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Roots of Inequality

Karuna Ahmad

By Andre Beteilla
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1977, pp. x 178, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

‘The two principal political ideologies of the present age, democracy and socialism, either singly or in various combi­nations are built,’ writes Beteille, ‘on the premise of equality for all human beings.’ The philosophy underlying the concept of equality emerged mainly out of the concern within modern nation-states with the conditions of the underprivileged section in their societies. The first of the sources of inequality to attract atten­tion was economic, but subsequently race and status, or a combination of these, were also added to the list of inequalities. Therefore, the social scientists were led to focus attention on these indicators of in­equality. Using the Weberian framework, Bete­ille has tried in this book to discuss the phenomenon of inequality around three important dimensions, namely, status, class and power, but he does not adhere to it rigidly. He adds the dimensions of race to his discussion, thereby transcen­ding the Weberian theoretical framework. This is understandable in view of the great significance enjoyed by race as a factor in both the national politics of certain countries and in international relations. The author follows a neat pattern of presentation. At the outset he distingui­shes between natural and social inequa­lities and leaves the former out of the purview of his discussion. His main con­cern is with social inequality. After deli­miting the scope of the work thus, Bete­ille outlines in the first chapter the two sources of inequality, namely, evaluation and performance. Two aspects of an in­dividual member or a society subjected to evaluation are quality and performance. Quality relates to inherent or acquired traits. Some of these are birth, family status and ethnic identity. Thus, quality and performance or achievement lead to differentiation and ranking of individuals and thereby to a hierarchy of statuses within a society, whether it is traditional or modern. The division of labour in a society and the corresponding division of rights and obligations also lead to differentiation of the statuses of members in a society. Further, force, power and domination determine the positions of members of an organization, namely, society. The situation becomes more complicated in more complex modern societies, thereby rendering it more difficult to ensure equality to their members. The twin sources of inequality, evalua­tion and performance, are rooted in cul­ture and power respectively. These two sources are responsible for order and coherence within a society, ...

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