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1. Describe and discuss the socio-historical background of the emergence of Sociology in India.
Ans. As a mother of social sciences, sociology has close and intimate relationship with all other social sciences. It has close relationship with history, because present society bears symbols of past. Relationship between the two is so close and intimate that scholars like G. Von Bulow have refused to acknowledge sociology as a science distinct from history. Sociology is the science of society. It is a study of systems of social action and their interrelations. Sociology is a science of social groups and social institutions. History studies the important past events and incidents. It records men’s past life and life of societies in a systematic and chronological order. It also tries to find out the causes of past events. It also studies the past political, social and economic events of the world. It not only studies the past but also establishes relations with present and future. That is why it is said that “History is the microscope of the past, the horoscope of the present and telescope of the future. However, both the sciences are closely interrelated and interdependent on each other. Both study the same human society. Their mutual dependence led G.H. Howard to remark that, “History is past Sociology and Sociology is present history,” Both take help from each other. At the same time one depends on the other for its own comprehension. History helps and enriches Sociology. History is the store house of knowledge from which Sociology gained a lot. History provides materials sociologists use. History is a record of past social matters, social customs and information about different stages of life. Sociology uses this information. Books written by historians like A. Toynbee are of great use for Sociologists. To know the impact of a particular past event sociology depends of history. Similarly Sociology also provides help to history and enriches it. A historian greatly benefited from the research conducted by Sociologists. Historians now study caste, class and family by using sociological data. Sociology provides the background for the study of history. Now history is being studied from Sociological angle. Every historical event has a social cause or social background. To understand that historical event history need the help from Sociology and Sociology helps history in this respect. Sociology provides facts on which historians rely on.
Thus history and Sociology are mutually dependent on each other. History is now being studied from Sociological angle and Sociology also now studied from historical point of view. Historical sociology now became a new branch of Sociology which depends on history. Similarly Sociological history is another specialized subject which based on both the Sciences. But in spite of the above close relationship and inter-dependence both the sciences differ from each other from different angles which are described below. Differences:
(1) Sociology is a science of society and is concerned with the present society. But history deals with the past events and studies the past society.
(2) Sociology is a modern or new subject whereas history is an older social science.
(3) Sociology is abstract whereas history is concrete in nature.
(4) The scope of Sociology is very wide whereas the scope of history is limed. Sociology includes history within its scope.
(5) Sociology is an analytical science whereas history is a descriptive science.
(6) Attitude of sociology and history differ from each other. Sociology studies a particular event as a social phenomenon whereas history studies a particular event in it’s entirely.
(7) Sociology is a general science whereas history is a special science.
Sociology is a science of society. Hence it is closely related to other social sciences and so also with psychology. Sociology and Psychology are very closely interlinked, interrelated and interdependent. Relationship between the two is so close and intimate that Psychologist like Karl Pearson refuses to accept both as special science. Both depend on each other for their own comprehension. Their relationship will be clear if we analyze their interrelationship and mutual dependency. Sociology is a science of social phenomena and social relationship. It is a science of social group and social institutions. It is a science of collective behaviour. It studies human behaviour in groups. But psychology is a science of mind or mental processes. It is a science of human behaviour. It analyses attitudes, emotions, perception, process of learning and values of individuals and process of perception, process of personality formation in society. In the words of Thouless, ‘Psychology is the positive science of human experience and behaviour.’ But both the sciences are closely related to each other which can be known from the following. Sociology receives help from Psychology. Psychology is a part of sociology hence without the help from Psychology; Sociology can’t understand itself fully and properly. There are many psychologists like Freud, Mac Dugal and others who have enriched Sociology in many respects. They opine that the whole social life could be reduced finally to psychological forces. Each and every social problems and social phenomenon must have a psychological basis for the solution of which sociology requires the help form psychology. A new branch of knowledge has developed with the combination of sociology and psychology which is known as social psychology.
2. Discuss with suitable examples the major research trends in Sociology in India.
Ans. India is one of the oldest civilization of the world and has one of the longest tradition of research and writings. Dharmashastra by Manu dating back to third century is considered as a comprehensive study of Indian society as it existed at the time, even though it emphasized more on the normative aspects of moral and normative aspects of social and economic action. The earliest writings on Indian economic thought come from Kautilya’s Arthashastra, a brilliant treatise written 2,400 years ago, This is a classic vision that encapsulates incisive understanding of Finance, Money and Resource Management. Roger Boesche’s excellent commentary on Kautilya’s voluminous text draws out the essential realist arguments for modern Indian strategic thinking and our understanding of the relationship between politics and economics. For many centuries India has also been the subject of social science research for both Asian and Western scholars for many centuries. A detailed account of the structure of the Indian society and the customs of Indians during Chandragupta Maurya’s time, dating back to 324 BC – 300 BC, has been written by Meghasthenes, the Greek Ambassador. Al- Biruni, a Persian scholar who visited India in the year 1030 AD, wrote a book describing the Indian social and cultural life, customs and manners of Hindus. Another interesting writings, based on more personal observations than on scientific inquiry, by Benier, a French traveler, provide interesting information about the Indian society of the 17th century during Mughal kings Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. The modem social science began to develop in India after the British colonization in the 19th century. The establishment of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1784), the Academic Association (1828), the Bethune Society (1851), the Banaras Institute (1861) and the Bengal Social Science Association (1867-1878) gave an impetus for social science research in India. The social science research then and after the early years of independence was based on studies influenced by Western thoughts. Later there was a demand to have studies based on local issues due to the fact that planned socio-economic development provided tremendous scope of inquiry and research. That paved the way for the development of modem Indian social science with the help research undertaken by great economic and political thinkers such as Dadabhai Naroji, G.K. Gokhale, R.C. Dutt, etc. Social science research is chiefly driven by two forces (i) interest in knowledge about the functioning of society in its diverse social, cultural and economic aspects, and in factors that shape them and (ii) the practical needs of policy makers and managers in government, civil society and the private sector for the reliable information and professional analysis.
In the pre-independent period, the scale and scope of both these was quite limited. The universities and other academic institutions, the main centers of scholarly research atthat time, were relatively few. This is mainly due to scale and scope of research was limited as information requirements and analysis for government was also quite limited. Even, during the first 15 years after independence this trend continued, where in Bombay School of Economics and Madras University department of Economics were specifically active in research. However, the scale and scope of research expanded, owing to government embarking on planned socio-economic development and change and at the same time rapid growth in industrial and commercial enterprises happened. These developments led to rapid increase in the demand for both information and research on developmental issues concerned to India. The period 1950s and 1960s also saw an effort at expanding and restructuring the Indian statistical system, and in promoting research. Apart from the nodal statistical agencies, especially CSO and the NSSO, practically all the departments of central government started units/directorates to compile data to monitor and advise on policy. The most important institutions established during that period include Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Planning Commission, New Delhi, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi etc. This period also witnessed establishment of agro economic research institutes by Directorate of Economics and Statistics, New Delhi and also various government departments began to show increasing interest in establishing or expanding specialized institutes.
Social Science Research: Current Status It is very difficult to obtain Information on the number of institutions engaged in social science research, the topics of their work, and source of funding and research output. However, the Fourth Review committee set by ICSSR in the year 2007 has made an attempt to gather and compile data from such institutions directly funded by the government and those that receive substantial and regular financial support from it.
The institutions conducting social science research can be classified into the below mentioned six categories:
- Social science departments in universities and post graduate colleges under UGC
- Specialized Universities – Agricultural universities and institutes of technology, management, etc.
- ICSSR supported research institutes
- Autonomous research institutes specialized in social science research
- Government supported research units;
- Private Consultancy Firms. Of these the first four categories are the most active players in the field.
The creation of ICSSR was based on the realization that social science research in India lacked a national organization that could actively work its expansion and promotion apart from securing support and reorganization from the government without being under its control. Therefore, ICSSR was conceived as an autonomous body to expand social science research and to improve its quality, while attempting to develop strong linkages between of the findings of the social science research and policy formulation.
3. Define the concept of caste and discuss the colonial perspective on caste with suitable examples.
Ans. Manusmriti, widely regarded to be the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law and dating back to at least 1,000 years before Christ was born, “acknowledges and justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society”.
The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.
At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs.
For centuries, caste has dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.
Rural communities have long been arranged on the basis of castes – the upper and lower castes almost always lived in segregated colonies, the water wells were not shared, Brahmins would not accept food or drink from the Shudras, and one could marry only within one’s caste.
The system bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning repression of the lower castes by privileged groups.
Often criticised for being unjust and regressive, it remained virtually unchanged for centuries, trapping people into fixed social orders from which it was impossible to escape.
Despite the obstacles, however, some Dalits and other low-caste Indians, such as BR Ambedkar who authored the Indian constitution, and KR Narayanan who became the nation’s first Dalit president, have risen to hold prestigious positions in the country.
Historians, though, say that until the 18th Century, the formal distinctions of caste were of limited importance to Indians, social identities were much more flexible and people could move easily from one caste to another.
New research shows that hard boundaries were set by British colonial rulers who made caste India’s defining social feature when they used censuses to simplify the system, primarily to create a single society with a common law that could be easily governed.
Independent India’s constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste, and, in an attempt to correct historical injustices and provide a level playing field to the traditionally disadvantaged, the authorities announced quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for scheduled castes and tribes, the lowest in the caste hierarchy, in 1950.
In 1989, quotas were extended to include a grouping called the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) which fall between the traditional upper castes and the lowest.
In recent decades, with the spread of secular education and growing urbanisation, the influence of caste has somewhat declined, especially in cities where different castes live side-by-side and inter-caste marriages are becoming more common.
In certain southern states and in the northern state of Bihar, many people began using just one name after social reform movements. Despite the changes though, caste identities remain strong, and last names are almost always indications of what caste a person belongs to.
4. What are the major agrarian classes in India? Discuss with reference to the contributions of different Sociologists.
Ans. The three agrarian classes which Daniel Thorner spoke of are (a) Malik, (b) Kisan, and (c) Mazdoor. According to Thorner, prevalent agrarian relations can also be analyzed in terms of three specific terms.
- Maliks or Landlords. The term ‘Maliks’ refers to the big landlords and considerably rich landowners who constitute the relatively affluent class in the village set up. Whose income is derived primarily from property right in the soil and whose common interest is to keep the level of rents up while keeping the wage-level down. They collect rent from tenants, sub-tenants and sharecroppers. They could be further divided into two categories, –
- Absentee landlords or the big landlords. These Maliks are normally big landlords who have the rights over large tracts extending over several villages; they are absentee owners or rentiers with absolutely no interest in land management or improvement.
- The rich residential landowners. Those Maliks who reside in the village in which they own land. These people also do not work in the land personally but get the cultivation work done by others.
- Kisans or working peasants. The term ‘Kisans’ refers to the working peasants. They own small plots of land and work mostly with their own labour and that of their family members. They own much lesser lands than the Maliks. They too can be divided into two sub-categories –
- Small landowners. They have sufficient landholding to sustain the family. Members of the family are responsible for cultivation. They neither receive rent nor employ outside labour unless it becomes absolutely necessary in a season.
- Substantial tenants. These are the tenants holding who may not own any land but cultivate a large enough holding to help them sustain their families without having to work as wage labourers.
iii. Mazdoors or labourers. The term’Mazdoors’ refers in the rural context to the landless villagers who work as labourers on a wage basis. They obtain their livelihood primarily from working on other people’s land. The class of Mazdoors may consist of –
- Sharecroppers. They are either tenants-at-will, taking lease without security or cultivators in other’s land on sharecropper basis. This implies they earn a share of the crop produced.
- Landless labourers. These people engage themselves as labourers in other’s land on a temporary basis and without any specific conditional relation with the landlord.
Agrarian class structure in India varies from one region to another; the relations among classes and social composition of groups that occupy specific class positions in relation to land-control and land-use in India are so diverse and complex that it is difficult to incorporate them all in a general scheme. They have emerged out of multidimensional forces and their bearing in space and time.
An agrarian (or farming) society is dependent on the production of food using plows and domestic animals. It focuses mainly on its economy primarily on agriculture and the cultivation of large fields. The society may recognize different methods for business or livelihood, this distinguishes it from the hunter-gatherer society, which produces none of its own food, and the horticultural society, which produces food in small gardens rather than fields. But they share in common the focus on the significance of agriculture and cultivating. Agrarian communities have existed in various parts of the world as far back as 10,000 years ago and keep on surviving today. They have been the most widely recognized type of socio-economic setup for the more significant part of recorded history.
5. Discuss the main features of middle class in India with suitable examples.
Ans. The middle classes of all countries have been the key drivers of the global economy in the last century. During the past several decades, world economic growth has occurred, mostly because of increased consumption in the middle classes of the United States, Europe, and other advanced countries. This class has been considered a thriving and vibrant catalyst for economic growth. It provides a strong base that drives productive investment and is a critical factor in encouraging other social developments that also stimulate growth and foster expansion of elements that contribute to a healthy society.
The middle classes constitute a critical market for most goods and services. A sizable portion of any nation’s tax revenue is collected either directly or indirectly from this group, and they also have an important role in any relative political stability that a country experiences. The significance of this class was best elucidated by the late Lester Thurow, the eminent MIT economist: “A healthy middle class is necessary to have a healthy political democracy. A society made up of rich and poor has no mediating group either politically or economically.”
In this essay, various definitions of the middle class are offered, followed by a depiction of the status of this class in India from its independence in 1947 through the expansion of the private sector in India through liberalization, a policy change that created substantial economic growth that continues today. The future growth of this class in the next three decades and its implications for global businesses and world order are also discussed.
The middle class falls in the middle of the social hierarchy and occupies a socioeconomic position between the working and upper classes. The measures of what constitutes members of this class differ significantly among nations because of international cultural and economic variations. Examples of what constitute the “middle class” in a given nation are dependent upon purchasing power, educational levels, perceptions of who constitute “the wealthy,” and levels of social services, as well as other factors.
This was mostly because of access by foreign (and some domestic) companies to cheaper labor in these countries as a result of liberal international trade laws. Many countries also experienced rapid urbanization when subsistence farmers left their farms to work in factories for guaranteed wages.
In developing economies, distribution of socioeconomic classes can best be graphically represented by a heavily skewed distribution to the left of a distribution curve (with most people belonging to the lower classes). In developed economies like the United States, the social classes distribution more or less approximate a bell curve. The middle class in such societies has been defined as those with incomes between 75 percent to 125 percent of the median income. Some analysts have used a broader middle income range of 60 percent to 225 percent of the median income. Using the former benchmark, demographic studies indicate the percentage of American middle- class households declined from 28.2 percent in 1967 to 23.7 percent in 19834; while using the latter benchmark, the decrease in the US was from 62.4 percent to 55.9 percent over the same timespan.5 More recent studies have pointed to further polarization in the United States and some polarization in Canada that now appears to have reversed course or at least stabilized.
Compared to the 2009 Economist report, other reports cite a more conservative estimate of the total number of people in the middle classes—OECD estimated 1.8 billion individuals in this group in 2010, while Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2014 had a smaller number (one billion) in the global middle class, with wealth anywhere between US $10,000 and $100,000. Between 1990 and 2005, the middle class grew from 15 percent to 62 percent of the population in China. In India, 50 percent of the population reached this status in 2015.
The Middle Class in India: 1947–1990
India achieved independence from Great Britain in 1947. The population of the country at that time was 300 million. The first official census taken in 1951 showed the population to be 361 million, a growth of 13.3 percent since 1941. Hindus accounted for 303.6 million (84.1 percent), while Muslims and Christians were the next two largest groups, with 35.4 million (9.8 percent) and 8.3 million (2.3 percent), respectively. India was recovering from religious strife because of the Partition and the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country was a meager US $20 billion and GDP per capita was around $70. By 1990, the population of the country had increased almost threefold and risen to 870 million. The World Bank estimated the GDP of that year to be approximately US $317 billion and GDP per capita to be approximately $364. However, these figures were less than half of what they were for China at that point, even though the countries had approximately the same living standards in 1947.
The country was governed by mostly one party (the Indian National Congress) and by the Nehru–Gandhi family, except for a brief period between 1977 and 1980. Economic policies mirrored the socialist policies of the old Soviet Union, and private enterprises were not encouraged. Most nascent industries, like automobiles and steel, were protected from outside competition by stiff tariffs on imports of these products. Several industries, including banking and coal, were nationalized and the overall growth rate of the country stagnated. India’s share in the world economy (nominal GDP), which had declined from 24.4 percent in 1700 during the end of the Mughal rule to 4.2 percent in 1950, right after independence from British rule, further stagnated to around 3.5 percent of the world economy from the 1950s to 1990, while per capita growth averaged a meager 1.3 percent annually.
Around the same time period, other Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan grew at a much faster rate of 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively, while India continued to follow central planning, which included extensive public ownership, regulation, red tape, and trade barriers. The size of the Indian middle class in India remained relatively small—it consisted of primarily the approximately five million workers mostly in the national, state, and local divisions of the government in the 1950s, with an additional six million added in the next two decades, with a count of 11.2 million in 1971, according to the government statistics.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a move toward a mixed economy, with the private sector adding a significant number of jobs as well. The “colonial” middle class from the days of British rule prior to 1947 was slowly transformed into a “new” middle class, who increasingly began being defined in terms of consumption behavior, with the country moving gradually toward a market-led capitalist economy. As noted earlier, India tried democratic socialism for the first four decades after independence from the British, but this failed to produce robust growth. The growth occurred later in the 1990s once the country began following free market policies.
The Growth of the Middle Class: 1991–2015
In 1991, after an economic downturn in the markets, the Indian government, ruled by the Indian Congress Party at the time, began opening up markets and launched an economic liberalization program. The substantial pace of growth of this class was primarily attributable to the incentivization for private capital investment and opening the economy to foreign investments. The total number of people in the middle class approximated thirty million in the 1990s, or less than 1 percent of the population. The percentage of those in the middle class began rising steadily to about 5 percent of the population in 2004.
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