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Changes in a small group may be important on the level of that group itself but negligible on the level of the larger society.
Similarly, the observation of social change depends on the time span studied; most short-term changes are negligible when examined in the long run.
Three may be distinguished as the most basic: (1) the idea of decline or degeneration, or, in religious terms, the fall from an original state of grace, (2) the idea of cyclic change, a pattern of subsequent and recurring phases of growth and decline, and (3) the idea of continuous progress.
These three ideas were already prominent in Greek and Roman antiquity and have characterized Western social thought since that time.
A distinction is sometimes made then between processes of change within the social structure, which serve in part to maintain the structure, and processes that modify the structure (societal change).
Other sociological models created analogies between social change and the West’s technological progress.Social change in the broadest sense is any change in social relations.Viewed this way, social change is an ever-present phenomenon in any society.The focus is not only on the purely divisive aspects of conflict, because conflict, while inevitable, also brings about changes that promote social integration.Taking yet another approach, structural-functional theory emphasizes the integrating forces in society that ultimately minimize instability.
The most encompassing theory of social evolution was developed by Herbert Spencer, who, unlike Comte, linked social evolution to biological evolution.