict theory and Functionalist theory.

-- Conflict theory. (Karl Marx and Engels, Weber)

The Conflict theory is based on the idea that change in society is usually due to inequalities. These inequalities seem to cause conflicts within the dominant group who are in charge of maintaining values and norms through their economic and social power. Karl Marx, the main originator of this theory believed that this ensured that they retain prestige and power. The basic idea of this theory is that change occurs when the people with no or very little power challenge the people that do have power and as the conflict occurs, so does social change.

-- Functionalist theory (Talcott Parsons, Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton) are based on the idea that social change isn’t a cycle, or pattern; rather it is a “gradual and infrequent” system as the cultural norms and values of a society change at a slow & gradual rate. Functionalists believe that social change occurs as a result of factors such as; Population growth, Changes in technology, Inequalities among classes and status groups and The efforts by different groups to meet their needs in a world of scarce resources.

Functionalist theorist, Talcott Parsons explains, “Social behaviour is structured insofar as it conforms to norms, ranging from general ideas of right and wrong (values) to specific rules of behaviour in specific situations.

Functionalism also assumes that “as societies develop they become increasingly complex and interdependent” as well as that forces outside the society influence changes in the society, meaning that social change is unpredictable. Rather than emphasising social change, this theory emphasises social order and systemisation. It also considers social conflict unhealthy and an abnormal social characteristic, as society is likened to a machine; if there is conflict it means that an aspect of society has become out of synch with the others and this has created the problem.



-- Evolutionary theory Darwin’s theory of biological evolution in the 19th century was also used to interpret and develop concepts of social change. According to the evolutionary theory, the process of social change was natural and constant and over time. This explained that all societies began as small and simple scales to increasingly large and “complex” scales. This change was considered necessary and was due to uniform causes. Social evolutionists made two important assumptions that argued all change represents progress and that all societies will eventually represent those of western societies in their cultural values, ideologies and institutions. This represented a very ethnocentric view of change and explained how the terms gemeinschaft and gesellschaft was adopted. Ferdinand Tonnies adopted these terms to differentiate between pre-industrial (traditional and simple) societies and the new industrial (complex) societies. Gemeinschaft societies where ones in which social life was governed by personal, informal considerations, with traditions and customs prevailing while gesellschaft were those societies characterised by specialisation, individualism, rationality and impersonality. This theory goes some way to explain the rapid changes that have occurred following industrialisation and globalisation of the world economy. However, it also suggests that these developments are both inevitable and desirable since it links the process of modernisation in a positive way with western notions of “progress” and “individual liberation”.

Explore Continuity and Change through these questions

Is change necessarily progress

  • Progress implies movement to a higher level and socially, notes improvement in people’s lives. The subjective nature of ‘progress’ means ‘progress’ to one person is exploitation to another and is dependent on their involvement in the process

  • Yes whether it is bad or good it is needed

    • Sometimes sudden change like war, can stimulate economic growth in the long term which leads to higher standards of living in the country as well as after the war is over

    • Change can improve work and educational outcomes when more opportunities are created

    • Change from outside a traditional society can also motivate gemeinschaft communities to maintain their culture




  • No it is not progress in every situation

    • Changes can bring about social and environmental devastation E.G. war ravaging the environment and disrupting social, family and political living

    • Sudden change brought about by the death of a significant person can lead to chaos

    • Change that requires abandonment of traditions is not always beneficial E.G. loss of spirituality and traditional skills




Which groups benefit from change? Which do not?

  • There are many groups that benefit from change these include

    • The wealthy: they have the financial means to absorb the cost of change

    • The young: sometimes they can handle change better than the elderly




    • The poor: sometimes cannot afford change in the economic cycle

    • The elderly: change can affect the elderly as they are not as satiable to change as most other people

    • Minority groups: tends to benefit majority instead


Are Westernisation, Modernisation, Globalisation and industrialisation inevitable?

-- Modernisation: a process of social change resulting from diffusion and adoption of characteristics of more modern societies by societies said to be less advanced

-- Westernisation: the process of countries adopting the practices and values of western countries, especially USA E.G. fast food, TV, music etc

-- Industrialisation: the process of moving from a society based on agriculture to a society based on industry as the main means of production.

The macro world reflects a move towards these three processes (westernization, industrialization and modernization) in the system of organisation called globalisation. Globalisation, at its most basic, means the long-term, secular trend towards ever-greater interpenetration and interdependence of the world's economies which is subject to homogeneous and uniform processes of cultural unification. And this is indeed inevitable.

Over the centuries, as production processes have developed and grown more sophisticated, their linkages have increased. For example McDonalds is an internationally recognizable and accessible popular culture whose corporate logo of the golden arches is a symbol which manifests the extent of its global influence. Therefore as a result of the four powerful processes working in conjunction with each other it may seem presumably inevitable that societies and cultures will not be able to resist the change and maintain a unique identity.

Some countries, however, are economically and culturally strong enough to maintain their independence from globalisation. For example Cuba is still an independent country despite its proximity to the US. There are also strong movements to preserve local traditions for example; in Italy the “pasta police” check the quality of past and local produce. France has banned the worldwide use of the word “champagne”.

Nevertheless the inevitably of westernization, modernization and industrialization occurring increases significantly when considering the power, the control and the freedom of maneuvers of the transnational corporation. While the volume of international trade trebled between 1982 and 1999, the sales of TNCs' foreign affiliates increased six fold. Forty-nine of the 100 wealthiest and most powerful institutions are now corporations rather than governments and they control 70% of the macro world's trade and 80% of the macro world's foreign investment.

Social and Cultural Continuity and Change in a Selected Country

Through the selection of a country for detailed study, students will:


• apply the fundamental course concepts to that country

• examine the nature of traditional society and culture in that country

• evaluate the nature of power and authority in that country

• apply one theory of social change appropriate to the selected country

• make a detailed study of ONE of the following features that demonstrates both continuity and change in the selected country:
– education

– beliefs, values and lifestyles

– social welfare and health

– gender roles and the status of women and men

– laws and the legal system

– government institutions

– family life and population changes

• develop hypotheses for thinking about the future of the selected country, using techniques, such as:


– simulation games

– feasibility studies

– scenario writing

– analysing trends and making projections into the near future (forecasting).





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