The term cultural lag refers to the
notion that culture takes time to catch up with technological innovations, and
that social problems and conflicts are caused by this lag. Subsequently,
cultural lag does not only apply to this idea only, but also relates to theory
and explanation. It helps by identifying and explaining social problems and also
to predict future problems. As explained by James W. Woodward, when
the material conditions change, changes are occasioned in the adaptive culture,
but these changes in the adaptive culture do not synchronize exactly with
the change in the material culture, this delay is the culture lag. The term was
coined by sociologist William F. Ogburn in his 1922 work Social change with
respect to culture and original nature. His theory of cultural lag suggests that
a period of maladjustment occurs when the non-material culture is struggling
to adapt to new material conditions. This resonates with ideas of
technological determinism. That is it can presuppose that technology has
independent effects on society at large. However it does not necessarily assign
causality to technology. Rather cultural lag focuses examination on the period of
adjustment to new technologies. According to Ogburn, cultural lag is a
common societal phenomenon due to the tendency of material culture to evolve
and change rapidly and voluminously while non-material culture tends to
resist change and remain fixed for a far longer period of time. Due to the
opposing nature of these two aspects of culture, adaptation of new technology
becomes rather difficult. This distinction between material and
non-material culture is also a contribution of Ogburn’s 1922 work on
social change. Cultural lag creates problems for a
society in a multitude of ways. The issue of cultural lag tends to permeate
any discussion in which the implementation of some new technology is
a topic. For example, the advent of stem cell research has given rise to many
new, potentially beneficial medical technologies; however these new
technologies have also raised serious ethical questions about the use of stem
cells in medicine. Cultural lag is seen as a critical ethical issue because
failure to develop broad social consensus on appropriate applications of
modern technology may lead to breakdowns in social solidarity and the rise of
social conflict. See also
Progress trap External links
Cultural lag: conception and theory References
^ Woodard, James W. “Critical Notes on the Culture Lag Concept.” Social Forces
12.3: 388-398. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Langsdale Library, Baltimore, MD.
30 Sep. 2009. ^ a b Ogburn, William F. Social change:
With respect to cultural and original nature. Oxford England: Delta Books,
1966. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Langsdale Library, Baltimore, MD. 30 Sep. 2009.
^ Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology: A Brief Introduction 8th Edition. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print. ^ Ogburn, William F. “Cultural Lag as
Theory.” Sociology & Social Research 41.3: 167-174. SocINDEX with Full Text.
EBSCO. Langsdale Library, Baltimore, MD. 30 Sep. 2009.
^ Marshall, Kimball P. “Has Technology Introduced New Ethical Problems?.”
Journal of Business Ethics 19.1: 81-90. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO.
Langsdale Library, Baltimore, MD. 30 Sep. 2009.