Chapter one


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Chapter one

  1. 1. CHAPTER 1 SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETYINTRODUCTION leisure opportunities s/he avails, the health access s/he has, i.e. her/hisYou will recall that the earlier book lifestyle in general. As in the case ofIntroducing Sociology (NCERT, 2006) social structure, social stratificationhad begun with a discussion on the constrains individual action.relationship between personal One of the central concerns of theproblems and social issues. We also sociological perspective has been tosaw how individuals are located within understand the dialectical relationshipcollectivities such as groups, classes, between the individual and society. Yougender, castes and tribes. Indeed each will recall C.Wright Mill’s elaboration ofof you, is a member of not just one the sociological imagination that seekskind of collectivity, but many to unfold the interplay between anoverlapping ones. For instance, you are individual’s biography and society’sa member of your own peer group, your history. It is towards understandingfamily and kin, your class and gender, this dialectical relationship between theyour country and region. Each society and individual that we need toindividual thus has a specific location discuss the three central concepts ofin the social structure and social structure, stratification and socialstratification system (see pages 28-35 processes in this chapter. In the nextin Introducing Sociology). This also few chapters we then move on to howimplies that they have different levels social structure in rural and urbanand types of access to social resources. societies are different, to broaderIn other words the choices an relationships between environment andindividual has in life in terms of the society. In the last two chapters we lookschool s/he goes to — or if s/he goes at western social thinkers and Indianto school at all — would depend on sociologists and their writings thatthe social stratum that s/he belongs would help us further understand theto. Likewise with the clothes s/he gets ideas of social structure, stratificationto wear, the food s/he consumes, the as well as social processes.
  2. 2. 2 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY The central question that this regularities that the concept of socialchapter seeks to discuss is to what structure refers. Upto a point, it isextent the individual constrained by, helpful to think of the structuraland to what extent s/he is free of, the characteristics of societies associal structure? To what extent does resembling the structure of a’s position in society or location in A building has walls, a floor and a roof,the stratification system gover n which together give it a particularindividual choice? Do social structure ‘shape’ or form (Giddens 2004: 667).and social stratification influence the But the metaphor can be a verymanner people act? Do they shape the misleading one if applied too strictly.way individuals cooperate, compete Social structures are made up ofand conflict with each other? human actions and relationships. In this chapter we deal briefly with What gives these their patterning isthe terms social structure and social their repetition across periods of timestratification. You have already and distances of space. Thus, the ideasdiscussed social stratification in some of social reproduction and socialdetail in Chapter 2 of the earlier book structure are very closely related to oneIntroducing Sociology (NCERT, 2006). another in sociological analysis. ForWe then move on to focus on three example, consider a school and asocial processes namely; cooperation, family structure. In a school certaincompetition and conflict. In dealing ways of behaving are repeated over thewith each of these processes we shall years and become institutions. Fortry and see how social structure and instance admission procedures, codesstratification impinge themselves on of conduct, annual functions, dailythe social processes. In other words assemblies and in some cases evenhow individuals and groups cooperate, school anthems. Likewise in familiescompete and conflict depending upon certain ways of behaving, marriagetheir position within the social practices, notions of relationships,structure and stratification system. duties and expectations are set. Even as old members of the family or schoolSOCIAL STRUCTURE AND STRATIFICATION may pass away and new membersThe term social structure points to the enter, the institution goes on. Yet wefact that society is structured — i.e., also know that changes do take placeorganised or arranged — in particular within the family and in schools.ways. The social environments in The above discussion and activitywhich we exist do not just consist of should help us understand humanrandom assortments of events or societies as buildings that are at everyactions. There are underlying moment being reconstructed by theregularities, or patterns, in how people very bricks that compose them. For asbehave and in the relationships they we saw for ourselves human beings inhave with one another. It is to these schools or families do bring changes
  3. 3. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 3 Different types of buildings in rural and urban areas
  4. 4. 4 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Activity 1 Discuss with your grandparents and others of that generation to find out about the ways in which families/schools have changed and the ways in which they have remained the same. Compare descriptions of families in old films/television serials/novels with contemporary depictions. Can you observe patterns and regularities of social behaviour in your family? In other words can you describe the structure of your family? Discuss with your teachers how they understand the school as a structure. Do students, teachers and the staff have to act in certain ways to maintain or reproduce the structure? Can you think of any changes in either your school or family? Were these changes resisted? Who resisted them and why?to reproduce the structure even while or her possible activities. The placingintroducing changes. They cooperate of the walls and doors, for exampleat various levels in their everyday lives defines the routes of exit and entry.towards this reproduction. No less true Social structure, according tois the fact that they also compete with Durkheim, constrains our activities ineach other, often viciously and a parallel way, setting limits to whatruthlessly. The fact remains that along we can do as individuals. It is ‘external’with cooperative behaviour we also to us just as the walls of the room are.witness serious conflict. And as we Other social thinkers like Karlshall find later in this chapter, Marx would emphasise the constraintscooperation can be enforced and of social structure but would at thethereby serve to conceal conflict. same time stress human creativity or A major theme pursued by Emile agency to both reproduce and changeDurkheim (and by many other social structure. Marx argued thatsociological authors since) is that the human beings make history, but notsocieties exert social constraint over as they wish to or in conditions of theirthe actions of their members. choice, but within the constraints andDurkheim argued that society has possibilities of the historical andprimacy over the individual person. structural situation that they are in.Society is far more than the sum of To recall the concept of social strati-individual acts; it has a ‘firmness’ or fication in Chapter 2 of Introducing‘solidity’ comparable to structures in Sociology (NCER T, 2006). Socialthe material environment. stratification refers to the existence of Think of a person standing in a structured inequalities betweenroom with several doors. The structure groups in society, in terms of theirof the room constrains the range of his access to material or symbolic
  5. 5. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 5 This point of view is expressed by Durkheim in his famous statement: When I perform my duties as a brother, a husband or a citizen and carry out the commitments I have entered into, I fulfil my obligations which are defined in law and custom and which are external to myself and my actions…Similarly, the believer has discovered from birth, ready fashioned, the beliefs and practices of his religious life; if they existed before he did, it follows that they exist outside him. The systems of signs that I employ to express my thoughts, the monetary system I use to pay my debts, the credit instruments I utilise in my commercial relationships, the practices I follow in my profession, etc. all function independently of the use I make of them. Considering in turn each member of society, the following remarks could be made for every single one of them. Source: Durkheim Emile, 1933, The Division of Labour in Society, pp.50-1, A Free Press Paperback, The MacMillan Company, New York). likewise characterised by a certain Activity 2 pattern of inequality. Inequality is not Think of examples that reveal both something which is randomly how human beings are constrained by distributed between individuals in social structure and also of examples society. It is systematically linked to where individuals defy social structure membership in different kinds of social and transfor m it. Recall our groups. Members of a given group will discussion on socialisation in have features in common, and if they Introducing Sociology (pages 78-79 ). are in a superior position they will usually see to it that their privilegedrewards. While all societies involve position is passed on to their children.some forms of social stratification, The concept of stratification, then,modern societies are often marked by refers to the idea that society is dividedwide differences in wealth and power. into a patterned structure of unequalWhile the most evident forms of groups, and usually implies that thisstratification in modern societies structure tends to persist acrossinvolve class divisions, others like generations (Jayaram 1987:22).race and caste, region and It is necessary to distinguishcommunity, tribe and gender also between different advantages whichcontinue to matter as bases of social can be distributed unequally. Therestratification. are three basic forms of advantage You will recall that social structure which privileged groups may enjoy:implied a certain patterning of social (i) Life Chances: All those materialbehaviour. Social stratification as part advantages which improve theof the broader social structure is quality of life of the recipient — this
  6. 6. 6 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY may include not only economic or cooperate or conflict as the case may advantages of wealth and income, be because it is human nature to do but also benefits such as health, so. The assumption behind such job security and recreation. explanations is that there is something(ii) Social Status: Prestige or high intrinsic and universal in human standing in the eyes of other nature that accounts for these members of the society. processes. However, as we have seen earlier, sociology is not satisfied with(iii) Political Influence: The ability of one either psychological or naturalist group to dominate others, or to explanations (see pages 7-8 of have preponderant influence over Introducing Sociology. Sociology seeks decision-making, or to benefit to explain these processes of advantageously from decisions. cooperation, competition and conflict The above discussion on the three in terms of the actual social structuresocial processes will repeatedly draw of society.attention to the manner that differentbases of social stratification like Activity 3gender or class constrain social Think of examples of cooperation,processes. The opportunities and competition and conflict in yourresources available to individuals and everyday lifegroups to engage in competition,cooperation or conflict are shaped by In Introducing Sociology wesocial structure and social discussed how there are differences andstratification. At the same time, plural understandings of society (pageshumans do act to modify the structure 24-25, 36). We saw how functionalistand system of stratification that exists. and conflict perspectives varied in their understanding of different institutions,TWO WAYS OF UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL be it the family, the economy or socialPROCESSES IN SOCIOLOGY stratification and social control. NotIn the earlier book Introducing surprisingly therefore, these twoSociology (NCERT, 2006) you have perspectives seek to understand theseseen the limitations of common sense processes a bit differently. But both Karlknowledge. The problem is not that Marx (usually associated with a conflictcommonsense knowledge is perspective) and Emile Durkheimnecessarily false, but that it is (usually identified with a functionalistunexamined and taken for granted. By perspective) presume that humancontrast, the sociological perspective beings have to cooperate to meet theirquestions everything and accepts basic needs, and to produce andnothing as a given. It would therefore reproduce themselves and their world.not rest content with an explanation The conflict perspective emphasiseswhich suggests that humans compete how these for ms of cooperation
  8. 8. 8 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYchanged from one historical society to refer to the fulfilment of the broadestanother. For instance, it would conditions which are necessary for arecognise that in simple societies system’s existence (and whichwhere no surplus was produced, there therefore keep it alive and prevent itswas cooperation between individuals destruction) such as:and groups who were not divided on (i) The socialisation of new members;class or caste or race lines. But insocieties where surplus is produced — (ii) A shared system of communication;whether feudal or capitalist — the (iii) Methods of assigning individualsdominant class appropriates the to roles.surplus and cooperation would You are well aware how thenecessarily involve potential conflict functionalist perspective rests upon theand competition. The conflict view thus assumption that different parts oremphasises that groups and organs of society have a function or roleindividuals are placed differentially to play for the broader maintenanceand unequally within the system of and functioning of the whole society.production relations. Thus, the factory Seen from this perspective, cooperation,owner and the factory worker do competition and conflict can be seencooperate in their everyday work. But as universal features of all societies,a certain conflict of interests would explained as the result of the inevitabledefine their relationship. interactions among humans living in The understanding that informs the society and pursuing their ends. Sinceconflict perspective is that in societies the focus is on system sustenance,divided by caste, or class or patriarchy,some groups are disadvantaged anddiscriminated against. Furthermore the Babul Mora. Naihar Chuto hi jaidominant groups sustain this unequal Fears of the Natal home is left behindorder by a series of cultural norms, and Babul ki dua-ein leti jaoften coercion or even violence. As you Ja tujhko sukhi sansar milewill see in the next paragraphs, it isnot that the functionalist perspective Maike ki kabhi na yaad aayefails to appreciate the role of such Sasural me itna pyar milenorms or sanctions. But it understands Take your father’s blessings/prayertheir function in terms of the society as you go;as a whole, and not in terms of the Go, and (may you) get a happydominant sections who control society. household; The functionalist perspective is May you never be reminded of your mother’s home;mainly concerned with the ‘systemrequirements’ of society — certain (Because of) all the love you receivefunctional imperatives, functional At your in-laws’ place.requisites and prerequisites. These (Basu 2001: 128)
  9. 9. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 9 Activity 4 Discuss whether women are cooperating, or refusing to engage in conflict or competition because of a range of normative compulsions. Are they cooperating with the given norm of male inheritance because of the fear of losing the affection of their brothers if they behave otherwise? The song in the box below is specific to a region, but evokes the more general fears of natal abandonment for women in a patrilineal society.competition and conflict is looked at the very contentious issue of women’swith the understanding that in most right to property in their natal family.cases they tend to get resolved without A study was conducted among differenttoo much distress, and that they may sections of society to understand theeven help society in various ways. attitude towards taking natal property Sociological studies have also (see pages 41- 46 of Introducingshown how norms and patterns of Sociology). A significant number ofsocialisation often ensure that a women (41.7 per cent) evoked theparticular social order persists, even theme of a daughter’s love and love forthough it is skewed in the interests of a daughter when speaking about theirone section. In other words the rights to property. But they emphasisedrelationship between cooperation, apprehension rather than affection bycompetition and conflict is often complex saying they would not claim full or anyand not easily separable. share of natal property because they In order to understand how were afraid this would sour relationscooperation may entail conflict, and the with their brothers or cause theirdifference between ‘enforced’ and brothers’ wives to hate them, and that‘voluntary’ cooperation, let us look at as a result they would no longer be Bride leaving for groom’s house in a ‘Doli’
  10. 10. 10 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYwelcome in their natal homes. This we witness cooperation, whether theyattitude represents one of the dominant be ants or bees or mammals.metaphors mediating women’s refusal Comparison with the animal worldof property… A woman demanding her should however be done carefully. Weshare is the greedy shrew or ‘hak lene look at two very different theoreticalwali’. There was also a close connection traditions in sociology to illustrate thebetween these feelings and the point, those represented by Emileapparently obverse ones of the desire Durkheim and Karl continue to be part of the natal family Sociology for the most part did notby actively contributing to its prosperity agree with the assumption that humanor being available to deal with its crises. nature is necessarily nasty and Activity 2 would enable you to brutish. Emile Durkheim arguesappreciate how apparently cooperative against a vision of “primitive humanitybehaviour can also be seen as a whose hunger and thirst, always badlyproduct of deep conflicts in society. But satisfied, were their only passions”.when these conflicts are not expressed Instead he argued:openly or challenged, the impressionremains that there is no conflict, but They overlook the essential elementonly cooperation. A functionalist view of moral life, that is, the moderatingoften uses the term accommodation to influence that society exercises overexplain situations such as the one its members, which tempers anddescribed above, where women would neutralises the brutal action of theprefer not to claim property rights in struggle for existence and selection.their natal home. It would be seen as Wherever there are societies, therean effort to compromise and co-exist is altruism, because ther e isdespite conflict. solidarity. Thus, we find altruism from the beginning of humanity and Activity 5 even in truly intemperate form. Think of other kinds of social (Durkheim 1933) behaviour which may appear as co- For Durkheim solidarity, the moral operative but may conceal deeper force of society, is fundamental for our conflicts of society. understanding of cooperation and thereby the functioning of society. The role of division of labour — whichCOOPERATION AND DIVISION OF LABOUR implies cooperation — is precisely toThe idea of cooperation rests on certain fulfill certain needs of society. Theassumptions about human behaviour. division of labour is at the same timeIt is argued that without human a law of nature and also a moral rulecooperation it would be difficult for of human conduct.human life to survive. Further it is Durkheim distinguished betweenargued that even in the animal world mechanical and organic solidarity that
  11. 11. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 11characterised pre-industrial and means of subsistence men arecomplex industrial societies respectively. indirectly producing their material lifeBoth are forms of cooperation in (Marx 1972:37).society. Mechanical solidarity is the The above quote from Marx mayfor m of cohesion that is based appear difficult but will help usfundamentally on sameness. Most of understand how cooperation inthe members of such societies live very human life is dif ferent fromsimilar lives, with little specialisation cooperation in animal life. For humansor division of labour beyond that not only adjust and accommodate toassociated with age and sex. Members cooperate but also alter society in thatfeel bonded together essentially by process. For example, men and womentheir shared beliefs and sentiments, over the ages had to adjust to naturaltheir common conscience and constraints. Various technologicalconsciousness. Organic solidarity is innovations over time not onlythat form of social cohesion that is transformed human life but in somebased on division of labour and the sense nature too. Humans inresulting interdependence of members cooperating thus do not passivelyof society. As people become more adjust and accommodate but alsospecialised, they also become more change the natural or social world todependent upon each other. A family which they adjust. We had discussedengaged in subsistence farming may in the Chapter on Culture andsurvive with little or no help from Socialisation in earlier book,similar homesteaders. But specialised Introducing Sociology how Indians hadworkers in a gar ment or a car to adjust and accommodate and co-manufacturing factory cannot survive operate with the English languagewithout a host of other specialised because of our experience with Britishworkers supplying their basic needs. colonialism. But also how in that Karl Marx too distinguishes human process Hinglish has emerged as alife from animal life. While Durkheim living social entity (page 72).emphasised altruism and solidarity as While both Durkheim from adistinctive of the human world, Marx functionalist view and Marx from aemphasised consciousness. He writes: conflict perspective emphasise cooperation, they also differ. For Marx Men can be distinguished from cooperation is not voluntary in a animals by consciousness, by religion society where class exists. He argues, or anything else you like. They “The social power, i.e., the multiplied themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as productive force, which arises through they begin to produce their means of the cooperation of different individuals subsistence, a step which is as it is caused by the division of labour, conditioned by their physical appears to these individuals, since organisation. By producing their their cooperation is not voluntary but
  12. 12. 12 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETYhas come about naturally, not as their attention to the fact that competitionown united power, but as an alien force itself has to be explained sociologicallyexisting outside them…” (Marx 1972: and not as a natural phenomena. The53). Marx used the term alienation to anecdote refers to the teacher’srefer to the loss of control on the part assumption that the children willof workers over the concrete content naturally rejoice at the idea of aof labour, and over the products of competitive race where the winnertheir labour. In other words, workers would get a chocolate as a prize. To herlose control over how to organise their surprise, her suggestion not only didown work; and they lose control over not evoke any enthusiasm but insteadthe fruits of their labour. Contrast, for seemed to cause considerable anxietyexample, the feeling of fulfillment and and distress. On probing further theycreativity of a weaver or potter or expresses their distaste for a gameironsmith with that of a worker where there would be ‘winners’ andinvolved in a factory whose sole task ‘losers’. This went against their idea ofmay be to pull a lever or press a button fun, which meant for them a necessarilythroughout the day. Cooperation in cooperative and collective experience,such a situation would be enforced. and not a competitive one where the rewards necessarily exclude some andCOMPETITION AS AN IDEA AND PRACTICE reward one or few.As in the case of cooperation, In the contemporary worlddiscussions on the concept of however competition is the dominantcompetition often proceed with the idea nor m and practice. Classicalthat competition is universal and sociological thinkers such as Emilenatural. But going back to our Durkheim and Karl Marx have noteddiscussion on how sociological the growth of individualism andexplanation is dif ferent from competition respectively in modernnaturalistic ones, it is important to societies. Both developments areunderstand competition as a social intrinsic to the way modern capitalistentity that emerges and becomes society functions. The stress is ondominant in society at a particular greater efficiency and greater profithistorical point of time. In the maximisation. The underlyingcontemporary period it is a assumptions of capitalism are:predominant idea and often we find it (i) expansion of trade;difficult to think that there can be any (ii) division of labour;society where competition is not a (iii) specialisation; andguiding force. An anecdote of a school teacher who (iv) hence rising productivity.recounted her experience with children And these processes of self-in a remote area in Africa draws sustaining growth are fuelled by the
  13. 13. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 13central theme of capitalism: rational Liberals like J.S. Mill felt that theindividuals in free competition in the effects of competition were generallymarketplace, each striving to harmful. However, he felt that thoughmaximise profits. modern competition ‘is described as The ideology of competition is the the fight of all against all, but at thedominant ideology in capitalism. The same time it is the fight for all’; this inlogic of this ideology is that the market the sense that economic competitionoperates in a manner that ensures is directed toward maximum outputgreatest ef ficiency. For example at minimum cost. Furthermore, ‘givencompetition ensures that the most the breadth and individualism ofefficient firm survives. Competition society, many kinds of interest, which eventually hold the group togetherensures that the students with higher throughout its members, seem tomarks or best studies get admission come alive and stay alive only wheninto prestigious colleges. And then get the urgency and requirements of thethe best jobs. In all cases the “best” competitive struggle force them uponrefers to that which ensures the the individual.’greatest material rewards. critically like all other naturalist Activity 6 explanations (see page 8 of earlier India has recently witnessed intense book). Competition as a desirable value debates on the government’s decision flourished with the onset of capitalism. to ensure 27 per cent reservation for Read the extracts in the box and OBCs. Collect the dif ferent discuss. arguments for and against this Competition, and the whole laissez- proposal that have been put forward faire economy of 19th century in newspapers, magazines and capitalism, may have been important television programmes. in promoting economic growth. The Collect information about the drop-out rate in schools, and primary exceptionally rapid development of the schools in particular (see pages 57- American economy may be 59 in the earlier book) attributable to the greater scope of Given that mostly lower caste competition in the United States. But students drop-out of school, and still we cannot produce any exact most higher educational institutions correlations between the extent of are dominated by the upper castes, competition, or the intensity of the discuss the concepts of cooperation, competitive spirit, and the rate of competition and conflict in the economic growth in different societies. above context. And on the other hand, there are grounds for supposing that Views that humans naturally like competition has other less welcometo compete has to be understood effects (Bottomore 1975: 174-5).
  14. 14. 14 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Activity 7 are well aware of the range of conflicts that exist in society. The scale and Organise a debate for and against the idea that competition is a necessary nature of different conflicts that occur good in society and is a must for are however different. development. Draw upon school experience to write an essay on the Activity 9 manner that competition impacts on Think of the dif ferent kinds of different students. conflicts that exist in the world today. At the widest level there are conflicts This ideology assumes that between nations and blocs of nations.individuals compete on an equal basis, Many kinds of conflicts also existi.e. that all individuals are positioned within nations. Make a list of themequally in the competition for and then discuss in what ways theyeducation, jobs, or resources. But as are similar and in what waysthe earlier discussions on stratification different.or inequality showed, individuals areplaced differentially in society. If the A widely held commonsensegreater number of children in India do perception is that conflicts in societynot go to school or drop-out sooner are new. Sociologists have drawnrather than later, then they remain out attention to the fact that conflictsof the competition entirely. change in nature and form at different stages of social development. But Activity 8 conflicts have always been part of any Identify different occasions when society. Social change and greater individuals have to compete in our assertion of democratic rights by society. Begin with admission to disadvantaged and discriminated school onwards through the different groups make the conflict more visible. stages of life. But this does not mean that the causes for conflict did not exist earlier. The quote in the box emphasises this.CONFLICT AND COOPERATIONThe term conflict implies clash of Developing countries are todayinterests. We have already seen how arenas for conflict between the oldconflict theorists believe that scarcity and the new. The old order is noof resources in society produces longer able to meet the new forces,conflict as groups struggle to gain nor the new wants and aspirationsaccess to and control over those of the people, but neither is itresources. The bases of conflict vary. moribund — in fact, it is still veryIt could be class or caste, tribe or much alive. The conflict produces much unseemly argument, discord,gender, ethnicity or r eligious confusion, and on occasion, evencommunity. As young students you
  15. 15. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 15 bloodshed. Under the circumstances, human behaviour. The last three it is tempting for the sociologist to decades have seen a great deal of look to the good old peaceful days in questioning of this assumption by sheer nostalgia. But a moment’s feminist analysis. Scholars such as reflection should convince him that Amartya Sen have noted the possibility the old order was not conflict-free and of enforced cooperation. that it perpetrated inhuman cruelties on vast sections of the population. A Not only do the different parties have theoretical approach that regards much to gain from cooperation; their conflict as abnormal, or that invests individual activities have to take the equilibrium with a special value in the form of being overtly cooperative, even name of science, can be a handicap when substantial conflicts exist… in studying developing societies. Although serious conflicts of interests Source: Srinivas, M.N., 1972, Social may be involved in the choice of ‘social Change in Modern India, pp.159-160 technology’, the nature of the family Orient Longman, New Delhi. organisation requires that these conflicts be moulded in a general It is also important to understand format of cooperation, with conflictsthat conflict appears as a discord or treated as aberrations or deviantovert clash only when it is openly ex- behaviour (Sen 1990:147).pressed. For example, the existence of Since, conflict is often not overtlya peasant movement is an overt ex- expressed, it has been found thatpression of a deep rooted conflict over subaltern or subordinate sections,land resources. But the absence of a whether women in households ormovement does not imply the absence peasants in agrarian societies, developof a conflict. Hence, this chapter has different strategies to cope with conflictemphasised the relationship between and ensure cooperation. Findings ofconflict, involuntary cooperation and many sociological studies seem toalso resistance. suggest that covert conflict and overt Let us examine some of the cooperation is common. The extractconflicts that exist in society, and also below draws from many studies onthe close relationship that exists women’s behaviour and interactionbetween competition, cooperation and within households.conflict. We just take two instanceshere. The first is the family and Material pressures and incentives tohousehold. The second, is that of land cooperate extend to distributionbased conflict. and there is little evidence of overt conflict over distributional processes. T raditionally the family and Instead there is a hierarchy ofhousehold were often seen as decision-making, needs and prioritiesharmonious units where cooperation (associated with age, gender andwas the dominant process and lifecycle), a hierarchy to which bothaltruism the driving principle of men and women appear to subscribe.
  16. 16. 16 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Thus, women appear to acquiesce to the strategies by which women have — and indeed actively perpetuate — resisted male power (Abdullah and discriminatory practices in intra- Zeidenstein, 1982; White, 1992). That household distribution in order to their resistance takes this assure their own longer -ter m clandestine form reflects their lack of security. Denied access to extra- options outside household household relationships and cooperation and the concomitant resources, it is in their material high risks associated with open interests to subscribe to the general conflict (Kabeer 1996:129). son-preference which characterises this culture, and they invest in a great In keeping with the sociological deal of ‘selfless’ devotion in order to tradition of questioning taken for win their sons as allies and insurance granted commonsense assumptions, against an uncertain future. this chapter has critically examined the ‘Maternal altruism’ in the northern processes of cooperation, competition Indian plain is likely to be biased and conflict. The sociological approach towards sons and can be seen as does not see these processes as women’s response to patriarchal risk. ‘natural’. It further relates them to other Women are not entirely powerless, of social developments. In the following course, but their subversion of male decision-making power tends to be paragraphs you will read from a covert. The use of trusted allies sociological study done on land (relatives or neighbours) to conduct relations and the Bhoodan-Gramdan small businesses on their behalf, the movement in India. Read box and see secret lending and borrowing of how cooperation in society can be money, and negotiations around the sociologically related to technology and meaning of gender ideologies of the economic arrangements of purdah and motherhood, are some of production. Land Conflicts Harbaksh, a Rajput had borrowed Rs100 from Nathu Ahir (Patel) in the year 1956, by mortaging (informally) 2 acres of land. In the same year Harbaksh died and Ganpat, his successor, claimed the land back in 1958 and he offered Rs 200. Nathu refused to return the land to Ganpat. Ganpat could not take to legal proceedings as this exchange was not codified in the revenue records. Under the circumstances Ganpat had resorted to violence and forcefully cultivated the land in 1959 (one year after Gramdan). Ganpat, being a police constable, could influence the police officials. When the Patel went to Phulera (the police thana headquarters) he was taken to the police station and was forced to agree that he will give the land back to Ganpat. Later a meeting of the villagers was convened when the money was given to Patel and Ganpat received the land back. Source: Oommen, T.K., 1972: Charisma, Stability and Change; An Analysis of Bhoodan-Gramdan Movement in India, p.84. Thompson Press, New Delhi.
  17. 17. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 17 The advent of technology had also reduced the necessity for cooperation. For instance, for the operation of a Charas, an indigenous device of well irrigation, one requires 2 pairs of bullocks and four men. An ordinary peasant cannot afford the cost of four bullocks or an average household may not have the required manpower. In such situations they resort to borrowing bullocks and men from other households (kin, neighbours, friends, etc.) assuring similar services in return. But if a Charas is replaced by a Rehat (persian wheel) for irrigation which calls for a heavier capital investment, one needs only one pair of bullocks and one person for its operation. The necessity of cooperation in the context of irrigation is reduced by a heavier capital investment and an efficient technology. Thus, the level of technology in a system may determine the need for cooperation between men and groups. Source: Oommen, T.K., 1972, Charisma, Stability and Change; An Analysis of Bhoodan-Gramdan Movement in India, p.88. Thompson Press, New Delhi. that the three social processes are Activity 10 different, yet they often co-exist, Read the following account of land overlap and sometimes exist in a conflict. Identify the different social concealed fashion, as evident in the groups within it and notice the role above discussion about forced of power and access to resources. cooperation. We end with two activities that report real life eventsConclusion that help you to use your sociologicalThe ef fort in this chapter is to understanding to explore the mannerunderstand the relationship between in which the three processes operatestructure and stratification on the for social groups that areone hand and the social processes of differentially located in the socialcooperation, competition and conflict structure and the stratificationon the other. You would have noticed system. Activity 11 Read the report carefully and discuss the relationship between social structure, stratification and social processes. Describe how the characters Santosh and Pushpa are constrained by the social structure and stratification system. Is it possible to identify the three social processes of cooperation, competition and conflict in their lives? Can these marriages be seen as processes of cooperation? Can these marriages be seen as actions that people consciously adopt in order to survive in the competitive job market since married couples are preferred? Is there any sign of conflict? Outlook 8 May 2006 “Meet the Parents: Teen marriages, migrant labour and cane factories in crisis. A vicious cycle.”
  18. 18. 18 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY It is the same old story, only with a few twists. Santosh Shinde, 14, son of landless labourers who take a loan of Rs 8,000 to educate him. Now the moneylender wants the loan to be repaid, so the cash strapped Shindes take a salary advance from the only man offering jobs around town, a sugarcane factory contractor. Problem is that they are just a husband, a wife and gawky boy. So the Shindes hurriedly find a bride for Santosh: another 14 year old, Pushpa, who accompanies them from their village in Maharashtra’s Osmanabad district to Karnataka. They stop en route for a no-frills marriage at a temple. …There’s even a name for it, ‘gatekin’. It probably comes from the makeshift camps these migrant labourers set up outside the factory gates in the cane-cutting season. Contractors prefer married couples to single boys as they are more likely to stay on at the factories for months. …With western Maharashtra’s cane factories — which once produced nearly a third of India’s sugar output — in a state of crisis, jobs for migrant labourers have dried up. Some estimates say the factories have accumulated losses of over Rs 1,900 crore, and this year 120 of the 177 sugar factories were forced to avail of the Centre’s Rs. 1,650 crore bailout package. But the trickle down has been harsher on the migrant labour, out in the fields cutting cane feverishly during the six-month-long season. Their chances of landing jobs have become harder, and wages have plummeted. … Gangly Santosh, now 16 and sporting a straggly moustache, has just finished his X exams while wife Pushpa took her XII exams. Pushpa, a good student, balances her academic ambitions with caring for a one-and-a-half-year-old son. Then there’s home and labour in the fields. As she says, “My marriage was so quick, I wonder sometimes — when did I get married — when did all this happen?” Asked if her health has suffered, the young mother says “I try not to think about things I can’t control. Instead I focus on what I can do now.” Her in-laws have said she can study further only if she gets a scholarship. Otherwise, the young couple will migrate to Mumbai to work at a construction site. Activity 12 Read the report carefully and contrast the competition that Vikram and Nitin face with that of Santosh and Pushpa in Activity 11. The Week (7 May 2006) carried a special feature titled “The New Workaholics: Their Goals, Money, Risks Health”. As the Indian economy gallops at 8 per cent, firing on all cylinders, thousands of jobs are being created in every sphere of business resulting in changing attitudes and work styles. Young professionals want rewards instantly. Promotions must come fast and quick. And money — exceptional salaries, perks and big increments — the prime motivator, makes the world go round. Vikram Samant, 27, who recently joined a BPO, makes no bones about quitting his last job for a better salary. “Money is important but my new employers are fully aware that I’m worth every rupee paid to me,” he reasons.
  19. 19. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 19 …What is also driving young workaholics is the need to sprint up the corporate ladder rather than climb each rung at a measured pace. “Yes, I want the next designation quickly, not when I am starting to go bald,” says Nitin, who refused to wait around for the next big jump and hopped from ICICI to Standard Chartered with a promotion and then to Optimix as zonal manager (emphasis original). GLOSSARY Altruism: The principle of acting to benefit others without any selfishness or self-interest. Alienation: Marx used the term to refer to the loss of control on the part of workers over the nature of the labour task, and over the products of their labour. Anomie: For Durkheim, a social condition where the norms guiding conduct break down, leaving individuals without social restraint or guidance. Capitalism: An economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and organised to accumulate profits within a market framework, in which labour is provided by waged workers. Division of Labour: The specialisation of work tasks, by means of which different occupations are combined within a production system. All societies have at least some rudimentary form of division of labour especially between the tasks allocated to men and those performed by women. With the development of industrialism, however, the division of labour became more complex than in any prior type of production system. In the modern world, the division of labour is international in scope. Dominant Ideology: Shared ideas or beliefs which serve to justify the interests of dominant groups. Such ideologies are found in all societies in which they are systematic and engrained inequalities between groups. The concept of ideology connects closely with that of power, since ideological systems serve to legitimise the differential power which groups hold. Individualism: Doctrines or ways of thinking that focus on the autonomous individual, rather than on the group. Laissez-faire Liberalism: A political and economic approach based on the general principle of non-interference in the economy by government and freedom for markets and property owners. Mechanical Solidarity: According to Durkheim, traditional cultures with a low division of labour are characterised by mechanical solidarity. Because most members of the society are involved in similar occupations, they are bound together by common experience and shared beliefs.
  20. 20. 20 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY Modernity: A term designed to encapsulate the distinctiveness, complexity and dynamism of social processes unleashed during the 18th and 19th centuries which mark a distinct break from traditional ways of living. Organic Solidarity: According to Durkheim, societies characterised by organic solidarity are held together by people’s economic interdependence and a recognition of the importance of others’ contributions. As the division of labour becomes more complex, people become more and more dependent on one another, because each person needs goods and services that those in other occupations supply. Relationships of economic reciprocity and mutual dependency come to replace shared beliefs in creating social consensus. Social Constraint: A term referring to the fact that the groups and societies of which we are a part exert a conditioning influence on our behaviour. Social constraint was regarded by Durkheim as one of the distinctive properties of ‘social facts’. Structures: Refers generally to constructed frameworks and patterns of organisation, which in some way constrain or direct human behaviour. EXERCISES 1. Discuss the different tasks that demand cooperation with reference to agricultural or industrial operations. 2. Is cooperation always voluntary or is it enforced? If enforced, is it sanctions or is the strength of norms that ensure cooperation? Discuss with examples. 3. Can you find illustrative examples of conflict drawn from Indian society? Discuss the causes that led to conflict in each instance. 4. Write an essay based on examples to show how conflicts get resolved. 5. Imagine a society where there is no competition. Is it possible? If not, why not? 6. Talk to your parents and elders, grandparents and their contemporaries and discuss whether modern society is really more competitive or conflict ridden than it used to be before. And if you think it is, how would you explain this sociologically? REFERENCES ABDULLAH, T. and S. ZEIDENSTEIN. 1982. Village Men of Bangladesh: Prospects for Change. Pergamon Press, Oxford. BASU SRIMATI. 2001. She Comes to Take Her Rights: Indian Women, Property and Propriety. Kali for Women, New Delhi.
  21. 21. SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRATIFICATION AND SOCIAL PROCESSES IN SOCIETY 21 BOTTOMORE, T.B. 1975. Sociology as Social Criticism. George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London DURKHEIM EMILE. 1933. The Division of Labour in Society. A Free Press (Paperback), The MacMillan Company, New York. JAYARAM, N. 1987. Introductory Sociology. MacMillan India Ltd, Delhi. HALE SYLVIA, M. 1990. Controversies in Sociology: A Canadian Introduction. Longman Groups, London. MARX KARL and FREDERICK ENGELS. 1974. The German Ideology. Selected Works, Vol. 1. Peoples Publishing House, Moscow. SEN AMARTYA. 1990. “Gender and Cooperative Conflicts” in Persistent Inequalities (ed) II.Tinker, pp.123-49. Oxford University Press, Oxford. SINGH YOGENDRA. 1973. Modernization of Indian Tradition. Thomson Press, Delhi. SRINIVAS, M.N. 1972. Social Change in Modern India. Orient Longman, New Delhi. OOMMEN, T.K. 1972. Charisma, Stability and Change; An Analysis of Bhoodan- Gramdan Movement in India. Thomson Press, New Delhi. WHITE, S.C. 1992. Arguing With the Crocodile, Gender and Class in Bangladesh, Zed Books, London.