Chapter five

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Chapter five

  1. 1. CHAPTER 5 INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTSAs you saw in the opening chapter of play in India. In this chapter, you areyour first book, Introducing Sociology, going to be introduced to some of thethe discipline is a relatively young one founding figures of Indian sociology.even in the European context, having These scholars have helped to shapebeen established only about a century the discipline and adapt it to ourago. In India, interest in sociological historical and social context.ways of thinking is a little more than a The specificity of the Indian contextcentury old, but formal university raised many questions. First of all, ifteaching of sociology only began in western sociology emerged as an1919 at the University of Bombay. In attempt to make sense of modernity,the 1920s, two other universities — what would its role be in a country likethose at Calcutta and Lucknow — also India? India, too, was of coursebegan programmes of teaching and experiencing the changes broughtresearch in sociology and anthropology. about by modernity but with anToday, every major university has a important difference — it was a colony.department of sociology, social The first experience of modernity inanthropology or anthropology, and India was closely intertwined with theoften more than one of these disciplines experience of colonial subjugation.is represented. Secondly, if social anthropology in the Now-a-days sociology tends to be west arose out of the curiosity felt bytaken for granted in India, like most European society about primitiveestablished things. But this was not cultures, what role could it have inalways so. In the early days, it was India, which was an ancient andnot clear at all what an Indian sociology advanced civilisation, but which alsowould look like, and indeed, whether had ‘primitive’ societies within it?India really needed something like Finally, what useful role could sociologysociology. In the first quarter of the have in a sovereign, independent India,20th century, those who became a nation about to begin its adventureinterested in the discipline had to with planned development anddecide for themselves what role it could democracy?
  2. 2. 84 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY The pioneers of Indian sociology academician. He was invited to lecturenot only had to find their own answers at the University of Madras, and wasto questions like these, they also had appointed as Reader at the Universityto for mulate new questions for of Calcutta, where he helped set up thethemselves. It was only through the first post-graduate anthropologyexperience of ‘doing’ sociology in an department in India. He remained atIndian context that the questions took the University of Calcutta from 1917shape — they were not available to 1932. Though he had no formal‘readymade’. As is often the case, in qualifications in anthropology, he wasthe beginning Indians became elected President of the Ethnologysociologists and anthropologists section of the Indian Science Congress.mostly by accident. For example, one He was awarded an honorary doctorateof the earliest and best known by a German university during hispioneers of social anthropology in lecture tour of European universities.India, L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer He was also conferred the titles of Rao(1861-1937), began his career as a Bahadur and Dewan Bahadur byclerk, moved on to become a school Cochin state.teacher and later a college teacher in The lawyer Sarat Chandra RoyCochin state in present day Kerala. In (1871-1942) was another ‘accidental1902, he was asked by the Dewan of anthropologist’ and pioneer of theCochin to assist with an ethnographic discipline in India. Before taking hissurvey of the state. The British law degree in Calcutta’s Ripon College,government wanted similar surveys Roy had done graduate and post-done in all the princely states as well graduate degrees in English. Soon afteras the presidency areas directly under he had begun practising law, heits control. Ananthakrishna Iyer did decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to takethis work on a purely voluntary basis, up a job as an English teacher at aworking as a college teacher in the Christian missionary school. ThisMaharajah’s College at Ernakulam decision was to change his life, for heduring the week, and functioning as remained in Ranchi for the next forty-the unpaid Superintendent of four years and became the leadingEthnography in the weekends. His authority on the culture and society ofwork was much appreciated by British the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpuranthropologists and administrators of region (present day Jharkhand). Roy’sthe time, and later he was also invited interest in anthropological mattersto help with a similar ethnographic began when he gave up his school jobsurvey in Mysore state. and began practising law at the Ranchi Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably courts, eventually being appointed asthe first self-taught anthropologist to official interpreter in the court.receive national and international Roy became deeply interested inrecognition as a scholar and an tribal society as a byproduct of his
  3. 3. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 85professional need to interpret tribal been born in the second decade of thecustoms and laws to the court. He 20th century. Although they were alltravelled extensively among tribal deeply influenced by western traditionscommunities and did intensive of sociology, they were also able to offerfieldwork among them. All of this was some initial answers to the questiondone on an ‘amateur’ basis, but Roy’s that the pioneers could only begin todiligence and keen eye for detail ask : what shape should a specificallyresulted in valuable monographs and Indian sociology take?research articles. During his entire G.S. Ghurye can be considered thecareer, Roy published more than one founder of institutionalised sociologyhundred articles in leading Indian and in India. He headed India’s very firstBritish academic journals in addition post-graduate teaching department ofto his famous monographs on the Sociology at Bombay University forOraon, the Mundas and the Kharias. thirty-five years. He guided a largeRoy soon became very well known number of research scholars, many ofamongst anthropologists in India and whom went on to occupy prominentBritain and was recognised as an positions in the discipline. He alsoauthority on Chhotanagpur. He founded the Indian Sociologicalfounded the journal Man in India in Society as well as its jour nal1922, the earliest journal of its kind in Sociological Bulletin. His academicIndia that is still published. writings were not only prolific, but very Both Ananthakrishna Iyer and wide-ranging in the subjects theySarat Chandra Roy were true pioneers. covered. At a time when financial andIn the early 1900s, they began institutional support for universitypractising a discipline that did not yet research was very limited, Ghuryeexist in India, and which had no managed to nurture sociology as aninstitutions to promote it. Both Iyer increasingly Indian discipline. Ghurye’sand Roy were born, lived and died in Bombay University department was thean India that was ruled by the British. first to successfully implement two ofThe four Indian sociologists you are the features which were latergoing to be introduced in this chapter enthusiastically endorsed by hiswere born one generation later than successors in the discipline. TheseIyer and Roy. They came of age in the were the active combining of teachingcolonial era, but their careers and research within the samecontinued into the era of independence, institution, and the merger of socialand they helped to shape the first anthropology and sociology into aformal institutions that established composite discipline.Indian sociology. G.S. Ghurye and D.P. Best known, perhaps, for hisMukerji were born in the 1890s while writings on caste and race, Ghurye alsoA.R. Desai and M.N. Srinivas were wrote on a broad range of other themesabout fifteen years younger, having including tribes; kinship, family and
  4. 4. 86 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1893-1983) G. S. Ghurye was born on 12 December 1893 in Malvan, a town in the Konkan coastal region of western India. His family owned a trading business which had once been prosperous, but was in decline. 1913: Joined Elphinstone College in Bombay with Sanskrit Honours for the B.A. degree which he completed in 1916. Received the M.A. degree in Sanskrit and English from the same college in 1918. 1919: Selected for a scholarship by the University of Bombay for training abroad in sociology. Initially went to the London School of Economics to study with L.T. Hobhouse, a prominent sociologist of the time. Later went to Cambridge to study with W.H.R. Rivers, and was deeply influenced by his diffusionist perspective. 1923: Ph.D. submitted under A.C. Haddon after River’s sudden death in 1922. Returned to Bombay in May. Caste and Race in India, the manuscript based on the doctoral dissertation, was accepted for publication in a major book series at Cambridge. 1924: After brief stay in Calcutta, was appointed Reader and Head of the Department of Sociology at Bombay University in June. He remained as Head of the Department at Bombay University for the next 35 years. 1936: Ph.D. Programme was launched at the Bombay Department; the first Ph.D. in Sociology at an Indian university was awarded to G.R. Pradhan under Ghurye’s supervision. The M.A. course was revised and made a full-fledged 8-course programme in 1945. 1951: Ghurye established the Indian Sociological Society and became its founding President. The journal of the Indian Sociological Society, Sociological Bulletin was launched in 1952. 1959: Ghurye retired from the University, but continued to be active in academic life, particularly in terms of publication — 17 of his 30 books were written after retirement. G.S. Ghurye died in 1983, at the age of 90.marriage; culture, civilisation and the on Hindu religion and thought,historic role of cities; religion; and the nationalism, and the cultural aspectssociology of conflict and integration. of Hindu identity.Among the intellectual and contextual One of the major themes thatconcerns which influenced Ghurye, the Ghurye worked on was that of ‘tribal’most prominent are perhaps or ‘aboriginal’ cultures. In fact, it wasdiffusionism, Orientalist scholarship his writings on this subject, and
  5. 5. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 87specially his debate with Verrier Elwin of tribal cultures to show that they hadwhich first made him known outside been involved in constant interactionssociology and the academic world. In with Hinduism over a long period.the 1930s and 1940s there was much They were thus simply further behinddebate on the place of tribal societies in the same process of assimilationwithin India and how the state should that all Indian communities had gonerespond to them. Many British through. This particular argument —administrator-anthropologists were namely, that Indian tribals werespecially interested in the tribes of hardly ever isolated primitiveIndia and believed them to be primitive communities of the type that waspeoples with a distinctive culture far written about in the classicalfrom mainstream Hinduism. They also anthropological texts — was not reallybelieved that the innocent and simple disputed. The differences were in howtribals would suffer exploitation and the impact of mainstream culture wascultural degradation through contact evaluated. The ‘protectionists’ believedwith Hindu culture and society. For that assimilation would result in thethis reason, they felt that the state severe exploitation and culturalhad a duty to protect the tribes and extinction of the tribals. Ghurye andto help them sustain their way of life the nationalists, on the other hand,and culture, which were facing argued that these ill-effects were notconstant pressure to assimilate with specific to tribal cultures, but weremainstream Hindu culture. However, common to all the backward andnationalist Indians were equally downtrodden sections of Indianpassionate about their belief in the society. These were the inevitableunity of India and the need for difficulties on the road to development.moder nising Indian society andculture. They believed that attempts Activity 1to preserve tribal culture wer emisguided and resulted in maintaining Today we still seem to be involved intribals in a backward state as similar debates. Discuss the different sides to the question from a‘museums’ of primitive culture. As contemporary perspective. Forwith many features of Hinduism itself example, many tribal movementswhich they felt to be backward and in assert their distinctive cultural andneed of reform, they felt that tribes, political identity — in fact, the statestoo, needed to develop. Ghurye of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarhbecame the best-known exponent of were for med in response tothe nationalist view and insisted on such movements. There is also acharacterising the tribes of India as major contr oversy around the‘backward Hindus’ rather than disproportionate burden that tribal communities have been forced todistinct cultural groups. He cited bear for the sake of developmentaldetailed evidence from a wide variety
  6. 6. 88 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY projects like big dams, mines and different caste groups seemed to factories. How many such conflicts belong to distinct racial types. In do you know about? Find out what general, the higher castes the issues are in these conflicts. approximated Indo-Aryan racial traits, What do you and your classmates while the lower castes seemed to feel should be done about these belong to non-Aryan aboriginal, problems? Mongoloid or other racial groups. On the basis of differences between groups in ter ms of averageGhurye on Caste and Race measurements for length of nose, sizeG.S. Ghurye’s academic reputation of cranium etc., Risley and otherswas built on the basis of his doctoral suggested that the lower castes weredissertation at Cambridge, which was the original aboriginal inhabitants oflater published as Caste and Race in India. They had been subjugated byIndia (1932). Ghurye’s work attracted an Aryan people who had come fromattention because it addressed the elsewhere and settled in India.major concerns of Indian anthropology Ghurye did not disagree with theat the time. In this book, Ghurye basic argument put forward by Risley butprovides a detailed critique of the then believed it to be only partially correct.dominant theories about the He pointed out the problem with usingrelationship between race and caste. averages alone without considering theHerbert Risley, a British colonial variation in the distribution of aofficial who was deeply interested in particular measurement for a givenanthropological matters, was the main community. Ghurye believed thatproponent of the dominant view. This Risley’s thesis of the upper castes beingview held that human beings can be Aryan and the lower castes beingdivided into distinct and separate non-Aryan was broadly true only forraces on the basis of their physical northern India. In other parts of India,characteristics such as the the inter -group differences in thecircumference of the skull, the length anthropometric measurements wereof the nose, or the volume (size) of the not very large or systematic. Thiscranium or the part of the skull where suggested that, in most of India exceptthe brain is located. the Indo-Gangetic plain, different Risley and others believed that racial groups had been mixing withIndia was a unique ‘laboratory’ for each other for a very long time. Thus,studying the evolution of racial types ‘racial purity’ had been preserved duebecause caste strictly prohibits inter- to the prohibition on inter-marriagemarriage among different groups, and only in ‘Hindustan proper’ (northhad done so for centuries. Risley’s India). In the rest of the country, themain argument was that caste must practice of endogamy (marrying onlyhave originated in race because within a particular caste group) may
  7. 7. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 89have been introduced into groups that (iii) The institution of caste necessarilywere already racially varied. involves restrictions on social Today, the racial theory of caste is interaction, specially the sharingno longer believed, but in the first half of food. There are elaborate rulesof the 20th century it was still prescribing what kind of food mayconsidered to be true. There are be shared between which groups.conflicting opinions among historians These rules are governed by ideasabout the Aryans and their arrival in of purity and pollution. The samethe subcontinent. However, at the also applies to social interaction,time that Ghurye was writing these most dramatically in thewere among the concerns of the institution of untouchability,discipline, which is why his writings where even the touch of people ofattracted attention. particular castes is thought to be Ghurye is also known for offering polluting.a comprehensive definition of caste. (iv) Following from the principles ofHis definition emphasises six features. hierarchy and restricted social (i) Caste is an institution based on interaction, caste also involves segmental division. This means differential rights and duties for that caste society is divided into a different castes. These rights and number of closed, mutually exclusive duties pertain not only to religious segments or compartments. Each practices but extend to the secular caste is one such compartment. world. As ethnographic accounts It is closed because caste is of everyday life in caste society decided by birth — the children have shown, interactions between born to parents of a particular people of different castes are caste will always belong to that governed by these rules. caste. On the other hand, there is (v) Caste restricts the choice of no way other than birth of occupation, which, like caste itself, acquiring caste membership. In is decided by birth and is short, a person’s caste is decided hereditary. At the level of society, by birth at birth; it can neither be caste functions as a rigid form of avoided nor changed. the division of labour with specific(ii) Caste society is based on occupations being allocated to hierarchical division. Each caste is specific castes. strictly unequal to every other (vi) Caste involves strict restrictions caste, that is, every caste is either on marriage. Caste ‘endogamy’, higher or lower than every other or marriage only within the caste, one. In theory (though not in is often accompanied by rules practice), no two castes are ever about ‘exogamy’, or whom one equal. may not marry. This combination
  8. 8. 90 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY of rules about eligible and non- and Lucknow. Both began as eligible groups helps reproduce combined departments of sociology the caste system. and economics. While the Bombay Ghurye’s definition helped to department in this period was led bymake the study of caste mor e G.S. Ghurye, the Lucknow departmentsystematic. His conceptual definition had three major figures, the famouswas based on what the classical texts ‘trinity’ of Radhakamal Mukerjee (theprescribed. In actual practice, many founder), D.P. Mukerji, and D.N.of these featur es of caste wer e Majumdar. Although all three werechanging, though all of them continue well known and widely respected, D.P.to exist in some form. Ethnographic Mukerji was perhaps the mostfieldwork over the next several popular. In fact, D.P. Mukerji — or D.P.decades helped to provide valuable as he was generally known — wasaccounts of what was happening to among the most influential scholarscaste in independent India. of his generation not only in sociology Between the 1920s and the 1950s, but in intellectual and public lifesociology in India was equated with beyond the academy. His influencethe two major departments at Bombay and popularity came not so much from Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji (1894-1961) D.P. Mukerji was born on 5 October 1894 in a middle class Bengali brahmin family with a long tradition of involvement in higher education. Undergraduate degree in science and postgraduate degrees in History and Economics from Calcutta University. 1924: Appointed Lecturer in the Department of Economics and Sociology at Lucknow University 1938: 41 Served as Director of Information under the first Congress-led government of the United Provinces of British India (present day Uttar Pradesh). 1947: Served as a Member of the U.P. Labour Enquiry Committee. 1949: Appointed Professor (by special order of the Vice Chancellor) at Lucknow University. 1953: Appointed Professor of Economics at Aligarh Muslim University 1955: Presidential Address to the newly formed Indian Sociological Society 1956: Underwent major surgery for throat cancer in Switzerland Died on 5 December 1961.
  9. 9. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 91his scholarly writings as from his in socialised persons.” (Mukherjiteaching, his speaking at academic 1955:2)events, and his work in the media, Given the centrality of society inincluding newspaper articles and India, it became the first duty of anradio programmes. D.P. came to Indian sociologist to study and tosociology via history and economics, know the social traditions of India. Forand retained an active interest in a D.P. this study of tradition was notwide variety of subjects ranging across oriented only towards the past, butliterature, music, film, western and also included sensitivity to change.Indian philosophy, Marxism, political Thus, tradition was a living tradition,economy, and development planning. maintaining its links with the past, butHe was strongly influenced by also adapting to the present and thusMarxism, though he had more faith evolving over time. As he wrote, “...itin it as a method of social analysis is not enough for the Indian sociologistthan as a political programme for to be a sociologist. He must be anaction. D.P. wrote many books in Indian first, that is, he is to share inEnglish and Bengali. His Introduction the folk-ways, mores, customs andto Indian Music is a pioneering work, traditions, for the purpose ofconsidered a classic in its genre. understanding his social system and what lies beneath it and beyond it.”D.P. Mukerji on Tradition and Change In keeping with this view, he believedIt was through his dissatisfaction that sociologists should learn and bewith Indian history and economics familiar with both ‘high’ and ‘low’that D.P. turned to sociology. He felt languages and cultures — not onlyvery str ongly that the crucial Sanskrit, Persian or Arabic, but alsodistinctive feature of India was its local dialects.social system, and that, therefore, it D.P. argued that Indian culturewas important for each social science and society are not individualistic into be rooted in this context. The the western sense. The average Indiandecisive aspect of the Indian context individual’s pattern of desires is morewas the social aspect: history, politics or less rigidly fixed by his socio-and economics in India were less cultural group pattern and he hardlydeveloped in comparison with the deviates from it. Thus, the Indianwest; however, the social dimensions social system is basically orientedwere ‘over-developed’. As D.P. wrote , towards group, sect, or caste-action,“… my conviction grew that India had not ‘voluntaristic’ individual action.had society, and very little else. In Although ‘voluntarism’ was beginningfact, she had too much of it. Her to influence the urban middle classes,history, her economics, and even her its appearance ought to be itself anphilosophy, I realised, had always interesting subject of study for thecentred in social groups, and at best, Indian sociologist. D.P. pointed out
  10. 10. 92 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYthat the root meaning of the word challenged by the collective experiencetradition is to transmit. Its Sanskrit of groups and sects, as for example inequivalents are either parampara, that the bhakti movement. D.P. emphasisedis, succession; or aitihya, which comes that this was true not only of Hindufrom the same root as itihas or history. but also of Muslim culture in India. InTraditions are thus strongly rooted in Indian Islam, the Sufis have stresseda past that is kept alive through the love and experience rather than holyrepeated recalling and retelling of texts, and have been important instories and myths. However, this link bringing about change. Thus, for D.P.,with the past does not rule out change, the Indian context is not one wherebut indicates a process of adaptation discursive reason (buddhi-vichar) is theto it. Internal and external sources of dominant force for change; anubhavachange are always present in every and prem (experience and love) havesociety. The most commonly cited been historically superior as agents ofinternal source of change in western change.societies is the economy, but this Conflict and rebellion in the Indiansource has not been as effective in context have tended to work throughIndia. Class conflict, D.P. believed, had collective experiences. But thebeen “smoothed and covered by caste resilience of tradition ensures that thetraditions” in the Indian context, pressure of conflict produces changewhere new class relations had not yet in the tradition without breaking it.emerged very sharply. Based on this So we have repeated cycles ofunderstanding, he concluded that one dominant orthodoxy being challengedof the first tasks for a dynamic Indian by popular revolts which succeed insociology would be to provide an transfor ming orthodoxy, but areaccount of the internal, non-economic eventually reabsorbed into thiscauses of change. transformed tradition. This process D.P. believed that there were three of change — of rebellion containedprinciples of change recognised in within the limits of an overarchingIndian traditions, namely; shruti, smriti tradition — is typical of a caste society,and anubhava. Of these, the last — where the formation of classes andanubhava or personal experience — is class consciousness has beenthe revolutionary principle. However, in inhibited. D.P.’s views on tradition andthe Indian context personal experience change led him to criticise allsoon flowered into collective experience. instances of unthinking borrowingThis meant that the most important from western intellectual traditions,principle of change in Indian society including in such contexts aswas generalised anubhava, or the development planning. Tradition wascollective experience of groups. The neither to be worshipped nor ignored,high traditions were centred in smriti just as modernity was needed but notand sruti, but they were periodically to be blindly adopted. D.P. was
  11. 11. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 93simultaneously a proud but critical A.R. Desai is one of the rare Indianinheritor of tradition, as well as an sociologists who was directly involvedadmiring critic of the modernity that in politics as a formal member ofhe acknowledged as having shaped his political parties. Desai was a life-longown intellectual perspective. Marxist and became involved in Marxist politics during his undergraduate days Activity 2 at Baroda, though he later resigned his membership of the Communist Party Discuss what is meant by a ‘living of India. For most of his career he was tradition’. According to D.P. Mukerji, associated with various kinds of non- this is a tradition which maintains mainstream Marxist political groups. links with the past by retaining something from it, and at the same Desai’s father was a middle level civil time incorporates new things. A living servant in the Baroda state, but was tradition thus includes some old also a well-known novelist, with elements but also some new ones. sympathy for both socialism and You can get a better and more Indian nationalism of the Gandhian concrete sense of what this means if variety. Having lost his mother early you try to find out from different in life, Desai was brought up by his generations of people in your father and lived a migratory life neighbourhood or family about what because of the frequent transfers of is changed and what is unchanged about specific practices. Here is a list his father to different posts in the of subjects you can try; you could also Baroda state. try other subjects of your own choice. After his undergraduate studies in Games played by children of Baroda, Desai eventually joined the your age group (boys/girls) Bombay department of sociology to Ways in which a popular festival study under Ghurye. He wrote his is celebrated doctoral dissertation on the social Typical dress/clothing worn by aspects of Indian nationalism and was women and men awarded the degree in 1946. His … Plus other such subjects of thesis was published in 1948 as The your choice … For each of these, you need to Social Background of Indian find out: What aspects have Nationalism, which is probably his remained unchanged since as far best known work. In this book, Desai back as you know or can find out? offered a Marxist analysis of Indian What aspects have changed? What nationalism, which gave prominence was different and same about the to economic processes and divisions, practice/event (i) 10 years ago; (ii) while taking account of the specific 20 years ago; (iii) 40 years ago; conditions of British colonialism. (iv) 60 or more years ago Although it had its critics, this book Discuss your findings with the proved to be very popular and went whole class. through numerous reprints. Among
  12. 12. 94 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Akshay Ramanlal Desai (1915-1994) A. R. Desai was born in 1915. Early education in Baroda, then in Surat and Bombay. 1934-39: Member of Communist Party of India; involved with Trotskyite groups. 1946: Ph.D. submitted at Bombay under the supervision of G.S. Ghurye. 1948: Desai’s Ph.D. dissertation is published as the book: Social Background of Indian Nationalism. 1951: Joins the faculty of the Department of Sociology at Bombay University 1953-1981: Member of Revolutionary Socialist Party. 1961: Rural Transition in India is published. 1967: Appointed Professor and Head of Department. 1975: State and Society in India: Essays in Dissent is published. 1976: Retired from Department of Sociology. 1979: Peasant Struggles in India is published. 1986: Agrarian Struggles in India after Independence is published. Died on 12 November 1994.the other themes that Desai worked interested A.R. Desai. As always, hison were peasant movements and rural approach to this issue was from asociology, moder nisation, urban Marxist perspective. In an essay calledissues, political sociology, forms of the “The myth of the welfare state”, Desaistate and human rights. Because provides a detailed critique of thisMarxism was not very prominent or notion and points to it manyinfluential within Indian sociology, shortcomings. After considering theA.R. Desai was perhaps better known prominent definitions available in theoutside the discipline than within it. sociological literature, Desai identifiesAlthough he received many honours the following unique features of theand was elected President of the welfare state:Indian Sociological Society, Desairemained a somewhat unusual figure (i) A welfare state is a positive state.in Indian sociology. This means that, unlike the ‘laissez faire’ of classical liberal politicalA.R. Desai on the State theory, the welfare state does not seek to do only the minimumThe modern capitalist state was one necessary to maintain law andof the significant themes that order. The welfare state is an
  13. 13. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 95 interventionist state and actively from the rich to the poor, and by uses its considerable powers to preventing the concentration of design and implement social policies wealth? for the betterment of society. (iii) Does the welfare state transform (ii) The welfare state is a democratic the economy in such a way that state. Democracy was considered the capitalist profit motive is made an essential condition for the subservient to the real needs of the emergence of the welfare state. community? Formal democratic institutions, iv) Does the welfare state ensure specially multi-party elections, stable development free from the were thought to be a defining cycle of economic booms and feature of the welfare state. This depressions? is why liberal thinkers excluded (v) Does it provide employment for all? socialist and communist states from this definition. Using these criteria, Desai(iii) A welfare state involves a mixed examines the performance of those economy. A ‘mixed economy’ means states that are most often described as an economy where both private welfare states, such as Britain, the USA capitalist enterprises and state and much of Europe, and finds their or publicly owned enterprises claims to be greatly exaggerated. Thus, co-exist. A welfare state does not most modern capitalist states, even in seek to eliminate the capitalist the most developed countries, fail to market, nor does it prevent public provide minimum levels of economic investment in industry and other and social security to all their citizens. fields. By and large, the state They are unable to reduce economic sector concentrates on basic goods inequality and often seem to encourage and social infrastructure, while it. The so-called welfare states have also private industry dominates the been unsuccessful at enabling stable consumer goods sector. development free from market fluctuations. The presence of excess Desai then goes on to suggest some economic capacity and high levels oftest criteria against which the unemployment are yet another failure.performance of the welfare state can Based on these arguments, Desaibe measured. These are: concludes that the notion of the welfare (i) Does the welfare state ensure state is something of a myth. freedom from poverty, social A.R. Desai also wrote on the discrimination and security for all Marxist theory of the state. In these its citizens? writings we can see that Desai does (ii) Does the welfare state remove not take a one-sided view but openly inequalities of income through criticises the shortcomings of measures to redistribute income Communist states. He cites many
  14. 14. 96 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYMarxist thinkers to emphasise the lights, schools, sanitation, policeimportance of democracy even under services, hospitals, bus, train and aircommunism, arguing strongly that transport… Think of others that arepolitical liberties and the rule of law relevant in your context.)must be upheld in all genuinelysocialist states. Probably the best known Indian sociologist of the post-independence Activity 3 era, M.N. Srinivas earned two doctoral degrees, one from Bombay university A.R. Desai criticises the welfare state from a Marxist and socialist point of and one from Oxford. Srinivas was a view — that is he would like the state student of Ghurye’s at Bombay. to do more for its citizens than is Srinivas’ intellectual orientation was being done by western capitalist transformed by the years he spent at welfare states. There are also very the department of social anthropology strong opposing viewpoints today in Oxford. British social anthropology which say that the state should do was at that time the dominant force less — it should leave most things to in western anthropology, and Srinivas the free market. Discuss these also shared in the excitement of being viewpoints in class. Be sure to give a fair hearing to both sides. at the ‘centre’ of the discipline. Make a list of all the things that Srinivas’ doctoral dissertation was are done by the state or government published as Religion and Society in your neighbourhood, starting with among the Coorgs of South India. This your school. Ask: people to find out book established Srinivas’ international if this list has grown longer or shorter reputation with its detailed ethnographic in recent years — is the state doing application of the structural — functional more things now than before, or less? perspective dominant in British social What do you feel would happen if the anthropology. Srinivas was appointed state were to stop doing these things? to a newly created lectureship in Indian Would you and your neighbourhood/ school be worse off, better off, or sociology at Oxford, but resigned in remain unaf fected? Would rich, 1951 to return to India as the head of middle class, and poor people have a newly created department of the same opinion, or be affected in sociology at the Maharaja Sayajirao the same way, if the state were to University at Baroda. In 1959, he stop some of its activities? moved to Delhi to set up another Make a list of state — provided department at the Delhi School of services and facilities in your Economics, which soon became neighbourhood, and see how opinions known as one of the leading centres might differ across class groups on whether these should continue or be of sociology in India. stopped. (For example: roads, water Srinivas often complained that supply, electricity supply, street most of his energies were taken up in institution building, leaving him with
  15. 15. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 97 Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas (1916-1999) M.N. Srinivas was Born 16 November 1916. in an Iyengar brahmin family in Mysore. It’s father was a landowner and worked for the Mysore power and light department. His early education was at Mysore University, and he later went to Bombay to do an MA under G.S. Ghurye 1942: M.A. thesis on Marriage and Family Among the Coorgs published as book. 1944: Ph.D. thesis (in 2 volumes) submitted to Bombay University under the supervision of G.S. Ghurye. 1945: Leaves for Oxford; studies first under Radcliffe- Brown and then under Evans-Pritchard. 1947: Awarded D.Phil. degree in Social Anthropology from Oxford; returns to India. 1948: Appointed Lecturer in Indian Sociology at Oxford; spends 1948 doing fieldwork in Rampura. 1951: Resigns from Oxford to take up Professorship at Maharaja Sayaji Rao University in Baroda to found its sociology department. 1959: Takes up Professorship at the Delhi School of Economics to set up the sociology department there. 1971: Leaves Delhi University to co-found the Institute of Social and Economic Change at Bangalore. Died 30 November 1999.little time for his own research. Despite University of Chicago, which was thenthese difficulties, Srinivas produced a a power ful centre in worldsignificant body of work on themes anthropology. Like G.S. Ghurye andsuch as caste, modernisation and the Lucknow scholars, Srinivasother processes of social change, succeeded in training a newvillage society, and many other issues. generation of sociologists who were toSrinivas helped to establish Indian become leaders of the discipline in thesociology on the world map through following decades.his inter national contacts andassociations. He had strong M.N. Srinivas on the Villageconnections in British social The Indian village and village societyanthropology as well as American remained a life-long focus of interestanthropology, particularly at the for Srinivas. Although he had made
  16. 16. 98 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYshort visits to villages to conduct wherever they go. For this reason,surveys and interviews, it was not Dumont believed that it would beuntil he did field work for a year at a misleading to give much importancevillage near Mysore that he really to the village as a category. As againstacquired first hand knowledge of this view, Srinivas believed that thevillage society. The experience of field village was a relevant social entity.work proved to be decisive for his Historical evidence showed thatcareer and his intellectual path. villages had served as a unifyingSrinivas helped encourage and identity and that village unity wascoordinate a major collective effort at quite significant in rural social life.producing detailed ethnographic Srinivas also criticised the Britishaccounts of village society during the administrator anthropologists who1950s and 1960s. Along with other had put forward a picture of the Indianscholars like S.C. Dube and D.N. village as unchanging, self-sufficient,Majumdar, Srinivas was instrumental “little republics”. Using historical andin making village studies the sociological evidence, Srinivas showeddominant field in Indian sociology that the village had, in fact, experiencedduring this time. considerable change. Moreover, villages Srinivas’ writings on the village were never self-sufficient, and had beenwere of two broad types. There was involved in various kinds of economic,first of all ethnographic accounts of social and political relationships at thefieldwork done in villages or regional level.discussions of such accounts. A The village as a site of researchsecond kind of writing included offered many advantages to Indianhistorical and conceptual discussions sociology. It provided an opportunityabout the Indian village as a unit of to illustrate the importance ofsocial analysis. In the latter kind of ethnographic research methods. Itwriting, Srinivas was involved in a offered eye-witness accounts of thedebate about the usefulness of the rapid social change that was takingvillage as a concept. Arguing against place in the Indian countryside as thevillage studies, some social newly independent nation began aanthropologists like Louis Dumont programme of planned development.thought that social institutions like These vivid descriptions of village Indiacaste were more important than were greatly appreciated at the timesomething like a village, which was as urban Indians as well as policyafter all only a collection of people makers were able to form impressionsliving in a particular place. Villages of what was going on in the heartlandmay live or die, and people may move of India. Village studies thus providedfrom one village to another, but their a new role for a discipline like sociologysocial institutions, like caste or in the context of an independentreligion, follow them and go with them nation. Rather than being restricted
  17. 17. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 99to the study of ‘primitive’ peoples, itcould also be made relevant to a give for wanting to leave the city and live in the village? If you don’t knowmodernising society. of any such people, why do you think people don’t want to live in a village? Activity 4 If you know of people living in a village Suppose you had friends fr om who would like to live in a town or another planet or civilisation who city, what reasons do they give for were visiting the Earth for the first wanting to leave the village? time and had never hear d of something called a ‘village’. What are the five clues you would give them Conclusion to identify a village if they ever came across one? These four Indian sociologists helped Do this in small groups and then to give a distinctive character to the compare the five clues given by discipline in the context of a newly different groups. Which features independent modernising country. appear most often? Do the most They are offered here as examples of common features help you to make a sort of definition of a village? (To the diverse ways in which sociology check whether your definition is a was ‘Indianised’. Thus, Ghurye began good one, ask yourself the question: with the questions defined by western Could there be a village where all or anthropologists, but brought to them most features mentioned in your his intimate knowledge of classical definition are absent?) texts and his sense of educated Indian opinion. Coming from a very different background, a thoroughly westernised Activity 5 modern intellectual like D.P. Mukerji In the 1950s, there was great interest rediscovered the importance of Indian among urban Indians in the village tradition without being blind to its studies that sociologists began doing shortcomings. Like Mukerji, A.R. at that time. Do you feel urban people are interested in the village today? Desai was also strongly influenced by How often are villages mentioned in Marxism and offered a critical view of the T.V., in newspapers and films? If the Indian state at a time when such you live in a city, does your family criticism was rare. Trained in the still have contacts with relatives in the dominant centres of western social village? Did it have such contacts in anthropology, M.N. Srinivas adapted your parents’ generation or your his training to the Indian context and grandparents’ generation? Do you know of anybody from a city who has helped design a new agenda for moved to a village? Do you know of sociology in the late 20th century. people who would like to go back? If It is a sign of the health and you do, what reasons do these people str ength of a discipline when succeeding generations learn from
  18. 18. 100 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYand eventually go beyond their to constructive criticism in order topredecessors. This has also been take the discipline further. The signshappening in Indian sociology. of this pr ocess of lear ning andSucceeding generations have critique are visible not only in thissubjected the work of these pioneers book but all over Indian sociology. GLOSSARY Administrator–anthropologists: The term refers to British administrative officials who were part of the British Indian government in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and who took great interest in conducting anthropological research, specially surveys and censuses. Some of them became well known anthropologists after retirement. Prominent names include: Edgar Thurston, William Crooke, Herbert Risley and J.H. Hutton. Anthropometry: The branch of anthropology that studied human racial types by measuring the human body, particularly the volume of the cranium (skull), the circumference of the head, and the length of the nose. Assimilation: A process by which one culture (usually the larger or more dominant one) gradually absorbs another; the assimilated culture merges into the assimilating culture, so that it is no longer alive or visible at the end of the process. Endogamy: A social institution that defines the boundary of a social or kin group within which marriage relations are permissible; marriage outside this defined groups are prohibited. The most common example is caste endogamy, where marriage may only take place with a member of the same caste. Exogamy: A social institution that defines the boundary of a social or kin group with which or within which marriage relations are prohibited; marriages must be contracted outside these prohibited groups. Common examples include prohibition of marriage with blood relatives (sapind exogamy), members of the same lineage (sagotra exogamy), or residents of the same village or region (village/region exogamy). Laissez-faire: A French phrase (literally ‘let be’ or ‘leave alone’) that stands for a political and economic doctrine that advocates minimum state intervention in the economy and economic relations; usually associated with belief in the regulative powers and efficiency of the free market.
  19. 19. INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS 101 EXERCISES 1. How did Ananthakrishna Iyer and Sarat Chandra Roy come to practice social anthropology? 2. What were the main arguments on either side of the debate about how to relate to tribal communities? 3. Outline the positions of Herbert Risley and G.S. Ghurye on the relationship between race and caste in India. 4. Summarise the social anthropological definition of caste. 5. What does D.P. Mukerji mean by a ‘living tradition’? Why did he insist that Indian sociologists be rooted in this tradition? 6. What are the specificities of Indian culture and society, and how do they affect the pattern of change? 7. What is a welfare state? Why is A.R. Desai critical of the claims made on its behalf? 8. What arguments were given for and against the village as a subject of sociological research by M.N. Srinivas and Louis Dumont? 9. What is the significance of village studies in the history of Indian sociology? What role did M.N. Srinivas play in promoting village studies? REFERENCES DESAI, A.R. 1975. State and Society in India: Essays in Dissent. Popular Prakashan, Bombay. DESHPANDE, SATISH. ‘Fashioning a Postcolonial Discipline: M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology’ in Uberoi, Sundar and Deshpande (eds) (in press). GHURYE, G.S. 1969. Caste and Race in India, Fifth Edition, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. PRAMANICK, S.K. 1994. Sociology of G.S. Ghurye, Rawat Publications, Jaipur, and New Delhi. MUKERJI, D.P. 1946. Views and Counterviews. The Universal Publishers, Lucknow. MUKERJI , D.P. 1955. ‘Indian Tradition and Social Change’, Presidential Address to the All India Sociological Conference at Dehradun,
  20. 20. 102 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Reproduced in T.K. Oommen and Partha N. Mukherji (eds) 1986. Indian Sociology: Reflections and Introspections, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. MADAN, T.N. 1994. Pathways: Approaches to the Study of Society in India. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. PATEL, SUJATA. ‘Towards a Praxiological Understanding of Indian Society: The Sociology of A.R. Desai’, in Uberoi, Sundar and Deshpande (eds) (in press). S RINIVAS , M.N. 1955. India’s Villages. Development Department, Government of West Bengal. West Bengal Government Press, Calcutta. SRINIVAS, M.N. 1987. ‘The Indian Village: Myth and Reality’ in the Dominant Caste and other Essays. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. UBEROI, PATRICIA, NANDINI SUNDAR AND SATISH DESHPANDE (eds) (in press). Disciplinary Biographies: Essays in the History of Indian Sociology and Social Anthropology. Permanent Black, New Delhi. UPADHYA, CAROL. ‘The Idea of Indian Society: G.S. Ghurye and the Making of Indian Sociology’, in Uberoi, Sundar and Deshpande (eds) (in press).

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