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Sociology: An Empirical/ Comparative Science


Manoj Kumar Jena


Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp.824, Rs. 950.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 4 April 2012

Andre Beteille's omnibus puts together the pathbreaking writings of one of the country's most acclaimed sociologists, Andre Beteille. This omnibus comprises three well known books with a new introduction. The Omnibus reflects the author's basic approach to sociology as an empirical and comparative science. All the three books deal with the subject of inequality in some way or the other. Though the author had emphasized on the morphological structure of society in his earlier works, yet he is more fascinated by theĀ  normative structure of society and also tries to locate the tension between the mor-phological and the normative structure and subsequently the contradictions within the normative structure itself. Divided into three parts, the first on Caste, Class and Power, is an outcome of the author's Ph.D work submitted to the Univer-sity of Delhi in 1963 which was based on a field work done in a single village (Sripuram in Tanjore district in South India) in 1961-62. In this book, firstly Beteille has tried to look at the system of caste quite naturally though his concern is with the phenomena of caste, class and power (mainly in its political aspect) and with their changing relations. These three phenomena are dealt with separately and also their inter-relations are examined in the context of change. He discu-sses the caste structure of Tanjore district which clearly segregates the three primary segments-brah-mins, non-brahmins and adi-dravidas-from one another. To him, castes are enduring groups, fairly well defined boundaries gover-ned by complex principles. Class, on the other hand, meant a category of persons occupying a specific position in the system of production. The social and economic relation between the persons depends a good deal upon the mutual position of class system. In the context of power, Beteille reiterated the fact that it was difficult to define power in formal terms in spite of its location in formal structure such as Panchayat and parties. However, being inspi-red by Max Weber the author claims that an understanding of power also requires an analy-sis of the network of inter-personal relations which cuts across the boundaries of caste, class, panchayat and party. In his village study he places emphasis on the internal division in the village as reflected in its physical structure. The class system and distribution of power had acquired a more fluid character in case of the village but the physical structure of the village had not undergone ...


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