The Modernization of a Caste System Andre Beteille. Caste, Class, and Power: Changing Patterns of Stratification in a Tanjore Village, Berkeley and Los Angeles University of California Press, 1969 The book Caste, Class and Power is about a small village in the Tanjore District in the Madras state which is in the country of India. The small village is named Sripuram the village consist of three caste groups, Brahmin, Non-Brahmin, and the Adi-Dravida (Untouchables).
Beteille discusses in his book how the old ways are slowly going away and people in India are starting to modernize and how some parts of village life have become caste free, but there are still areas which are still commanded by the caste system. He also talks about how the caste system is losing power and how the Panchayats and Political parties are gaining power. The Brahmin are at the top of the caste system they way Beteille explains is that the Brahmin are the elite and that they are the landowners.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
The Non-Brahmin is what we would call the middle class they are not low on the caste system but they aren’t high either. Since the Brahmins are the landowners that would make the Non-Brahmins the tenets of the land. At the bottom of the caste system is the Adi-Dravida also known as the Untouchables. They are called thins because they do the work that all the higher caste won’t do for example they work with leather and meat, and in their religion cows are sacred and should not be harmed.
So if the Brahmins are the landowners and the Non-Brahmins are the tenets so that means that the Untouchables are the laborers. The way you determines what class a person is in this caste system is determined at birth, so you have no choice and once you are in that class you can not leave you are stuck in that class. For example if you are an untouchable and you become wealthy and successful you will still be considered an untouchable no matter what and will be looked down upon by the upper classes even if you are wealthier then them.
Not only are the people separated by class they are also separated physically as in where they live in the village. One class stays in one area and cannot mix with the others, so all the classes have their own areas they can live. This caste system is an old way of thinking and as the times change the caste system changes also. In other villages near Sripuram Non- Brahmins have bought houses in Brahmin areas and have begun to live in them but some Brahmins do not like this and have moved but the Non-Brahmins still live there.
This has not happened in Sripuram they still have their separate area. A big change in the caste system is that everyone can now get education it no only for the Brahmins it’s also for Non-Brahmin and Untouchables. This allows the Non-Brahmins and the Untouchables to compete with Brahmins for higher paying jobs and allows them to move up financially but they still will be in the same class. With this new education it allows them to participate in politics. The political power also gets shaken up now that the Non-Brahmins have education.
The Panchayats are the government control of the village. According to Beteille “before the 1940s the Panchayats were dominated by the Brahmins, and political power in the village was concentrated in their hands. There were some Non-Brahmins members but they were clearly of lesser importance, and Adi-Dravidas were excluded. “(p. 41-42). Once India got its independence from British rule the Non-Brahmins took control of the Panchayats and they dominated them.
Till this day they are still in control and the Brahmins find themselves excluded and ignored. Beteille says that “the relationship between caste and political power has to be examined in the context of change, because change has been an important feature of this relationship over the last few decades. “(p. 208-209). This means that change is coming maybe not in all areas at once but sooner or later changes will be made. The changes will most likely occur first in the big cities and then eventually move into the smaller villages like Sripuram.
My analysis of the paper is that the author had very strong and convincing points about how the caste system is changing. He shows that the caste system is undergoing a modernization and is adapting to today’s world. Beteille made a good choice when he chose this subject because he already knew about social structure and had already researched it in previous essays and he also spent time in the village of Sripuram observing the way of life and saw the changes happening.
He gives us plenty of evidence both of how the caste system is changing and also how it remains the same. The big historical event that he covered to me was when the political power changed hands from the Brahmins to Non-Brahmins because it happened after India got its independence from Britain. Overall I think Beteille did a good job on this book and there is probably a few others that are out there like this one but this I think gives you more details and better understanding of what is actually happening during these changes in India’s caste system