Theory of Cultural Lag

Culture is a term that refers to a large and diverse set of mostly intangible aspects of social life. According to sociologists, culture consists of the values, beliefs, systems of language, communication, and practices that people share in common.

Culture is the speed and direction of social change .
It not only influences our social relationship ,it also influences technological inventions .

The complex combination of technology and social values produce conditions that encourage further technological change .
Cultural factors play a positive as well as negative role in bringing about technological change .
Cultural factors such as habits , customs , traditions , conversation , values etc. can resist technological changes or diversification of social values can contribute to technological inventions .

William F. Ogburn ,in his famous book , “Social change ” and his work Respect to Culture and Original Nature in 1922,
has formulated the hypothesis of ‘ cultural lag “.

Ogburn has divided culture into two parts namely :, material and non – material culture , and the difference between material culture and nonmaterial culture is known as cultural lag.
‘ Lag ‘, in its general term, denotes crippled movement .
Here culture means the faltering of one aspect of culture behind another .

In a more precise way , cultural lag occurs whenever there is an unequal rate of change between different parts of culture causing a gap between material and non-material culture.

By material culture Ogburn means civilization which includes tools , utensils , machines , dwelling , science ,means of transport and technology , in brief ,
the whole apparatus of life “

By non – material culture he means just ‘ culture’ in its ordinary sense which includes beliefs , practices , customs , traditions , morals , values and institutions like family , morality , religion , education n,etc.

According to Ogburn , referred cultural Lag as “imbalance in the rate and speed of change between these two parts of culture “

Cultural lag is a theory and explanation that identifies and explains social problems to predict future problems in society that are caused because of the difference between the two cultures during social changes.

According to Ogburn , changes are quick to take place in the material culture . These in turn stimulate changes in the non- material culture which are slower to respond giving rise a gap or a lag between both cultures

Cultural Lag theory resonates with the ideas of Technological Determinism which assumes that technology has independent effects on society at large.
Cultural Lag creates problems for a society in a multitude of ways .

When new technologies are considered,
For example , the development in the field of industry requires a corresponding change in the system of education . The failure of education to cater to the needs of modern industrial development leads to the cultural lag .

Ogburn’s classic example of cultural lag was the period of adaptation when automobiles became faster and more efficient. It took some time for society to start building infrastructure and development of new, more efficient, vehicles. This is because people are not comfortable with change and it takes them a little time to adapt.

According to sociologists William F. Ogburn, cultural lag is a common societal phenomenon due to the tendency of material culture to evolve and change rapidly and while non-material culture tends to resist change and remain fixed for a far longer period of time.

This happens due to the fact that ideals and values are much harder to change than physical things are.
Non-Material culture tends to lag behind material culture due to the fact that it is easier to create a physical object that people will use than it is to create a system of beliefs or ideals that people will use and follow.

Ogburn lists
and discusses six general reasons

1. Scarcity of invention in the adaptive culture.
2. Mechanical obstacles to adaptive changes
3. The heterogeneity of society-The need for change in the adaptive
culture may be felt by only one class, whereas the change must be made
by society as a whole.
4. The closeness of contact with material culture
5. The connection of the adaptive culture with other parts of culture.
6. Group valuations.

Non-material culture tends to be very different because people from different backgrounds and areas in the world were raised on different ideals and beliefs that help shape society and culture .

For example , India opposed technological innovations and refused to accept and use many of the technological products during the early stages of British rule .
On the other hand , America welcomed almost all kinds of technical inventions.

Technology is the creation of man . Men are always moved by ideas , thoughts , values, beliefs , etc. These are elements of culture .
These elements sometimes decide and influence the direction in which technology undergoes change

But due to the opposing nature of non material culture, adaptation of new technology becomes rather difficult.

Cultural Lag is a common societal phenomenon .
If the society is to maintain its equilibrium it has to seek ways and means of bridging this gap .

Hence, Ogburn concluded that , “the problem of adjustment in modern life is chiefly one of enabling the non +material aspects of culture to catch up , as it were ,with material aspects .”

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