THEORIES OF SOCIAL CHANGE
Dozens of writers-social scientists, theologians, even novelists-have advanced grand theories of social change. A "grand theory" is a broad, sweeping theory covering some important phenomena over all times and places. We shall outline a few of the more important ones. (Each of the scholars listed was a prolific writer, from. whose extensive' scholarly writings only a tiny fraction is summarized.)
All evolutionary theories assume that there is a consistent direction of social change carrying all societies through a similar sequence of stages from the original to the final stage of development. Also, evolutionary theories imply that when the final stage is reached, evolutionary change will end. August Comte (1798-1857), a French scholar sometimes called the founder of sociology, saw societies pa~sing through three stages of growth: (1) the theological stage, guided by supernatural wisdom; (2) the metaphysical stage, a transitional stage in which supernatural beliefs are replaced by abstract principles as cultural guidelines, and (3) the positive, or scientific, stage, in which society is guided by evidence-based scientific laws. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was an English scholar who wrote the first book entitled Principles of Sociology (18%). Like most scholars of his day, he was excited by Darwin's theories of organic evolution. He saw a parallel social evolution, with societies moving through a series of stages from homogeneous and simple tribal groups to complex modern societies. He applied Darwin's "survival of the fittest" to human societies, where he felt
that the struggle for survival rewarded the talented and energetic and" eliminated the lazy and unfit. This view came to be called ."social Darwinism," and was eagerly embraced by the affluent.