Social change is of great interest for sociologist. Please address the following issues:
- Functionalist view of change v. the Conflict view of change
- Should and has the law been an instrument of social change?
i. Can you legislate change?
ii. Can change be legitimate without a change in law?
These two impulses coincide -- survival, a very abstract term in modern society, often depends on winning a "conflict" of two or more social impulses. Take, for example, the clothing industry. When making clothes became an overseas activity, national brands suffered because of competing low salaries in countries where unions and government-enforced safety rules do not exist. The very invention of the cargo container, a product of the military advances of the Vietnam war, put our companies' economies in jeopardy. So much of your confusion comes from the artificial division you have been articulating, in my view. Resources, while usually referring to raw materials, energy sources, and such physical materials, in modern societies refers as well to human resources -- thus the change in name from Personnel Office to Human Resource Office.
Strictly speaking “legislative change” and “change in the law” are essentially the same thing. But a sociologist’s area of expertise is not in changing society, as in measuring it, assessing it, observing it, categorizing it, etc. – in other words, looking at what society is, not conjuring up some utopian or dystopian society. A sociologist looks at the way that “human nature” acts in groups – in “societies” – and compares and contrasts those that exist. Do laws affect overt human behavior – of course, because built into the unconscious or conscious decision-making process of any human being is the logical cause/effect relationship. That is what makes crimes committed under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances so “unexplainable” to the reasonable mind. We might look at the term “change” and ask ourselves if we are referring to a specific sociological act or to more permanent “sea change” in the society under analysis. For example, could any law or other form of action “change” society’s belief in a god, or in an afterlife of any kind? Yes, we may prosecute or not prosecute some social act (marijuana use, for example, is undergoing changes in “enforcement”) but the sociological desire to remove oneself from the hard reality of everyday existence – that can’t be changed by any legislation. Sociology, it must be remembered, is a “soft science,” subject to some, but not all, of the scientific rigors of the deductive and inductive reasoning of Science. As far as the functionalist view vs. the conflict view, neither truly submits to the "raison d'etre" of sociological studies, because to separate out the two primary "agencies of change" (to use a rhetorician's vocabulary) is to reduce sociology to a pedestrian layman's hobby.
Your response was very cogent and concise, but I don't understand what you mean by the last sentence on the functionalist view vs. the conflict view. I was just wondering how each perspective (functionalist and conflict view) interpreted social change, or rather; what brings about social change and why. For example, the functionalist perspective contends that society and change are shaped by necessities of survival, whereas the conflict perspective assumes that societal changes are shaped by conflict among groups and classes within society over control of valued and scarce resources.