Stratification refers to the arrangement of individuals or groups in a hierarchical order based on factors such as wealth, power, status, and occupation. In sociology, there are two main types of systems of stratification: closed systems and open systems. According to CUBER AND KENKEL, social stratification is "a pattern of superimposed categories of different privilege."
FORMS OF STRATIFICATION
SOCIOLOGISTS DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE TWO TYPES OF SYSTEMS OF STRATIFICATION
- CLOSED SYSTEMS : Closed systems of stratification refer to societies where mobility between social classes is limited or non-existent. This means that an individual's social status is determined by their birth and is not changeable. For example, in traditional societies, social status was determined by factors such as caste, religion, or inheritance. In these societies, people are typically born into a particular social class and remain there throughout their lives.
- OPEN SYSTEMS : open systems of stratification refer to societies where mobility between social classes is possible. In these societies, an individual's social status can be changed through factors such as education, hard work, and success. For example, in modern societies, people have the opportunity to move up the social ladder through education and hard work. In open systems, there is also a higher degree of meritocracy, meaning that individuals are rewarded for their hard work and merit rather than their social background.
CASTE SYSTEM :
The word 'caste' comes from the Portuguese word 'Casta' signifying breed, race or kind. The caste system is a form of social stratification that is based on birth and is prevalent in many societies, especially in India. In the caste system, individuals are born into a particular social status, and their life chances, opportunities, and social mobility are limited by the caste into which they were born.
The caste system is typically divided into four or five main categories, known as varnas, with each caste having its own set of duties, rights, and privileges. For example, the highest caste, known as the Brahmin caste, is associated with religious and intellectual pursuits, while the lowest caste, known as the Dalits or Untouchables, is associated with manual labor and is often marginalized and oppressed.
The caste system has been a source of social, economic, and political inequality in India and other societies that have adopted this form of stratification. The caste system has perpetuated discrimination, poverty, and social exclusion for many people, and it has been a major barrier to social mobility and progress.
In recent decades, there have been efforts to abolish the caste system and promote greater equality, but it remains a complex and deeply ingrained social issue in many parts of the world.
The definition of caste as a form of stratification is a social system that is based on birth and determines a person's social status, rights, and opportunities. In a caste system, individuals are born into a particular caste and their social position is determined by their birth, with little or no possibility for upward mobility. The caste system is typically hierarchical, with a higher caste enjoying greater privileges and a lower caste facing discrimination and exclusion. The caste system is often associated with India, but it has also been present in other societies throughout history. The caste system has been criticized for perpetuating social inequality and discrimination, and efforts to abolish the system and promote greater equality are ongoing in many societies.
According to NESFIELD, "Hereditary specialisation of occupation was at the root of the caste system; guilds had petrified into castes in a hierarchical order, and the more primitive and ancient an occupation, the lower was its ranking."
FEATURES OF CASTE SYSTEM :
MAIN FEATURES OF CASTE SYSTEM ARE :-
- HIERARCHY: The caste system is characterized by a hierarchical social structure, where castes are ranked in a strict order from highest to lowest. This ranking determines the level of privilege, status, and power that individuals have within the system.
- HEREDITARY: Castes are passed down from one generation to the next, with an individual's caste determined by their birth. This means that an individual's social status and opportunities are largely determined by their ancestry, rather than their individual merit.
- ENDOGAMY: Endogamy is the practice of marrying within one's own caste. This reinforces the rigid boundaries between castes and helps to maintain the hierarchical structure of the caste system.
- RESTRICTIONS ON FEEDING AND COMMENSALITY: The caste system often involves restrictions on who is allowed to eat and associate with whom. For example, individuals from higher castes may not eat with or accept food from individuals from lower castes, further reinforcing the hierarchical nature of the system.
- CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES AND DISABILITIES: The caste system confers certain privileges and disabilities based on an individual's caste. For example, individuals from higher castes may have access to better education and job opportunities, while individuals from lower castes may face discrimination and exclusion.
- CASTE PANCHAYAT: The caste panchayat is a traditional form of self-governance that is common in societies with a caste system. The caste panchayat is responsible for enforcing rules and customs within the caste, and its decisions can have significant impacts on the lives of individuals within the caste.
APPROACHES TO THE CASTE SYSTEM :
BETTER WAY TO EXPLAIN THE CASTE SYSTEM ARE THE FOLLOWING APPROACHES :-
- STRUCTURAL APPROACH: The structural approach to the caste system views it as a formal and highly structured social system, where individuals are assigned to castes based on birth and are restricted in their life chances and opportunities by their caste status.
- CULTURAL APPROACH: The cultural approach to the caste system views it as a set of cultural beliefs, values, and practices that shape the way people think about and interact with one another within the system. This approach emphasizes the role of culture in maintaining and reinforcing the caste system.
- FUNCTIONAL APPROACH: The functional approach to the caste system views it as a system that performs important social functions, such as maintaining order and providing social stability. This approach sees the caste system as a means of allocating individuals to different roles and responsibilities in society.
- ATTRIBUTIONAL APPROACH: The attributional approach to the caste system focuses on the ways in which people attribute meaning to their caste status and the ways in which this meaning influences their behavior and attitudes.
- INTERNATIONAL APPROACH: The international approach to the caste system views it as a global phenomenon and considers the ways in which the caste system is influenced by and interacts with other global systems and structures.
- CONFLICT APPROACH: The conflict approach to the caste system views it as a source of social conflict and inequality, and emphasizes the ways in which the caste system perpetuates discrimination and oppression. This approach focuses on the struggles of individuals and groups to challenge and overcome the caste system.
CASTE AMONG OTHER GROUPS :
- AMONG MUSLIMS: The caste system has been observed among some Muslim communities, particularly in South Asia. In these communities, individuals are divided into castes based on birth, and caste membership determines an individual's social status and opportunities. This has led to significant social inequality and discrimination within the Muslim community.
- AMONG CHRISTIANS: The caste system has also been observed among some Christian communities, particularly in India. In these communities, individuals are divided into castes based on birth, and caste membership determines an individual's social status and opportunities. Despite the teachings of equality in the Christian religion, the caste system continues to shape social relationships within the Christian community.
- AMONG SIKHS: The caste system has a long history among Sikh communities, particularly in India. In these communities, individuals are divided into castes based on birth, and caste membership determines an individual's social status and opportunities. Despite the teachings of equality in the Sikh religion, the caste system continues to shape social relationships within the Sikh community.
- AMONG JEWS: The caste system has not been widely observed among Jewish communities. However, some Jewish communities have experienced forms of social stratification based on ethnicity, national origin, and other factors, which can have similar effects to the caste system in terms of shaping social relationships and opportunities.
FUNCTIONS AND DYSFUNCTIONS OF THE CASTE SYSTEM :
- FUNCTIONS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL: The caste system provides individuals with a clear sense of identity and social status based on birth, which can offer a sense of security and stability. The caste system also provides individuals with a sense of belonging to a specific community and a shared cultural heritage.
- FUNCTIONS FOR THE GROUP: The caste system helps to maintain social order by dividing society into clearly defined groups with specific roles and responsibilities. This can help to prevent social conflict and competition between groups. The caste system also helps to reinforce group solidarity and strengthen the bonds of community.
- FUNCTIONS FOR THE SOCIETY: The caste system performs important functions for society as a whole by helping to allocate individuals to different roles and responsibilities based on their birth. This can help to ensure that important social tasks are performed effectively and efficiently. The caste system also helps to maintain social stability and prevent social unrest by limiting social mobility and reducing the opportunities for conflict and competition between individuals and groups.
However, it's important to note that the caste system also creates significant social inequality and discrimination, and reinforces power imbalances between different castes. This can result in significant social and economic disadvantages for individuals and groups that are lower in the caste hierarchy.
- LACK OF COMPETITION: The caste system can stifle competition by limiting individuals' opportunities for social and economic mobility, which can result in a lack of innovation and progress.
- RESTRICTIONS: The caste system imposes strict restrictions on individuals' behavior and opportunities, which can result in feelings of oppression and social and economic disadvantage.
- LACK OF UNITY: The caste system can divide society into rigid and separate groups, which can result in a lack of social unity and cohesion, and increase the risk of conflict between groups.
- FIXED OCCUPATION: The caste system imposes a rigid and narrow set of occupations on individuals based on birth, which can result in a lack of choice and creativity, and limit individuals' opportunities for personal and professional growth.
- LACK OF PROGRESS: The caste system can limit individuals' opportunities for education and professional development, which can result in a lack of progress and a reduction in the overall prosperity of society.
- CASTE-BASED INEQUALITY AND DIFFERENTIATION: The caste system reinforces power imbalances between different castes, which can result in significant social and economic inequality, and the marginalization of lower castes.
- MARRIAGE WITHIN THE CASTE: The caste system imposes strict endogamy, or the requirement to marry within the same caste, which can limit individuals' choice of partners and reinforce the separation between castes. This can result in a lack of genetic diversity and reduced opportunities for social and cultural exchange between groups.
The caste system is a form of social stratification that is based on birth and is characterized by a hierarchical arrangement of castes, hereditary status, endogamy, restrictions on feeding and commensality, civil and religious privileges and disabilities, and a caste panchayat. The caste system serves several functions for individuals, groups, and society as a whole, but it also creates significant social inequality and discrimination, and reinforces power imbalances between different castes. The caste system can result in several dysfunctions, including lack of competition, restrictions, lack of unity, fixed occupation, lack of progress, caste-based inequality and differentiation, and marriage within the caste. These dysfunctions can limit individuals' opportunities and reduce the overall prosperity and progress of society. It's important to address the negative impacts of the caste system and work towards a more equal and inclusive society.