The ancient Indian thinkers tried to discuss the problem of persistence and change. Ancient Indians nearly 3,000 years ago, were aware of the general problem of permanence versus change. But the general belief has been that the social system is something god- given and that it was the duty of political authority to pressure and enforce the sanatana varnashrama dharma, the permanent unchangeable social structure based on 4varnas and 4 ashramas.
It is obvious that one cannot conceive of social structure or a social system unless one assumes that social life has continuity. Even when one assumes that all societies are constantly undergoing change, it is important to recognise that what changes the social structure. No society is persistent without change, nor changing without being persistent. Cohen, while discussing the problem of partial change and total change in social structure, points out that when the whole system changes, there is no way of identifying it as the same system. It is dear that even when there is ‘total change as in a revolution, some things persists, some thing has not changed, so that it is possible to say that a change has taken place in a given social system, There are two types of social inquiry.
The two types of social inquiry are synchronic and diachronic. The former is concerned with static or simultaneous study of an array of facts in a social system, while the latter is the study of the phases separated in time, study of a successive changes in a society. The subject matter of social anthropology consists of regular, repetitive and contextual social behaviour. It is obvious that such regularity in behaviour is only visible during our a period of time. On this point of view, the synchronic approach limits itself to the study of simultaneous as well as continuous states of affairs in a society within a short period of time. By contrast, the diachronic approach is concerned with broadly separated time phases in a society. It is this approach which helps the study of social change, namely the change in social structure.
Those who are interested in the problems of social stability and who consider that the main task of social anthropology is to explain social stability, adopt the synchronic approach. They look upon social situation as though they were static and endlessly repetitive, they study the problem of social structure as it exists in a given point of time and the social forces which are condusive through the maintenance of the system. They show that human actions, social groups, rules of conduct, norms and values are all interrelated. Cultural and social change are looked upon as separate fields of inquiry involving separate methods of study and separate models.
Nadel and others say that in describing social phenomena we can choose whether to consider some roughly contemporaneous age stretching back in time in the latter case we might well be describing social process and development as part of social change. But in explaining social phenomena we have only one method at our disposal, namely that of examining their interdependence; and this ,in turn, is visible most clearly when change sets in i.e., when some variable in one phenomenon can be seen to promote concomitant variations in others. It is obvious that diachronic approach is more appropriate in order to study social change from this point of view.
There is the problem of sponsored or planned social change in all contemporary States and particularly in the States which have emerged in recent decades, India has introduced five year plans to execute planned social change, similarly many development scheme. With political independence, the people in new States are eager to have higher standards of living and greater access to forces of modernization.