Traditional social structures and cultural values are being undermined by the process of economic development. Mass communication media are also bringing about changes in the social structures of the less developed countries by disseminating new ideas and values on a universal scale. There is an increasing availability of books, newspapers and radio and television receivers in these countries, and the ensuing loss of customary occupations, combined with the breakdown of mutual aid and communal cooperation, tends to disrupt rural society, bringing about a general decline in village customs and tradition and thereby reducing the satisfaction obtained by the individual from life in rural areas.
This crumbling and shrinking of village life is of the utmost importance: village festivals and ceremonies gave value and colour to the lives of peasants and compensated for the lack of the numerous comforts possessed by city dwellers. They prevented the villager from feeling poor, strengthened his social ties and standing with his fellow villagers, filled his life, and gave him a fixed place in the world. With the weakening and falling-off of such customs, the village becomes poorer and emptier. The ties, support and contentment of individual life are removed and nothing of equal value put in their place.
Although social customs in the agrarian sector of many developing countries usually represent the result of lengthy adjustment to the environment and are often commendable from a cultural point of view, they often act as a brake on economic development. Even where there is social justification for traditional practices, as in the case of mutual aid, it may be outweighed by economic disadvantages. In some cases, peasants have been glad to renounce older forms of community cooperation, regarded as inefficient, expensive (in the outlay of food and drink required), and not dependable, however colourful and festive. Hierarchical social structures have had to open up to provide channels of social mobility. Wherever the traditional social system fails to do this, political and social pressures begin to mount. Wherever the social system is flexible and allows for individual mobility, more fluid class and status structures, based on education and achievement as well as lineage, have begun to replace the rigid traditional hierarchies of caste or colour.
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