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1. Social Structure, Stratification and Social Processes in Society 1

2. Social Change and Social Order in Rural and Urban Society 22
3. Environment and Society 50
4. Introducing Western Sociologists 66
5. Indian Sociologists 83



INTRODUCTION leisure opportunities s/he avails, the

health access s/he has, i.e. her/his
You will recall that the earlier book lifestyle in general. As in the case of
Introducing Sociology (NCERT, 2006) social structure, social stratification
had begun with a discussion on the constrains individual action.
relationship between personal One of the central concerns of the
problems and social issues. We also sociological perspective has been to
saw how individuals are located within understand the dialectical relationship
collectivities such as groups, classes, between the individual and society. You
gender, castes and tribes. Indeed each will recall C.Wright Mill’s elaboration of
of you, is a member of not just one the sociological imagination that seeks
kind of collectivity, but many to unfold the interplay between an
overlapping ones. For instance, you are individual’s biography and society’s
a member of your own peer group, your history. It is towards understanding
family and kin, your class and gender, this dialectical relationship between the
your country and region. Each society and individual that we need to
individual thus has a specific location discuss the three central concepts of
in the social structure and social structure, stratification and social
stratification system (see pages 28-35 processes in this chapter. In the next
in Introducing Sociology). This also few chapters we then move on to how
implies that they have different levels social structure in rural and urban
and types of access to social resources. societies are different, to broader
In other words the choices an relationships between environment and
individual has in life in terms of the society. In the last two chapters we look
school s/he goes to — or if s/he goes at western social thinkers and Indian
to school at all — would depend on sociologists and their writings that
the social stratum that s/he belongs would help us further understand the
to. Likewise with the clothes s/he gets ideas of social structure, stratification
to wear, the food s/he consumes, the as well as social processes.

The central question that this regularities that the concept of social
chapter seeks to discuss is to what structure refers. Upto a point, it is
extent the individual constrained by, helpful to think of the structural
and to what extent s/he is free of, the characteristics of societies as
social structure? To what extent does resembling the structure of a building.
one’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 particular
individual choice? Do social structure ‘shape’ or form (Giddens 2004: 667).
and social stratification influence the But the metaphor can be a very
manner people act? Do they shape the misleading one if applied too strictly.
way individuals cooperate, compete Social structures are made up of
and conflict with each other? human actions and relationships.
In this chapter we deal briefly with What gives these their patterning is
the terms social structure and social their repetition across periods of time
stratification. You have already and distances of space. Thus, the ideas
discussed social stratification in some of social reproduction and social
detail in Chapter 2 of the earlier book structure are very closely related to one
Introducing Sociology (NCERT, 2006). another in sociological analysis. For
We then move on to focus on three example, consider a school and a
social processes namely; cooperation, family structure. In a school certain
competition and conflict. In dealing ways of behaving are repeated over the
with each of these processes we shall years and become institutions. For
try and see how social structure and instance admission procedures, codes
stratification impinge themselves on of conduct, annual functions, daily
the social processes. In other words assemblies and in some cases even
how individuals and groups cooperate, school anthems. Likewise in families
compete and conflict depending upon certain ways of behaving, marriage
their 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 school
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND STRATIFICATION may pass away and new members
The term social structure points to the enter, the institution goes on. Yet we
fact that society is structured — i.e., also know that changes do take place
organised or arranged — in particular within the family and in schools.
ways. The social environments in The above discussion and activity
which we exist do not just consist of should help us understand human
random assortments of events or societies as buildings that are at every
actions. There are underlying moment being reconstructed by the
regularities, or patterns, in how people very bricks that compose them. For as
behave and in the relationships they we saw for ourselves human beings in
have with one another. It is to these schools or families do bring changes

Different types of buildings in rural and urban areas


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 placing
introducing changes. They cooperate of the walls and doors, for example
at various levels in their everyday lives defines the routes of exit and entry.
towards this reproduction. No less true Social structure, according to
is the fact that they also compete with Durkheim, constrains our activities in
each other, often viciously and a parallel way, setting limits to what
ruthlessly. 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 Karl
shall find later in this chapter, Marx would emphasise the constraints
cooperation can be enforced and of social structure but would at the
thereby serve to conceal conflict. same time stress human creativity or
A major theme pursued by Emile agency to both reproduce and change
Durkheim (and by many other social structure. Marx argued that
sociological authors since) is that the human beings make history, but not
societies exert social constraint over as they wish to or in conditions of their
the actions of their members. choice, but within the constraints and
Durkheim argued that society has possibilities of the historical and
primacy 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). Social
the material environment. stratification refers to the existence of
Think of a person standing in a structured inequalities between
room with several doors. The structure groups in society, in terms of their
of the room constrains the range of his access to material or symbolic

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 privileged
rewards. 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 divided
wide differences in wealth and power. into a patterned structure of unequal
While the most evident forms of groups, and usually implies that this
stratification in modern societies structure tends to persist across
involve class divisions, others like generations (Jayaram 1987:22).
race and caste, region and It is necessary to distinguish
community, tribe and gender also between different advantages which
continue to matter as bases of social can be distributed unequally. There
stratification. 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 material
behaviour. Social stratification as part advantages which improve the
of the broader social structure is quality of life of the recipient — this

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 structure
social processes will repeatedly draw of society.
attention to the manner that different
bases of social stratification like Activity 3
gender or class constrain social
Think of examples of cooperation,
processes. The opportunities and
competition and conflict in your
resources available to individuals and everyday life
groups to engage in competition,
cooperation or conflict are shaped by
In Introducing Sociology we
social structure and social
discussed how there are differences and
stratification. At the same time,
plural understandings of society (pages
humans do act to modify the structure
24-25, 36). We saw how functionalist
and 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 social
PROCESSES IN SOCIOLOGY stratification and social control. Not
In the earlier book Introducing surprisingly therefore, these two
Sociology (NCERT, 2006) you have perspectives seek to understand these
seen the limitations of common sense processes a bit differently. But both Karl
knowledge. The problem is not that Marx (usually associated with a conflict
commonsense knowledge is perspective) and Emile Durkheim
necessarily false, but that it is (usually identified with a functionalist
unexamined and taken for granted. By perspective) presume that human
contrast, the sociological perspective beings have to cooperate to meet their
questions everything and accepts basic needs, and to produce and
nothing as a given. It would therefore reproduce themselves and their world.
not rest content with an explanation The conflict perspective emphasises
which suggests that humans compete how these for ms of cooperation

Different types of processes


changed from one historical society to refer to the fulfilment of the broadest
another. For instance, it would conditions which are necessary for a
recognise that in simple societies system’s existence (and which
where no surplus was produced, there therefore keep it alive and prevent its
was 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 in
societies where surplus is produced — (ii) A shared system of communication;
whether feudal or capitalist — the (iii) Methods of assigning individuals
dominant class appropriates the to roles.
surplus and cooperation would
You are well aware how the
necessarily involve potential conflict
functionalist perspective rests upon the
and competition. The conflict view thus
assumption that different parts or
emphasises that groups and
organs of society have a function or role
individuals are placed differentially
to play for the broader maintenance
and 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 seen
cooperate in their everyday work. But
as universal features of all societies,
a certain conflict of interests would
explained as the result of the inevitable
define their relationship.
interactions among humans living in
The understanding that informs the
society and pursuing their ends. Since
conflict perspective is that in societies
the focus is on system sustenance,
divided by caste, or class or patriarchy,
some groups are disadvantaged and
discriminated against. Furthermore the Babul Mora. Naihar Chuto hi jai
dominant groups sustain this unequal Fears of the Natal home is left behind
order by a series of cultural norms, and
Babul ki dua-ein leti ja
often coercion or even violence. As you
Ja tujhko sukhi sansar mile
will see in the next paragraphs, it is
not that the functionalist perspective Maike ki kabhi na yaad aaye
fails to appreciate the role of such Sasural me itna pyar mile
norms or sanctions. But it understands Take your father’s blessings/prayer
their function in terms of the society as you go;
as a whole, and not in terms of the Go, and (may you) get a happy
dominant sections who control society. household;
The functionalist perspective is May you never be reminded of your
mother’s home;
mainly concerned with the ‘system
requirements’ of society — certain (Because of) all the love you receive
functional imperatives, functional At your in-laws’ place.
requisites and prerequisites. These (Basu 2001: 128)

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’s

with the understanding that in most right to property in their natal family.
cases they tend to get resolved without A study was conducted among different
too much distress, and that they may sections of society to understand the
even help society in various ways. attitude towards taking natal property
Sociological studies have also (see pages 41- 46 of Introducing
shown how norms and patterns of Sociology). A significant number of
socialisation often ensure that a women (41.7 per cent) evoked the
particular social order persists, even theme of a daughter’s love and love for
though it is skewed in the interests of a daughter when speaking about their
one section. In other words the rights to property. But they emphasised
relationship between cooperation, apprehension rather than affection by
competition and conflict is often complex saying they would not claim full or any
and not easily separable. share of natal property because they
In order to understand how were afraid this would sour relations
cooperation may entail conflict, and the with their brothers or cause their
difference 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’


welcome in their natal homes. This we witness cooperation, whether they

attitude represents one of the dominant be ants or bees or mammals.
metaphors mediating women’s refusal Comparison with the animal world
of property… A woman demanding her should however be done carefully. We
share is the greedy shrew or ‘hak lene look at two very different theoretical
wali’. There was also a close connection traditions in sociology to illustrate the
between these feelings and the point, those represented by Emile
apparently obverse ones of the desire Durkheim and Karl Marx.
to continue to be part of the natal family Sociology for the most part did not
by actively contributing to its prosperity agree with the assumption that human
or being available to deal with its crises. nature is necessarily nasty and
Activity 2 would enable you to brutish. Emile Durkheim argues
appreciate how apparently cooperative against a vision of “primitive humanity
behaviour can also be seen as a whose hunger and thirst, always badly
product of deep conflicts in society. But satisfied, were their only passions”.
when these conflicts are not expressed Instead he argued:
openly or challenged, the impression
remains that there is no conflict, but They overlook the essential element
only cooperation. A functionalist view of moral life, that is, the moderating
often uses the term accommodation to influence that society exercises over
explain situations such as the one its members, which tempers and
described above, where women would neutralises the brutal action of the
prefer not to claim property rights in struggle for existence and selection.
their natal home. It would be seen as Wherever there are societies, there
an effort to compromise and co-exist is altruism, because ther e is
despite 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 — which
implies cooperation — is precisely to
The idea of cooperation rests on certain fulfill certain needs of society. The
assumptions about human behaviour. division of labour is at the same time
It is argued that without human a law of nature and also a moral rule
cooperation it would be difficult for of human conduct.
human life to survive. Further it is Durkheim distinguished between
argued that even in the animal world mechanical and organic solidarity that

characterised pre-industrial and means of subsistence men are

complex industrial societies respectively. indirectly producing their material life
Both are forms of cooperation in (Marx 1972:37).
society. Mechanical solidarity is the The above quote from Marx may
for m of cohesion that is based appear difficult but will help us
fundamentally on sameness. Most of understand how cooperation in
the members of such societies live very human life is dif ferent from
similar lives, with little specialisation cooperation in animal life. For humans
or division of labour beyond that not only adjust and accommodate to
associated with age and sex. Members cooperate but also alter society in that
feel bonded together essentially by process. For example, men and women
their shared beliefs and sentiments, over the ages had to adjust to natural
their common conscience and constraints. Various technological
consciousness. Organic solidarity is innovations over time not only
that form of social cohesion that is transformed human life but in some
based on division of labour and the sense nature too. Humans in
resulting interdependence of members cooperating thus do not passively
of society. As people become more adjust and accommodate but also
specialised, they also become more change the natural or social world to
dependent upon each other. A family which they adjust. We had discussed
engaged in subsistence farming may in the Chapter on Culture and
survive with little or no help from Socialisation in earlier book,
similar homesteaders. But specialised Introducing Sociology how Indians had
workers in a gar ment or a car to adjust and accommodate and co-
manufacturing factory cannot survive operate with the English language
without a host of other specialised because of our experience with British
workers supplying their basic needs. colonialism. But also how in that
Karl Marx too distinguishes human process Hinglish has emerged as a
life from animal life. While Durkheim living social entity (page 72).
emphasised altruism and solidarity as While both Durkheim from a
distinctive of the human world, Marx functionalist view and Marx from a
emphasised 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

has come about naturally, not as their attention to the fact that competition
own united power, but as an alien force itself has to be explained sociologically
existing outside them…” (Marx 1972: and not as a natural phenomena. The
53). Marx used the term alienation to anecdote refers to the teacher’s
refer to the loss of control on the part assumption that the children will
of workers over the concrete content naturally rejoice at the idea of a
of labour, and over the products of competitive race where the winner
their labour. In other words, workers would get a chocolate as a prize. To her
lose control over how to organise their surprise, her suggestion not only did
own work; and they lose control over not evoke any enthusiasm but instead
the fruits of their labour. Contrast, for seemed to cause considerable anxiety
example, the feeling of fulfillment and and distress. On probing further they
creativity of a weaver or potter or expresses their distaste for a game
ironsmith with that of a worker where there would be ‘winners’ and
involved in a factory whose sole task ‘losers’. This went against their idea of
may be to pull a lever or press a button fun, which meant for them a necessarily
throughout 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 and
As in the case of cooperation, In the contemporary world
discussions on the concept of however competition is the dominant
competition often proceed with the idea nor m and practice. Classical
that competition is universal and sociological thinkers such as Emile
natural. But going back to our Durkheim and Karl Marx have noted
discussion on how sociological the growth of individualism and
explanation is dif ferent from competition respectively in modern
naturalistic ones, it is important to societies. Both developments are
understand competition as a social intrinsic to the way modern capitalist
entity that emerges and becomes society functions. The stress is on
dominant in society at a particular greater efficiency and greater profit
historical point of time. In the maximisation. The underlying
contemporary 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; and
guiding 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

central theme of capitalism: rational

Liberals like J.S. Mill felt that the
individuals in free competition in the
effects of competition were generally
marketplace, each striving to harmful. However, he felt that though
maximise profits. modern competition ‘is described as
The ideology of competition is the the fight of all against all, but at the
dominant ideology in capitalism. The same time it is the fight for all’; this in
logic of this ideology is that the market the sense that economic competition
operates in a manner that ensures is directed toward maximum output
greatest ef ficiency. For example at minimum cost. Furthermore, ‘given
competition ensures that the most the breadth and individualism of
efficient firm survives. Competition society, many kinds of interest, which
eventually hold the group together
ensures that the students with higher
throughout its members, seem to
marks or best studies get admission
come alive and stay alive only when
into prestigious colleges. And then get the urgency and requirements of the
the best jobs. In all cases the “best” competitive struggle force them upon
refers 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 welcome
to compete has to be understood effects (Bottomore 1975: 174-5).

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 exist
i.e. that all individuals are positioned
within nations. Make a list of them
equally in the competition for
and then discuss in what ways they
education, jobs, or resources. But as
are similar and in what ways
the earlier discussions on stratification
or inequality showed, individuals are
placed differentially in society. If the
A widely held commonsense
greater number of children in India do perception is that conflicts in society
not go to school or drop-out sooner are new. Sociologists have drawn
rather than later, then they remain out attention to the fact that conflicts
of 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.
The term conflict implies clash of Developing countries are today
interests. We have already seen how arenas for conflict between the old
conflict theorists believe that scarcity and the new. The old order is no
of resources in society produces longer able to meet the new forces,
conflict as groups struggle to gain nor the new wants and aspirations
access to and control over those of the people, but neither is it
resources. The bases of conflict vary. moribund — in fact, it is still very
It 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, even
community. As young students you

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 conflicts
that conflict appears as a discord or treated as aberrations or deviant
overt clash only when it is openly ex- behaviour (Sen 1990:147).
pressed. For example, the existence of
Since, conflict is often not overtly
a peasant movement is an overt ex-
expressed, it has been found that
pression of a deep rooted conflict over
subaltern or subordinate sections,
land resources. But the absence of a
whether women in households or
movement does not imply the absence
peasants in agrarian societies, develop
of a conflict. Hence, this chapter has
different strategies to cope with conflict
emphasised the relationship between
and ensure cooperation. Findings of
conflict, involuntary cooperation and
many sociological studies seem to
also resistance.
suggest that covert conflict and overt
Let us examine some of the
cooperation is common. The extract
conflicts that exist in society, and also
below draws from many studies on
the close relationship that exists
women’s behaviour and interaction
between competition, cooperation and
within households.
conflict. We just take two instances
here. The first is the family and Material pressures and incentives to
household. The second, is that of land cooperate extend to distribution
based conflict. and there is little evidence of overt
conflict over distributional processes.
T raditionally the family and
Instead there is a hierarchy of
household were often seen as
decision-making, needs and priorities
harmonious units where cooperation (associated with age, gender and
was the dominant process and lifecycle), a hierarchy to which both
altruism the driving principle of men and women appear to subscribe.

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.

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 events
Conclusion that help you to use your sociological
The ef fort in this chapter is to understanding to explore the manner
understand the relationship between in which the three processes operate
structure and stratification on the for social groups that are
one hand and the social processes of differentially located in the social
cooperation, competition and conflict structure and the stratification
on 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.”

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.

…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).


Altruism: The principle of acting to benefit others without any selfishness or

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.

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.


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


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.

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.



It is often said that change is the earth for approximately 500,000 (five
only unchanging aspect of society. lakh) years, but they have had a
Anyone living in modern society does civilized existence for only about 6,000
not need to be reminded that constant years. Of these civilized years, it is only
change is among the most permanent in the last 400 years that we have seen
features of our society. In fact, the constant and rapid change; even
discipline of sociology itself emerged within these years of change, the pace
as an effort to make sense of the rapid has accelerated only in the last 100
changes that Wester n European years. Because the speed with which
society had experienced between the change happens has been increasing
seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. steadily, it is probably true that in the
But though social change last hundred years, change has been
seems such a common and obvious faster in the last fifty years than in
fact about moder n life, it is – the first fifty. And within the last fifty
comparatively speaking – a very new years, the world may have changed
and recent fact. It is estimated that more in the last twenty years than in
human beings have existed on planet the first thirty…

The Clock of Human History

Human beings have existed on earth for about half a million years. Agriculture,
the necessary basis of fixed settlements, is only about twelve thousand years old.
Civilisations date back no more than six thousand years or so. If we were to think
of the entire span of human existence thus far as a day (stretching from midnight
to midnight), agriculture would have come into existence at 11:56 pm and
civilisations at 11:57. The development of modern societies would get underway
only at 11:59 and 30 seconds! Yet perhaps as much change has taken place in
the last thirty seconds of this human day as in all the time leading up to it.
From: Anthony Giddens,2004 Sociology, 4th edition, p.40.

Activity 1 big impact spread over a large sector

of society – in order to qualify as social
Talk to your elders and make a list
of the things in your life that: (a) did
not exist when your parents were Even after this kind of
your age; and (b) did not exist when specification, social change still
your grandparents were your age. remains a very broad term. Attempts
Eg: Black & white/colour TV; to further qualify it usually try to
milk in plastic bags; zip fasteners on classify it by its sources or causes; by
clothes; plastic buckets; etc. – did it its nature, or the kind of impact it has
exist in your parents’/grandparents’ on society; and by its pace or speed.
childhood? For example, evolution is the name
Can you also make a list of things
given to a kind of change that takes
that existed in your parents/
grandparents time but don’t exist in
place slowly over a long period of time.
your time?
This term was made famous by the
natural scientist Charles Darwin, who
proposed a theory of how living
organisms evolve – or change slowly
‘Social change’ is such a general term over several centuries or even millenia,
that it can be, and often is, used to by adapting themselves to natural
refer to almost any kind of change not circumstances. Darwin’s theory
qualified by some other term, such as emphasized the idea of ‘the survival of
economic or political change. the fittest’ – only those life forms
Sociologists have had to work hard to manage to survive who are best
limit this broad meaning in order to adapted to their environment; those
make the term more specific and that are unable to adapt or are too slow
hence useful for social theory. At the to do so die out in the long run. Darwin
most basic level, social change refers suggested that human beings evolved
to changes that are significant – that from sea-borne life forms (or varieties
is, changes which alter the ‘underlying of fish) to land-based mammals,
structure of an object or situation over passing through various stages the
a period of time’ (Giddens 2005:42). highest of which were the various
Thus social change does not include varieties of monkeys and chimpanzees
any and all changes, but only big ones, until finally the homo sapiens or
changes which transfor m things human form was evolved. Although
fundamentally. The ‘bigness’ of Darwin’s theory refered to natural
change is measured not only by how processes, it was soon adapted to the
much change it brings about, but also social world and was termed ‘social
by the scale of the change, that is, by Darwinism’, a theory that emphasised
how large a section of society it affects. the importance of adaptive change. In
In other words, changes have to be contrast to evolutionary change,
both intensive and extensive – have a change that occurs comparatively

quickly, even suddenly, is sometimes previous chapter.) For example, the

called ‘revolutionary change’. It is used emergence of paper money as
mainly in the political context, when currency marked a major change in
the power structure of society changes the organisation of financial markets
very rapidly through the overthrow of and transactions. Until this change
a former ruling class or group by its came about, most forms of currency
challengers. Examples include the involved precious metals like gold and
French revolution (1789-93) and the silver. The value of the coin was
Soviet or Russian revolution of 1917. directly linked to the value of the gold
But the term has also been used more or silver it contained. By contrast, the
generally to refer to sharp, sudden and value of a paper currency note has no
total transformations of other kinds as relationship to the value of the paper
well, such as in the phrase ‘industrial it is printed on, or the cost of its
revolution’ or ‘telecommunications printing. The idea behind paper
revolution’, and so on. money was that a medium or means
for facilitating the exchange of goods
Activity 2 and services need not itself be
Refer to the discussions about the intrinsically valuable. As long as it
French Revolution and the Industrial represents values convincingly — i.e.,
Revolution which you have come as long as it inspires trust — almost
across before in your textbooks. anything can function as money. This
What were the major kinds of change idea was the foundation for the credit
that each brought about? Would market and helped change the
these changes qualify to be called structure of banking and finance.
‘social change’? Were these changes
These changes in turn produced
fast enough and far reaching enough
to qualify as ‘revolutionary change’?
further changes in the organisation of
What other kinds of social change economic life.
have you come across in your books Changes in values and beliefs can
which might not qualify as also lead to social change. For
revolutionary change? Why would example, changes in the ideas and
they not qualify? beliefs about children and childhood
have brought about very important
Types of change that are identified kinds of social change, there was a
by their nature or impact include time when children were simply
structural change and changes in considered small adults — there was
ideas, values and beliefs. Structural no special concept of childhood as
change refers to transformations in such, with its associated notions of
the structure of society, to its what was right or wrong for children
institutions or the rules by which to do. As late as the 19th century for
these institutions are run. (Recall the example, it was considered good and
discussion of social structure from the proper that children start to work as

soon as they were able to. Children some industries in our country that
were often helping their families at even today depend on child labour at
work from the age of five or six; the least partially (such as carpet weaving,
early factory system depended on the small tea shops or restaurants, match-
labour of children. It was during the stick making, and so on), child labour
19th and early 20th centuries that is illegal and employers can be
ideas about childhood as a special punished as criminals.
stage of life gained influence. It then But by far the most common way
became unthinkable for small of classifying social change is by its
children to be at work, and many causes or sources. Sometimes the
countries passed laws banning child causes are pre-classified into
labour. At the same time, there inter nal (or endogenous) and
emerged ideas about compulsory exter nal (or exogenous) causes.
education, and childr en wer e There are five broad types of sources
supposed to be in school rather than or causes of social change:
at work, and many laws were passed environmental, technological,
for this as well. Although there are economic, political and cultural.

Students in a classroom

A child doing skilled work

Environment their environment. The same was true

for people living in very cold climates,
Nature, ecology and the physical
or in port towns, along major trade
environment have always had a
routes or mountain passes, or in fertile
significant influence on the structure
and shape of society. This was river valleys. But the extent to which
particularly true in the past when the environment influences society
human beings were unable to control has been decreasing over time with the
or overcome the effects of nature. For increase in technological resources.
example, people living in a desert Technology allows us to overcome or
environment were unable to practise adapt to the problems posed by
settled agriculture of the sort that was nature, thus reducing the differences
possible in the plains, near rivers and between societies living in different
so on. So the kind of food they ate or sorts of environments. On the other
the clothes they wore, the way they hand, technology also alters nature
earned their livelyhood, and their and our relationship to it in new ways
patterns of social interaction were all (see the chapter on environment in
determined to a large extent by the this book). So it is perhaps more
physical and climatic conditions of accurate to say that the effect of

The earth caves in after heavy floods may have shaped societies, but how did
it play any role in social change? The
easiest and most powerful answer to
this question can be found in natural
disasters. Sudden and catastrophic
events such as earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions, floods, or tidal waves (like
the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri
Lanka, the Andaman Islands and parts
of Tamil Nadu in December 2004) can
change societies quite drastically.
These changes are often irreversible,
that is, they are permanent and don’t
allow a return to the way things were.
For example, it is quite possible that
many of those whose livelihoods were
destroyed by the tsunami will never be
able to return to them again, and that
many of the coastal villages will have
their social structure completely
altered. There are numerous instances
of natural disasters leading to a total
transformation and sometimes total
destruction of societies in history.
Environmental or ecological factors
need not only be destructive to cause
change, they can be constructive as
well. A good example is the discovery
of oil in the desert regions of West Asia
(also called the Middle East). Like the
discovery of gold in California in the
19th century, oil reserves in the Middle
East have completely transformed the
societies in which they were found.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or
the United Arab Emirates would be very
different today without their oil wealth.
nature on society is changing rather
Technology and Economy
than simply declining.
But how, you might ask, does this The combination of technological and
affect social change? The environment economic change has been responsible

for immense social changes, specially international trade and migration.

in the modern period. Technology Both these developments created
affects society in a wide variety of gigantic ripples of change which
ways. As seen above, it can help us to affected not only the economy but also
resist, control, adapt to or harness the social, cultural and demographic
nature in dif ferent ways. In dimensions of world society.
combination with the very powerful The importance and impact of
institution of the market, technological steam power became visible relatively
change can be as impressive in its quickly; however, sometimes, the
social impact as natural factors like a social impact of technological changes
tsunami or the discovery of oil. The becomes visible only retrospectively.
most famous instance of massive and A technological invention or discovery
immediately visible social change may produce limited immediate
brought about by technological change ef fects, as though it were lying
is the Industrial Revolution itself, dormant. Some later change in the
which you have already read about. economic context may suddenly
You will surely have heard of the change the social significance of the
massive social impact made by the same invention and give it recognition
steam engine. The discovery of steam as a historic event. Examples of this
power allowed emerging forms of large are the discovery of gunpowder and
scale industry to use of a source of writing paper in China, which had
energy that was not only far stronger only limited impact for centuries until
than animals or human beings, but they were inserted into the context of
was also capable of continuous modernising Western Europe. From
operation without the need for rest. that vantage point, given the
When harnessed to modes of transport advantage of enabling circumstances,
like the steam ship and the railway, it gunpowder helped to transform the
transformed the economy and social technology of warfare and the paper-
geography of the world. The railroad print revolution changed society
enabled the westward expansion of forever. Another example closer home
industry and trade on the American is the case of technological innovations
continent and in Asia. In India too, in the textile industry in Britain. In
the railways have played a very combination with market forces and
important r ole in shaping the imperial power, the new spinning and
economy, specially in the first century weaving machines destroyed the
after their introduction in 1853. handloom industry of the Indian
Steamships made ocean voyages subcontinent which was, until then,
much faster and much more reliable, the largest and most advanced in the
thereby changing the dynamics of world.

Activity 3 Politics
Have you noticed other such In the old ways of writing and
technological changes which have recounting history, the actions of
social consequences in your own life? kings and queens seemed to be the
Think of the photo-copying machine most important forces of social
and its impact. Have you ever change. But as we know now, kings
thought of what things were like and queens were the representatives
before photo-copying became so
of larger political, social and economic
cheap and freely available? Another
example could be the STD telephone
trends. Individuals may indeed have
booths. Try to find out how people had roles to play, but they were part
communicated befor e these of a larger context. In this sense,
telephone boths had appeared and political forces have surely been
very few homes had telephone among the most important causes of
connections. Make a list of other social change. The clearest examples
such examples. are found in the history of warfare.
When one society waged war on
Sometimes changes in economic
another and conquered or was
organisation that are not directly
conquered, social change was usually
technological can also change society.
an immediate consequence.
In a well-known historical example,
Sometimes, conquerors brought the
plantation agriculture — that is, the
seeds of change and planted them
growing of single cash crops like
wherever they went. At other times,
sugarcane, tea or cotton on a large
scale — created a heavy demand for the conquered were actually
labour. This demand helped to successful in planting seeds of change
establish the institution of slavery and among the conquer ors and
the slave trade between Africa, Europe transformed their societies. Although
and the Americas between the 17th there are many such examples in
and 19th centuries. In India, too, the history, it is interesting to consider a
tea plantations of Assam involved the modern instance — that of the United
forced migration of labour from States and Japan.
Eastern India (specially the Adivasi The United States won a famous
areas of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh). victory over Japan in the Second World
Today, in many parts of the world, War, partly through the use of a
changes in customs duties or tariffs weapon of mass destruction never
brought about by inter national seen before in human history, the
agreements and institutions like the nuclear bomb. After the Japanese
World Trade Organisation, can lead to surrender, the United States occupied
entire industries and occupations and ruled over Japan for several years,
being wiped out or (less often) sudden bringing about lots of changes,
booms or periods of prosperity for including land refor m in Japan.
other industries or occupations. Japanese industry, at that time, was

trying very hard to copy American through the redistribution of power

industry and learn from it. By the across different social groups and
1970s, however, Japanese industrial classes.
techniques, specially in fields like car Considered from this viewpoint,
manufacturing, had gone far ahead of universal adult franchise — or the ‘one
the Americans. Between the 1970s person, one vote’ principle — is
and 1990s, Japanese industry probably the single biggest political
dominated the world and forced change in history. Until modern
changes in the industrial organisation democracies formally empowered the
of Europe and specially the United people with the vote, and until
States. The industrial landscape of elections became mandatory for
the United States in particular was exercising legitimate power, society
decisively altered by the impact of was structured very differently. Kings
Japanese industrial technology and and queens claimed to rule by divine
production organisation. Large, right, and they were not really
traditionally dominant industries like answerable to the common people.
steel, automobiles and heavy Even when democratic principles of
engineering suffered major setbacks voting were first introduced, they did
and had to restructure themselves not include the whole population —
according to Japanese technological in fact only a small minority could
and management principles. vote, or had any say in the formation
Emerging fields like electronics were of the government. In the beginning,
also pioneered by the Japanese. In the vote was restricted to those who
short, within the space of four were born into high status social
decades, Japan had turned the tables groups of a particular race or ethincity,
on the United States, but through or to wealthy men who owned
economic and technological means property. All women, men of lower
rather than warfare. classes or subordinated ethnicities,
Political changes need not only be and the poor and working people in
inter national — they can have general were not allowed to vote.
enormous social impact even at home. It is only through long struggles
Although you may not have thought that universal adult franchise came to
of it this way, the Indian independence be established as a norm. Of course,
movement did not only bring about this did not abolish all the inequalities
political change in the form of the end of previous eras. Even today, not all
of British rule, it also decisively countries follow democratic forms of
changed Indian society. A more recent rule; even where elections are held,
instance is to be found in the Nepali they can be manipulated; and people
people’s rejection of monarchy in can continue to be powerless to
2006. More generally, political influence the decisions of their
changes bring about social change government. But despite all this, it

cannot be denied that universal adult social change. In India too we find
franchise serves as a powerful norm many examples of religion bringing
that exerts pressure on every society about social change. Among the best
and every government. Governments known are the impact of Buddhism on
must now at least appear to seek the social and political life in ancient India,
approval of the people in order to be and the widespread influence of the
considered legitimate. This has Bhakti Movement on medieval social
brought massive social changes in structure including the caste system.
its wake. A different example of cultural
change leading to social change can
Culture be seen in the evolution of ideas about
Culture is used here as a short label the place of women in society. In the
for a very wide field of ideas, values, modern era, as women have struggled
beliefs, that are important to people for equality, they have helped change
and help shape their lives. Changes society in many ways. Women’s
in such ideas and beliefs lead naturally struggles have also been helped or
to changes in social life. The hindered by other historical
commonest example of a socio- circumstances. For example, during
cultural institution that has had the Second World War, women in
enormous social impact is religion. western countries started to work in
Religious beliefs and norms have factories doing jobs that they had
helped organise society and it is hardly never done before, jobs which had
surprising that changes in these always been done by men. The fact
beliefs have helped transform society. that women were able to build ships,
So important has religion been, that operate heavy machinery, manufacture
some scholars have tended to define ar maments and so on, helped
civilisations in religious terms and to establish their claims to equality. But
see history as the process of it is equally true that, had it not been
interaction between religions. for the war, they would have had to
However, as with other important struggle for much longer. A very
factors of social change, religion too different instance of change produced
is contextual — it is able to produce by the position of women can be seen
effects in some contexts but not in in consumer advertising. In most
others. Max Weber’s study ‘the urban societies, it is women who take
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of most of the everyday decisions about
Capitalism’ showed how the religious what to buy for their households. This
beliefs of some Christian Protestant has made advertisers very sensitive to
sects helped to establish the capitalist the views and perspectives of women
social system. It remains one of the as consumers. Significant proportions
most famous examples of the impact of advertising expenditure are now
of cultural values on economic and directed at women, and this in turn

has effects on the media. In short, upper class centre of authority

the economic role of women starts a (England). Similarly, the complete
chain of changes which can have a world dominance of the West Indies
larger social impact. For example, cricket team during the 1970s and
advertisements may tend to show 1980s, was also an expression of
women as decision-makers and as racial pride on the part of a colonised
important people in ways that would people. In India, too, beating England
not have been considered or at cricket was always seen as
encouraged before. More generally, something special, particularly before
most advertisements used to be independence. At another level, the
addressed to men; now they are immense popularity of cricket in the
addressed as much to women, or, in Indian sub-continent has altered the
some sectors like household commercial profile of the game which
appliances and consumer goods, is now driven by the interests of South
mainly to women. So it is now Asian fans, specially Indians.
economically important for advertisers As will be clear from the above
and manufacturers to pay attention discussion, no single factor or theory
to what women think and feel. can account for social change. The
Yet another instance of cultural causes of social change may be
change bringing about social change internal or external, the result of
can be found in the history of sports. deliberate actions or accidental
Games and sports have always been events. Moreover, the causes of social
expressions of popular culture that change ar e often interrelated.
sometimes acquir e a lot of Economic and technological causes
importance. The game of cricket may also have a cultural component,
began as a British aristocratic politics may be influenced by
pastime, spread to the middle and environment… It is important to be
working classes of Britain, and from aware of the many dimensions of
there to British colonies across the social change and its varied forms.
world. As the game acquired roots Change is an important subject for
outside Britain, it often turned into a us because the pace of change in
symbol of national or racial pride. modern and specially contemporary
The very different history of intense times is much faster than what it
rivalry in cricket shows the social used to be before. Although social
importance of sport in a very telling change is better understood
manner. The England-Australia retrospectively — after it has already
rivalry expressed the resentment of occurred — we also need to be aware
the socially subordinated colony of it as it happens, and to prepare for
(Australia) against the dominant it in whatever ways we can.


The meaning of social events or We are used to thinking of sameness
pr ocesses often becomes clear as boring and change as exciting; this
through contrasts, just as the letters is also true, of course — change can
on the page that you are reading be fun and lack of change can be
really dull. But think of what life
become legible because they contrast
would be like if you were forced to
against the background. In the same change all the time… What if you
way, social change as a process never, ever got the same food for
acquir es meaning against the lunch — every day something
backdrop of continuity or lack of different, and never the same thing
change. It may sound odd, but twice, regardless of whether you
change makes sense as a concept liked it or not? Here is a scarier
only if there are also some things that thought — what if every time you
are not changing, so that they offer came back from school there were
different people at home, different
the possibility of comparison or
parents, dif ferent brothers and
contrast. In other words, social sisters…? What if whenever you
change has to be understood together played your favourite game —
with social or der, which is the football, cricket, volleyball, hockey
tendency within established social and so on — the rules were different
systems that resists and regulates each time? Think of other areas of
change. your life where you would like things
Another way of looking at the to not change too quickly. Are there
relationship between social change areas of your life where you want
and social order is to think about the things to change quickly? Try to
think about the reasons why you
possible reasons why society needs to
want or don’t want change in
prevent, discourage, or at least control particular instances.
change. In order to establish itself as
a strong and viable social system, The above argument was an
every society must be able to abstract and general one about the
repr oduce itself over time and possible reasons why societies may
maintain its stability. Stability need to resist change. But there are
requires that things continue more or usually more concrete and specific
less as they are — that people continue reasons why societies do in fact resist
to follow the same rules, that similar change. Remember what you read
actions produce similar results, and about social structure and social
more generally, that individuals and stratification in Chapter 1. Most
institutions behave in a fairly societies most of the time are stratified
predictable manner. in unequal ways, that is, the different

strata are differently positioned with may be more or less efficient in

respect to command over economic dif ferent contexts, but however
resources, social status and political efficient it is, it can never completely
power. It is not surprising that those erase the will of the individual. In
who are favourably placed wish for other words, socialisation cannot turn
things to continue as they are, while people into programmed robots — it
those who are suffering disadvantages cannot pr oduce complete and
are anxious for change. So the ruling permanent consent for all norms at
or dominant groups in society all times. You may have experienced
generally resist any social changes this in your own lives: rules or beliefs
that may alter their status, because which seem very natural and right at
they have a vested interest in stability. one point of time, don’t seem so
On the other hand, the subordinated obviously correct at other times. We
or oppressed groups have a vested question things we believed in the
interest in change. ‘Normal’ conditions past, and change our minds about
usually favour the rich and powerful, what we regard as right or wrong.
and they are able to resist change. Sometimes, we may even return to
This is another broad reason why beliefs we once held and then
societies are generally stable. abandoned, only to rediscover them
However, the notion of social order afresh at some later stage of life or in
is not restricted to the idea of different circumstances. So, while
resistance to change, it also has a socialisation does take on much of the
more positive meaning. It refers to the burden of producing social order, it is
active maintenance and reproduction never enough by itself.
of particular pattern of social relations Thus, most modern societies must
and of values and norms. Broadly also depend on some form of power or
speaking, social order can be achieved coercion to ensure that institutions
in one of two ways — when people and individuals conform to established
spontaneously wish to abide by a set social norms. Power is usually defined
of rules and norms; or when people as the ability to make others do what
are compelled in various ways to obey you want regardless of what they
such norms. Every society employs a themselves want. When a relationship
combination of these methods to of power is stable and settled, and the
sustain social order. parties involved have become
Spontaneous consent to social accustomed to their relative positions,
order derives ultimately from shared we have a situation of domination. If
values and nor ms which are a social entity (a person, institution
internalised by people through the or group) is routinely or habitually in
process of socialisation. (Revisit the a position of power, it is said to be
discussion of socialisation in dominant. In normal times, dominant
Introducing Sociology). Socialisation institutions, groups or individuals

exercise a decisive influence on and justice. We have already seen how

society. It is not as though they are power is defined in society; power in
never challenged, but this happens itself is simply a fact — it can be either
only in abnormal or extraordinary legitimate or not. Authority is defined
times. Even though it implies that by Max Weber as legitimate power —
people are being forced to do things that is, power considered to be
they don’t necessarily want to do, justified or proper. For example, a
domination in normal times can be police officer, a judge, or a school
quite ‘smooth’, in the sense of teacher all exercise different kinds of
appearing to be without friction or authority as part of their jobs. This
tension. (Revisit the discussion of authority is explicitly provided to them
‘forced cooperation’ from Chapter 1. by their official job description — there
Why, for example, did women not want are written documents specifying their
to claim their rights in their families authority, and what they may and may
of birth? Why did they ‘consent’ to not do.
the patriarchal norm). The fact that they have authority
Domination, Authority and Law automatically implies that other
How is it that domination can be non- members of society — who have agreed
confrontational even when it clearly to abide by its rules and regulations
involves unequal relationships where — must obey this authority within its
costs and benefits are unevenly proper domain. The domain of the
distributed? Part of the answer we judge is the court room, and when
have already got from the discussion citizens are in the court, they are
of the previous chapter — dominant supposed to obey the judge or defer to
groups extract cooperation in unequal her/his authority. Outside the
relationships because of their power. courtroom, the judge is supposed to
But why does this power work? Does be like any other citizen. So, on the
it work purely because of the threat of street, S/he must obey the lawful
the use of force? This is where we authority of the police officer. When
come to an important concept in on duty, the policeman or woman has
sociology, that of legitimation. authority over the public actions of all
In social terms, legitimacy refers citizens except her/his superior
to the degree of acceptance that is officers. But police officers do not have
involved in power relations. jurisdiction over the private activities
Something that is legitimate is of citizens as long as they are not
accepted as proper, just and fitting. suspected of being unlawful. In
In the broadest sense, it is different way — different because the
acknowledged to be part of the social nature of the authority involved is less
contract that is currently prevailing. strictly or explicitly defined — the
In short, legitimacy implies conformity teacher has authority over her/his
to existing norms of right, propriety pupils in the classroom. The authority

of the teacher does not extend into the as an individual agree with a
home of the pupil where parents or particular law, it has binding force on
guardians have primary responsibility me as a citizen, and on all other
and authority over their children. citizens similarly regardless of their
There may be other for ms of beliefs.
authority that are not so strictly So, domination works through
defined, but are nevertheless effective power, but much of this power is
in eliciting consent and cooperation. actually legitimate power or authority,
A good example is the authority a large part of which is codified in law.
wielded by a religious leader. Although Consent and cooperation are obtained
some institutionalised religions may on a regular and reliable basis because
have partly formalised this authority, of the backing of this structure of
but the leader of a sect or other less- legitimation and formal institutional
institutionalised minor religious group support. This does not exhaust the
may wield enor mous authority domain of power or domination —
without it being formalised. Similarly there are many kinds power that are
reputed scholars, artists, writers and effective in society even though they
other intellectuals may wield a lot of are illegitimate, or if legitimate are not
authority in their respective fields codified in law. It is the mix of
without it being formalised. The same legitimate, lawful authority and other
is true of a criminal gang leader — he kinds of power that determines the
or she may exercise absolute authority nature of a social system and also its
but without any formal specifications. dynamics.
The difference between explicitly
codified and more informal authority Contestation, Crime and Violence
is relevant to the notion of the law. A
law is an explicitly codified norm or The existence of domination, power,
rule. It is usually written down, and legitimate authority and law does not
there are laws that specify how laws imply that they always meet with
are to be made or changed, or what is obedience and conformity. You have
to be done if someone violates them. already read about the presence of
A modern democratic society has a conflict and competition in society. In
given body of laws created through its a similar way, we need to recognise
legislature, which consist of elected more general forms of contestation in
representatives. The laws of the land society. Contestation is used here as
are enacted in the name of the people simply a word for broad forms of
of that land by the people’s insistent disagreement. Competition
representatives. This law forms the and conflict are more specific than
formal body of rules according to this, and leave out other forms of
which society will be governed. Laws dissent that may not be well described
apply to all citizens. Whether or not I by such terms.

One example is that of ‘counter Although it generally carries a

cultures’ among youth or ‘youth strong moral charge, the notion of
rebellion’. These are protests against crime is strictly derived from the law.
or refusal to conform to prevalent A crime is an act that violates an
social norms. The content of these existing law, nothing more, nothing
protests may involve anything from less. The moral worth of the act is not
hairstyles and clothing fashions to determined solely by the fact that it
language or lifestyle. More standard violates existing law. If the existing law
or conventional forms of contestation is believed to be unjust, for example,
include elections — which are a form a person may claim to be breaking it
of political competition. Contestations for the highest moral reasons. This is
also include dissent or protest against exactly what the leaders of the
laws or lawful authorities. Open and Freedom Movement in India were
democratic societies allow this kind of doing as part of their ‘Civil
dissent to different degrees. There are Disobedience’ campaign. When
both explicit and implicit boundaries Mahatma Gandhi broke the salt law
defined for such dissent; crossing of the British government at Dandi,
these boundaries invites some form of he was committing a crime, and he
reaction from society, usually from the was arrested for it. But he committed
law enforcement authorities. this crime deliberately and proudly,
As you know very well, being and the Indian people were also proud
united as Indians does not prevent us of him and what he stood for. Of
from disagreeing with each other. course, these are not the only kinds
Different political parties may have of crime that are committed! There are
very different agendas even though many other kinds of crime that cannot
they may respect the same claim any great moral virtue. But the
Constitution. Belief in or knowledge important point is that a crime is the
of the same set of traffic rules does breaking of the law — going beyond
not prevent heated arguments on the the boundary of legitimate dissent as
road. In other words, social order need defined by the law.
not mean sameness or unanimity. On The question of violence relates at
the other hand, how much difference the broadest level to the basic definition
or dissent is tolerated in society is an of the state. One of the defining features
important question. The answer to of the moder n state is that it is
this question depends on social and supposed to have a monopoly over the
historical circumstances but it always use of legitimate violence within its
marks an important boundary in jurisdiction. In other words, only the
society, the boundary between the state (through its authorised
legitimate and the illegitimate, the functionaries) may lawfully use
legal and the illegal, and the violence — all other instances of
acceptable and the unacceptable. violence are by definition illegal. (There

are exceptions like self defense meant of the major changes in social
for extraordinary and rare situations). structure brought about by the
Thus, technically, every act of violence transition from nomadic ways of life
is seen as being directed against the based on hunting, gathering food and
state. Even if I assault or murder some transient agriculture to a more settled
other individual, it is the state that form of life. With the development of
prosecutes me for violating its sedentary forms of agriculture — or
monopoly over the legitimate use of forms that did not involve moving from
violence. place to place — social structure also
It is obvious that violence is the changed. Investment in land and
enemy of social order, and an extreme technological innovations in
form of contestation that transgresses agriculture created the possibility of
not only the law, but important social producing a surplus – something over
norms. Violence in society is the and above what was needed for
product of social tensions and survival. Thus, settled agriculture
indicates the presence of serious meant that wealth could be
problems. It is also a challenge to the accumulated and this also brought
authority of the state. In this sense it with it social differences. The more
also marks the failure of the regime of advanced division of labour also
legitimation and consent and the open created the need for occupational
outbreak of conflicts. specialisation. All of these changes
together shaped the emergence of the
SOCIAL ORDER AND CHANGE IN VILLAGE, village as a population settlement
TOWN AND CITY based on a particular form of social
Most societies can be divided into rural organisation.
and urban sectors. The conditions of In economic and administrative
life and therefore the forms of social terms, The distinction between rural
organisation in these sectors are very and urban settlements is usually
different from each other. So also, made on the basis of two major factors:
therefore, are the forms of social order population density and the proportion
that prevail in these sectors, and the of agriculture related economic
kinds of social change that are most activities. (Contrary to appearances,
significant in each. size is not always decisive; it becomes
We all think we know what is difficult to separate large villages and
meant by a village and by a town or small towns on the basis of population
city. But how exactly do we size alone.) Thus, cities and towns
differentiate between them? (see also have a much higher density of
the discussion in Chapter 5 on Village population — or the number of
Studies in the section on persons per unit area, such as a
M.N. Srinivas). From a sociological square km — than villages. Although
point of view, villages emerged as part they are smaller in terms of absolute

numbers of people, villages are spread for the first time in human history, the
out over a relatively larger area. world’s urban population will
Villages are also distinguished from outnumber its rural population.
towns and cities by the larger share of Indian society is also experiencing
agricultural activities in their urbanisation: the percentage of the
economic profile. In other words, population living in urban areas has
villages will have a significant increased from a little less than 11 per
proportion of its population engaged cent in 1901 to a little more than
in agriculture linked occupations, 17 per cent in 1951, soon after
much of what is produced there will independence. The 2001 Census
be agricultural products, and most of shows that almost 28 per cent of the
its income will be from agriculture. population now lives in urban areas.
The distinction between a town
and city is much more a matter of Social Order and Social Change in
administrative definition. A town and Rural Areas
city are basically the same sort of Because of the objective conditions in
settlement, differentiated by size. An villages being different, we can expect
‘urban agglomeration’ (a term used in the nature of social order and social
Censuses and official reports) refers change to be different as well. Villages
to a city along with its surrounding are small in size so they usually permit
sub-urban areas and satellite more personalised relationships; it is
settlements. A ‘metropolitan area’ not unusual for members of a village
includes more than one city, or a to know all or most other members by
continuous urban settlement many sight. Moreover, the social structure
times the size of a single city. in villages tends to follow a more
Given the directions in which traditional pattern: institutions like
modern societies have developed, the caste, religion, and other forms of
process of urbanisation has been customary or traditional social
experienced in most countries. This practice are stronger here. For these
is the process by which a progressively reasons, unless there are special
larger and larger proportion of the circumstances that make for an
country’s population lives in urban exception, change is slower to arrive
rather than rural areas. Most in villages than in towns.
developed countries are now There are also other reasons for
overwhelmingly urban. Urbanisation this. A variety of factors ensure that
is also the trend in developing the subordinate sections of society
countries; it can be faster or slower, have much less scope for expressing
but unless there are special reasons themselves in rural areas than their
blocking it, the process does seem to counterparts in cities. The lack of
occur in most contexts. In fact, the anonymity and distance in the village
United Nations reports that by 2007, makes it difficult for people to dissent

because they can be easily identified major impact on rural societies. Thus,
and ‘taught a lesson’ by the dominant measures like land reform which alter
sections. Moreover, the relative power the structure of land ownership have
of the dominant sections is much more an immediate impact. In India, the
because they control most avenues of first phase of land refor ms after
employment, and most resources of all independence took away proprietary
kinds. So the poor have to depend on rights from absentee landlords and
the dominant sections since there are gave them to the groups that were
no alternative sources of employment actually managing the land and its
or support. Given the small population, cultivation in the village. Most of these
it is also very difficult to gather large groups belonged to intermediate
numbers, particularly since efforts castes, and though they were often not
towards this cannot be hidden from the themselves the cultivators, they
power ful and are very quickly acquired rights over land. In
suppressed. So, in short, if there is a combination with their number, this
strong power structure already in place factor increased their social status and
in a village, it is very difficult to dislodge political power, because their votes
it. Change in the sense of shifts in mattered for winning elections. M.N.
power are thus slow and late to arrive Srinivas has named these groups as
in rural areas because the social order the ‘dominant castes’. In many
is stronger and more resilient. regional contexts, the dominant castes
Change of other sorts is also slow became very powerful in economic
to come because villages are scattered terms and dominated the countryside
and not as well connected to the rest and hence also electoral politics. In
of the world as cities and towns are. more recent times, these dominant
Of course, new modes of communication, castes are themselves facing
particularly the telephone and the opposition from the assertive
television have changed this. So the uprisings of castes further below them,
cultural ‘lag’ between villages and the lowest and the most backward
towns is now much shorter or non- castes. This has led to major social
existent. Communication links of upheavals in many states like Andhra
other sorts (road, rail) have also Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and
generally improved over time so that Tamil Nadu.
few villages can really claim to be In the same way, changes in the
‘isolated’ or ‘remote’, words often technological organisation of
unthinkingly attached to villages in agriculture also has a large and
the past. This has also accelerated immediate impact on rural society.
the pace of change somewhat. The introduction of new labour saving
For obvious reasons changes machinery or new cropping patterns
associated with agriculture or with may alter the demand for labour and
agrarian social relations have a very thus change the relative bargaining

strength of different social groups like natural advantage. So did cities that
landlords and labourers. Even if they were well located from the point of view
don’t directly affect labour demand, of military strategy. Finally, religious
technological or economic changes places attracted large numbers of
can change the economic power of pilgrims and thus supported an urban
different groups and thus set in economy. In India too we have
motion a chain of changes. Sudden examples of such old cities, including
fluctuations in agricultural prices, the well known medieval trading towns
droughts or floods can cause havoc of Tezpur on the Brahmaputra river
in rural society. The recent spate of in Assam or Kozhikode (formerly
farmer suicides in India is an example known as Calicut) on the Arabian Sea
of this. On the other hand, large scale in northern Kerala. We also have
development programmes aimed at many examples of temple towns and
the rural poor can also have an places of religious pilgrimage, such as
enormous impact. A good example Ajmer in Rajasthan, Varanasi (also
of this is the National Rural known as Benaras or Kashi) in Uttar
Employment Guarantee Act of 2005. Pradesh, or Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
As sociologists have pointed out,
Activity 5 city life and modernity go very well
Find out more about the National together; in fact, each may be
Rural Employment Guarantee Act. considered an intimate expression of
What does it aim to do? Why is it the other. Though it houses large and
considered such an important very dense populations, and though it
development programme? What has been known throughout history as
problems does it face? What would the site for mass politics, the city is also
be the likely consequences if it the domain of the modern individual.
In its combination of anonymity and
the amenities and institutions that only
Social Order and Social Change in
large numbers can support, the city
Urban Areas
of fers the individual boundless
It is well known that though the city possibilities for fulfillment. Unlike the
itself is very old — even ancient village, which discourages individuality
societies had them — urbanism as a and cannot of fer much, the city
way of life for large segments of the nurtures the individual.
population is a modern phenomenon. But while the many artists, writers,
Before the modern era, trade, religion and scholars who have celebrated the
and warfare were some of the major city as the haven of the individual are
factors that decided the location and not wrong, it is also true that freedom
importance of cities. Cities that were and opportunity are available only to
located on major trade routes, or had some individuals. More accurately,
suitable harbours and ports had a only a socially and economically

privileged minority can have the luxury Most of the important issues and
of a predominantly free and fulfilling problems of social order in towns and
life. Most people who live in cities have cities are related to the question of
only limited and relative freedoms space. High population density places
within larger constraints. These are a great premium on space and creates
the familiar economic and social very complex problems of logistics. It
constraints imposed by membership in is the primary task of the urban social
social groups of various kinds, already order to ensure the spatial viability of
known to you from the previous the city. This means the organisation
chapter. The city, too, fosters the and management of things like:
development of group identities — housing and residential patterns; mass
based on factors like race, religion, transit systems for transporting large
ethnicity, caste, region, and of course numbers of workers to and from work;
class — which are all well represented arranging for the coexistence of
in urban life. In fact, the concentration residential, public and industrial land-
of large numbers in a relatively small use zones; and finally all the public
space intensifies identities and makes health, sanitation, policing, public
them integral to strategies of survival, safety and monitoring needs of urban
resistance and assertion. governance. Each of these functions

A doctor checking a patient


is a huge undertaking in itself and with no pr oper civic facilities

presents formidable challenges of (sanitation, water supply, electricity
planning, implementation and and so on) and homes made of all
maintenance. What adds to the kinds of building materials ranging
complexity is that all of these tasks from plastic sheets and cardboard to
have to be performed in a context multi-storeyed concrete structures.
where the divisions and tensions of Because of the absence of ‘settled’
class, ethnicity, religion, caste and so property rights of the kind seen
on are also present and active. elsewhere, slums are the natural
For example, the question of urban breeding ground for ‘dadas’ and
housing brings with it a whole host of strongmen who impose their authority
problems. Shortage of housing for the on the people who live there. Control
poor leads to homelessness, and the over slum territory becomes the
phenomenon of ‘street people’ — those natural stepping stone to other kinds
who live and survive on the streets and of extra-legal activities, including
footpaths, under bridges and flyovers, criminal and real estate-related gangs.
abandoned buildings and other empty Where and how people will live in
spaces. It is also the leading cause for cities is a question that is also filtered
the emergence of slums. Though through socio-cultural identities.
official definitions vary, a slum is a Residential areas in cities all over the
congested, overcrowded neighbourhood world are almost always segregated by

A girl child looking after the sibling


A commercial centre in a city

Women at work in cotton field


class, and often also by race, ethnicity, process. This has happened in many
religion and other such variables. cities in India, most recently in Gujarat
Tensions between such identities both following the riots of 2002. The
cause these segregation patterns and worldwide phenomenon of ‘gated
are also a consequence. For example, communities’ is also found in Indian
in India, communal tensions between cities. This refers to the creation of
religious communities, most commonly affluent neighbourhoods that are
Hindus and Muslims, results in the separated from their surroundings by
conversion of mixed neighbourhoods walls and gates, with controlled entry
into single-community ones. This in and exit. Most such communities also
turn gives a specific spatial pattern to have their own parallel civic facilities,
communal violence whenever it erupts, such as water and electricity supply,
which again furthers the ‘ghettoisation’ policing and security.

Various kinds of transport in an urban area


Shopping in a city

Activity 6 Daily long distance commuters can

become an influential political
Have you come across such ‘gated
constituency and sometimes develop
communities’ in your town or city,
elaborate sub-cultures. For example,
or in one you have visited? Find out
the sub-urban trains of Mumbai —
from your elders about such a
popularly known as ‘locals’ — have
community. When did the gates and
many infor mal associations of
fences come up? Was there any
commuters. Collective on-train
opposition, and if so by whom? What
activities include singing bhajans,
reasons might people have for
celebrating festivals, chopping
wanting to live in such places? What
vegetables, playing card and board
effects do you think it has on urban
games (including tournaments), or
society and on the neighbourhoods
surrounding it? just general socialising.

Finally, housing patter ns are The form and content of social

linked to the economy of the city in change in urban areas is also best
crucial ways. The urban transport understood in relation to the central
system is directly and severely affected question of space. One very visible
by the location of residential areas element of change is the ups and
relative to industrial and commercial downs experienced by particular
workplaces. If these are far apart, as neighbourhoods and localities. Across
is often the case, an elaborate mass the world, the city centre – or the core
transit system must be created and area of the original city – has had many
maintained. Commuting becomes a changes of fortune. After being the
way of life and an ever present source power centre of the city in the 19th
of possible disruption. The transport and early 20th century, the city centre
system has a direct impact on the went through a period of decline in the
‘quality of life’ of working people in the latter half of the 20th century. This
city. Reliance on road transport and was also the period of the growth of
specially on private rather than public suburbs as the af fluent classes
modes (i.e., cars rather than buses) deserted the inner city for the suburbs
creates problems of traffic congestion for a variety of reasons. City centres
and vehicular pollution. As will be are experiencing a revival now in many
clear to you from the above discussion, major western cities as attempts to
the apparently simple issue of regenerate community life and the arts
distribution of living space is actually bear fruit. A related phenomenon is
a very complex and multi-dimensional ‘gentrification’, which refers to the
aspect of urban society. conversion of a previously lower class
neighbourhood into a middle and

upper class one. As real estate prices Changes in modes of mass

rise, it becomes more and more transport may also bring about
profitable for developers to try and significant social change in cities.
effect such a conversion. At some Affordable, efficient and safe public
point, the campaign becomes self- transport makes a huge difference to
fulfilling as rental values increase and city life and can shape the social
the locality acquires a critical character of a city apart from
minimum of prosperous businesses influencing its economic fortunes.
and residents. But sometimes the Many scholars have written on the
effort may fail and the neighbourhood difference between cities based on
goes back down the class scale and public transport like London or New
returns to its previous status. York and cities that depend mainly
Activity 7 on individualised car -based
Have you noticed any ‘gentrification’ transport like Los Angeles. It remains
or ‘up-scaling’ taking place in your to be seen, for example, whether the
neighbourhood? Do you know of new Metro Rail in Delhi will
such instances? Find out what the significantly change social life in that
locality was like before this city. But the main issue regarding
happened. In what ways has it social change in cities, specially in
changed? How have these changes
rapidly urbanising countries like
affected different social groups and
classes? Who benefits and who India, is how the city will cope with
loses? Who decides about changes constant increase in population as
of this sort — is there voting, or some migrants keep streaming in to add
form of public discussion? to its natural growth.


Customs Duties, Tariffs: Taxes imposed on goods entering or leaving a country,

which increase its price and make it less competitive relative to domestically
produced goods.
Dominant Castes: Term attributed to M.N. Srinivas; refers to landowning
intermediate castes that are numerically large and therefore enjoy political
dominance in a given region.
Gated Communities: Urban localities (usually upper class or affluent) sealed
off from its surroundings by fences, walls and gates, with controlled entry
and exit.
Gentrification: The term used to describe the conversion of a low class (urban)
neighbourhood into a middle or upper class neighbourhood

Ghetto, Ghettoisation: Originally from the term used for the locality where Jews
lived in medieval European cities, today refers to any neighbourhood with a
concentration of people of a particular religion, ethnicity, caste or other common
identity. Ghettoisation is the process of creation of ghettoes through the conversion
of mixed composition neighbourhoods into single community neighbourhoods.
Legitimation: The process of making legitimate, or the grounds on which
something is considered legitimate, i.e., proper, just, right etc.
Mass Transit: Modes of fast city transport for large numbers.


1. Would you agree with the statement that rapid social change is a comparatively
new phenomenon in human history? Give reasons for your answer.
2. How is social change to be distinguished from other kinds of change?
3. What do you understand by ‘structural change’? Explain with examples other
than those in the text.
4. Describe some kinds of environment-related social change.
5. What are some kinds of changes brought about by technology and the economy?
6. What is meant by social order and how is it maintained?
7. What is authority and how is it related to domination and the law?
8. How are a village, town and city distinguished from each other?
9. What are some features of social order in rural areas?
10. What are some of the challenges to social order in urban areas?


GIDDENS, Antony. Sociology. 4th edition.

GERTH, HANS and C. WRIGHT MILLS. (eds) from Max Weber.
KHILNANI, SUNIL. 2002. The Idea of India, Penguin Books, New Delhi.
Patel, Sujata and Kushal Deb (eds). 2006. Urban Sociology (Oxford in India)
Readings in Sociology and Social Anthropology series). Oxford University
Press, New Delhi.
SRINIVAS, M.N. Social Change in Modern India.


Look around you. What do you see? If map these resource flows and you will
you are in a classroom, you may see soon see how complex such
students in uniform, sitting on chairs relationships are!
with books open on their desk. There In this chapter, we will study social
are school bags with lunch and pencil relationships with the environment as
boxes. Ceiling fans might be whirring they have changed over time and as
overhead. Have you ever thought they vary from place to place. It is
about where these things — school important to analyse and interpret
clothes, furniture, bags, electricity, such variations in a systematic way.
come from? If you trace their origins, There are many urgent environmental
you will find that the source of each problems that demand our attention.
material object lies in nature. Every To address these crises effectively, we
day, we use objects whose production need a sociological framework for
draws upon natural resources from understanding why they occur and
around the world. The chair in your how they might be prevented or
classroom may be made from wood resolved.
with iron nails, glue and varnish. Its All societies have an ecological
journey from a tree in a forest or basis. The term ecology denotes the
plantation to you depends on web of physical and biological systems
electricity, diesel, facilities for trade, and processes of which humans are
and telecommunications. Along the one element. Mountains and rivers,
way, it has passed through the hands plains and oceans, and the flora and
of loggers, carpenters, supervisors and fauna that they support, are a part of
managers, transporters, traders and ecology. The ecology of a place is also
those in charge of buying school affected by the interaction between its
fur niture. These producers and geography and hydrology. For
distributors, and the inputs that they example, the plant and animal life
provide into chair manufacturing, in unique to a desert is adapted to its
tur n use a variety of goods and scarce rainfall, rocky or sandy soils,
services derived from nature. Try and and extreme temperatures. Similar

ecological factors limit and shape how Alongside biophysical properties

human beings can live in any and processes that may have been
particular place. transformed by human action — for
Over time, however, ecology has example, the flow of a river and the
been modified by human action. species composition of a forest, there
What appears to be a natural feature are other ecological elements around
of the environment — aridity or flood- us that are more obviously human-
proneness, for example, is often made. An agricultural farm with its
produced by human intervention. soil and water conservation works, its
Deforestation in the upper catchment cultivated plants and domesticated
of a river may make the river more animals, its inputs of synthetic
flood-prone. Climate change brought fertilisers and pesticides, is clearly a
about by global warming is another human transformation of nature. The
instance of the widespread impact of built environment of a city, made from
human activity on nature. Over time, concrete, cement, brick, stone, glass
it is often difficult to separate and and tar, uses natural resources but is
distinguish between the natural and very much a human artefact.
human factors in ecological change. Social environments emerge from
the interaction between biophysical
Activity 1 ecology and human interventions.
This is a two-way process. Just as
Did you know that the Ridge forest in nature shapes society, society shapes
Delhi is not the natural vegetation of nature. For instance, the fertile soil of
this region but was planted by the
the Indo-Gangetic floodplain enables
British around 1915? Its dominant
tree species is Prosopis juliflora intensive agriculture. Its high
(vilayati kikar or vilayati babul) which productivity allows dense population
was introduced into India from South settlements and generates enough
America and which has become surpluses to support other, non-
naturalised all over north India. agricultural activities, giving rise to
Did you know that the chaurs, complex hierarchical societies and
the wide grassy meadows of Corbett states. In contrast, the desert of
National Park in Uttaranchal which Rajasthan can only support
offer excellent views of wildlife, were
pastoralists who move from place to
once agricultural fields? Villages in
the area were relocated in order to
place in order to keep their livestock
create what now appears to be a supplied with fodder. These are
pristine wilderness. instances of ecology shaping the forms
Can you think of other examples of human life and culture. On the
where what seems to be ‘natural’ is other hand, the social organisation of
actually modified by cultural capitalism has shaped nature across
interventions? the world. The private automobile is
one instance of a capitalist commodity

A dam

A small dam

that has transfor med lives and are just a few of the environmental
landscapes. Air pollution and effects of cars. Human interventions
congestion in cities, regional conflicts increasingly have the power to alter
and wars over oil, and global warming environments, often permanently.

The ecological ef fects of the women are likely to experience

Industrial Revolution in Britain were resource scarcity more acutely
felt all over the world. Large areas because gathering fuel and fetching
of southern North America and the water are generally women’s tasks but
Caribbean were converted to they do not control these resources.
plantations to meet the demand for Social organisation influences how
cotton in the mills of Lancashire. different social groups relate to their
Young West Africans were forcibly
transported to America to work as
slave labour on the plantations. The
Different relationships between
depopulation of West Africa caused environment and society also reflect
its agricultural economy to decline, different social values and norms, as
with fields reverting to fallow well as knowledge systems. The
wastelands. In Britain, smoke from values underlying capitalism have
the coal-burning mills fouled the air. supported the commodification of
Displaced farmers and labourers nature, turning it into objects that can
from the countryside came to the be bought and sold for profit. For
cities for work and lived in wretched
instance, the multiple cultural
conditions. The ecological footprints
of the cotton industry could be found meanings of a river — its ecological,
all over urban and rural utilitarian, spiritual, and aesthetic
environments. significance, are stripped down to a
single set of calculations about profit
The interaction between and loss from the sale of water for an
environment and society is shaped by entrepreneure. Socialist values of
social organisation. Property equality and justice have led to the
relations determine how and by whom seizure of lands from large landlords
natural resources can be used. For and their redistribution among
instance, if forests are owned by the landless peasants in a number of
government, it will have the power to countries. Religious values have led
decide whether it should lease them some social groups to protect and
to timber companies or allow villagers conserve sacred groves and species
to collect forest produce. Private and others to believe that they have
ownership of land and water sources divine sanction to change the
will affect whether others can have environment to suit their needs.
access to these resources and on what Ther e ar e many di f f e re n t
terms and conditions. Ownership and perspectives on the environment
control over resources is also related and its relationship to society. These
to the division of labour in the dif ferences include the ‘nature-
production pr ocess. Landless nurtur e’ debate and whether
labourers and women will have a individual characteristics are innate
different relationship with natural or are influenced by environmental
resources than men. In rural India, factors. For instance, are people poor

because they are innately less facilitate the management of natural

talented or hard-working or because resources for colonial purposes.
they are born into a situation of Environmental management is,
disadvantage and lack of however, a very difficult task. Not
opportunity? Theories and data enough is known about biophysical
about environment and society are processes to predict and control them.
influenced by the social conditions In addition, human relations with the
under which they emerge. Thus the environment have become increasingly
notions that women are intrinsically complex. With the spread of indu-
less able than men, and Blacks strialisation, resource extraction has
naturally less able than Whites, were expanded and accelerated, affecting
challenged as ideas of equality ecosystems in unprecedented ways.
became more widespread during the Complex industrial technologies and
18 th century’s social and political modes of organisation require
revolutions. Colonialism generated a sophisticated management systems
great deal of knowledge about which are often fragile and vulnerable
envir onment and society, often to error. We live in risk societies using
systematically compiling it in order technologies and products that we do
to make resources available to the not fully grasp. The occurrence of
imperial powers. Geology, geography, nuclear disasters like Chernobyl,
botany, zoology, for estry and industrial accidents like Bhopal, and
hydraulic engineering were among Mad Cow disease in Europe shows the
the many disciplines that wer e dangers inherent in industrial
created and institutionalised to environments.

Bhopal Industrial Disaster: Who was to Blame?

On the night of 3 December 1984, a deadly gas spread through Bhopal, killing
about 4,000 people and leaving another 200,000 permanently disabled. The gas
was later identified as methyl isocyanate (MIC), accidentally released by a Union
Carbide pesticide factory in the city. In its State of India’s Environment: The Second
Citizens’ Report, the Centre for Science and Environment analysed the reasons
behind the disaster:
‘Union Carbide’s coming to Bhopal in 1977 was welcomed by all, because it
meant jobs and money for Bhopal, and saving in foreign exchange for the country,
with the rising demand for pesticides after the Green Revolution. The MIC plant
was troublesome from the start and there were several leakages, including one that
caused the death of a plant operator, until the big disaster. However, the government
steadfastly ignored warnings, notably from the head of the Bhopal Municipal
Corporation who issued notice to Union Carbide to move out of Bhopal in 1975.
The officer was transferred and the company donated Rs 25,000 to the Corporation
for a park.

The warnings kept coming. In May 1982, three experts from the Union
Carbide Corporation, USA, surveyed safety measures and pointed out alarming
lapses. These fears were reported in a local weekly Rapat, in what was to be a
series of prophetic articles in 1982. At the same time, the factory’s employees
union also wrote to Central ministers and the chief minister warning them of
the situation. The state Labour Minister reassured legislators at several times
that the factory was safe. Only a few weeks before the gas leak, the factory had
been granted an environmental clearance certificate by the state pollution control
board. The Central government rivalled its state counterpart in casualness. It
ignored the plant’s safety record in granting it permission and ignored Department
of Environment guidelines on the siting of hazardous plants.
Why the guidelines and warnings were ignored is clear. The company employs
the relatives of powerful politicians and bureaucrats. Its legal adviser is an
important political leader and its public relations officer is the nephew of a former
minister. The company’s posh guesthouse was always at the disposal of politicians.
The chief minister’s wife had reportedly received lavish hospitality from the company
during visits to the USA, and the company had donated Rs 1.5 lakh to a welfare
organisation in the chief minister’s home town.
Union Carbide Corporation also played its full part in the run-up to the tragedy.
The Bhopal plant was under-designed and lacked several safety features. It did
not have a computerised early warning system, a standard device in the company’s
factories in the US. The company had not worked out emergency evacuation
procedures with the local community. The plant was not being maintained and
operated at the requisite level of efficiency. Morale was low because sales were
dropping and the plant was running at a third of its capacity. Staff strength had
been reduced and many engineers and operators had left, making it impossible
for the existing staff to monitor all the tasks. Many instruments were out of order.
Discussion: Which social institutions and organisations play a role in industrial
accidents like the Bhopal disaster? What steps can be taken to prevent such

MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS AND RISKS environmental problems. While fossil

fuels and specially petroleum hog the
Although the relative importance or
headlines, the depletion and
urgency of different environmental
destruction of water and land is
hazards may vary from country to
probably even more rapid. The rapid
country and context to context, the
decline in groundwater levels is an
following are globally recognized as the
acute problem all over India, especially
main ones:
in the states of Punjab, Haryana and
Uttar Pradesh. Aquifers which have
A. Resource Depletion
accumulated water over hundreds and
Using up non-renewable natural thousands of years are being emptied
resources is one of the most serious in matter of a few decades to meet the

growing demands of intensive the other major resource facing rapid

agriculture, industry and urban depletion, largely due to the expansion
centres. Rivers have also been of areas under agriculture. Though
dammed and diverted, causing various parts of the globe, including
irreversible damage to the ecology of some parts of India, appear to have
water basins. Many water bodies in seen some re-forestation or increase in
urban areas have been filled up and vegetative cover in recent decades, the
built upon, destroying the natural overall trend is towards the loss of
drainage of the landscape. Like biodiversity. The shrinking of these
groundwater, topsoil too is created habitats has endangered many species,
over thousands of years. This several of them unique to India. You
agricultural resource, too, is being may have read of the recent crisis when
destroyed due to poor environmental it was discovered that the tiger
management leading to erosion, population had fallen sharply despite
water-logging and salinisation. The strict laws and large sanctuaries.
production of bricks for building
houses is another reason for the loss B. Pollution
of topsoil. Air pollution is considered to be a major
Biodiversity habitats such as environmental problem in urban and
forests, grasslands and wetlands are rural areas, causing respiratory and


other problems which result in serious Health Organisation has estimated

illness and death. The sources of air that almost 600,000 people died due
pollution include emissions from to (cumulative) indoor pollution related
industries and vehicles, as well as the causes in India in 1998, almost
burning of wood and coal for domestic 500,000 of them in rural areas.
use. We have all heard of pollution (Giddens 2004: 614, Table 19.1, taken
from vehicles and factories, and seen from the Human Development Report,
pictures of smoking chimneys and 1998 of the United Nations
exhaust pipes in cars. But we often Development Programme, which
don’t realise that indoor pollution from quotes the World Health Organisation
cooking fires is also a serious source statistics.)

Industrial Pollution

of risk. This is particularly true of Water pollution is also a very

rural homes where wood fires using serious issue affecting surface as well
green or poorly burning wood, badly as groundwater. Major sources include
designed fireplaces (chulhas), and poor not only domestic sewage and factory
ventilation combine to put village effluents but also the runoff from
women at serious risk because they far ms where large amounts of
do the cooking. In fact, the World synthetic fertilisers and pesticides are

Spraying pesticide in a brinjal field

used. The pollution of rivers and water low-lying coastal areas, and more
bodies is a particularly important important, affecting the ecological
problem. balance. Global warming is also likely
Cities also suf fer from noise to result in greater fluctuations and
pollution, which has been the subject uncertainty in climates across the
of court orders in many cities. Sources world. China and India are
include amplified loud speakers used increasingly significant contributors to
at religious and cultural events, world carbon and green house gas
political campaigns, vehicle horns and emissions.
traffic, and construction work.
D. Genetically Modified Organisms
C. Global Warming
New techniques of gene-splicing allow
The release of particular gases (carbon scientists to import genes from one
dioxide, methane and others) creates species into another, introducing new
a ‘greenhouse’ effect by trapping the characteristics. For instance, genes
sun’s heat and not allowing it to from Bacillus thuringiensis have been
dissipate. This has caused a small but intr oduced into cotton species,
significant rise in global temperatures. making it resistant to the bollworm,
The resulting climate change is a major pest. Genetic modification
projected to melt polar ice-fields and may also be done to shorten growing
raise the sea level, thus submerging time, increase size and the shelf-life

of crops. However, little is known farmers seem to mock them. Certain

about the long term effects of genetic environmental concerns sometimes
modification on those who eat these appear to be universal concerns, not
foods or on ecological systems. particular to specific social groups.
Agricultural companies can also use For instance, reducing air pollution or
genetic modification to create sterile protecting biodiversity seem to be in
seeds, preventing farmers from re- the public interest. A sociological
using them, and guaranteeing that analysis shows, however, that how
seeds remain their profit-yielding public priorities are set and how they
pr operty, forcing far mers to be are pursued may not be universally
dependent on them. beneficial. Securing the public
interest may actually serve the
E. Natural and Man-made Environmental interests of particular politically and
Disasters economically powerful groups, or hurt
This is a self-explanatory category. the interests of the poor and politically
The Bhopal disaster of 1984 when a weak. As the debates over large dams
toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide and around protected areas show, the
factory there killed about 4000 people, environment as a public interest is a
and the tsunami of 2004 are the most hotly contested arena.
recent examples of man-made and The school of social ecology
natural environmental disasters. points out that social relations, in
particular the organisation of property
and production, shape environmental
SOCIAL PROBLEMS perceptions and practices. Different
How environmental problems affect social groups stand in dif ferent
different groups is a function of social relationships to the environment and
inequality. Social status and power approach it dif ferently. A Forest
determine the extent to which people Department geared to maximising
can insulate themselves from revenues fr om supplying large
environmental crises or overcome it. volumes of bamboo to the paper
In some cases, their ‘solutions’ may industry will view and use a forest very
actually worsen envir onmental dif ferently from an artisan who
disparities. In Kutch, Gujarat, where harvests bamboo to make baskets.
water is scarce, richer farmers have Their varied interests and ideologies
invested in deep bore tubewells to tap generate environmental conflicts. In
groundwater to irrigate their fields and this sense, environmental crises have
grow cash crops. When the rains fail, their roots in social inequality.
the earthen wells of the poorer Addressing environmental problems
villagers run dry and they do not even requires changing environment-
have water to drink. At such times, society relations, and this in turn
the moist green fields of the rich requires efforts to change relations

between different social groups — men charges alone. Welcome to the Fun
and women, urban and rural people, and Food Village Water and
landlords and labourers. Changed Amusement Park in Bazargaon gram
social relations will give rise to panchayat of Nagpur (Rural) district.
different knowledge systems and A portrait of Mahatma Gandhi greets
modes of managing the environment. visitors in the office of the huge
complex. And you’re assured daily
What literally defines social ecology disco, ice skating, ice sliding and “a
as “social” is its recognition of the well stocked bar with cocktails.” The
often overlooked fact that nearly all 40-acre park itself offers 18 kinds of
our present ecological problems arise
water slides and games. Also services
from deep-seated social problems.
Conversely, present ecological
for events ranging from conferences to
problems cannot be clearly kitty parties.
understood, much less resolved, The village of Bazargaon
without resolutely dealing with (population 3,000) itself faces a huge
problems within society. To make this water crisis. “Having to make many
point more concrete: economic, daily trips for water, women walk up
ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, to 15 km in a day to fetch it,” says
among many others, lie at the core of sarpanch Yamunabai Uikey. “This
the most serious ecological whole village has just one sarkari
dislocations we face today — apart,
well. Sometimes, we have got water
to be sure, from those that are
produced by natural catastrophes. once in four or five days. Sometimes,
Murray Bookchin, political once in ten days.” Bazargaon falls in
philosopher and founder of the a region declared as scarcity-hit in
Institute for Social Ecology 2004. It had never faced that fate
before. The village also had its share
Two examples of environment- of six-hour — and worse — power
society conflicts are given below: cuts till about May. These hit every
aspect of daily life, including health,
No Rain, but Snow and Water Parks and devastated children appearing
for exams. The summer heat,
Water -starved Vidharbha has a
touching 47, made things worse. All
growing number of water parks and
these iron laws of rural life do not
amusement centres.
apply within Fun and Food Village.
Even when it’s 47 degrees in the rest This private oasis has more water
of the region, it’s cool here. A little than Bazargaon can dream of. And
away from us is a patch that clocks in never a moment’s break in power
at minus 13 degrees. This is “India’s supply. “We pay on average,” says Mr
first Snowdome” — in bur ning Singh, General Manager of the Park,
Vidharbha. Keeping its ice rink firm “about Rs 400,000 a month in
costs Rs 4,000 a day in electricity electricity bills.”

The Park’s monthly power bill has covered the region for years. Shri
alone almost equals the yearly revenue Singh insists the Fun and Food Village
of Yamunabhai’s gram panchayat. conserves water. “We use sophisticated
Ironically, the village’s power crisis filter plants to reuse the same water.”
eased slightly because of the Park. But evaporation levels are very high in
Both share the same sub-station. The this heat. And water is not just used
park’s peak period begins with May. for sports. All the parks use massive
And so things have been a little better amounts of it for maintaining their
since then. The Park’s contribution to gardens, on sanitation and for their
the gram panchayat’s revenue is clientele. ”It is a huge waste of water
Rs.50,000 a year. About half what Fun and money,” says Vinayak Gaikwad in
and Food Village collects at the gate Buldhana. He is a farmer and a Kisan
in a day from its 700 daily visitors. Sabha leader in the district. That in
Barely a dozen of the Park’s 110 the process, public resources are so
workers are locals from Bazargaon. often used to boost private profit,
Water -starved Vidharbha has a angers Mr. Gaikwad. “They should
growing number of such water parks instead be meeting people’s basic water
and amusement centres. In Shegaon, needs.” Back in Bazargaon, sarpanch
Buldhana, a religious trust runs a Yamunabai Uikey isn’t impressed
giant “Meditation Centre and either. Not by the Fun and Food Village.
Entertainment Park.” Ef forts to Nor by other industries that have taken
maintain a 30-acre ‘artificial lake’ a lot but given very little. “What is there
within it ran dry this summer. But not in all this for us,” she wants to know.
before untold amounts of water were To get a standard government water
wasted in the attempt. Here the entry project for her village, the panchayat
tickets are called “donations.” In has to bear 10 per cent of its cost.
Yavatmal, a private company runs a That’s around Rs.4.5 lakh. “How can
public lake as a tourist joint. Amravati we afford the Rs.45,000? What is our
has two or more such spots (dry just condition?” So it’s simply been handed
now). And there are others in and over to a contractor. This could see the
around Nagpur. project built. But it will mean more
This, in a region where villages have costs in the long run and less control
sometimes got water once in 15 days. for a village of so many poor and
And where an ongoing farm crisis has landless people. In the Park, Gandhi’s
seen the largest number of farmers’ portrait still smiles out of the office as
suicides in Maharashtra. “No major we leave. Seemingly at the ‘Snowdome’
project for either drinking water or across the parking lot. An odd fate for
irrigation has been completed in the man who said: “Live simply, that
Vidharbha in decades,” says Nagpur- others might simply live.”
based journalist Jaideep Hardikar. He (P. Sainath in The Hindu, June 22, 2005.)

‘God forbid that India should ever have to drill deeper, and pests have
take to industrialism in the manner become resistant to many pesticides,
of the West. The economic requiring far mers to spray new
imperialism of a single tiny island pesticides, more frequently. Farmers
kingdom (England) is today keeping in need of credit to purchase these
the world in chains. If an entire inputs end up approaching private
nation of 300 million took to similar moneylenders and traders who
economic exploitation, it would strip
charge them high rates of interest. If
the world bare like locusts.’
— Mahatma Gandhi the crop fails, the farmer can’t repay
the money. Not only can they not feed
As a consequence of developments their families, they cannot fulfil family
like the water park described above, obligations like arranging children’s
small farmers in areas of dryland marriages. Faced with financial and
agriculture now find life increasingly social ruin, many far mers have
impossible. Over the last six years, nowhere to turn. Suicide seems to
reports indicate that thousands of be the only way out to them.
far mers in Andhra Pradesh, Discussion: Is water scarcity natural
Karnataka and Maharashtra have or human-made? What social factors
killed themselves, often by drinking shape how water is allocated among
pesticide. What drives farmers, people different users? How do different
who stoically deal with the patterns of water-use affect different
uncertainties inherent in agriculture, social groups?
to this extreme step? The investigation
of journalist P. Sainath shows that Activity 2
farmers’ recent distress is due to a
Find out how much water your
fusion of environmental and economic
household uses in a day. Try and find
factors. Agrarian conditions have
out how much water is used by
become more volatile as farmers are
comparable households belonging to
exposed to the fluctuations of the
different income groups. How much
world market and as government
time and money do dif fer ent
support for small farmers declines due
households spend on getting water?
to liberalisation policies. Cotton
Within the household, whose job is
farmers grow a high-risk, high-return
it to collect water? How much water
crop. Cotton needs some irrigation.
does the government provide to
It is also very susceptible to pest
different classes of people?
infestation. Cotton growers thus need
capital to invest in irrigation and pest
The Urban Environment: A Tale of
control. Both of these inputs have
Two Cities
become more expensive over the
years: high levels of extraction have Here is a typical conflict over the urban
depleted water reserves so farmers environment. On the morning of

30 January 1995, Delhi was waking affluent residents of the area who paid
up to another chilly winter day. to have a wall constructed between the
Imagine the well-to-do colony of Ashok dirty, unsightly jhuggis and their own
Vihar in north Delhi, posh houses homes. The wall was soon breached,
shrouded in grey mist, early risers to allow the traffic of domestic workers
setting off on morning walks, some who lived in the jhuggis but worked
with their pet dogs — Pomeranians to clean the homes and cars of the
and Alsatians, straining at the leash. rich, and to of fer access to the
As one of these morning walkers delinquent defecators.
entered the neighbourhood ‘park’, the Dilip’s death was thus the
only open area in the locality, he saw culmination of a long-standing battle
a young man, poorly clad, walking over a contested space that, to one set
away with an empty bottle in hand. of residents, embodied their sense of
Outraged, he caught hold of the man gracious urban living, a place of trees
and called out to his neighbours. and grass devoted to leisure and
Someone phoned the police. A group recreation, and that to another set of
of enraged house-owners and two residents, was the only available space
police constables descended on the that could be used as a toilet. If he
youth and, within minutes, beat him had known this history of simmering
to death. conflict, Dilip would probably have
The young man was eighteen year- been more wary and would have run
old Dilip, a visitor to Delhi, who had away when challenged, and perhaps he
come to watch the Republic Day would still be alive. The violence did
parade in the capital. He was staying not end there. When a group of people
with his uncle in a jhuggi (shanty from the jhuggis gathered to protest
house) along the railway tracks against this killing, the police opened
bordering Ashok Vihar. His uncle fire and killed four more people.
worked as a labourer in the Wazirpur As cities grow, the conflict over
industrial estate nearby. Like all other urban space is becoming more acute.
planned industrial areas in Delhi, While migrants come to the city in
Wazirpur too has no provision for search of work, they cannot afford
workers’ housing. The jhuggi cluster scarce legal housing and are forced to
with more than 10,000 households settle on public lands. This land is
shared three public toilets, each one now in great demand to build
with eight latrines, effectively one toilet infrastructure for affluent residents
between more than 2000 persons. For and visitors — malls and multiplexes,
most residents, then, any large open hotels and tourist sites. As a result,
space, under cover of dark, became a poor workers and their families are
place to defecate. Their use of the being evicted to the outskirts of the
‘park’ brought the industrial workers city and their homes demolished.
and their families up against the more Besides land, air and water have also

become highly contested resources in factors affect people’s access to water

the urban environment. and sanitation?
(Taken from: Amita Baviskar in
‘Between Violence and Desire: Space,
Power and Identity in the Making of Activity 3
Metropolitan Delhi’ in International Imagine that you were a fifteen year-
Social Science Journal. 175: 89-98. old girl or boy living in a slum. What
2003) would your family do and how would
Discussion: Why do the urban poor you live? Write a short essay
often live in slums? Which social describing a day in your life.
groups control landed property and
housing in the city? What social


Hydrology: The science of water and its flows; or the broad structure of water
resources in a country or region.
Deforestation: The loss of forest area due to cutting down of trees and/or taking
over of the land for other purposes, usually cultivation.
Green House: A covered structure for protecting plants from extremes of climate,
usually from excessive cold; a green house (also called a hot house) maintains a
warmer temperature inside compared to the outside temperature.
Emissions: Waste gases given off by a human-initiated process, usually in the
context of industries or vehicles.
Effluents: Waste materials in fluid form produced from industrial processes.
Aquifers: Natural underground formations in the geology of a region where water
gets stored.
Monoculture: When the plant life in a locality or region is reduced to a single


1. Describe in your own words what you understand by the term ‘ecology’.
2. Why is ecology not limited only to the forces of nature?
3. Describe the two-way process by which ‘social environments’ emerge.

4. Why and how does social organisation shape the relationship between the
environment and society
5. Why is environmental management a complex and huge task for society?
6. What are some of the important forms of pollution-related environmental
7. What are the major environmental issues associated with resource depletion?
8. Explain why environmental problems are simultaneously social problems.
9. What is meant by social ecology?
10. Describe some environment related conflicts that you know of or have read
about. (Other than the examples in the text.)


Centre for Science and Environment. 1982. The State of India’s Environment: The
Citizens’ Report. CSE, New Delhi.
DAVIS, MIKE. 2004. ‘Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Proletariat’
in New Left Review, 26: 5-34.
DAVIS, MIKE. 2004. ‘The Political Ecology of Famine: The Origins of the Third World’
in Richard Peet and Michael Watts (eds) Liberation Ecologies: Environment,
Development, Social Movements. Routledge, (second edition), London.
GADGIL, MADHAV and RAMACHANDRA GUHA. 1995. Ecology and Equity: The Use and
Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India. Penguin, New Delhi.
GUHA, RAMACHANDRA. 1997. ‘The Environmentalism of the Poor’ in Ramachandra
Guha and J. Martinez-Alier. Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and
South. Oxford University Press, Delhi.
POLLAN, MICHAEL. 2001. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.
Random House, New York.


Sociology is sometimes called the child begin with a few words about the
of the ‘age of revolution’. This is because context in which sociology emerged.
it was born in 19th century Western
Europe, after revolutionary changes in THE CONTEXT OF SOCIOLOGY
the preceding three centuries that
The modern era in Europe and the
decisively changed the way people lived.
conditions of modernity that we take
Three revolutions paved the way for the
for granted today were brought about
emergence of sociology: the
by three major processes. These were:
Enlightenment, or the scientific
the Enlightenment or dawning of the
revolution; the French Revolution; and
‘age of reason’; the quest for political
the Industrial Revolution. These
sovereignty embodied in the French
processes completely transformed not
Revolution; and the system of mass
only European society, but also the rest
manufacture inaugurated by the
of the world as it came into contact with
Industrial Revolution. Since these
have been discussed at length in
In this chapter the key ideas of
Chapter 1 of Introducing Sociology,
three sociological thinkers: Karl
here we will only mention some of the
Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max
intellectual consequences of these
Weber will be discussed. As part of
momentous changes.
the classical tradition of sociology,
they laid the foundation of the
subject. Their ideas and insights Activity 1
have remained relevant even in the Revisit the discussion of the coming
contemporary period. Of course, of the modern age in Europe in
these ideas have also been subjected Chapter 1 of Introducing Sociology.
to criticism and have undergone What sorts of changes were these
major modifications. But since ideas three processes associated with?
about society are themselves
influenced by social conditions, we

The Enlightenment sovereignty at the level of individuals

as well as nation-states. The
During the late 17th and 18th
Declaration of Human Rights
centuries, Western Europe saw the
asserted the equality of all citizens
emergence of radically new ways of
and questioned the legitimacy of
thinking about the world. Refered to
privileges inherited by birth. It
as ‘The Enlightenment’, these new
signaled the emancipation of the
philosophies established the human
individual from the oppressive rule of
being at the centre of the universe, and
the religious and feudal institutions
rational thought as the central feature
that dominated France before the
of the human being. The ability to
Revolution. The peasants, most of
think rationally and critically
whom wer e ser fs (or bonded
transformed the individual human
labourers) tied to landed estates
being into both the producer and the
owned by members of the aristocracy,
user of all knowledge, the ‘knowing
were freed of their bonds. The
subject’. On the other hand, only
numerous taxes paid by the peasants
persons who could think and reason
to the feudal lords and to the church
could be considered as fully human.
were cancelled. As free citizens of the
Those who could not remained
republic, sovereign individuals were
deficient as human beings and were
invested with rights and were equal
considered as not fully evolved
before the law and other institutions
humans, as in the case of the natives
of the state. The state had to respect
of primitive societies or ‘savages’.
the privacy of the autonomous
Being the handiwork of humans,
individual and its laws could not
society was amenable to rational
intrude upon the domestic life of the
analysis and thus comprehensible to
people. A separation was built
other humans. For reason to become
between the public realm of the state
the defining feature of the human
and a private realm of the household.
world, it was necessary to displace
New ideas about what was
nature, religion and the divine acts of
appropriate to the public and private
gods from the central position they
spheres developed. For example,
had in earlier ways of understanding
religion and the family became more
the world. This means that the
‘private’ while education (specially
Enlightenment was made possible by,
schooling) became more ‘public’.
and in tur n helped to develop,
Moreover, the nation-state itself was
attitudes of mind that we refer to today
also redefined as a sovereign entity
as secular, scientific and humanistic.
with a centralised government. The
ideals of the French Revolution —
The French Revolution
liberty, equality and fraternity —
The Fr ench Revolution (1789) became the watchwor ds of the
announced the arrival of political modern state.

The Industrial Revolution meant that men, women and even

children had to work long hours in
The foundations of modern industry
hazardous circumstances to eke out
were laid by the Industrial
a living. Modern industry enabled the
Revolution, which began in Britain
in the late 18th and early 19th urban to dominate over the rural.
centuries. It had two major aspects. Cities and towns became the
The first was the systematic dominant for ms of human
application of science and technology settlement, housing lar ge and
to industrial production, particularly unequal populations in small,
the invention of new machines and densely populated urban areas. The
the harnessing of new sources of rich and powerful lived in the cities,
power. Secondly, the industrial but so did the working classes who
revolution also evolved new ways of lived in slums amidst poverty and
organising labour and markets on a squalor. Modern forms of governance,
scale larger than anything in the with the state assuming control of
past. New machines like the health, sanitation, crime control and
Spinning Jenny (which greatly general ‘development’ created the
increased the productivity of the demand for new kinds of knowledge.
textile industry) and new methods of The social sciences and particularly
obtaining power (such as the various sociology emerged partly as a
versions of the steam engine) response to this need.
facilitated the production process From the outset sociological
and gave rise to the factory system thought was concerned with the
and mass manufacture of goods. scientific analysis of developments in
These goods were now produced on industrial society. This has prompted
a gigantic scale for distant markets observers to argue that sociology was
across the world. The raw materials the ‘science of the new industrial
used in their production were also society’. Empirically infor med
obtained from all over the world. scientific discussion about trends in
Modern large scale industry thus social behaviour only became
became a world wide phenomenon. possible with the advent of modern
These changes in the production industrial society. The scientific
system also resulted in major changes information generated by the state to
in social life. The factories set up in monitor and maintain the health of
urban areas were manned by workers its social body became the basis for
who were uprooted from the rural reflection on society. Sociological
areas and came to the cities in search theory was the result of this self-
of work. Low wages at the factory reflection.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Karl Marx was born on 5 May 1818 in Trier, part of
the Rhineland province of Prussia in Germany. Son
of a prosperous liberal lawyer.
1834-36: Studied law at the University of Bonn and
then at the University of Berlin, where he
was much influenced by the Young
1841: Completed his doctoral thesis in
philosophy from the University of Jena.
1843: Married Jenny von Westphalen and moved
to Paris.
1844: Met Friedrich Engels in Paris, who became a lifelong friend.
1847: Invited by the International Working Men’s Association to prepare a
document spelling out its aims and objectives. This was written jointly
by Marx and Engels and published as the Manifesto of the Communist
Party (1948)
1849: Exiled to England and lived there till his death.
1852: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (published).
1859: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (published).
1867: Capital, Vol. I, published.
1881: Death of Jenny von Westphalen.
1883: Marx dies and is buried in London’s Highgate Cemetery.

Karl Marx was from Germany but he engaged in a critical analysis of

spent most of his intellectually capitalist society to expose its
productive years in exile in Britain. weaknesses and bring about its
His radical political views led him to downfall. Marx argued that human
be exiled from Germany, France and society had progressed thr ough
Austria. Though Marx had studied different stages. These were: primitive
philosophy he was not a philosopher. communism, slavery, feudalism and
He was a social thinker who advocated capitalism. Capitalism was the latest
an end to oppression and exploitation. phase of human advancement, but
He believed that scientific socialism Marx believed that it would give way
would achieve this goal. To that end to socialism.

Capitalist society was marked by society. In order to understand the

an ever intensifying pr ocess of working of capitalism, Marx undertook
alienation operating at several levels. an elaborate study of its political,
First, modern capitalist society is one social and specially its economic
where humans are more alienated aspects.
from nature than ever before; second, Marx’s conception of the economy
human beings are alienated from each was based on the notion of a mode of
other as capitalism individualises production, which stood for a broad
previously collective forms of social system of production associated with
organisation, and as relationships get an epoch or historical period. Primitive
more and more market-mediated. communism, slavery, feudalism and
Third, the large mass of working capitalism were all modes of
people is alienated from the fruits of production. At this general level, the
its labour because workers do not own mode of production defines an entire
the products they produce. Moreover, way of life characteristic of an era. At
workers have no control over the work a more specific level, we can think of
process itself — unlike in the days the mode of production as being
when skilled craftsmen controlled something like a building in the sense
their own labour, today the content of that it consists of a foundation or base,
the factory worker’s working day is and a superstructure or something
decided by the management. Finally, erected on top of the base. The base —
as the combined result of all these or economic base — is primarily
alienations, human beings are also economic and includes the productive
alienated from themselves and forces and production relations.
struggle to make their lives meaningful Productive forces refer to all the means
in a system where they are both more or factors of production such as land,
free but also more alienated and less labour, technology, sources of energy
in control of their lives than before. (such as electricity, coal, petroleum and
However, even though it was an so on). Production relations refer to
exploitative and oppressive system, all the economic relationships and
Marx believed that capitalism was forms of labour organisation which are
nevertheless a necessary and involved in production. Production
progressive stage of human history relations are also property relations, or
because it created the preconditions relationships based on the ownership
for an egalitarian future free from both or control of the means of production.
exploitation and poverty. Capitalist For example, in the mode of
society would be transformed by its production called primitive
victims, i.e. the working class, who communism, the productive forces
would unite to collectively bring about consisted mostly of nature — forests,
a revolution to overthrow it and land, animals and so on — along with
establish a free and equal socialist very rudimentary forms of technology

like simple stone tools and hunting CLASS STRUGGLE

weapons. Production relations were
For Marx, the most important method
based on community property (since
of classifying people into social groups
individual private property did not yet
was with reference to the production
exist) and included tribal forms of
process, rather than religion, language,
hunting or gathering which were the
nationality or similar identities. He
prevalent for ms of labour
argued that people who occupy the
same position in the social production
The economic base thus consisted
process will eventually form a class. By
of productive forces and relations of
virtue of their location in the
production. On this base rested all
production process and in property
the social, cultural and political
relations, they share the same interests
institutions of society. Thus,
and objectives, even though they may
institutions like religion, art, law,
not recognise this immediately.
literature or different forms of beliefs
Classes are formed through historical
and ideas were all part of the
processes, which are in turn shaped
‘superstructure’ which was built on
by transformations in the conditions
top of the base. Marx argued that and forces of production, and
people’s ideas and beliefs originated consequent conflicts between already
from the economic system of which existing classes. As the mode of
they were part. How human beings production — that is, the production
earned their livelyhood determined technology and the social relations of
how they thought — material life production — changes, conflicts
shaped ideas, ideas did not shape develop between different classes which
material life. This argument went result in struggles. For example, the
against the dominant ways of thinking capitalist mode of production creates the
in Marx’s time, when it was common working class, which is a new urban,
to argue that human beings were free property-less group created by the
to think whatever they wanted and destruction of the feudal agricultural
that ideas shaped the world. system. Serfs and small peasants were
Marx placed great emphasis on thrown off their lands and deprived of
economic structures and processes their earlier sources of livelyhood. They
because he believed that they formed then congregated in cities looking for
the foundations of every social system ways to survive, and the pressure of the
throughout human history. If we laws and police forced them to work in
understand how the economy works the newly built factories. Thus a large
and how it has been changing in the new social group was created consisting
past, he argued, we can learn how to of property-less people who were forced
change society in the future. But how to work for their living. This shared
can such change be brought about? location within the production process
Marx’s answer: through class struggle. makes workers into a class.

Marx was a proponent of class now hidden, now open fight’. The
struggle. He believed that class major opposing classes of each stage
struggle was the major driving force were identified from the contradictions
of change in society. In The Communist of the production pr ocess. In
Manifesto (which was also a capitalism the bourgeoisie (or
programme of action), Marx and capitalists) owned all the means of
Engels presented their views in a clear production, (such as investible capital,
and concise manner. Its opening lines existing factories and machinery, land
declare, ‘The history of all hitherto and so on). On the other hand, the
existing societies is the history of class working class lost all the means of
struggle’. They went on to trace the production that it owned (or had
course of human history and access to) in the past. Thus, in the
described how the nature of the class capitalist social system, workers had
struggle varied in different historical no choice but to sell their labour for
epochs. As society evolved from the wages in order to survive, because they
primitive to the modern through had nothing else.
distinct phases, each characterised by Even when two classes are
particular kinds of conflict between the objectively opposed to each other, they
oppressor and oppressed classes. do not automatically engage in
Marx and Engels wrote, ‘Freeman and conflict. For conflict to occur it is
slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and necessary for them to become
serf, guild master and journeyman, in subjectively conscious of their class
a word, oppressor and oppressed, interests and identities, and therefore
stood in constant opposition to one also of their rivals’ interests and
another, carried out an uninterrupted, identities. It is only after this kind of

Activity 2
Although it is also called a ‘class’, does the group formed by you and your classmates
form a class in the marxian sense? What arguments can you give in favour and
against this view? Do factory workers and agricultural workers belong to the same
class? What about workers and managers working in the same factory — do they
both belong to the same class? Does a rich industrialist or factory owner who
lives in the city and owns no agricultural land belong to the same class as a poor
agricultural labourer who lives in the village and owns no land? What about a
landlord who owns a lot of land and a small peasant who owns a small piece of
land — do they belong to the same class if they live in the same village and are
both landowners?
Think carefully about the reasons for your responses to these examples.
[Suggestion: Try to imagine what interests the people mentioned in these examples
may have in common; think of the position they occupy in the larger social system,
particularly in relation to the production process.]

‘class consciousness’ is developed way of seeing the world, tends to justify

through political mobilisation that the domination of the ruling class and
class conflicts occur. Such conflicts the existing social order. For example,
can lead to the overthrow of a dominant ideologies may encourage
dominant or ruling class (or coalition poor people to believe that they are poor
of classes) by the previously not because they are exploited by the
dominated or subordinated classes — rich but because of ‘fate’, or because of
this is called a revolution. In Marx’s bad deeds in a previous life, and so on.
theory, economic processes created However, dominant ideologies are not
contradictions which in tur n always successful, and they can also be
generated class conflict. But economic challenged by alternative worldviews or
processes did not automatically lead rival ideologies. As consciousness
to revolution — social and political spreads unevenly among classes, how
processes were also needed to bring a class will act in a particular historical
about a total transformation of society. situation cannot be pre-determined.
The presence of ideology is one Hence, according to Marx, economic
reason why the relationship between processes generally tend to generate
economic and socio-political processes class conflicts, though this also depends
becomes complicated. In every epoch, on political and social conditions. Given
the ruling classes promote a dominant favourable conditions, class conflicts
ideology. This dominant ideology, or culminate in revolutions.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
Emile Durkheim was born on April 15, 1858 in Epinal in the
Lorraine region of France on the German border. He was from
an orthodox Jewish family; his father, grandfather and great
grandfather were all rabbis or Jewish priests. Emile too was
initially sent to a school for training rabbis.
1876: Enters the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris to study
1887: Appointed lecturer in social sciences and education
at the University of Bordeaux.
1893: Publishes Division of Labour in Society, his doctoral
1895: Publishes Rules of Sociological Method.
1897: Founds Anee Sociologique,the first social science journal in France; and
publishes his famous study, Suicide.
1902: Joins the University of Paris as the Chair of Education. Later in 1913 the
Chair was renamed Education and Sociology.
1912: Publishes The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.
1917: Dies at the age of 59, heartbroken by the death of his son, Andre in World
War I.

Emile Durkheim may be considered existence of otherwise ‘invisible’ things

as the founder of sociology as a formal like ideas, norms, values and so on
discipline as he was the first to become could be empirically verified by
a Professor of Sociology in Paris in studying the patter ns of social
1913. Born into an orthodox Jewish behaviour of people as they related to
family, Durkheim was sent to a each other in a society.
rabbinical school (a Jewish religious For Durkheim the social was to be
school) for his early education. By the found in the codes of conduct imposed
time he entered the Ecole Normale on individuals by collective agreement.
Superieure in 1876 he broke with his It was evident in the practices of
religious orientation and declared everyday life. The scientific
himself an agnostic. However, his understanding of society that
moral upbringing had an enduring Durkheim sought to develop was
influence on his sociological thinking. based on the recognition of moral
The moral codes were the key facts. He wrote, ‘Moral facts are
characteristics of a society that phenomena like others; they consist
determined the behaviour patterns of of rules of action recognizable by
individuals. Coming from a religious certain distinctive characteristics, it
family, Durkheim cherished the idea must then be possible to observe
of developing a secular understanding them, describe them, classify them
of religion. It was in his last book, The and look for certain laws explaining
Elementary Forms of Religious Life that them’ (Durkheim 1964: 32). Moral
he was finally able to fulfil this wish. codes were manifestations of
Society was for Durkheim a social particular social conditions. Hence
fact which existed as a moral the morality appropriate for one
community over and above the society was inappropriate for another.
individual. The ties that bound people So for Durkheim, the prevailing social
in groups were crucial to the existence conditions could be deduced from the
of society. These ties or social moral codes. This made sociology akin
solidarities exerted pressure on to the natural sciences and was in
individuals to conform to the norms keeping with his larger objective of
and expectations of the group. This establishing sociology as a rigorous
constrained the individual’s behaviour scientific discipline.
pattern, limiting variation within a
small range. Constriction of choice in DURKHEIM’S VISION OF SOCIOLOGY
social action meant that behaviour Durkheim’s vision of sociology as a
could now be predicted as it followed new scientific discipline was
a pattern. So by observing behaviour characterised by two defining
patterns it was possible to identify the features. First, the subject matter of
norms, codes and social solidarities sociology — the study of social facts
which governed them. Thus, the — was dif ferent from the other

sciences. Sociology concerned itself make up the collectivity; we cannot see

exclusively with what he called the the collectivity itself. One of Durkheim’s
‘emergent’ level, that is, the level of most significant achievements is his
complex collective life where social demonstration that sociology, a
phenomena can emerge. These discipline that dealt with abstract
phenomena — for example, social entities like social facts, could
institutions like religion or the family, nevertheless be a science founded on
or social values like friendship or observable, empirically verifiable
patriotism etc. — were only possible evidence. Although not directly
in a complex whole that was larger observable, social facts were indirectly
than (and dif ferent fr om) its observable through patterns of
constituent parts. Although it is behaviour. The most famous example
composed entirely of individuals, a of his use of a new kind of empirical
collective social entity like a football data is in his study of Suicide. Although
or cricket team becomes something each individual case of suicide was
other than and much more than just specific to the individual and his/her
a collection of eleven persons. Social circumstances, the average rate of
entities like teams, political parties, suicide aggregated across hundreds of
street gangs, religious communities, thousands of individuals in a
nations and so on belong to a different community was a social fact. Thus,
level of reality than the level of social facts could be observed via social
individuals. It is this ‘emergent’ level behaviour, and specially aggregated
that sociology studies. patterns of social behaviour.
The second defining feature of So what are ‘social facts’? Social
Durkheim’s vision of sociology was that, facts are like things. They are external
like most of the natural sciences, it was to the individual but constrain their
to be an empirical discipline. This was behaviour. Institutions like law,
actually a difficult claim to make education and religion constitute
because social phenomena are by their social facts. Social facts are collective
representations which emerge from
very nature abstract. We cannot ‘see’ a
the association of people. They are not
collective entity like the Jain
particular to a person but of a general
community, or the Bengali (or
nature, independent of the individual.
Malayalam or Marathi) speaking
Attributes like beliefs, feelings or
community, or the Nepalese or Egyptian
collective practices are examples.
national communities. At least, we
cannot see them in the same
Division of Labour in Society
straightforward way that we can see a
tree or a boy or a cloud. Even when the In his first book, Division of Labour in
social phenomenon is small — like a Society, Durkheim demonstrated his
family or a theatre group — we can method of analysis to explain the
directly see only the individuals who evolution of society from the primitive

to the modern. He classified a society individuals and allows for their need
by the nature of social solidarity which to be different from each other, and
existed in that society. He argued that recognises their multiple roles and
while a primitive society was organised organic ties. The laws of modern
according to ‘mechanical’ solidarity, society are ‘restitutive’ in nature rather
modern society was based on ‘organic’ than ‘repressive’. This means that in
solidarity. Mechanical solidarity is modern societies, the law aims to
founded on the similarity of its repair or correct the wrong that is done
individual members and is found in by a criminal act. By contrast, in
societies with small populations. It primitive societies the law sought to
typically involves a collection of different punish wrong doers and enforced a
self-sufficient groups where each person sort of collective revenge for their acts.
within a particular group is engaged in In modern society the individual was
similar activities or functions. As the given some autonomy, whereas in
solidarity or ties between people are primitive societies the individual was
based on similarity and personal totally submerged in the collectivity.
relationships, such societies are not very A characteristic feature of modern
tolerant of differences and any violation societies is that individuals with
of the norms of the community attracts similar goals come together voluntarily
harsh punishment. In other words, to form groups and associations. As
mechanical solidarity based societies these are groups oriented towards
have repressive laws designed to prevent specific goals, they remain distinct
deviation from community norms. This from each other and do not seek to
was because the individual and the take over the entire life of its members.
community were so tightly integrated Thus, individuals have many different
that it was feared that any violation of identities in different contexts. This
codes of conduct could result in the enables individuals to emerge from the
disintegration of the community. shadow of the community and
Organic solidarity characterises establish their distinct identity in
modern society and is based on the terms of the functions they perform
heterogeneity of its members. It is and the roles they play. Since all
found in societies with large individuals have to depend on others
populations, where most social for the fulfilment of their basic needs
relationships necessarily have to be like food, clothing, shelter and
impersonal. Such a society is based education, their intensity of
on institutions, and each of its interaction with others increases.
constituent groups or units is not self- Impersonal rules and regulations are
sufficient but dependent on other required to govern social relations in
units/groups for their survival. such societies because personalised
Interdependence is the essence of relations can no longer be maintained
organic solidarity. It celebrates in a large population.

The Division of Labour in Society discusses the different types of social

pr ovides a good preview of solidarity as social facts. His objective
Durkheim’s enduring concerns. His and secular analysis of the social ties
ef fort to create a new scientific which underlie different types of
discipline with a distinct subject society laid the foundation of
which can be empirically validated is sociology as the new science of
clearly manifested in the way he society.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber was born on 21 April, 1864 in Erfurt,
Germany into a Prussian family. His father was a
magistrate and a politician who was an ardent
monarchist and follower of Bismarck. His mother was
from a distinguished liberal family from Heidelberg.
1882: Went to Heidelberg to study law.
1884-84: Studied at the universities of Gottingen
and Berlin.
1889: Submitted his doctoral dissertation on A
Contribution to the History of Medieval
Business Organisations.
1891: Submitted his habilitation thesis (entitling
him to be a teacher) on Roman Agrarian
History and the Significance for Public and
Private Law.
1893: Married Marianne Schnitger.
1894-96: Appointed Professor of Economics first at Freiburg, and then Heidelberg.
1897-1901: Has a nervous breakdown and falls ill; unable to work, travels to Rome.
1901: Weber resumes scholarly work.
1903: Became the Associate Editor of the journal Archives for Social Science
and Social Welfare.
1904: Travels to the USA. Publishes The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
1918: Takes up a specially created chair in Sociology at Vienna.
1919: Appointed Professor of Economics at the University of Munich.
1920: Weber dies.
Almost all of his major works which made him famous were translated
and published in book form only after his death. These include: The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930), From Max Weber:
Essays in Sociology (1946), Max Weber on the Methodology of the Social
Sciences (1949), The Religion of India (1958) and Economy and Society
(3 vols, 1968).

Activity 3
Try to compare what Durkheim and Marx say about the social division of labour.
They both agree that as society evolves, the social organisation of production
grows more complex, the division of labour becomes more detailed, and this creates
unavoidable interdependencies among different social groups. But where Durkheim
emphasises solidarity, Marx emphasises conflict. What do you think about this?
Can you think of reasons why Marx may be wrong about modern society? For
example, can you think of situations or examples where people are joining together
to form groups or collectivities despite being from different class backgrounds
and having conflicting interests? What counter arguments could you give to
persuade someone that Marx may still have a point?
Can you think of reasons why Durkheim may be wrong about modern society
giving more freedom to the individual? For example, isn’t it true that the spread
of mass communication (specially through television) has tended to standardise
popular fashion in things like clothes or music? Today, young people in different
social groups, different countries, states or regions are now more likely to be
listening to the same music, or wearing the same kind of clothes than ever before.
Does this make Durkheim wrong? What could be the arguments for and against
in this context?
Remember, sociology is not like mathematics where there is usually only one
right answer. In anything to do with society and human beings, it is possible that
there are many right answers, or that an answer is right in one context but wrong
in another, or that it is partly right and partly wrong, and so on. In other words,
the social world is very complex, and it changes from time to time and from place
to place. This makes it all the more important to learn how to think carefully
about the reasons why a particular answer may be right or wrong in a particular

Max Weber was one of the leading Max Weber and Interpretive Sociology
German social thinkers of his time. Weber argued that the overall objective
Despite long periods of physical and of the social sciences was to develop
mental ill health, he has left a rich an ‘interpretive understanding of social
legacy of sociological writing. He wrote action’. These sciences were thus very
extensively on many subjects but different from the natural sciences,
focused on developing an interpretive which aimed to discover the objective
sociology of social action and of power ‘laws of nature’ governing the physical
and domination. Another major world. Since the central concern of the
concern of Weber was the process of social sciences was with social action
rationalisation in modern society and and since human actions necessarily
the relationship of the various involved subjective meanings, the
religions of the world with this process. methods of enquiry of social science

also had to be different from the Thus, ‘empathetic understanding’

methods of natural science. For Weber, required the sociologist to faithfully
‘social action’ included all human record the subjective meanings and
behaviour that was meaningful, that motivations of social actors without
is, action to which actors attached a allowing his/her own personal beliefs
meaning. In studying social action the and opinions to influence this process
sociologist’s task was to recover the in any way. In other words, sociologists
meanings attributed by the actor. To were meant to describe, not judge, the
accomplish this task the sociologist subjective feelings of others. Weber
had to put themselves in the actor’s called this kind of objectivity ‘value
place, and imagine what these neutrality’. The sociologist must
meanings were or could have been. neutrally record subjective values
Sociology was thus a systematic form without being affected by her/his own
of ‘empathetic understanding’, that is, feelings/opinions about these values.
an understanding based not on Weber recognised that this was very
‘feeling for’ (sympathy) but ‘feeling difficult to do because social scientists
with’ (empathy). The empathic (or were also members of society and
empathetic) understanding which always had their own subjective beliefs
sociologists derive from this exercise and prejudices. However, they had to
enables them to access the subjective practises great self discipline —
meanings and motivations of social exercise an ‘iron will’ as he puts it — in
actors. order to remain ‘value neutral’ when
Weber was among the first to describing the values and worldviews
discuss the special and complex kind of others.
of ‘objectivity’ that the social sciences Apart from empathetic under -
had to cultivate. The social world was standing, Weber also suggested
founded on subjective human another methodological tool for doing
meanings, values, feelings, prejudices, sociology — the ‘ideal type’. An ideal
ideals and so on. In studying this type is a logically consistent model of a
world, the social sciences inevitably social phenomenon that highlights its
had to deal with these subjective most significant characteristics. Being
meanings. In order to capture these a conceptual tool designed to help
meanings and describe them analysis, it is not meant to be an exact
accurately, social scientists had to reproduction of reality. Ideal types may
constantly practises ‘empathetic exaggerate some features of
understanding’ by putting themselves phenomenon that are considered to be
(imaginatively) in the place of the analytically important, and ignore or
people whose actions they were downplay others. Obviously an ideal
studying. But this investigation had type should correspond to reality in a
to be done objectively even though it broad sense, but its main job is to
was concerned with subjective matters. assist analysis by bringing out

important features and connections of Bureaucratic authority is

the social phenomenon being studied. characterised by these features:
An ideal type is to be judged by how (i) Functioning of Officials;
helpful it is for analysis and (ii) Hierarchical Ordering of Positions;
understanding, not by how accurate or (iii) Reliance on Written Document
detailed a description it provides. (iv) Office Management; and
The ideal type was used by Weber (v) Conduct in Office.
to analyse the relationship between (i) Functioning of Officials: Within the
the ethics of ‘world religions’ and the bureaucracy officials have fixed
rationalisation of the social world in areas of ‘of ficial jurisdiction’
different civilisations. It was in this gover ned by rules, laws and
context that Weber suggested that administrative regulations. The
ethics of certain Protestant sects regular activities of the
within Christianity had a deep bureaucratic organisation are
influence on the development of distributed in a fixed way as official
capitalism in Europe. duties. Moreover, commands are
Weber again used the ideal type to issued by higher authorities for
illustrate the three types of authority implementation by subordinates in
that he defined as traditional, a stable way, but the responsibilities
charismatic and rational-legal. While of officials are strictly delimited by
the source of traditional authority was the authority available to them. As
custom and precedence, charismatic duties are to be fulfilled on a regular
authority derived from divine sources basis, only those who have the
or the ‘gift of grace’, and rational-legal requisite qualifications to perform
authority was based on legal them are employed. Of ficial
demarcation of authority. Rational- positions in a bureaucracy are
legal authority which prevailed in independent of the incumbent as
modern times was epitomised in the they continue beyond the tenure of
bureaucracy. any occupant.
(ii) Hierarchical Ordering of Positions:
Bureaucracy Authority and office are placed on
a graded hierarchy where the
It was a mode of organisation which
higher officials supervise the lower
was premised on the separation of the
ones. This allows scope of appeal
public from the domestic world. This
to a higher official in case of
meant that behaviour in the public
dissatisfaction with the decisions
domain was regulated by explicit rules
of lower officials.
and regulations. Moreover, as a public
(iii) Reliance on Written Document: The
institution, bureaucracy restricted the
management of a bureaucratic
power of the officials in regard to their
organisation is carried out on the
responsibilities and did not provide
basis of written documents
absolute power to them.

(the files) which are preserved as training and given responsibilities with
records. There is cumulation in the the requisite authority to implement
decision making of the ‘bureau’ or them. The legal delimitation of tasks
office. It is also a part of the public and authority constrained unbridled
domain which is separate from the power and made officials accountable
private life of the officials. to their clients as the work was carried
(iv) Office Management: As office out in the public domain.
management is a specialised and
modern activity it requires trained Activity 4
and skilled personnel to conduct To what extent do you think the
operations. following groups or activities involve
(v) Conduct in Office: As official activity the exercise of bureacratic authority
demands the full time attention of in Weber’s sense?
officials irrespective of her/his (a) your class; (b) your school; (c) a
delimited hours in office, hence an football team; (d) a panchayat samiti
of ficial’s conduct in of fice is in a village; (e) a fan association for
a popular film star; (f) a group of
governed by exhaustive rules and
regular commuters on a train or bus
regulations. These separate her/ route; (g) a joint family; (h) a village
his public conduct from her/his community; (i) the crew of a ship; (j)
behaviour in the private domain. a criminal gang; (k) the followers of
Also since these rules and a religious leader; and (l) an audience
regulations have legal recognition, watching a film in a cinema hall.
officials can be held accountable. Based on your discussions, which
Weber’s characterisation of of these groups would you be willing
bureaucracy as a modern form of to characterise as ‘bureaucratic’?
political authority demonstrated how Remember, you must discuss reasons
both for as well as against, and listen
an individual actor was both
to people who disagree with!
recognised for her/his skills and


Alienation: A process in capitalist society by which human beings are separated

and distanced from (or made strangers to) nature, other human beings, their
work and its product, and their own nature or self.
Enlightenment: A period in 18th century Europe when philosophers rejected
the supremacy of religious doctrines, established reason as the means to truth,
and the human being as the sole bearer of reason.
Social Fact: Aspects of social reality that are related to collective patterns of
behaviour and beliefs, which are not created by individuals but exert pressure
on them and influence their behaviour.

Mode of Production: It is a system of material production which persists over a

long period of time. Each mode of production is distinguished by its means of
production (eg: technology and forms of production organisation) and the relations
of production (eg: slavery, serfdom, wage labour).
Office: In the context of bureaucracy a public post or position of impersonal and
formal authority with specified powers and responsibilities; the office has a
separate existence independent of the person appointed to it. (This is different
from another meaning of the same word which refers to an actual bureaucratic
institution or to its physical location: eg. post office, panchayat office, Prime
Minister’s office, my mother’s or father’s office, etc.)


1. Why is the Enlightenment important for the development of sociology?

2. How was the Industrial Revolution responsible for giving rise to sociology?
3. What are the various components of a mode of production?
4. Why do classes come into conflict, according to Marx?
5. What are social facts? How do we recognise them?
6. What is the difference between ‘mechanical’ and ‘organic’ solidarity?
7. Show, with examples, how moral codes are indicators of social solidarity.
8. What are the basic features of bureaucracy?
9. What is special or different about the kind of objectivity needed in social science?
10. Can you identify any ideas or theories which have led to the formation of
social movements in India in recent times?
11. Try to find out what Marx and Weber wrote about India.
12. Can you think of reasons why we should study the work of thinkers who
died long ago? What could be some reasons to not study them?


B ENDIX , R EINHARD. 1960. Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait, Anchor Books,

New York.
DURKHEIM, EMILE. 1964. The Division of Labour in Society, (trans. By George Simpson),
Macmillan, New York.
IGNOU. 2004. ESO 13-1: Early Sociology, IGNOU, New Delhi.


As you saw in the opening chapter of play in India. In this chapter, you are
your first book, Introducing Sociology, going to be introduced to some of the
the discipline is a relatively young one founding figures of Indian sociology.
even in the European context, having These scholars have helped to shape
been established only about a century the discipline and adapt it to our
ago. In India, interest in sociological historical and social context.
ways of thinking is a little more than a The specificity of the Indian context
century old, but formal university raised many questions. First of all, if
teaching of sociology only began in western sociology emerged as an
1919 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 like
those at Calcutta and Lucknow — also India? India, too, was of course
began programmes of teaching and experiencing the changes brought
research in sociology and anthropology. about by modernity but with an
Today, every major university has a important difference — it was a colony.
department of sociology, social The first experience of modernity in
anthropology or anthropology, and India was closely intertwined with the
often 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 by
taken for granted in India, like most European society about primitive
established things. But this was not cultures, what role could it have in
always so. In the early days, it was India, which was an ancient and
not clear at all what an Indian sociology advanced civilisation, but which also
would look like, and indeed, whether had ‘primitive’ societies within it?
India really needed something like Finally, what useful role could sociology
sociology. In the first quarter of the have in a sovereign, independent India,
20th century, those who became a nation about to begin its adventure
interested in the discipline had to with planned development and
decide for themselves what role it could democracy?

The pioneers of Indian sociology academician. He was invited to lecture

not only had to find their own answers at the University of Madras, and was
to questions like these, they also had appointed as Reader at the University
to for mulate new questions for of Calcutta, where he helped set up the
themselves. It was only through the first post-graduate anthropology
experience of ‘doing’ sociology in an department in India. He remained at
Indian context that the questions took the University of Calcutta from 1917
shape — they were not available to 1932. Though he had no formal
‘readymade’. As is often the case, in qualifications in anthropology, he was
the beginning Indians became elected President of the Ethnology
sociologists and anthropologists section of the Indian Science Congress.
mostly by accident. For example, one He was awarded an honorary doctorate
of the earliest and best known by a German university during his
pioneers 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 by
clerk, moved on to become a school Cochin state.
teacher and later a college teacher in The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy
Cochin state in present day Kerala. In (1871-1942) was another ‘accidental
1902, he was asked by the Dewan of anthropologist’ and pioneer of the
Cochin to assist with an ethnographic discipline in India. Before taking his
survey 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 after
as the presidency areas directly under he had begun practising law, he
its control. Ananthakrishna Iyer did decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to take
this work on a purely voluntary basis, up a job as an English teacher at a
working as a college teacher in the Christian missionary school. This
Maharajah’s College at Ernakulam decision was to change his life, for he
during the week, and functioning as remained in Ranchi for the next forty-
the unpaid Superintendent of four years and became the leading
Ethnography in the weekends. His authority on the culture and society of
work was much appreciated by British the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpur
anthropologists and administrators of region (present day Jharkhand). Roy’s
the time, and later he was also invited interest in anthropological matters
to help with a similar ethnographic began when he gave up his school job
survey in Mysore state. and began practising law at the Ranchi
Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably courts, eventually being appointed as
the first self-taught anthropologist to official interpreter in the court.
receive national and international Roy became deeply interested in
recognition as a scholar and an tribal society as a byproduct of his

professional need to interpret tribal been born in the second decade of the
customs and laws to the court. He 20th century. Although they were all
travelled extensively among tribal deeply influenced by western traditions
communities and did intensive of sociology, they were also able to offer
fieldwork among them. All of this was some initial answers to the question
done on an ‘amateur’ basis, but Roy’s that the pioneers could only begin to
diligence and keen eye for detail ask : what shape should a specifically
resulted in valuable monographs and Indian sociology take?
research articles. During his entire G.S. Ghurye can be considered the
career, Roy published more than one founder of institutionalised sociology
hundred articles in leading Indian and in India. He headed India’s very first
British academic journals in addition post-graduate teaching department of
to his famous monographs on the Sociology at Bombay University for
Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias. thirty-five years. He guided a large
Roy soon became very well known number of research scholars, many of
amongst anthropologists in India and whom went on to occupy prominent
Britain and was recognised as an positions in the discipline. He also
authority on Chhotanagpur. He founded the Indian Sociological
founded the journal Man in India in Society as well as its jour nal
1922, the earliest journal of its kind in Sociological Bulletin. His academic
India that is still published. writings were not only prolific, but very
Both Ananthakrishna Iyer and wide-ranging in the subjects they
Sarat Chandra Roy were true pioneers. covered. At a time when financial and
In the early 1900s, they began institutional support for university
practising a discipline that did not yet research was very limited, Ghurye
exist in India, and which had no managed to nurture sociology as an
institutions to promote it. Both Iyer increasingly Indian discipline. Ghurye’s
and Roy were born, lived and died in Bombay University department was the
an India that was ruled by the British. first to successfully implement two of
The four Indian sociologists you are the features which were later
going to be introduced in this chapter enthusiastically endorsed by his
were born one generation later than successors in the discipline. These
Iyer and Roy. They came of age in the were the active combining of teaching
colonial era, but their careers and research within the same
continued into the era of independence, institution, and the merger of social
and they helped to shape the first anthropology and sociology into a
formal institutions that established composite discipline.
Indian sociology. G.S. Ghurye and D.P. Best known, perhaps, for his
Mukerji were born in the 1890s while writings on caste and race, Ghurye also
A.R. Desai and M.N. Srinivas were wrote on a broad range of other themes
about fifteen years younger, having including tribes; kinship, family and

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 aspects
sociology of conflict and integration. of Hindu identity.
Among the intellectual and contextual One of the major themes that
concerns which influenced Ghurye, the Ghurye worked on was that of ‘tribal’
most prominent are perhaps or ‘aboriginal’ cultures. In fact, it was
diffusionism, Orientalist scholarship his writings on this subject, and

specially his debate with Verrier Elwin of tribal cultures to show that they had
which first made him known outside been involved in constant interactions
sociology and the academic world. In with Hinduism over a long period.
the 1930s and 1940s there was much They were thus simply further behind
debate on the place of tribal societies in the same process of assimilation
within India and how the state should that all Indian communities had gone
respond to them. Many British through. This particular argument —
administrator-anthropologists were namely, that Indian tribals were
specially interested in the tribes of hardly ever isolated primitive
India and believed them to be primitive communities of the type that was
peoples with a distinctive culture far written about in the classical
from mainstream Hinduism. They also anthropological texts — was not really
believed that the innocent and simple disputed. The differences were in how
tribals would suffer exploitation and the impact of mainstream culture was
cultural degradation through contact evaluated. The ‘protectionists’ believed
with Hindu culture and society. For that assimilation would result in the
this reason, they felt that the state severe exploitation and cultural
had a duty to protect the tribes and extinction of the tribals. Ghurye and
to help them sustain their way of life the nationalists, on the other hand,
and culture, which were facing argued that these ill-effects were not
constant pressure to assimilate with specific to tribal cultures, but were
mainstream Hindu culture. However, common to all the backward and
nationalist Indians were equally downtrodden sections of Indian
passionate about their belief in the society. These were the inevitable
unity of India and the need for difficulties on the road to development.
moder nising Indian society and
culture. They believed that attempts Activity 1
to preserve tribal culture wer e
misguided and resulted in maintaining Today we still seem to be involved in
tribals in a backward state as similar debates. Discuss the different
sides to the question from a
‘museums’ of primitive culture. As
contemporary perspective. For
with many features of Hinduism itself example, many tribal movements
which they felt to be backward and in assert their distinctive cultural and
need of reform, they felt that tribes, political identity — in fact, the states
too, needed to develop. Ghurye of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh
became the best-known exponent of were for med in response to
the nationalist view and insisted on such movements. There is also a
characterising the tribes of India as major contr oversy around the
‘backward Hindus’ rather than disproportionate burden that tribal
communities have been forced to
distinct cultural groups. He cited
bear for the sake of developmental
detailed evidence from a wide variety

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 average
Ghurye on Caste and Race measurements for length of nose, size
G.S. Ghurye’s academic reputation of cranium etc., Risley and others
was built on the basis of his doctoral suggested that the lower castes were
dissertation at Cambridge, which was the original aboriginal inhabitants of
later published as Caste and Race in India. They had been subjugated by
India (1932). Ghurye’s work attracted an Aryan people who had come from
attention because it addressed the elsewhere and settled in India.
major concerns of Indian anthropology Ghurye did not disagree with the
at the time. In this book, Ghurye basic argument put forward by Risley but
provides a detailed critique of the then believed it to be only partially correct.
dominant theories about the He pointed out the problem with using
relationship between race and caste. averages alone without considering the
Herbert Risley, a British colonial variation in the distribution of a
official who was deeply interested in particular measurement for a given
anthropological matters, was the main community. Ghurye believed that
proponent of the dominant view. This Risley’s thesis of the upper castes being
view held that human beings can be Aryan and the lower castes being
divided into distinct and separate non-Aryan was broadly true only for
races on the basis of their physical northern India. In other parts of India,
characteristics such as the the inter -group differences in the
circumference of the skull, the length anthropometric measurements were
of the nose, or the volume (size) of the not very large or systematic. This
cranium or the part of the skull where suggested that, in most of India except
the brain is located. the Indo-Gangetic plain, different
Risley and others believed that racial groups had been mixing with
India was a unique ‘laboratory’ for each other for a very long time. Thus,
studying the evolution of racial types ‘racial purity’ had been preserved due
because caste strictly prohibits inter- to the prohibition on inter-marriage
marriage among different groups, and only in ‘Hindustan proper’ (north
had done so for centuries. Risley’s India). In the rest of the country, the
main argument was that caste must practice of endogamy (marrying only
have originated in race because within a particular caste group) may

have been introduced into groups that (iii) The institution of caste necessarily
were already racially varied. involves restrictions on social
Today, the racial theory of caste is interaction, specially the sharing
no longer believed, but in the first half of food. There are elaborate rules
of the 20th century it was still prescribing what kind of food may
considered to be true. There are be shared between which groups.
conflicting opinions among historians These rules are governed by ideas
about the Aryans and their arrival in of purity and pollution. The same
the subcontinent. However, at the also applies to social interaction,
time that Ghurye was writing these most dramatically in the
were among the concerns of the institution of untouchability,
discipline, which is why his writings where even the touch of people of
attracted attention. particular castes is thought to be
Ghurye is also known for offering polluting.
a comprehensive definition of caste. (iv) Following from the principles of
His 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

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 by
make the study of caste mor e G.S. Ghurye, the Lucknow department
systematic. His conceptual definition had three major figures, the famous
was based on what the classical texts ‘trinity’ of Radhakamal Mukerjee (the
prescribed. In actual practice, many founder), D.P. Mukerji, and D.N.
of these featur es of caste wer e Majumdar. Although all three were
changing, though all of them continue well known and widely respected, D.P.
to exist in some form. Ethnographic Mukerji was perhaps the most
fieldwork over the next several popular. In fact, D.P. Mukerji — or D.P.
decades helped to provide valuable as he was generally known — was
accounts of what was happening to among the most influential scholars
caste in independent India. of his generation not only in sociology
Between the 1920s and the 1950s, but in intellectual and public life
sociology in India was equated with beyond the academy. His influence
the 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
1947: Served as a Member of the U.P. Labour Enquiry Committee.
1949: Appointed Professor (by special order of the Vice Chancellor) at Lucknow
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.

his scholarly writings as from his in socialised persons.” (Mukherji

teaching, his speaking at academic 1955:2)
events, and his work in the media, Given the centrality of society in
including newspaper articles and India, it became the first duty of an
radio programmes. D.P. came to Indian sociologist to study and to
sociology via history and economics, know the social traditions of India. For
and retained an active interest in a D.P. this study of tradition was not
wide variety of subjects ranging across oriented only towards the past, but
literature, 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, but
He was strongly influenced by also adapting to the present and thus
Marxism, though he had more faith evolving over time. As he wrote, “
in it as a method of social analysis is not enough for the Indian sociologist
than as a political programme for to be a sociologist. He must be an
action. D.P. wrote many books in Indian first, that is, he is to share in
English and Bengali. His Introduction the folk-ways, mores, customs and
to Indian Music is a pioneering work, traditions, for the purpose of
considered 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 believed
It was through his dissatisfaction that sociologists should learn and be
with Indian history and economics familiar with both ‘high’ and ‘low’
that D.P. turned to sociology. He felt languages and cultures — not only
very str ongly that the crucial Sanskrit, Persian or Arabic, but also
distinctive feature of India was its local dialects.
social system, and that, therefore, it D.P. argued that Indian culture
was important for each social science and society are not individualistic in
to be rooted in this context. The the western sense. The average Indian
decisive aspect of the Indian context individual’s pattern of desires is more
was the social aspect: history, politics or less rigidly fixed by his socio-
and economics in India were less cultural group pattern and he hardly
developed in comparison with the deviates from it. Thus, the Indian
west; however, the social dimensions social system is basically oriented
were ‘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 beginning
fact, 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 an
philosophy, I realised, had always interesting subject of study for the
centred in social groups, and at best, Indian sociologist. D.P. pointed out

that the root meaning of the word challenged by the collective experience
tradition is to transmit. Its Sanskrit of groups and sects, as for example in
equivalents are either parampara, that the bhakti movement. D.P. emphasised
is, succession; or aitihya, which comes that this was true not only of Hindu
from the same root as itihas or history. but also of Muslim culture in India. In
Traditions are thus strongly rooted in Indian Islam, the Sufis have stressed
a past that is kept alive through the love and experience rather than holy
repeated recalling and retelling of texts, and have been important in
stories 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 where
but indicates a process of adaptation discursive reason (buddhi-vichar) is the
to it. Internal and external sources of dominant force for change; anubhava
change are always present in every and prem (experience and love) have
society. The most commonly cited been historically superior as agents of
internal source of change in western change.
societies is the economy, but this Conflict and rebellion in the Indian
source has not been as effective in context have tended to work through
India. Class conflict, D.P. believed, had collective experiences. But the
been “smoothed and covered by caste resilience of tradition ensures that the
traditions” in the Indian context, pressure of conflict produces change
where new class relations had not yet in the tradition without breaking it.
emerged very sharply. Based on this So we have repeated cycles of
understanding, he concluded that one dominant orthodoxy being challenged
of the first tasks for a dynamic Indian by popular revolts which succeed in
sociology would be to provide an transfor ming orthodoxy, but are
account of the internal, non-economic eventually reabsorbed into this
causes of change. transformed tradition. This process
D.P. believed that there were three of change — of rebellion contained
principles of change recognised in within the limits of an overarching
Indian traditions, namely; shruti, smriti tradition — is typical of a caste society,
and anubhava. Of these, the last — where the formation of classes and
anubhava or personal experience — is class consciousness has been
the revolutionary principle. However, in inhibited. D.P.’s views on tradition and
the Indian context personal experience change led him to criticise all
soon flowered into collective experience. instances of unthinking borrowing
This meant that the most important from western intellectual traditions,
principle of change in Indian society including in such contexts as
was generalised anubhava, or the development planning. Tradition was
collective experience of groups. The neither to be worshipped nor ignored,
high traditions were centred in smriti just as modernity was needed but not
and sruti, but they were periodically to be blindly adopted. D.P. was

simultaneously a proud but critical A.R. Desai is one of the rare Indian
inheritor of tradition, as well as an sociologists who was directly involved
admiring critic of the modernity that in politics as a formal member of
he acknowledged as having shaped his political parties. Desai was a life-long
own 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

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, his
on were peasant movements and rural approach to this issue was from a
sociology, moder nisation, urban Marxist perspective. In an essay called
issues, political sociology, forms of the “The myth of the welfare state”, Desai
state and human rights. Because provides a detailed critique of this
Marxism was not very prominent or notion and points to it many
influential within Indian sociology, shortcomings. After considering the
A.R. Desai was perhaps better known prominent definitions available in the
outside the discipline than within it. sociological literature, Desai identifies
Although he received many honours the following unique features of the
and was elected President of the welfare state:
Indian Sociological Society, Desai
remained 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 political
A.R. Desai on the State theory, the welfare state does not
seek to do only the minimum
The modern capitalist state was one necessary to maintain law and
of the significant themes that order. The welfare state is an

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 of
test criteria against which the
unemployment are yet another failure.
performance of the welfare state can
Based on these arguments, Desai
be 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

Marxist thinkers to emphasise the

lights, schools, sanitation, police
importance of democracy even under services, hospitals, bus, train and air
communism, arguing strongly that transport… Think of others that are
political liberties and the rule of law relevant in your context.)
must be upheld in all genuinely
socialist 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

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 then
these difficulties, Srinivas produced a a power ful centre in world
significant body of work on themes anthropology. Like G.S. Ghurye and
such as caste, modernisation and the Lucknow scholars, Srinivas
other processes of social change, succeeded in training a new
village society, and many other issues. generation of sociologists who were to
Srinivas helped to establish Indian become leaders of the discipline in the
sociology on the world map through following decades.
his inter national contacts and
associations. He had strong M.N. Srinivas on the Village
connections in British social The Indian village and village society
anthropology as well as American remained a life-long focus of interest
anthropology, particularly at the for Srinivas. Although he had made

short visits to villages to conduct wherever they go. For this reason,
surveys and interviews, it was not Dumont believed that it would be
until he did field work for a year at a misleading to give much importance
village near Mysore that he really to the village as a category. As against
acquired first hand knowledge of this view, Srinivas believed that the
village society. The experience of field village was a relevant social entity.
work proved to be decisive for his Historical evidence showed that
career and his intellectual path. villages had served as a unifying
Srinivas helped encourage and identity and that village unity was
coordinate a major collective effort at quite significant in rural social life.
producing detailed ethnographic Srinivas also criticised the British
accounts of village society during the administrator anthropologists who
1950s and 1960s. Along with other had put forward a picture of the Indian
scholars like S.C. Dube and D.N. village as unchanging, self-sufficient,
Majumdar, Srinivas was instrumental “little republics”. Using historical and
in making village studies the sociological evidence, Srinivas showed
dominant field in Indian sociology that the village had, in fact, experienced
during this time. considerable change. Moreover, villages
Srinivas’ writings on the village were never self-sufficient, and had been
were of two broad types. There was involved in various kinds of economic,
first of all ethnographic accounts of social and political relationships at the
fieldwork done in villages or regional level.
discussions of such accounts. A The village as a site of research
second kind of writing included offered many advantages to Indian
historical and conceptual discussions sociology. It provided an opportunity
about the Indian village as a unit of to illustrate the importance of
social analysis. In the latter kind of ethnographic research methods. It
writing, Srinivas was involved in a offered eye-witness accounts of the
debate about the usefulness of the rapid social change that was taking
village as a concept. Arguing against place in the Indian countryside as the
village studies, some social newly independent nation began a
anthropologists like Louis Dumont programme of planned development.
thought that social institutions like These vivid descriptions of village India
caste were more important than were greatly appreciated at the time
something like a village, which was as urban Indians as well as policy
after all only a collection of people makers were able to form impressions
living in a particular place. Villages of what was going on in the heartland
may live or die, and people may move of India. Village studies thus provided
from one village to another, but their a new role for a discipline like sociology
social institutions, like caste or in the context of an independent
religion, follow them and go with them nation. Rather than being restricted

to the study of ‘primitive’ peoples, it

could also be made relevant to a give for wanting to leave the city and
live in the village? If you don’t know
modernising 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

and eventually go beyond their to constructive criticism in order to

predecessors. This has also been take the discipline further. The signs
happening in Indian sociology. of this pr ocess of lear ning and
Succeeding generations have critique are visible not only in this
subjected the work of these pioneers book but all over Indian sociology.


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.


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?


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and New Delhi.
MUKERJI, D.P. 1946. Views and Counterviews. The Universal Publishers,
MUKERJI , D.P. 1955. ‘Indian Tradition and Social Change’, Presidential
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Reproduced in T.K. Oommen and Partha N. Mukherji (eds) 1986.

Indian Sociology: Reflections and Introspections, Popular Prakashan,
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