In certain societies, it is common for persons to advance upwards or downwards the social ladder. As cited by Gould (1986), such societies are said to have open class, or simply classes. Conversely, some cultures exhibit little movement of individuals along the social ladder. Such societies are said to have caste, or closed classes. From these definitions, it is apparent that caste systems are an example of classes. Scholars have argued that there is a relationship between caste and class system. Indian societies have been used in justifying these relationships. With reference to India, this paper essentially discusses the relationship between the caste and class system.
According to Mencher (1974), class means an extreme form of caste when status is completely preset so that human beings are born in strata without any likelihood of transforming it. Osella & Osella (2000) also added that class system might run just like caste system if castes are separated from religion. Such a viewpoint implies that religion can transform a class system to caste system. For instance, according to Osella & Osella (2000), the Hindu society comprises of classes, such as Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra. Among the Hindus, the Brahmin, also referred to as priestly class, uphold a social detachment from other classes through a closed policy. As a result, it becomes a caste. The other Hindu classes experience differentiation, some becoming larger and some getting minute. Osella & Osella (2000) considered that these sub-divisions have dropped the open-door feature of the class system naturally, and have changed to self-enclosed groups known as castes. Moreover, because the Brahmin class stays disconnected from other social groups through endogamy, it was imitated by non-Brahmin classes that changed to endogamous castes.
Some Marxist authors have also made caste system synonymous with class system (Osella & Osella, 2007). As a result, they have regarded caste system as nothing but class system that intermingled into classes in course of time. In an examination of the shift of non-Brahmins against Brahmins, Osella & Osella (2007) stated to non-Brahmin castes as non-Brahmin classes. According to Osella & Osella (2007), the non-Brahmin classes struggle for improvement of their social status. These struggles began when the Hindu society separated itself in several castes and classes. Indian Marxists seem to have recognized the importance of caste as social realism, consequently, they have embarked on integrating it in the analysis of class phenomenon in one form or another. Marxist authors appear to recognize that the lower classes’ members also belong to lower castes. Hence, according to Osella & Osella (2007), castes were established as classes that emerged when the rural deprived went beyond the symbolic reform of upgrading their status by raising economic issues.
Mencher (1974) is of the viewpoint that class system functions within the structure of caste system. While commenting on the relationship between class and caste system, Mencher (1974) pointed out that traditional sentiments of kinship and caste undergo adaptive change devoid of comprehensively being deflected into corporate groups or classes.
According to Gould (1986), the caste system exists in class systems and it exists in caste system for several centuries in the Indian scenario, and Hindu society seems to have their attached mix even currently. The role of class and caste in Indian election is a proof of this mix. Nevertheless, caste system operating as ‘marriage cycle’ is not the same way as it functions in other regions.
Gould (1986) uses the concept of hypergamy to explain the role of wealth and status in a caste system. In India, caste-like distinctions and class-like distinctions in caste systems are part of life situations (Gould, 1986). Class is an inherent mechanism in caste systems. Therefore, castes cannot be regarded as a ritualized system and class cannot be regarded as an open system. It is for a reason that it has frequently been affected by the caste system.
The awareness of class is advanced among the followers of a caste based on shared or collective pecuniary deficiency (Mencher, 1974). Being aware of the possible threat to their status that are generated by lower caste members, the upper caste members struggle to inhibit the rise of class awareness among the lower class members.
According to Osella & Osella (2007), a hereditary group can continue in castes as a class. This simply clarifies the similarities between caste and class systems. Indeed, Osella & Osella (2007) put a lot of emphasis on the importance of the range of the rigidity in relation to both class and caste systems. As a result, an individual, coupled with his or her properties, is the item of scrutiny instead of the endogamous groups.
Osella & Osella (2000) pointed out that the social stratification among the Hindu society has diverged significantly from the ancient caste system. According to Osella & Osella (2000), caste system does not engross political power or economic position. The Indian caste system is segregated from the inside based on power and class of its members. As a result, Osella & Osella (2000) show the status incongruence comparative openness, competition and mobility as the significant features of the emergent system of social stratification.
In conclusion, caste and class systems are integrated in each other. Class and caste systems might function similarly if castes are separated from religion. In India, caste-like characteristics within class systems and class-like characteristics in caste systems are part of life situations. Additionally, the role of class and caste in Indian election is a proof of the relationship between caste and class systems in India.
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