What Are Types of Social Change?

According to cultural anthropologist David F. Aberle, the four types of social change include alternative, redemptive, reformative and revolutionary. These different movements are distinguished by how much change they advocate and whether they target individuals or the entirety of a society.

Alternative social change operates at the individual level and seeks to change minor aspects of behavior. Campaigns against texting and driving are an example of alternative social change in the sense that they advocate a small change in behavior and advocate this change on a fairly small scale.

Redemptive social change functions on the individual level but advocates a dramatic change within the individual. The spread of religion is an example of redemptive social change. Recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are also examples of redemptive social change as they advocate dramatic personal change for a specific portion of the population.

Reformative social change seeks to enact a specific change on a broad scale. The movement to obtain marriage rights for same-sex couples is an example of reformative social change. This movement seeks a very specific set of changes but desires these changes on a wide scale.

Revolutionary social change indicates dramatic change on a large scale. Revolutionary movements seek to fundamentally restructure society. Examples of revolutionary social change include the American Civil Rights Movement and the Russian Revolution of the early-20th century.