Understanding Caste Political And Social Mobility In India History Essay

Published: 2020-07-07 21:41:06
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In footings of societal organisation, India is frequently regarded as unique for its longstanding caste system. However, academic work on the topic has long suffered due to a ill-conceived rendition of the relation between caste, category, individuality, and political relations. Louis Dumont ‘s seminal anthropological work, Homo Hierarchicus, states that caste is voluntary and inactive.[ 1 ]His frequently repeated decision is that Indian caste maps on a top-down, perpendicular hierarchy, where each caste member accepts their place on the societal ladder, and volitionally complies with the societal deductions of their tribal association.[ 2 ]His work went on to be deemed an important appraisal, yet recent ethnographic work by bookmans such as Dipankar Gupta and Vibha Pingle, has implied that his averments are based on sedate misinterpretations about the nature of societal and political mobility in India. In recent old ages, the survey of caste and its relation to development has undergone a displacement in focal point, and Dumont ‘s decisions have been deemed far excessively simplistic for a system that is full of complexnesss. What has been critically missing in many surveies of caste in India is insight into the manner democracy has changed the manner castes perceive and interact with one another. Presently, political and societal mobility are ends every bit shared by members of all castes, despite their traditional relation to constructs of personal pureness or pollution,[ 3 ]depending on the caste one is associated with. Contemporary research shows that there is fluidness to caste that had non antecedently existed, and traditional hierarchy has been replaced by a series of viing individualities that differ from part to part. As such, it can be concluded that since the debut of democracy in India, caste has been treated as a agency of political and societal organisation, and is no longer a concrete determiner position.
In the last one-fourth of the twentieth century, much of the discourse environing India ‘s caste system centered on the work of influential anthropologist Louis Dumont. In his seminal work, Homo Hierarchicus, Dumont records a favorable history of caste, handling it as an ideal theoretical account of societal building.[ 4 ]5Dumont ‘s rendition of caste ran counter to negative readings common amongst Western bookmans. Aware of the predominating contempt of his coevalss, Dumont uses the debut of the 1970 English interlingual rendition to province that the West ‘s straight-out dismissal of caste hierarchy is due to the ideological resistance it creates against the classless ideal.[ 6 ]While the West prides itself on advancing the impression of equality, Dumont argues, the ideal of equality, even if it is superior, is unreal, ”[ 7 ]and inequality is inevitable. ”[ 8 ]By enforcing a rigorous societal hierarchy, India ‘s caste system is so alone ; nevertheless, this is non because of societal stratification, but instead because it permits a holistic attack to society that is far more realistic than the idealism embraced in such constructs as that of the undertaking of the Enlightenment.[ 9 ]Every member maintains a necessary function in the societal order, and jointly contributes to the greater good of the state as a whole. In Dumont ‘s eyes, caste shows a committedness to societal values that the modern universe has lost.[ 10 ]Although Dumont claims to hold had no purpose of depicting the history of caste[ 11 ], a brief background in traditional caste constellation would be helpful in doing differentiations between past and present. To this terminal, it is fruitful to maintain Franz Boas ‘s decisions on ethnological method in head ; viz. , that there is no irrefutable informations in relation to the chronological order of events[ 12 ]; that an person ‘s activities are both determined by, and determiner of, the society in which they live[ 13 ]; and that cultural groups have a alone history that is curious to the interior workings of their societal group, but besides dependent upon the foreign influences to which it has come into contact with.[ 14 ]
Four wide castes, known as Varnas, were foremost outlined in the Hindu Bibles, and include: Brahmans ( the priests and bookmans ) ; Kshatriyas ( the Martial or royal caste ) ; Vaishyas ( connected to concern places ) ; and Shudras ( responsible for manual labor ) . Below the Shudras are the Dalits, once referred to as the Untouchables. Dalits were required to carry through the most slavish undertakings in society. In the traditional agricultural economic system, the landholders typically consisted of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. Shudras were the peasantry, and Dalits were laborers who worked the Fieldss for the landed category. Jatis, or sub-castes, are located within the Varna[ 15 ]construction, but offer much more specific attributes with respects to call and spiritual rite.[ 16 ]However, the familial differentiation between caste members goes deeper than the division of labor. The traditional theoretical account of caste maps on a perpendicular spectrum of pureness and pollution: Brahmin ‘s being the most pure, and the Dalits being the most contaminated. This spectrum reflected onto societal dealingss, where castes of different rank were expected non to blend with one another, with rigorous countenances imposed should these regulations be violated.[ 17 ]
In his paper Political Advancement: World or Illusion? ” political scientist Jean Blondel efforts to dissect the modern apprehension that societal advancement is equated with political advancement. Blondel ‘s article is pertinent to the treatment of caste because it compliments Dumont ‘s statement that a clear definition of what constitutes social and political advancement does non be. Blondel argues that mensurating the efficiency of a political system is a value judgement and since values are prioritized otherwise amongst people, it is impossible to find which sets of values will qualify a good society for all.[ 18 ]However, as a general statement, Blondel does reason that a better society is one in which decision-making and policy-making unfastened up broader picks to the members of the society. ”[ 19 ]Such a statement becomes debatable for Dumont ‘s positive reading of the caste system. When Dumont states that, for Hindu ‘s, nil alterations so far as values are concerned, ”[ 20 ]so he is asseverating that the hierarchy of caste remains inactive over clip, and even the lowest members on the societal and economic graduated table remain content with their batch, despite the huge degrees of disparity. First, political stagnancy would run counter to Blondel ‘s decision of a ‘better society ‘ but, more significantly, it would show Indians as staying outside of the modernizing procedure. With a turning economic system that is presently one of the largest in the universe, can political and economic power genuinely remain in the custodies of a little minority in malice of a democratic procedure? Can traditional values withstand a turning consciousness of inequality? Furthermore, as Dipankar Gupta provinces, it makes the questionable premise that Indians take part volitionally in their ain debasement. ”[ 21 ]
Before one can debate the current function caste dramas in India ‘s modern-day societal and political kingdom, it is of import to follow the outgrowth of the caste theoretical account that Dumont observed and wrote approximately. Whereas Dumont argues that caste hierarchy is an oppositional theoretical account to Western readings of democracy, repeating what has been said of Boas above, writer Nicholas B. Dirks claims that caste is the merchandise of an intermingling between Western colonialism and India ‘s traditional yesteryear. In his book Castes of Mind, Dirks suggests that caste became a individual term capable of showing, forming, and above all ‘systemizing ‘ India ‘s diverse signifiers of societal individuality, community, and organisation. ”[ 22 ]Dirks does non show an statement every bit simple as the British invented caste ; ” nevertheless, he does province that the Hindu ‘tradition ‘ upon which the modern caste construction is based on has a close tie to colonial history, proposing that the British exploited and simplified complex societal codifications as a agency of control and order.[ 23 ]Stuart Corbridge and John Harris argue that through their philosophy of divide and regulation, the British exploited the Hindu philosophy of reincarnation in order to solidify caste individualities.[ 24 ]Once these regulations were established, Indians were left with small pick but to conform and accommodate such imposts into their ain sovereignty. In other words, the Hindu tradition was produced exactly within the historical relationship between coloniser and colonized. ”[ 25 ]If one is to accept Dirks ‘ statement that the modern caste system is in portion a colonial bequest, how that bequest has hindered or helped development still remains to be explored.
Dumont ‘s statement on the inactive nature of the hierarchal caste system, and the false contentment of those within it, has been a accelerator for controversy amongst many bookmans. In his essay Caste and Politicss: Identity Over System, ” Dipankar Gupta argues that Dumont ‘s apprehension of caste marginalizes the competitory spirit that has ever existed within India ‘s hierarchal system. A cardinal component that has exacerbated caste competition was the constitution of an independent and democratic India, which under the eyes of the jurisprudence sees all castes as lawfully equal.[ 26 ]It is with the coming of democracy in India that one sees the disintegration of caste as a system and the outgrowth of caste as a political and societal individuality.[ 27 ]However, it should non be assumed that a alteration in power construction came instantly after Indian independency from the British in 1947. By 1962, 63 % of Congress Party members in the Legislative Assembly were from elect castes, while electoral places in Uttar Predesh, India ‘s largest state, was controlled chiefly by elites until 1977.[ 28 ]Yet, even during periods where the political kingdom mirrored traditional caste hierarchy, noteworthy alterations were happening that would greatly impact the political sphere refering India ‘s hereafter.
In her essay Caste ” Vibha Pingle states that three key alterations have caused a rapid transmutation to India ‘s hierarchal construction, where the very foundations of the caste system have been shaken. ”[ 29 ]The first is the modernisation of the Indian economic system. Pingle notes that through the procedure of economic development, occupation creative activity in fabrication, service, and bureaucratic sectors are being coveted and attained by members of all castes, non merely the upper three Varnas.[ 30 ]The traditional relationship between castes was regulated by what is called the jajmani system. The intent of the codification was to guarantee proper cooperation amongst different jatis. This was peculiarly necessary in an agribusiness economic system, where the production of goods, services, and harvests required a assortment of skill sets, and a high grade of manual labor.[ 31 ]Yet, the jajmani codification is tied purely to the rural economic system, and has no relevancy in the industrial economic system. This point ties into Pingle ‘s 2nd defined key alteration, that of urbanisation. Between the twelvemonth of independency and the early 1990s, India has seen its urban population addition from 12 % to over 25 % . Since a rural economic system is contributing to a top-down hierarchal system, urban migration has presented the chance for the lowest degrees of the caste construction to mobilise beyond their bound tableland. The 3rd lending factor to caste transmutation was the authorities ‘s execution of affirmatory action policies. Since 1947, the Indian authorities has catered to the lower castes through reserve policies ” that set aside a per centum of authorities occupations for Dalits, Shudras and tribal groups. A similar reserve policy exists in post-secondary establishments.[ 32 ]
Although these three mobilizing forces have played cardinal functions in weakening the traditional caste construction, it does non turn to the inquiry of caste and individuality. When members of lower caste are able to travel beyond economic limitations, do they go forth behind their cultural ties? Analyzing the kingdom of Indian political relations in greater deepness efficaciously shows the reply to this inquiry. As of the twelvemonth 2000, Dalits and tribal groups represented approximately 66 % of the population, with a entire rank of over 600 million people.[ 33 ]Since the late seventiess, India ‘s political system has seen a diminution in power of the elect castes, and a dramatic rise in the political clout of lower castes.[ 34 ]The amalgamate power of the upper elites caused widespread disenfranchisement amongst the lower castes. Coupled with turning instruction rates as a consequence of affirmatory action policies, an anti-discrimination outlook began to develop. As a consequence, political representation for groups as far down the hierarchy as the Dalits began to emerge.[ 35 ]However, what is peculiarly noteworthy is the phenomena that as groups sought to decrease the economic and power limitations that were associated with their caste they did non seek to disassociate caste from their individuality.
The nature of caste political relations has besides shown interesting behavioral forms. As with many instances of political mobilisation, an addition in clout can frequently ensue in the laden party following discriminatory patterns one time a move up the societal ladder has been accomplished. Yet, this has non been wholly the instance. Alternatively, the perpendicular pure/polluted spectrum is non mimicked by caste parties, but replaced by a system of horizontalization, ” whereby political confederations between caste parties are non entrenched, but normally formed and dissolved based on party desires.[ 36 ]This is non to propose that castes have taken it upon themselves to asseverate a Utopian system of equality. What it does propose, nevertheless, is that the caste system has moved beyond its traditional stiff hierarchy, and been replaced by a series of individualities all viing for their ain involvements.[ 37 ]
What can be concluded about modern-day India is that the societal limitations built-in to the traditional caste system have perceptibly decreased.[ 38 ]Economic development and urbanisation have easy eroded the adhering societal forces that maintained the stiff hierarchy entrenched by the British colonial presence, while affirmatory action has increased the chances for occupations and instruction amongst those traditionally deemed as inferior. These should wholly be treated as major developments, and appropriately work with Blondel ‘s definition of advancement. Possibly what is most interesting about the caste system in modern-day India is how communities have turned a debauched position marker into a agency of corporate political and societal individuality. It is beyond the range of this paper to province once and for all that caste is a positive colonial bequest, but how caste has altered over clip from hierarchal to inclusionary patterns is surely a testament to the Indian people ‘s historical ability to happen strength in Numberss.

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