UPSC SOCIOLOGY MAINS SYLLABUS
Paper 2 – Section A – (i) Perspectives on the study of Indian society:
(a) Indology (GS. Ghurye).
(b) Structural functionalism (M N Srinivas).
(c) Marxist sociology ( A R Desai).
Section B – (ii) Caste System:
(a) Perspectives on the study of caste systems: GS Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.
(b) Features of caste system.
(c) Untouchability – forms and perspectives
The concept of ‘dominant caste’ was propounded by M.N. Srinivas. It was for the first time appeared in his essay on the social system of a Mysore village. While constructing the concept, perhaps Srinivas was
unconsciously influenced by African studies on the dominant clan and dominant lineage. Srinivas developed the concept in his study of Rampura village which is a little away from Mysore city in Karnataka
“A caste may be said to be dominant when it preponderates numerically over other castes and when it also wields preponderant economic and political power. A large and powerful caste group can be more easily dominant if its position in the local caste hierarchy is not too low.” —M.N. Srinivas.
McKim Marriott viewed that the concept of dominant caste in various studies of anthropological research lies on the political power which traditionally called as juridical power in village community and at times yields religious and quasi-divine power and the power to employ physical force.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DOMINANT CASTE
- It has a high rank in caste hierarchy.
- A caste dominates when it wields economic and political power.
- Numerical strength.
- A sizeable amount of the arable land.
- Jobs in administration.
- Western education.
- Urban sources of income.
CHANGES IN THE DOMINANT CASTE CONCEPT AND SHIFTING POWER DYNAMICS
The caste system is no longer a clearly demarcated system of hierarchically-ordered caste groups. As a result of certain factors such as occupational diversification, migration to urban areas, mechanisation of agriculture, boundaries between caste groups are tending to blur or break down. There is an increasing degree of interpenetration between different groups, classes and categories. A gradual lessening of the congruence between caste, class and power is visible.
The notions of democracy and adult franchise have affected the caste system in several ways. The new political system attacks the very roots of hierarchization. In the past politics was regarded as the sole
preserve of the higher castes. But today people belonging to all castes are becoming conscious that they can play an important role in the political processes and can be benefitted from them. As far as caste system was concerned, each caste had a caste Panchayat. The caste Panchayat played the role of a judicial body. But today Jati Panchayats are on the decline. Law courts have taken over most of their roles.
VIEWS OF THINKERS
Andre Beteille rightfully views that the powerful families in the past were the big landowning families. These included the principal Brahmin families among non-Brahmins, the Maratha family. Today political power whether in the village or outside it is not as closely tied to ownership, of land as it was in the past. New bases of power have emerged which are, to some extent, independent of both caste and class. Perhaps most important among these is the strength of numerical support.
D.N. Majumdar, who conducted the study of Monana village of Uttar Pradesh in 1958, observes that the Brahmin and the Thakur were the dominant castes in Mohana. But, at a later stage, he finds that the dominance of the Thakur group has begun to be shaken up, ever since the legal removal of its economic pillar the jamindari system which was the strong medium through which it held the various other castes in a position of economic subordination.
Yogendra Singh observes that the social anthropologists have found the presence of dominant castes in most of the south Indian villages. The basic determinant of a dominant caste is the superior economic status, especially in land. In the south Indian villages, for instance, Brahmin and Okkaliga are dominant castes. “The Havik Brahmins in village Toltagadde in Malaud area of Mysore and Smarth Brahmins in the Kumbapettai village in Tanjore (Tamilnadu) have been observed to be dominant castes. Okkaliga are dominant in the village Rampura, Wangala and Delana studied in Mysore.”
Adrian C. Mayer has questioned the stress on numerical dominance. He has also pointed out to the failure of the concept to deal with the fact that power and prestige are often in the hands of few individuals. Louis Dumont has claimed that dominance should be considered as a purely secular phenomenon distinct from hierarchy which is purely ritual.
Gardener reviewed that “dominance” should not be conceptualized in the form of caste only.