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Social development is a process which results in the transformation of social structures in a manner which improves the capacity of the society to fulfill its aspirations. Society develops by consciousness and social consciousness develops by organization. The process that is subconscious in the society emerges as conscious knowledge in pioneering individuals. Development is a process, not a programme. Its power issues more from its subtle aspects than from material objects.
Not all social change constitutes development. It consists of four well-marked stages -- survival, growth, development and evolution, each of which contains the other three within it. The quantitative expansion of existing activities generates growth or horizontal expansion. Development implies a qualitative change in the way the society carries out its activities, such as through more progressive attitudes and behavior by the population, the adoption of more effective social organizations or more advanced technology which may have been developed elsewhere. The term evolution refers to the original formulation and adoption of qualitative and structural advances in the form of new social attitudes, values, behaviors, or organizations.
While the term is usually applied to changes that are beneficial to society, it may result in negative side-effects or consequences that undermine or eliminate existing ways of life that are considered positive.
 See also
- Community development
- Development theory
- Idea of Progress
- Sociocultural evolution
- Socioeconomic development
- Social development theory
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