Several social factors are potential barriers to change. They include vested interests, social class, ideological resistance, and organized opposition.

Vested Interests

Vested interests refer to personal stakes in maintaining or changing a social policy or other arrangement to enhance one’s wealth, power, prestige, or other attributes. Because many and perhaps all individuals and groups have vested interests, these parties may resist a particular new policy or other change if they fear they will lose power, prestige, or wealth. There are many different types of vested interests for which the status quo is profitable or preferable. For example, students attending state universities have a vested interest in tax-supported higher education; college administrators have a vested interest in obtaining endowments; and faculty have a vested interest in obtaining research money (Stein, 2004). Divorce lawyers have a vested interest that leads them to oppose efforts that may make it easier for spouses to divorce without the need for legal services. Physicians have a vested interest that leads some of them to oppose efforts to reduce their payments from Medicare or private insurance. Residents in a community often develop vested interests in their neighborhood. They often organize to resist zoning changes, interstate highways, the construction of correctional facilities, or the busing of their children. In fact, nearly everyone has some vested interests—from the rich with tax-exempt bonds to the poor with food stamps.

The acceptance of almost any change through law will harm the vested interests of some individuals or groups in society. To the degree that those whose interests are threatened consciously recognize this threat, they will oppose the change. To cite a distressing historical example, Soviet efforts in the early 1920s in central Asia to induce Muslim women to assert their independence from male domination was perceived by men as threatening to their interests. The men reacted by forming counterrevolutionary bands and murdering some of the women who obeyed the new laws (Massell, 1973).

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