Yogendra Singh’s Theory of Social Change


Khushal Suryawnshi

2nd  Year Student, Hidyatullah National Law University, Raipur (C.G).



In societies of all times there is change affecting every realm of life social, economic, cultural, technological, demographic, ecological and so on. Social scientists have underlined social change in terms of a change in relationships, organization, culture, institution, structure and functioning of the social system.



The study of social change in view of the nebulous nature of its theory is difficult task and it is more difficult in the case of society like India which has not only a fathomless historical depth and plurity of traditions but is also engulfed in a movement of nationalistic aspirations under which concepts change and modernization are loaded with ideological meanings. In this form change ceases to be viewed as a normal social process; it is transformed into an ideology that changes in itself desirable and must be sought for.1


Ideology and social change:

Before we continue with the speculation on cultural issues and social change, it is necessary to make a few remarks and to point out the subtleties that are included in the concept of culture. Three types (or subdivisions) can be distinguished as culture: a) popular culture refers to the spontaneous creation, with more or less complex forms, which is a part of human nature itself and always accompanies a person throughout his/her life all over the world. This cultural creation embodies multiple forms of expression throughout the entire planet and must flourish since it offers the basis of otherness and therefore a wealth of the forms of artistic expression, of the values and beliefs which humans construct for their life experiences; b) culture of the elite refers mainly to art, but also to the beliefs and values about life and about how humankind should be. Moreover, it has existed for thousands of years and continues to evolve.


This introduces non-scientific elements in the evaluation of social change in india, elements if which are found in many studies. Authors of these studies evaluate change in or non-change in India from their own moral or ideological view-points.


Another bias in the studies of social change in India results from too much concerns with the culture and values. Structural realities are often ignored and studies suffer from ‘value bias’, as it were. Most studies are focused on acculturation, diffusion of norms and values; change is indentified with spread of these values in regional and national spheres. The reason for this is mainly historical.



Some major concepts and approaches about social change in India can be grouped as:

A.     Sankritization:

Prof M.N Srinivas introduced the term sanskritization to Indian Sociology. The term refers to a process whereby people of lower castes collectively try to adopt upper caste practices and beliefs to acquire higher status.2


It indicates a process of cultural mobility that is taking place in the traditional social system of India.


According to Yogendra Singh the process of sanskritization is an endogenous source of social change.3 Mackim Marriot observes that sanskritic rites are often added on to non-sanskritic rites without replacing them. Harold Gould writes, often the motive force behind sanskritization is not of cultural imitation per se but an expression of challenge and revolt against the socioeconomic deprivations.4


B.     Westernization  or Modernization:

Westernization or Modernization is a composite concept. It is also an ideological concept. The models of modernization co-vary with the choice of ideologies. The composite nature of this concept renders it pervasive in the vocabulary of social sciences and evokes its kinship with concepts like development, growth, evolution and progress. Modernization in India Yogendra Singh has analyzed the varied and complex processes involved in the modernization in India, the forces released by it and their bearing on the stability, creativity and development in India as a dynamic nation and composite civilization.


The emphasis on historicity in preference to universality defining the context of modernization the pre-eminence of structural changes in society to render the adaptive process of modernization successful in the developing countries particularly India and the eclectic nature of cultural and ideological response of India to the challenges of modernization represent some of the unifying principles. 5


A.     Little and great traditions:

The basic idea in this approach is civilization and social organization of tradition. It is based on the evolutionary view that civilization and structure of tradition (which consist of both cultural and social structures) grows in two stages: first is through orthogenetic or indigenous evolution, and second through heterogenetic encounters or contacts with other cultures, or civilizations.


B.     Multiple  tradition:

The dominant feeling of some social scientists is that Indian society or culture could not be described fully either through the dichotomy of the Sanskritic or western traditions or that of the little and great traditions. Indian tradition is far too complex, and consists of hierarchy of traditions each of which needs to be analysed in order to unravel all the ramifications of change.



Change represents a broad canvas or contour for development, progress, transformation, growth, modernization and so on. Let us now examine briefly how these perspectives have been used to explain change. 6


Evolutionary Perspective:

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the concept of evolution assumed  a central place in explanations of all forms of human development in both the social and biological sciences for example, Morgan's three epochs of humanity i.e., savagery, barbarism and civilisation and Auguste Comte’s ideas of human intellect.


The Conflict Perspective:

The conflict perspective can best be understood in terms of tension and conflict between groups and individuals and here change is viewed as an intrinsic process in society.


The Structural-Functional Perspective:

To structural-functional theorists, society consists of interrelated parts that work together for the purpose of maintaining internal balance. It perceives roles as locating individuals in social positions, and providing them with articulated sets of expectations specifying the rights and duties of occupants.


Social-Psychological Perspective:

These theories posit that activities of people constitute the essence of change in society and modifications in the behaviour can facilitate change and play an essential role in social development.



1.      DIALECTIC:

In 50s-60s American structural-functionalism and British functionalism dominated social sciences in general and sociological researches in particular. However Desai continued to write on Indian society and state from the Marxist perspective. He finds that the dominant sociological approaches in India are basically non-Marxist and the Marxist approach has been rejected on the pretext of its being dogmatic, value-loaded and deterministic in nature. 7



Analysis of social change from a cognitive historical view-point has been postulated by Louis Dumont. He concieves of Indian society not in terms of relationship but as system of ideational or value patterns or cognitive structures. Sociology itself is considered a vocation, attempting to face each simple fact of social life in the complex texture of society’s collective representations.



As we evaluate the above approaches we find that each one of them has advantages of its own for the study of social change, but these advantages are limited as none of the provides a comprehensive enough perspective on social change in India. Sanskritization is an empirical reality, but it often takes a form which is more nativistic or de-Sanskritizing in orientation than being guided by the norms of the higher Sanskritic tradition. It may alsomanifest suppressed inter-class hostility. Harold Gould observes: " one of the primemotives behind Sanskritization is this factor of repressed hostility which manifests itself not in the form of rejecting the caste system but in the form of its victims trying to seize control of it and thereby expiate their frustrations on the same battlefield where they acquired them. Only then can then: be a sense of satisfaction in something achieved that is taniible, concrete, and relevant to past expericnce. This subsumption of many meanings by Sanskritization and Westernization is admitted by Srinivas "Sanskritization” subsumes several mutually antagonistic values, perhaps even as westernization does.


A further conceptual integration may be possible the way causal nature of change is explained in various approaches. The functional approach, for instance, explains changes through diffusion of new forms of behaviour and culture through exogenous sources; in contrast the dialectical theory puts greater emphasis upon intra-systematic or endogenous sources of social change and considers them to be imminent in the structure itself. An attempted integration of social change concepts necessitates that both of these causal sources of change be recognized for a unity and balance in the approach. Most studies of change in India explain causation through external contacts which lead to the diffusion of new roles and values. The contribution of intra-systematic elements to change is recognized by a few sociologists. The concepts formulated to explain social changes in India are most often culturological. They focus upon the various forms in which the traditional Indian culture responds to the numerous modern cultural innovations introduced in India. Changes at other levels of social phenomena, such as those in social structure and forms of group relationships are thus not adequately explainable through such conceptual categories. Moreover, cultural explanations always tend to be particularistic and, therefore, limited in matters of generalization about change. The reality of caste in India, for example, cannot be compared from one region to another because in cultural styles, rituals and with regard to interdictions on social intercourse caste in one region of India differs fundamentally from those in another.  Comparisons can, however, be made in terms of structural criteria, such as power or domination, occupational, Status and economic Status, etc. It is therefore, necessary that explanation of change is attempted both from structural as well as cultural view-points.8



The term social change is used to indicate the changes that take place in human interaction and interrelations. Society is a web of social relationships. These are understood in terms of social process and social interactions and social organization.



The society is made up of people of different tastes. Social change is the result of a number of factors. Changes occur due to the process of formation, reformation or decay at various levels. In most of the cases, social changes occur as an imitation of the upper classes by their respective lower classes. In this process, there is always an internal conflict, continuously going on to excel others, which gives birth to unrest at mental level and a blind pursuit of availing luxuries of life, which generally end up on the form of confrontation and corruption. These changes are either positive or negative in nature.



1.       Yogendra Singh, Modernization of Indian tradition, rawat publication, pg. 1

2.       Yogendra Singh, Modernization of Indian tradition, rawat publication, pg. 5

3.       www.sociologyguide.com/yogendrasingh_perspective_sanskritization.

4.       Ibid.

5.       Yogendra singh, cultural change in India, identity and globalization, rawat publication. pg . 115.

6.       www.egyonkosh.com/pdf/socialchange _approaches.

7.       Yogendra Singh, modernization of Indian tradition, rawat publication, pg. 19.

8.       Yogendra singh, Modernization of Indian tradition, rawat publication, pg. 25.




1.       Yogendra Singh, Modernization of Indian tradition, Rawat publications, New Delhi (1998).

2.       Yogendra Singh, Cultural change in India, identity and globalization, Rawat publications, New Delhi (2000).



Received on 18.11.2011

Revised on   26.11.2011

Accepted on 20.12.2011

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