Sociology Class 11 Notes Chapter 5 Indian Sociologists

  • One of the earliest pioneers of social anthropology in India, L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer (1861-1937), began his career as a clerk, moved on to become a school teacher and later a college teacher in Cochin state in present day Kerala.
  • In 1902, he was asked by the Dewan of Cochin to assist with an ethnographic survey of the state.
  • Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably the first self-taught anthropologist to receive national and international recognition as a scholar and an academician.
  • He was invited to lecture at the University of Madras, and was appointed as Reader at the University of Calcutta, where he helped in setting up the first post-graduate anthropology department in India.
  • He remained at the University of Calcutta from 1917 to 1932. He had no formal qualification in anthropology.
  • He was elected President of the Ethnology section of the Indian Science Congress.
  • He was awarded an honorary doctorate by German university during his lecture tour of Europeon universities.
  • The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy (1871-1942) was another ‘accidental anthropologist’ and pioneer of the discipline in India.
  • Before taking his law degree in Calcutta’s Ripon College, Roy had begun practicing law, he decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to take up a job as an English teacher at a Christian missionary school.
  • He became the leading authority on the culture and society of the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpur region (presently in Jharkhand).
  • Roy’s interest in anthropological matters began when he gave up his school job and began practicing law at the Ranchi courts, eventually being appointed as official interpreter in the court.
  • Roy became deeply interested in tribal society as a by-product of his professional need to interpret tribal customs and laws to the court. He travelled extensively among tribal communities and did intensive field work among them.
  • Roy published more than one hundred articles in leading Indian and British academic journals in addition to his famous monographs on the Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias.
  • He founded the journal Man in India in 1922, the earliest journal of its kind in India that is still published.
  • G.S. Ghurye can be considered the founder of institutionalized sociology in India.
  • He headed India’s very first post-graduate teaching department of Sociology at Bombay University for thirty-five years.
  • He founded the Indian Sociological Society as well as its journal Sociological Bulletin.
  • Ghurye managed to nurture sociology as an increasingly Indian discipline. Ghurye was first to implement successfully
  • two of the features.
    • The active combining of teaching and research within the same institution.
    • The merger of social anthropology and sociology into a composite discipline.
  • Ghurye wrote on caste, race and themes including tribes, kinship, family and marriage; culture, civilization and the historic role of cities, religion and the sociology of conflict and integration.
  • Ghurye, was influenced by diffusionism, Orientalist scholarship on Hindu religion and thought, nationalism, and the
  • cultural aspects of Hindu identity.
  • Ghurye worked on ‘tribal’, his writings on this subject, and specially his debate with Verrier Elwin which first made him known outside sociology and the academic world.
  • Many British administrator-anthropologists were specially interested in the tribes of India and believed them to be primitive people with a distinctive culture far from the mainstream of Hinduism.
  • They also believed that the innocent and simple tribals would suffer exploitation and cultural degradation through contact with Hindu culture and society. For this reason, they felt that the state had a duty to protect the tribes and to help them sustain their way of life and culture, which were facing constant pressure to assimilate with mainstream of Hindu culture.
  • flhurye became the best-known exponent of the nationalist view and insisted on characterizing the tribes of India as ‘backward Hindus’ rather than distinct cultural groups.
  • The ‘protectionists’ believed that assimilation would result in the severe exploitation and cultural extinction of the tribals.
  • Ghurye and the nationalists, on the other hand, argued that these ill-effects were not specific to tribal cultures, but were common to all the backward and downtrodden sections of Indian society.

Ghurye on Caste and Race:

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

Caste is an institution based on segmental division:

  • This means that society is divided into a number of closed, mutually exclusive segments or compartments. Each caste is one such compartment.
  • It is closed because caste is decided by birth – the children bom to parents of a particular caste will always belong to that caste.
  • There is no way other than birth of acquiring caste membership. In short, a person’s caste is decided by birth; it can neither be avoided nor changed.

Caste society is based on hierarchical division:

  • Each caste is strictly unequal to other caste, that is, every caste is either higher or lower than other one. In theory (though not in practice), no two castes are ever equal.
  • The institution of caste necessarily involves restrictions on social interaction, specially the sharing of food.
  • There are elaborate rules prescribing what kind of food may be shared between which groups. These rules are governed by ideas of purity and pollution.
  • Caste also involves differential rights and duties for different castes.
  • These rights and duties pertain not only to religious practices but also extend to the secular world.
  • Caste restricts the choice of occupation, which, like caste itself, is decided by birth and is hereditary.
  • At the level of society, caste functions as a rigid form of the division of labour with specific occupations being allocated to specific castes.
  • Caste involves strict restrictions on marriage.Caste ‘endogamy’, or marriage only within the caste, is often accompanied by rules about ’exogamy1, or whom one may not marry.

D.P. Mukerji on Tradition and Change:

  • D.P. Mukerji felt very strongly that the distinctive feature of India was its social system, and that, therefore, it was important for each social science to be rooted in this context.
  • For Mr. Mukerji, this study of tradition was not oriented only towards the past, but also included sensitivity to change. Thus, tradition was a living tradition, maintaining its links with the past, but also adapting to the present and thus evolving over time.
  • He believed that sociologists should learn and be familiar with both ‘high’ and ‘low’ languages and cultures – not only Sanskrit, Persian or Arabic, but also local dialects.
  • Mr. Mukerji argued that Indian culture and society are not individualistic in the western sense.
  • Indian social system is basically oriented towards groups, sect, or caste-action, not ‘voluntaristic’ individual action. Although ‘voluntarism’ was beginning to influence the urban middle classes.
  • Mr. Mukerji pointed out that the root meaning of the word ‘tradition’ is to transmit. Its Sanskrit equivalents are either parampara, that is, succession: or aitihya, which comes from the same root as itihas or history.
  • The most commonly cited internal source of change in western societies is the economy, but this source has not been as effective in India. Class conflict, D.P. believed, had been “smoothed and covered by caste traditions” in the Indian context, where new class relations had not yet emerged very sharply.
  • He concluded that one of the first tasks for a dynamic Indian sociology would be to provide an account of the internal, non-economic causes of change.
  • Mr. Mukerji believed that there were three principles of change recognized in Indian traditions, namely; shruti, smriti and anubhava.
  • The most important principle of change in Indian society was generalized anubhava, or the collective experience of groups.
  • Mr. Mukerji emphasized that this was true not only of Hindu but also of Muslim culture in India. In Indian Islam, the Sufis have stressed love and experience rather than holy texts, and have been important in bringing about change.
  • Indian context is not only where discursive reason (buddhi-vichar) is the dominant force for change; anubhava and prem (experience and love) have been historically superior as agents of change.
  • Mr. Mukerji’s views on tradition and change led him to criticise all instances of unthinking borrowing from western intellectual traditions, including in such contexts as development planning. Tradition was neither to be worshiped nor ignored, just as modernity was needed but not to be blindly adopted.
  • A.R. Desai is one of the rare Indian sociologists who was directly involved in politics as a formal member of political parties.
  • Desai was a life-long Marxist and became involved in Marxist politics during his undergraduate days at Baroda, though he later resigned from his membership of the Communist Party of India.
  • Desai joined the Bombay department of sociology to study under Ghurye. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Social aspects of Indian nationalism and was awarded the degree in 1946.
  • His thesis was published in 1948 as the Social Background of Indian Nationalism, which is probably his best known work.

A.R. Desai on the State:

In an essay called “The Myth of the Welfare State”, Desai provides a detailed critique of this notion and points to it many shortcomings.

Desai identifies the following unique features of the welfare state :

  • A welfare state is a positive state. This means that, unlike the Taissez f aire’ of classical liberaly political theory, the welfare state does not seek to do only the minimum necessary to maintain law and order.
  • The welfare state is an interventionist state and actively uses its considerable powers to design and implement social policies for the betterment of society.
  • The welfare state is a democratic state. Democracy was considered an essential condition for the emergence of the welfare state.
  • Formal democratic institutions, specially multi-party elections, were thought to be a defining feature of the welfare state.
  • A welfare state involves a mixed economy. A ’mixed economy’ means an economy where both private capitalist enterprises and state or publicly owned enterprises co-exist.
  • A welfare state does not seek to eliminate the capitalist market, nor does it prevent public investment in industry and other fields.
  • The state sector concentrates on basic goods and social infrastructure, while private industry dominates the consumer goods sector.

Performance of the welfare state can be measured.

Does welfare state provide employment to all?:

Even developed countries are unable to reduce economic inequality and often seem to encourage it.

  • The so-called welfare states have also been unsuccessful at enabling stable development free from market fluctuations.
  • The presence of excess economic capacity and high levels of unemployment are yet another failure.
  • Based on these arguments, Desai concludes that the notion of the welfare state is something of a myth.

Emphasized the importance of democracy even under communism, arguing strongly that political liberties and the rule of law must be upheld in all genuinely socialist states.

M.N. Srinivas:

  • The best known Indian sociologist of the post-independence era, M.N. Srinivas earned two doctoral degrees, one from Bombay university and other, from Oxford.
  • Srinivas was a student of Ghurye’s at Bombay. Sriniva’s intellectual orientation was transformed by the years he spent at the Department of Social Anthropology in Oxford.
  • Srinivas’ doctoral dissertation was published as Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India.
  • This book established Srinivas’ international reputation with its detailed ethnographic application of the structural-functional perspective dominant in British social anthropology.

M.N. Srinivas on the Village:

  • First of all ethnographic accounts of fieldwork done in villages or discussions of such accounts.
  • A second kind of writing included historical and conceptual discussions about the Indian village as a unit of social analysis.
  • In the latter kind of writing, Srinivas was involved in a debate about the usefulness of the village as a concept.
  • Arguing against village studies, some social anthropologists like Louis Dumont thought that social institutions like caste were more important than something like a village, which was after all only a collection of people living in a particular place.
  • Villages may live or die, and people may move from one village to another, but their social institutions, like caste or religion, follow them and go with them wherever they g°-

Important terms:

  • Assimilation: A process by which one culture, usually the large or more dominant one gradually absorbs another.
  • Anthropometry: The branch of anthropology that studies human racial types by measuring the human body, particularly the volume of cranium (skull), the circumference of the head and the length of the nose.
  • 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.
  • Exogamy: A social institution that defines the boundary of a social or kin group with . which or within which marriage relations are prohibited.Marriage must be contracted outside these prohibited groups e.g. marriage, with blood relatives (Sapind exogamy), members of same lineage (Sagotra exogamy) or residents of 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.
  • Traditions: Totality of values and beliefs, experience, knowledge and wisdom of the previous generations which is transmitted to the succeeding generations.
  • Purusha: According to D.P. Mukerji, Purusha is an active actor which fulfils his responsibilities by establishing contacts with other persons.
  • Living.traditions: Tradition which maintains links with the past by retaining something from it and at the same time incorporates new things.

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