29 Ways to Cultural Change According to Raimon Panikkar

In his paper “Indic Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism” (K. Pathil (ed), Religious Pluralism, ISPCK, 1991, pp. 252-299), R. Panikkar points out 29 ways in which cultural change can be brought about. Below is a short outline of them:

Cultural change can be brought about by:

1. Growth. It comes from a natural exchange with the surrounding cultures. Growth comes from within, but it is nourished from the outside.
2. Development. Its meaning extends from a shared belief generating compulsory practices transforming “social relations and nature into commodities to be bought and sold on the market” (Gilbert Rist) to any type of social progress according generally to modern Western standards.
3. Evolution. It implies a change promoted by a more or less natural selection of cultural values. The fittest culture, that is well adapted, will survive.
4. Involution. It expresses the retrieval from more recent changes, in one particular society, because the latter changes are seen as a denial of the own cultural identity. It is a resistance to the extrinsic pressure of allegedly foreign cultural values.
5. Renovation. It is the attempt at renewal from within the culture itself.
6. Reconception. It is re-interpretation or creative hermeneutics by means of which the culture enlarges its own interpretation so as to be able to include other forms which until then seemed incompatible with orthodox ways.
7. Reform. It implies that something has gone wrong with the culture and stresses the need for reform. The impulse is generally endogenous, although a “prophet” is normally needed in order to trigger the reaction.
8. Innovation. It relates to the former with an emphasis on exogenous factors bringing about the renewal. While renovation looks back to the sources of a culture, innovation is more sensitive to the present.
9. Revivalism. It attempts to revive some aspects of a particular culture that are thought to have died through the passing of time.
10. Revolution. It entails an upside down of the cultural values produced generally by some small “party” of either endogenous or exogenous character.
11. Mutation. It implies a certain rupture in cultural patterns (brought about by revolutions or other causes like wars, catastrophes, etc).
12. Progress. It refers to a somewhat peaceful cultural change with a positive value.
13. Diffusion. It is used to express the inner vitality of a particular culture which by its own dynamics tends successfully to penetrate into neighbouring cultures.
14. Osmosis. Almost synonymous with the previous one. It is a physical name suggesting that the cultural influence proceeds in one particular direction due to the superior or more powerful character of the influencing culture.
15. Borrowing. Relates to the two previous ones and suggests an adoption of foreign cultural values because they are found “useful” to the borrowing culture. The impulse is from within and unrelated to external pressures.
16. Eclecticism. It generally denotes a choice (eklego, I select, choose) of different ideas or practices belonging to different systems, religions or cultures.
17. Syncretism. It implies a fusion similar to the previous one, but not by virtue of a conscious choice but as a result of historical inertia or a fruit of the spontaneity of the spirit.
18. Modernization. It particularly refers to the adoption of the present day “modern” values which, having originated in one particular culture, are presented or seen, with or without reason, as capable of bringing the host culture “up to date”.
19. Indigenization. It goes in almost the opposite direction to the previous one. It involves a culture’s getting rid of its customary garb and adopt the indigenous cultural forms of the culture in which it happens to live.
20. Adaptation. It is a kind of adjustment to the host culture for different motives like survival, influence, merger, etc.
21. Accommodation It connotes a certain acceptance of the foreign value for the sake of a peaceful co-existence or simply tranquility.
22. Adoption. It connotes a conscious introduction of the external idea, symbol or practice for the benefit of the host culture.
23. Translation. The transforming powers of cultural change brought about by literary translations.
24. Conversion. Cultural change brought about by religious conversion.
25. Transformation. It refers to the internal change of the basic structure of a culture.
26. Fecundation. It suggests an internal cultural change due to an external seed which has been introduced into the host culture and given birth to a new type of self-understanding and ultimately of culture.
27. Acculturation. Overtaken popularity after the failure of the word enculturation. In its most general sense it is used when a particular cultural group lives in constant contact with another one. Or it can also indicate a conscious effort at producing such a homogenization.
28. Inculturation. Used in preference to the above. Panikkar suggests to reserve this to indicate the conscious effort at adopting another culture.
29. Interculturation. The word was introduced in 1980 by Bishop Joseph Blomjous. The very word underlines a two-way traffic, and underscores partnership and mutuality.

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