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Modernity and tradition in a global era: The re‐invention of caste in India

David Pick (Curtin Business School, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia)
Kandy Dayaram (Curtin Business School, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 July 2006

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the re‐interpretation and justification of caste in India in the face of modernising influences and the efforts of legislators to disassemble its structures and traditions.

Design/methodology/approach

The concepts of de‐traditionalisation and governmentality are deployed to illuminate the reconstruction of caste within the framework and imperatives of global industrial capitalism.

Findings

Caste now has a different source of justification in that it serves the functions and needs of the “winners” of globalisation at the expense of the “losers”. In traditional caste‐based society each caste moved in separate social spheres. This is simply not possible in a modern capitalist state based on a web of social, economic, and political inter‐dependencies. This has the potential to cause social dislocation, threatening India's economic and social well‐being and development. This paper demonstrates that whilst caste is still prevalent in Indian society it can no longer appeal to tradition for legitimacy.

Practical implications

Resource distribution and the creation of an inclusive environment is a critical policy issue. The challenge for social policy in India is tackling the entrenched inequality of the caste system in its emerging, contemporary form. Equal opportunities will remain imaginary, unless India takes adequate steps towards capacity building in disadvantaged social groups.

Originality/value

De‐traditionalisation and governmentality have so far only been applied to developed or Western nations. This paper uses these concepts to provide a critical account of an important social issue in developing nations.

Keywords

Citation

Pick, D. and Dayaram, K. (2006), "Modernity and tradition in a global era: The re‐invention of caste in India", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 26 No. 7/8, pp. 284-294. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443330610680380

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited