There are a few major players when it comes to cultural change. The most impactful catalysts of change come from interaction with other cultures. Indeed, societies that remain isolated tend to experience very few changes. However, cross-cultural interactions almost always lead to cultures adopting elements from each other. For example,...
There are a few major players when it comes to cultural change. The most impactful catalysts of change come from interaction with other cultures. Indeed, societies that remain isolated tend to experience very few changes. However, cross-cultural interactions almost always lead to cultures adopting elements from each other. For example, people who live near international borders are more likely to speak multiple languages and share cultural practices with their neighbors across the border. Similar cultural exchanges are found in port cities and in populations with large numbers of immigrants.
This brings us to another cause of cultural change: migration has a large impact on the cultural practices of a society. If a people are uprooted and move elsewhere, not only might they adopt some of the cultural practices of their new surroundings, they will also likely adapt their own to suit their new climate, economy, and circumstances. For instance, during the California Gold Rush in the mid-nineteenth century, many immigrants from China settled in California. Unlike in America, there were no cultural proscriptions in China against men doing the laundry. Many Chinese immigrants recognized this as an economic opportunity for them. Consequently, Chinese laundry services became a large part of the Chinese-American cultural landscape and a major source of income for these immigrants and their families.
Invention and technological advances can also lead to cultural change. Suburban America, for example, is the result of the invention of the automobile and light-rail around the turn of the last century. These inventions allowed people who work in cities to live outside of them and develop a suburban culture that defines much of the country today.
Economic changes can also lead to cultural changes. As a society becomes wealthier, its people tend to change their habits to follow suit. They might buy more consumer goods and change their living situations to reflect this new wealth. Likewise, a reverse in financial fortunes might lead to cultural adaptations that permit people to get by on less wealth. For instance, we've seen that more young adults are living with their parents for much longer than they did before the economic recession that occurred during the previous decade.