Iim calcutta indian social structure - the emergence of middle classes
SO 101: Indian Social Structure Session 2: The Emerging Middle Classes Readings: Serial No. A2
Secularisation of Caste andMaking of New Middle Class D. L. Seth (Reading Material Page No. 12-20)
Lecture Outline• Introduction: Features of Caste System and Brief Historical Sketch• Colonial Discourse• Secularization of Caste – De-ritualization; Politicization of Castes; Politics of Reservations; Classisation of Caste• Emergence of a New Middle Class
Caste: Origin and Brief History• Existing for thousands of years, the caste system got its name about 500 years ago• Derived from casta in Portuguese, the term caste has since been used generically to describe the whole (varna-jati) system.
Caste - Features: Portuguese Duarte Barbosa’s 16th century Account• Caste as a hierarchy, with brahmans at the top and untouchables at the bottom.• Untouchability as linked to the idea of pollution’.• Existence of a plurality of castes separated from each other by endogamy occupation and commensality.• Application of sanctions by castes to maintain their own customs and rules.• Relationship of caste with political organisation.
Colonial Discourse 1• The new discourse centered on whether caste was a system beneficial to Indians or it worked against them.• Orientalist scholars viewed caste as serving some positive functions.• The missionaries saw it as an unmitigated evil.
Colonial Discourse 2• Although the varna theory was discarded, caste continued to be seen as a vertical hierarchy of ritual statuses embedded in the religious and cultural context of the village.• The administrative and anthropological concerns of the British officers led them to counter both the Orientalist and the Missionary views of caste.
Colonial Discourse 3• From 1901 Census, the colonial state began caste wise enumeration of the entire Indian population.• This highlighted how the social and economic advantages accrued to some castes and not to others in the traditional hierarchy.• Consequently, many castes demanded for special recognition by the state for receiving educational and occupational benefits and for political representation.
Colonial Discourse 4• On the whole, the colonial regime, not only introduced new terms of discourse on caste, but brought about some changes in the caste system itself.• A large part of these changes were related to the larger historical forces of modernization, secularization and urbanization which had begun to make some impact on the Indian society by the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
Colonial Discourse 5• Formation of a new, trans-local identity among lower castes, collectively as a people with the consciousness of being oppressed by the traditional system of hierarchy.• New ideological categories like social justice began to interrogate the idea of ritual purity and impurity.
Colonial Discourse 6• Castes of similar positions in different local hierarchies began to organize themselves horizontally into regional and national level associations and federations.• Lower castes’ aspiration for upward mobility began to attack the very ideological bases of ritual hierarchy of castes in terms of modern ideological terms as equality and justice.
Secularization of Caste • De-ritualization; • Politicization of Castes;• Politics of Reservations; and • Classisation of Caste
Secularization• …has detached caste from the ritual status hierarchy – de-ritualization• …has imparted caste a character of power group functioning in the competitive democratic politics - politicization.• …has consequently led to classisation
De-Ritualization 1• Changes associated with decolonization have led to de-ritualization of caste.• Erosion of rituality – Collapse of a large part of the ‘support system’ of the caste.• Caste now survives as a kinship-based cultural community.• Caste consciousness is now articulated as a political consciousness… leading to its systemic disintegration.
De-Ritualization 2• The ideology and organization of the traditional caste system have thus become vastly eroded…to a much greater extent in the urban areas and at the macro-system level.• Castes survives as micro-communities based on kinship sentiments and relationships.• Traditional Jajmani system has been replaced by relationships of employer and employee… economic relationships have become more contractual and monetized.
Politicization of Caste 1• Incorporation of castes in competitive politics – de-legitimization of the old hierarchical relations among castes, facilitating new, horizontal power relations.• The process of politicization of castes acquired a great deal of sophistication in the politics of the Congress Party, which scrupulously avoided taking any theoretical-ideological position on the issue of caste versus class.
Politicization of Caste 2• Congress Party rarely used such dichotomies as upper castes vs. lower castes or the capitalists vs. working class in its political discourse… the key concept was nation-building.• This ensured for the Congress a political consensus across castes, despite the fact that it was presided over by the hegemony of a small upper caste, English-educated elite in collaboration with the regional social elites.
Politicization of Caste 3• This collaboration between the two types of elites, created a new structure of representational power in the society, around which grew a small middle class…• …constituted of the upper caste national elite living in urban areas and the rural social elite belonging to the dominant peasant castes as well as those upper caste members living in rural areas.
Politicization of Caste 4• For the lower castes of small and marginal peasants, artisans, the ex-untouchables and the numerous tribal communities, their low statuses in the traditional hierarchy worked negatively for their entry in the modem sector.• This did objectively create an elite-mass kind of division in politics, but not any space for class based politics.
Politics of Reservations 1• It was around mid-1970s, the upper caste hegemony over national politics began to be seriously challenged…largely due to the social policies of the state, particularly that of reservations (affirmative action).• …a small but significant section of educated lower caste groups entered the bureaucracy and other non-traditional occupations.
Politics of Reservations 2• At the beginning of the 1980s, the Second Commission for Backward Classes (the Mandal Commission) proposed to extend Reservations in jobs and educational seats to the other backward classes.• This proposal was stoutly opposed by sections of the upper and the intermediate castes who by then were largely ensconced in the middle class.
Politics of Reservations 3• A confrontation of interest between the upper and intermediate castes on the one hand and the lower castes on the other.• A resurgence of lower castes in national politics … ‘Mandalization of Politics’… has since resulted in radically altering the social bases of politics in India … Hegemony of Congress Party (composed of English- educated elites) came to an end.
Politics of Reservations 4• In sum, the state policy of affirmative action gave a big impetus to the process of politicization of castes (as well as to de- ritualization of inter-caster elations).• Special educational and occupational opportunities of members of the numerous lower castes, converted their traditional low ritual status into an asset for acquiring new means for upward social mobility.
“Classisation of Caste” – D. L. Sheth• Releasing of individual members of all castes from occupational and status hierarchy.• Linking of their interests and identities to organizations and categories relevant to urban-industrial system and modern politics.• Classisation is a process by which individual members of different castes relate to categories of social stratification of a type different from that of caste.
Emergence of a New Middle Class 1• New because its emergence is directly traceable to the disintegration of the caste system, this has made it socially much more diversified compared to the old, upper caste oriented middle class of pre-independent era.• It is open to members of different castes - which have acquired modern education, non- traditional occupations and higher incomes and the political power.
Emergence of a New Middle Class – CSDS Survey Findings 1:• Seth mentions findings of a CSDS survey of 9614 Indian citizens:-• Inclusion of small upwardly mobile dominant castes of rich farmers.• 20 per cent of the sample population was identified as belonging to the middle class.• The upper and the rich farmer castes together dominate the Indian middle class.
Emergence of a New Middle Class – CSDS Survey Findings 2:• About half of the middle class population came from the dalits (SCs), the tribals (STs) the backward communities of peasants and artisans (OBCs) and the religious minorities• Statistically highly significant differences in political attitudes and preferences, between members of the middle class and the rest of the population
Emergence of a New Middle Class – CSDS Survey Findings 3:• The difference between the lower caste and upper-caste members of the middle class was found to be much less than that between members of the middle class and their caste compatriots not belonging to the middle class.• The Indian middle class today has a significant rural component. ----X----