02 January 2013

India's Politics: Caste

Rajni Kothari ("Politics in India", 1970) on caste:

"Everyone recognises that the social system in India is organised around caste structures and caste identities. In dealing with the relationship between caste and politics, however, the tendency is to start at the wrong end of the question: Is caste disappearing? In part such an approach comes from a widely held dichotomy between traditional and modern forms of organisation. In reality, however, no social system disappears. A more useful point of departure would be: What form is caste taking under the impact of politics, and what form is politics taking in a caste-oriented society?

Those who complain of 'casteism in politics' in India are really looking for a sort of politics that has no basis in society. They also probably lack any clear conception of either the nature of politics or the nature of the caste system. (Some of them would want to throw out both politics and the caste system) The process of politics is one of identifying and manipulating existing structures in order to mobilise support and consolidate positions. Where the caste structure provides one of the most important organisational clusters in which the population is found to live, politics must strive to organise through such a structure."

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