Thursday, April 13, 2006

Class And Caste

The Indian caste system is much maligned in the west and desis of the progressive stripe try hard to take "caste" out of their genes and system. Professor R Vaidyanathan of IIM Bangalore has a very interesting and logical counterpoint. He argues :

"..the caste system is undeniably a valuable social capital, which provides a cushion for individuals and families to deal with society and the state. The Western model of atomising every individual to a single element in a right-based system and forcing the individual to have a direct link with the state has destroyed families and erased communities. Every person stands alone, stark naked, with only rights as his imaginary clothes to deal directly with the state. "

The west has its "caste system" too. It distinguishes very sharply between new and old money, the colors black, brown and white among other things. Only the "system" of classification does not take unique inclinations and talents of a group of people into consideration. In as such, it fails to harness the strength these individuals could bring to bear were they to act as a group.

3 comments:

English August said...

So are you in favor of Indian caste system or merely implying that the west has one too and so we should not feel so bad about our own?

Heartcrossings said...

All societies have classes and some form of "caste system". The Indian system was introduced with an intelligent premise.

Where that premise was used in letter and spirit there were good results as the professor points out.

So having a caste system is not an evil in itself misusing it definitely is and there is enough proof of that in India.

goyim said...

It strikes me as disingenuous to posit, as a defense, an 'intelligent premise' behind the caste system.

All systems of hierarchy and social control have an intelligent premise -- its just not a very palatable one when seen from the lower echehlons.

The critique from the bottom of a caste, or capitalist or slavery based system --- is the one that needs to be given ethical priority.

There are some interesting economic proposals in the Professors article about creating freedom opportunities for groups through micro-economic means rather than macro-legislative programs. Good for the Professor. These are mapped onto a defense of the caste system that seems blurred by by an identification of caste with rewarding and pleasureable parts of culture. Bad Professor.

A comparison: Hollywood under the Hayes Code and Iran under the current theocracy heavily censor film. Great works are produced under this system of intensely administered control. This does not amke censorship a good thing.