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SUMMARY

  • 1. Law is both a dependent and an independent variable in social change. The relationship between law and change is still controversial: Some maintain that law is a reactor to social change; others argue that it increasingly is an initiator of change. These two views represent the extremes of a continuum dealing with the relationship between law and social change.
  • 2. More and more, law is being considered an instrument of social change. Today the role of law in change is of more than theoretical interest. In many areas of social life, such as education, race relations, housing, transportation, energy utilization, and the protection of the environment, the law has been relied on as an important instrument of change.
  • 3. As compared with other agents of change, the law has several distinct advantages. These advantages are attributed to the perception that the law in society is legitimate, more or less rational, authoritative, and backed by mechanisms of enforcement and sanctions.
  • 4. The law also has certain limitations in creating social change. It is not always able to resolve conflicting interests, and generally the powerful in society fare better than the less privileged. Moreover, law alone cannot deal effectively with social problems such as drug addiction and corruption in government.
  • 5. Further limitations flow from the inherent clumsiness of the instrument of the rule of law. One cannot easily foresee and take into account the situations to which a rule might apply. The law is further limited by the divergences in values and moral codes, the difficulty in enforcing some laws, the occasional lack of clarity of law, and the questionable diligence in enforcing certain laws.
  • 6. In addition to these limits on the law in social change, a variety of social, psychological, cultural, and economic forces may provide direct or indirect resistance to change efforts.
  • 7. These social factors include vested interests, social class, moral sentiments, and organized opposition. Meanwhile, psychological resistance to change may be triggered by habit, motivation, ignorance, selective perception, and the complexities inherent in moral development.

LAW AND SOCIAL CHANGE

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  • 8. Cultural barriers to change include fatalism, ethnocentrism, notions of incompatibility, and superstition. But economic factors are perhaps the most decisive. Cost and limited economic resources effectively set a limit to change.
 
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