The Nature of Social and Cultural Continuity and Change By Keith Smith, The Emanuel School



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The Nature of Social and Cultural Continuity and Change

By Keith Smith, The Emanuel School

The washing of an atomic bomb in the Soviet Union. (www.mipt.vcu.edu/mipt2.html)



The purpose of this revision booklet is to prepare you for Section One of the HSC on the Nature of Social and Cultural Continuity and Change. This booklet focuses on:-

Explore continuity and change through examination of the following questions:
• is all change necessarily progress?
• which groups benefit from change? Which do not?
• are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable?


Is all change necessarily progress?

Progress is perception based and your answers must reflect this. Progress is a sense of progression, a belief or perception that things are getting better based on socially and culturally literate principles.
Progress in Society and Culture can mean a movement in society and culture towards:-

  1. Equal opportunities and status for both genders

  2. Open and democratic decision making bodies and processes in the micro and macro world

  3. Equal distribution of and access to technology

  4. Tolerance and acceptance based on social and cultural relativism

  5. A narrowing of economic inequalities.

I will now examine if all change is progress by considering the micro and macro world through the prism of power/authority, gender and technology



The S.R.C.


MICRO WORLD (School, peers and family)

Let us look at my micro world, family and peers. When I lived in Newcastle, England the majority of my friends were male. This reflected my narrow attitudes towards women, typical of young Newcastle men. However, when I left Newcastle I met lots of intelligent and confident women. This challenged my perception of gender roles. This change clearly brought progress based on social and cultural literate principles. This created a dynamic interaction when I went back home. My sisters were influenced by my female friends and my experiences. They began to assert their individuality and challenge their gender roles. Clearly this is progress. Or is it?



The dynamics in my family were altered permanently. This created conflict between my dad and my younger sister. It also challenged my parents’ relationship. My mother began to assert her independence. This created enormous strain on their relationship as my father felt disempowered. He had lost his authority in areas of finance and even control of technology (he was forced by my mother to teach her how to operate the VCR and the Hi-Fi!) For my father this was not progress. The women were clear winners. However, the costs for my father were real and painful. His traditional views were obliterated.
Change brought progress but at a considerable cost.



Three generations of continuity and change. After 20 years of tumultuous change to the family dynamics the feeling among the Smith’s is that the benefits finally outweigh the costs.





Gender. Gender roles have changed significantly in the family in recent time. Fathers help out more at home and mothers are often the main breadwinners. The increasing equality has brought progress. However, there have also been drawbacks. Fathers now experience insoluble problems of balancing home and work. Mothers are expected to contribute financially as well as be the primary carer. Not all change brings progress.

  1. What are the gender roles in your family?

  2. Have these roles changed in your life time?

  3. Who are the winners and loser?

Power and Authority. The developments of S.R.C.s are symbolic of a shift in power in schools. Children’s rights and the right to be heard are now accepted within schools. Teacher’s power has been moderated and they no longer have the authority to use abusive methods of discipline (e.g. verbal abuse and corporal punishment). However some say the shift in power has gone too far. Teachers are often unable to teach in more troubled schools. Some say children’s rights have been developed at the expense of a teacher’s right to discipline e.g. in some schools teachers are forbidden from breaking up fights in case they are subject to allegations by students. Changes have improved school situations for students but teaching bodies are quick to claim this has not brought wholesale progress.

  1. Should the student teacher relationship be more democratic?

  2. How could this be achieved?

  3. Who would benefit from these changes? Who would not?

Technology Mobile phones, the Internet, worldwide communication networks have brought great progress. Businesses can function more efficiently even from the comfort of your own home. Relatives who live abroad are easily contacted through Skype and MSN. They also benefit from cheap flights. However, the globalised world is not without its problems. Parents are increasingly dragged away on business in other countries. Family get-togethers can be ruined by intrusive mobile phone calls. Intimate relations are replaced by online dating often with people in other continents. The mother of a student I once taught was dating a guy in America! To her the relationship was made real by the internet. To her daughter it was an illusion facilitated by technology. Her mother’s loneliness and alienation was being exploited by Lavalife Internet dating. Has technology brought progress?

  1. How has technology impacted on dating?

  2. Which groups have benefited from these changes?

MACRO WORLD (Workplace, religion, government, the law and the media)

In the examination you may be asked to draw on your selected country or your macro world.
The recent events in Iraq emphasise the difficulties in answering this question. The US’s intervention in to Iraq is clearly a change. But who are the winners and losers? What are the costs and benefits? Has it brought progress?
The US government suggest progress has been made. Infrastructure is slowly being rebuilt and the economy is slowly recovering. Democracy has been introduced. Clearly this can be perceived as progress. However, for many people the country has regressed. Democracy under foreign rule is an imposition and an affront to many Iraqis. There has been an enormous cost for the removal of Saddam. The US government has spent billions and directed funds away from important programs at home. The war is increasingly unpopular and Bush’s authority has been undermined by his involvement. However, the costs have brought some benefits. Is a limited democracy better than the dictatorship and repression of Saddam’s regime?
Clearly it is important to balance your answers by considering the costs / benefits and winners / losers in determining if change brings progress. Now let us deal with power and authority, gender and technology in the macro world.

Gender. The breaking down of the glass ceiling has freed women to even become Prime Ministers. Women are now in 10% of all executive positions in Australia. Women are accepted as rabbis within certain Jewish traditions (Rabbi Ninnio in Sydney) However, these women often still face much conflict. By succeeding in their macro world they may experience difficulties in their personal lives e.g. little time for children and marriage break up. Also equal opportunities in the macro world do not guarantee similar experiences in the micro world. This cultural lag as Marx would call it creates enormous difficulties for women. In Japan women are now arguably bound by a need to succeed at work but also by traditional binds such as “filial piety.” Is all change progress?


Power and Authority. The breakdown of traditional power and authority figures has created a number of freedoms. Homosexuality has begun to be accepted and it is no coincidence that this has happened as traditional organised religions have declined in power and authority. The decline and influence of priests and the separation of Church and State have brought multiculturalism as a government policy and as a way of life. However this does not guarantee harmony. The old traditions arguably maintained order and held families together. Secularisation of marriage has arguably increased divorce. Majority world countries that have modernised quickly and adopted democratic systems have experienced many problems. Without a strong tradition of democracy places like Iran and Iraq have stumbled from crisis to crisis. The flawed democratic process has allowed theocracies and dictatorships to take hold. Also the raised expectations of people (e.g. Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall) and their disappointment have allowed Far Right organisations to grow in power and authority. Note the alarming growth neo-Nazi groups in Russia, even in Israel. Has democracy brought progress for all?

Technology Our globalised world and an increasing global identity are facilitated by new communication and travel technology. Internet groups support minority causes and help promote them to global prominence (eg the Yanomami Indian in the Amazon). New technology allows us to be more informed and participate more fully in the decision-making processes. The Coalition and Labor are now battling it out on youtube. Literally their every word is analysed by the media and relayed back to us. Yet this new technology is open to misuse. The Chinese struck a deal with google. Google are now allowed to operate in China but at a huge cost. All anti-government references have been removed. Fairfax and the Murdoch press are able to control the flow of information using the latest technology and influence the decision-making processes such as elections. Is this progress?

Questions.

  1. Identify how globalisation has impacted on your selected country in the following areas:-

    1. Gender

    2. Power / authority

    3. Technology

2. Has globalisation brought progress?

Which groups benefit from change? Which do not?


The author in his early college days. I am the one sporting the bleached blonde hair. I feel my friends and I have benefited from our change in hair styles.

Again our focus in this question must relate to the key concepts in both the micro and macro world.

Micro Changes in school creates costs and benefits. Let us again consider the role of the SRC. As discussed earlier, many schools incorporate the SRC in to a number of its decision making processes. The Principal at our school meets regularly to consider suggestions for change. This shift in power and authority under the current Principal brings costs and benefits to differing groups. Students on the SRC feel more empowered. Recent changes in our school included mufti days and improved out door furniture that benefit the students. However, not all students felt they had benefited. Where as previously students discussed openly suggestions for change they are now directed to the SRC. The SRC involves class votes. People who are unsuccessful in these elections may feel disillusioned. Other students may lack the confidence to raise suggestions in the class room. Is the SRC agenda set by the student body or the individual causes of the SRC members? Some groups have benefited from change other have not?

  1. What changes have your SRC introduced in to school?

  2. Who benefited from these changes? Who did not benefit from these changes?

  3. Did these changes bring progress based on socially and culturally literate principles?


Macro Changes in the law in Australia bring cost and benefits to differing groups in Australia. The recent APEC amendments to the law benefited the organisers and participants in the APEC meeting. The police believed the changes benefited Sydneysiders by making them safe from terrorist attack. The new powers of arrest allowed the police to effectively deal with disturbances to protect us all. The safety fence in Sydney allowed Australia to host a major world event increasing its status globally. However, others perceive this change very differently. According to the “Stop Bush Coalition” the changes benefited the police and the government. Citizens lost many of their civil liberties due to the increased powers of the state. A number of people appeared to be man handled by the police, including a female reporter. Australia’s international reputation as a safe house for APEC was more important than the rights of its citizens. Some groups appeared to benefit others did not.
Do you feel Australia benefits from the increasing emphasis on security?
Gender Wherever there is change there is always winners and losers. Japan’s 1947 Civil Code Act gave women freedom to pursue careers to meet the needs of a modern industrialised nation. However the loss of influence for their fathers and the breaking down of “filial piety” (family ties and hierarchies) challenged family units. Similarly increased opportunities for women can mean decreased opportunities for men (and vice versa). The old certainties of traditional values and continuities such as patriarchy in Islam, Christianity and Judaism gave some people comfort and stability. Change brings uncertainty and conflict. Many women have gained much. But what of poor women in the majority world gained? Or even in the poorer suburbs of Sydney? Eastern Suburbs educated women may embrace change but what of their Western sisters. Recent government initiatives to get single women back in the workforce may reduce centrelink dependency. However, is it creating a whole new generation of home alone kids?

  1. Do you feel single mothers should work 15 hours per week as soon as their children begin kindergarten? (This is the new government directive)

  2. Who benefits? Who loses? What do you think?

Technology Those with access to technology are benefiting greatly from change. International business and employment opportunities, multi-channeled, multi-cultural broadcasts are now norms. Food mixers, computerised air conditioners the list goes on. But what of those made redundant by new technology. Robotics has replaced many semi-skilled factory workers. Small businesses find it increasingly difficult to compete with global corporate bodies. Older people feel more and more alienated by the new digital age. Nuclear power brings cheaper electricity but pollutes the air and sea of those who live close by. Military technology threatens us all in the hands of elected and non-elected zealots.

  1. What impact has technology had on peoples’ quality of life?

  2. Who are the winners? Losers? Costs? Benefits?


Power/Authority The individual’s right to choose is a modern panacea. The decline of the traditional hierarchies such as religion and rigid class systems has brought relief for many. Gay marriages, women rabbis and priests are perceived by many as winners. Many have gained from the democratisation of civil society. However, macro reform by interim governments do not guarantee that Muslim women in rural Iraq will not be stoned. Nor that government legislation for gender equality will ensure that women are promoted on merit at work in Japan. The traditional structures have not simply melted away.

Similarly new power and authority structures have emerged. The global multinationals now act openly against the wishes of host countries and relocate without hesitation running counter to government policy. People live in increasingly democratic societies yet our boss at work (and the company) has the power and authority to dismiss us as soon as the companies’ performance begins to stutter. Is society becoming more or less democratic?




  1. Should workers be allowed to hold Union meetings during work hours? Should governments have the authority to restrict or authorise union activity in the workplace?

  2. Should work places be democratic?


Are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable?
This is a challenging question and relates to globalisation. It would be difficult to argue against the inevitably of westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation. To answer the question it is vital that you know your definitions and break them down in to their component parts.
Industrialisation Refers to the transition in methods of production that has been responsible for the vastly increased wealth creating capacity of modern societies compared with traditional systems. It may refer to manufacturing, agriculture and administration. Is it inevitable that the Majority World, poorer nations of the world will change from traditional economies (e.g. small farms, bartering and small markets) to mass production and hi-tech industries?

The best students will focus on all three aspects of manufacturing, agriculture and administration. For example industrialisation is difficult in some countries due to their environment. Afghanistan’s geography makes central administration almost impossible. Traditional power structures remain in place that localise power and authority. Warlords restrict democracy as well as the development of agriculture and manufacturing. The mountains of Afghanistan make agricultural improvement difficult. There are few electrical power sources away from the cities. This is preventing the introduction of technological developments that can transform agricultural production. Manufacturing relies on investment. This is difficult in a war torn country. However, even under Taliban control industrialisation took place in the urban areas and cities such as Kabul.




  1. How has industrialisation impacted on your selected country?

  2. Has it brought progress?


Modernisation A process of social change resulting from the diffusion and adoption of the characteristics of expansive and apparently more advanced societies through societies that are apparently less advanced. It involves social mobilisation, the growth of a more effective and centralised apparatus of social and political control, the acceptance of scientifically rational norms and the transformation of social relations and aesthetic forms.

Modernisation appears on the surface to be inevitable. However, its character can certainly be shaped by the individual society and cultures experiencing change.


Social mobilisation. In many countries it is still relatively rare that the child of the very poor can rise to be head of state. However, Nelson Mandella’s rise to political power demonstrates social mobilisation. Yet in Japan, frequently politicians come from families that have influenced public life for generations. The recent female Foreign Minister was the daughter of a previous Prime Minister. Has Japan truly modernised?
Centralised apparatus of social and political control. Many countries of the world appear to have centralised administrations. However, Colombia’s drug barons both control and operate outside of this apparatus. Indeed the North East of Colombia is outside of the control of the elected government. In Japan power is centralised but in the rural areas globalisation and its individualism has barely dented the traditional power of the family. Many indigenous peoples from around the world resist and exist outside modernisation.
Scientific rational norms. Many people around the world continue to reject science. In Africa medicine is still traditional in many areas. In the West homoepathy and acupuncture grow in popularity and re-affirm traditional practices.
Transformation of social relations and aesthetic forms. In a recent Ross Gittins article in the SMH he commented on the vast increases in wealth amongst the middle to upper band of poor countries globally. However, the bottom band comprising one billion people are slipping behind. There has been no transformation in many parts of sub Saharan Africa. Aesthetic forms remain traditional in nature. Incredibly these older aesthetic forms are growing in popularity. Indigenous artists in Australia are now in great demand.


  1. How has modernisation impacted on your selected country?

  2. How has your country’s modernisation differed from other neighbouring countries? Why do you think this is?



Westernisation A particular form of modernisation in which the methods and values of Western industrial capitalism are the basis of the changes that are occurring.
Methods. Japan has rapidly Westernised since the US occupation. It is a world leader in hi-tech industries in terms of innovation and quality. Fujitsu big screen TV’s are the benchmark for the industry. However, Japan retains much of its traditional values in the work place. Shinto shrines exist to promote harmony in the workforce. But globalisation and foreign influences even shake Japan. Sony has recently appointed a non-Japanese managing director. We await the outcome of these new developments.
Values. Japan appears to resist much of Westernisation. Okinawans continue to live traditional lives well in to their 100s. Traditional values of harmony and community ensure long and happy lives. However, the young are rejecting these values. McDonald’s has replaced fish and vegetables as the staple for young Okinawans. Yet individualism (epitomised through cutesie fashion and Western rock and roll parodies) define Japanese culture as acculturated but distinct from the West.

What do you think? Can nations resist these global forces of westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation? Can a nation sustain itself in the wake of transnational corporations dominating the world economy? Take for example Iraq. Where there are natural resources or military strategic considerations or even a new potential market of consumers you will find the growing influence of Coca-Cola and Fox Networks. Globalisation seems an irresistible force. Even the most remote and primitive tribe is increasingly meeting the snap of cameras and the greenback of documentary film makers, tourists and venture capitalists. When I visited the so called lost pueblito in Colombia as a young man I was shocked to see how indigenous people lived. However, I was more shocked to see they had little food but drank and sold coca cola in the middle of the Sierra Nevada rainforests.

However, perhaps these forces of change are not inevitable. Parliamentary democracy is not the only system of macro level decision-making. Marxists, Anarchists, communalists, hippies and Buddhist monks are examples of societies that seek to resist or at least re-define globalisation. Industrialisation as an ideology is threatened by climate change. Westernisation is challenged by Islam and Orthodox Judaism. Peoples around the world are rejecting popular culture, consumerism and consumption. Modernisation and the centralisation of power are resisted by anti-globalisation protestors.

Westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation may appear to be inevitable but their character is far from certain. The emergence of Asian economies suggests that globalisation will accelerate the acculturation between East and West. Who can say what its nature will be in 10, 20 or 50 years from now.



Class discussion.

  1. Do society and cultures really experience progress?

  2. Is progress simply a word to disguise the process of globalisation, westernisation and the spread of capitalism?

  3. What do you think will be the outcome of the growth of China and India on modernisation and westernisation? Will we be Easternised?

Now attempt the following past paper to test your knowledge and understanding of this section of the syllabus. On completion read the examiners report to enable you to evaluate your own answers before submitting to your teacher.
Question 3 (6 marks) 2003

(a) Define modernisation.

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(b) Discuss the statement: ‘Modernisation is inevitable.’

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Notes from the Marking Centre

Better responses in part (a) clearly stated that modernisation was a process of social change through the diffusion and adoption of characteristics of expansive and apparently more technologically advanced societies. Weaker responses did not recognise modernisation as a process of social change.


Better responses in part (b) drew on a range of arguments for and against the inevitability of modernisation, with the application of linking concepts, such as secularisation, industrialisation, westernisation, democratisation, bureaucratisation, urbanisation or globalisation. Typically these were also applied to examples from a selected country. Weaker responses tended to confuse links between modernisation and concepts like industrialisation or westernisation. Such responses also tended to revolve around simplified arguments that .modernisation is about technology, and that all such changes are good.

Question 3 (6 marks) 2005

Identify ONE social change and explain how some groups in a society have benefited

from this change while other groups have not.

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Notes from the Marking Centre

Many candidates described a social change and its impact on different groups in society. This was an acceptable response so long as candidates successfully dealt with a valid social change in a selected society. Many candidates described a social change and its impact on different groups in society. This was an acceptable response so long as candidates successfully dealt with a valid social change in a selected society. Weaker responses selected less valid examples. Better responses referred to a valid social change such as modernisation or westernisation or globalisation to analyse the negative and positive impact of this social change on different groups in a society selected, for example doi moi in Vietnam. The better responses were able to succinctly explain the complexity of the social change and its impact, both positive and negative, on different groups in society. Some responses focused too heavily on their social change theory without adequately considering the positive and negative impact of an identified change on various groups in a selected society. It was important to effectively address all aspects of the question and focus on ONE social change as well as account for how some groups have benefited while others have not from such change. Candidates are advised to refrain from giving a prepared response without ensuring that they are adequately addressing all parts of the question.


Question 3 (6 marks) 2006

Define industrialisation, and assess whether it has brought about progress in society. Consider both positive and negative impacts.

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Notes from the Marking Centre

This question proved to be quite challenging for some candidates who did not provide a concise and accurate definition of industrialisation and demonstrated a poor understanding of the social impacts of industrialisation. Better responses were able to clearly define the concept as a process of change from an agrarian to an industrial society and the resulting impacts on a range of aspects of society. These responses did not limit themselves to economic and environmental impacts but demonstrated a sound knowledge of all the aspects of a society that could be affected by industrialisation. These responses were able to make clear judgements on the impacts of industrialisation by assessing whether the resulting changes in a variety of aspects of society had brought about progress or not. Better responses addressed both positive and negative impacts and judiciously used focus country studies in making an assessment. Weaker responses confined the definition of industrialisation to the present increase in technology or focused too heavily on one impact. The assessment of progress was based on one or a limited number of factors, or simply stated positive and negative aspects of industrialisation without attempting to assess whether it had brought about progress in society.



Remember:-

  1. Answer the question…no prepared responses.

  2. Support your answer with lots of specific examples

  3. Refer to the concepts power/authority, gender and technology. Also consider globalisation and acculturation.

  4. If you are asked to answer “are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable” ensure that you break down the key concept in to its component parts as I have shown you.




This is me in Bondi last summer. I arranged a meeting with an ex student of mine who is now approaching 30! When I first taught her in 1992 she was a reluctant learner. She is now working in the film industry. What progress! At least my hair has changed for the better. Or has it?






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