Interplay between Law and Social Change

The history of mankind reveals that human wisdom has devised different methods and
means to meet the structural changes in the social system which take place with the
advancement of knowledge, culture and civilization. Law has always been considered as
one of the important instruments of affecting social change. In the modern era, there has
been widespread concern of law as a tool for bringing about homogeneity in the
heterogeneous population having socio-cultural diversities.

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Though there are several
devices to bring about a change and reformation in society, but reformation through law
is perhaps one of the most effective and safest methods to achieve this end.
At this point of time, it becomes essential to understand what is meant by social change.
It has been defined as any non-repetitive alteration in the established modes of behaviour
in society1

. Social change is held to occur only when social structure – patterns of social
relations, established social norms and social roles – changes2
. Thus, a change in the
established pattern of social relations between racial or ethnic groups in a society would
constitute social change, but a general increase or decrease in the amount of economic
wealth in a society would not.
In our quest to discover the effect of law on social change, we generally tend to ignore
the reverse, i.e., the effect of social change on law. That legal change reflects wider social
change often seems too obvious to require discussion. For example, technological change
is one important direct cause of legal change: the development of the internal combustion
engine, the motor car and later of air transport produced vast areas of new or reshaped
legal doctrine to regulate these new features of life with their attendant possibilities, risks
and dangers. In addition, law can adapt to change in ways that may not be readily
apparent on the face of legal doctrine. Legal concepts can remain in the same form while


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