One invariant in the life of all living and non-livingthings is change. When it takes place in the lives of interacting human beings,it is termed social change. Social change occurs in all societies, slow,perhaps, in primitive and folk societies and rapid in complex modern societies.This topic-rural social change is the topic of discussion for this post. Theobjectives below specify what you are expected to have learnt after studyingthis post.

After studying this topic, you should be able to:

·explain vividly the term “socialchange”

·discuss the types of rural socialchange

·outline briefly the barriers tosocial change.

Social Change

Social change involves a change in the structure orfunction of societal forms. Social interaction, involving social processes insociety, takes place in accordance with existing norms and values inorganisations, institutions and other societal forms without alteration inthese societal forms and within their framework.

Social change, however, involves alteration in thestructure and functioning of these values, norms, social roles, habits,obligations of people, or change in lifestyle, life goals, chances, environment,or in the composition or organization of their society. When it is viewed withinthe rural setting, it is termed rural social change.

The fact is that changes take place in the rural,sub-urban and urban areas. Change could be in all attributes of a societal unitsuch as in number, quality and importance. It could be introduced from internalor external sources to the society or both. It could be planned, when it ismore effective and predictable, or unplanned. It could be by force, when it isquick with early gains but not enduring, or voluntary, when it is slow butenduring. It could be total, when it is comprehensive or segmental when itaffects a part of the system.

Types of Rural Social Change

Many types of social change are noticeable in thelives of the rural population of the developing countries such as Nigeria. Thevarious types of such changes are as follows:

Economic change:

Rural areas of the developing world had undergone somedegree of economic change particularly during the post-independence era.

In Nigeria for example, with the increasedexploitation of petroleum resources, salaries have increased by more than 1,000percent in government establishments over the past three decades.

A greater number of roads have been constructed tolink rural with urban areas. Some dual carriage express ways have beenconstructed in the economically active parts of the country to link goods fromthe rural areas and major cities to the sea for export.

It must be admitted that changes in the processing,storage and distribution of economic goods have been rather slow. Storage ofagricultural products such as maize, cowpeas and rice is still largely in bags,bottles, guards, bare floor and ceilings of buildings.

The practice of storing in cribs is fairlysatisfactory, while the use of silo for grain storage or refrigeration forpreserving fresh fruits, fish and vegetables is becoming a common feature.

Political change:

This is the change in the distribution and operationof social and political power. Democratically elected governments are nowcommon in the less developed countries of the world. For example in Nigeria, ademocratic government had been in place since 1999.

Although when elections are held, there is constantaccusation of rigging by the competing political parties. The law enforcementagencies are frequently accused of supporting one political party or the other.The people therefore place little confidence in the electoral process of choosingpolitical leaders, yet they have frequently failed to come up with a moreacceptable formula. Changes in the political organization through change inpersonnel running the political system could be advantageous if enough time isgiven each good government to fulfil its promises. Political changehas the following advantages:

  1. A governmentwhich is not responsive to the aspirations of the people can be changed
    1. Politicians whohave outlived the peak of their effectiveness can be changed
    1. A tyrannical governmentcan be changed
    1. People withbetter qualifications and greater enthusiasm to serve can be given the chanceto serve, and
    1. Political powercan be distributed among the various social groups in a country. The impact ofpolitical change is therefore witnessed in both rural and urban sectors of a country.

Technological change:

This is the continuous process of change within thetechnical materials and physical practices and objects in a society. The earlyman started by making use of stones to produce fire and to hunt animals.

Today technology change has resulted in using matchesto prepare fire and guns to hunt animals. Perhaps the most striking technologicalchange in the rural areas has been in the area of farming.

The changes have taken place in the physical,biological and cultural dimensions of agriculture.

Within the physical sphere, the early man used sharpsticks to dig the ground for utilization. Technological change in many less developedcountries have resulted in the use of hoes and cutlasses for cultivation. Theuse of tractor and its attachments such as trailers for haulage of farm produceand inputs, ploughs, harrows and ridges, is more popular in the developed thanless developed countries of the world due to the following reasons:

  1. Lack of spareparts to repair broken down machines
  2. Inadequatenumber of mechanics to repair the broken down vehicles
  3. Inadequatenumber of operators to handle the machines
  4. Inadequateobservance of maintenance schedules
  5. Pooradaptability of tools to soil types.
  6. The costs ofthe machines are too high for the small scale farmers to afford. However largegovernment company or private farms have used tractors and their attachments totheir benefits over the years.

In the biological sphere of technological socialchange, improved varieties of crops and breeds of livestock have beenintroduced to farmers. The Ife Brown cowpeas which is upright with bunches ofpods and more erect growth allow easier harvesting and more convenient culturaloperations such as weeding than the spreading variety which it replaced.

In the chemical sphere, technological social changeincludes introduction of fertilizers to enrich poor soils and consequently cropyield, introduction of pest and disease control chemicals and others.

Technology change has taken place in other sectors ofrural life apart from agriculture. Use of vehicles has largely replaced trekkingfrom villages to the town or market. Widespread use of radio providesentertainment and current affairs programme.

Kerosine stoves have replaced firewood for providingcooking fire in some homes. Corrugated iron sheets roofing has replaced thatchedroofs. Technological change therefore takes place in all parts of the ruralcommunity, namely the farm, home and community.

Cultural change:

Culture consists of material and non-material aspects.Cultural change is therefore alterations in the nonmaterial and artifacts ofthe society. The material aspect of cultural changes is mainly technical.Examples are use of aluminium cooking pots instead of clay pots, use of metaleating plates and utensils instead of clay plates and wooden utensils etc.

The change in non-material aspects of culture are alsonumerous.

If the institution of the rural family is consideredas social system in terms of its elements processes, the cultural changes whichhad taken place can be elucidated with some examples.

The objective of a typical rural family, in many partsof Nigeria particularly in the South, has shifted from marrying for their childrenand settling them in farming to assisting them to acquire formal education, orat least undergo technical apprenticeship training and then settle to profitableemployment. The norm of not calling elders by name still persists as areflection of the value of respect for age which is universally resistant tochange etc.

Behavioural change:

This includes favourable change in the knowledge,skill and attitude of people as a result of their exposures to educationalexperiences. Residents of rural areas are exposed to information which had ledto acquisition of better knowledge, skill and attitude in the economic andsocial spheres.

Agriculture is the major occupation of rural people.

Improvements in knowledge of crop and livestock pestand disease control measures, higher yielding crop varieties, better spacing ofcrops, weeding, cultivation, harvesting, processing, storage and marketingoperations had taken place. The skill to practice such knowledge is also taughtlargely by agricultural extension workers through the method demonstrationtechnique.

In Nigeria educational change had resulted fromincrease in number of schools in the rural areas, and change in the system of educationto 6-3-3-4.

Changes in the use of leisure throughrecreation:

One social sector which had witnessed a noticeablesocial change in rural areas of Nigeria had been in the use of leisure throughthe recreational sector. In many parts of the country, particularly in theurban areas, parks, flower gardens, swimming pools and zoological gardens foranimals have been established as holiday resort for the citizens. Some gamesreserves have been established in rural areas. However, rural entertainmentswhich made the village life enjoyable such as hide and seek game during thefull moon, competitive wrestling, routine and competitive swimming, some villageband sets have virtually disappeared. These recreational opportunities shouldbe modernized to contribute to the quality of rural life, rather than allowthem to die.


  1. What is socialchange?
  2. List thevarious types of rural change

Barriers to Rural Social Change

The main barriers to rural change are mainly cultural,social and psychological.

1. Cultural Barriers to change:

The values and attitudes of a culture – as embodied inits tradition – determine how receptive it is to change. Some cultures viewchange with scepticism; others with excitement. Conservative forces within therural community can be identified with the latter. Some rural communities arefatalistic in their approach to nature and the social environment; other rural communitiesmay have a tradition of striving to conquer nature and the social environment.Fatalistic attitudes are sometimes intimately linked with a people’s religious beliefs.

Some cultures may reject innovations because of theirbelief in their relative cultural superiority (cultural ethnocentricity).

Science and technology – the principles of which arein any case universal – can be compared across cultures. It is however difficultto cross-culturally compare social forms, values, institutions, etc.

In many rural communities, new programmes have failedbecause they did not synchronise with accepted and well defined roles in society.Sometimes innovation programmes are grounded because relative values are notsufficiently taken into account. In the case of new varieties of maize inWestern Nigeria and New Mexico the quality factor turned out to be veryimportant. In the trade–off between quality and quantity of maize, strong preferenceswas revealed for taste at the expense of quantity from increased yields of thenew variety.

Another cultural barrier to change occurs when demandsof innovations are inconsistent with established cultural traits and values. Insome Buddhist countries for instance, the religious sanction against the takingof life in any form interferes seriously with pest control programmes that relyon the use of insecticides.

Sometimes such incompatibilities can be ingeniouslyrationalized so that the innovations can win acceptance.

Social Barriers to Change:

There are four main factors here. First, we mustrecognize the primacy of some key social units in many cultures: the family,the kinship, the friendship group, the old school-tie group, etc. Within thesegroups, there are mutual obligations and reciprocal relationships. The relateddemands of group loyalties are frequently inconsistent with the demand of industrializationand the progressive individualization of values that usually accompanies it.One such area is the potential conflict between private initiative or rewardand social obligations: higher income earning opportunities may be rejected becausemembers of one’s social group feel entitled to a share of the incrementalincome.

Second, the rural community may be traditionally splitinto factions. Attitudes to genuinely useful innovations come to be defined interms of the roles of leaders and members of the factions in the promotion ofthe package. General adoption by most of a given rural community is impeded byfactional divisions within the community.

The unwary extension agent in an attempt to develophospitality gets entangled in the factional politics and if he is not adeptenough he might have the innovation programme grounded from the start.Sometimes such factions are along economic lines especially when there are vestedinterests.

Distributors and merchants may oppose the introductionof consumer’s cooperatives while money lenders may oppose low-interest ratecredit programmes while herbalist may oppose modern health-care programmes.

The third problem has to do with locating the centresof authority within the rural community as these relate to decision making as towhether or not to adopt a particular innovation package.

The fourth problem arises from the presence of rigidsocial classes, a problem that is particularly serious in India and other SouthEast Asian countries. The rigid class differentiation (e.g. caste system)inhibits the free flow of ideas across all strata of society, more so where thedistribution of political power is also along class lines. Such rigidities alsoexist within the bureaucracies of many Ministry of Agriculture and Extension assubordinates are really not encouraged to criticize their superiors: thisseriously obstruct the feedback mechanism of the communication network as fieldproblems do not adequately get relayed to superiors and superior consequentlypossess incomplete information about the actual field situation.

Psychological Barriers to Change:

There are three main problems here. First is theproblem of differential interpretation and/or perception of an innovation. Aninnovation may be viewed by the rural community in a completely different lightfrom that viewed by the extension agent.

The second main psychological problem has to do with communicationdifficulties. This is particularly serious in the multi-ethnic societies ofAfrica. In most of these countries, extension ministries promote most of thenew Agricultural programmes. Where extension personnel do not speak the local languageproperly, effective communication between agents of change and recipients ofchange breaks down.

The third and last main problem in this area has to dowith learning problem themselves. Under what conditions will rural peoplesuccessfully learn to adopt change? First, the learner must have no resourceconstraints to learning. Second, there must be an opportunity for the learnerto experiment initially without any undue financial commitment. Third, theagent of change – the teacher must be continuously physically presentespecially during the “learning process”. If it is a new agricultural programmesuch as the promotion of fertilizer use, then the Field Overseers,

Agricultural Assistants and other extension men mustbe continuously present during the planting season to advise farmers onapplication rates, etc.


  1. Whatis cultural ethnocentricity?
  2. List the barriers to ruralchange.


This post has discussed the types and barriers torural social change. The various types of social change described earlier on,namely economic, political, technological, cultural, behavioural and use ofleisure changes are closely inter-related. Some operate as causes, some operateas consequences of others. Although the impact of one type of change may belargely felt by a society at a time, more than one type of social change takeplace at any given period in the life of a society.


The main points in this unit are as follows:

  • Social changeinvolves a change in the structure or function of societal forms
  • The types ofrural social change include: economic, political, technological, cultural,behavioural and use of leisure changes
  • The mainbarriers to rural change are as follows: cultural, social and psychological.


  1. Discussthe various types of rural social change
  2. Write explanatory noteson the barriers to change


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Newcomb, T.M. Turner R.H. and Converse P.E. (1965). Social

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Olayide, S.O., Ogunfowora, O., Essang, S.M. andIdachaba, F.S.

Elements of Rural Economics. University of IbadanPress,

Ibadan, Nigeria, 279-296pp.

Rogers, E.M. (1960). Social change in Rural Society. A textbook in

rural sociology. AppletonCentury-Crofts Inc., New York, 401-422pp.