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Implications of Social Ordering

Surinder S. Jodhka

By Ashwini Deshpande
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp.295, Rs. 695.00


Until sometime back caste was viewed as a kind of odd subject, something which primarily concerned scholars interested in the traditional social order of Indian society, social anthropologists and sociologists. Economists who engaged with the processes of planning for development and change, hardly ever studied caste or took note of its dynamics in their analysis of Indian economy. Even historians did not take caste very seriously. The 'progressive' and 'forward-looking' scholars and social scientists worked with the categories of class and other econo-mic modes of classification. Caste was to dis-appear with time, with the process of moder-nization and development. While Indian society has made significant progress over the past six decades and demo-cratic form of governance has been institu-tionalized rather smoothly, there seems to be no sign of caste disappearing. On the cont-rary, many would say that the public presence of caste has in fact increased over the past fifty years. From the matrimonial columns of the English speaking national newspapers read by the middle-class urban Indians to the electoral political processes at various levels of demo-cratic governance, the reality of caste conti-nues to prevail. Over the last few years the academic attitude towards caste has also chan-ged. Caste is no longer a taboo subject. Ashwini Deshpande's book proves this point. As the sub-heading of the book suggests, she frames the question of caste in terms of economic discrimination and how caste is re-produced in the contemporary urban Indian context, primarily in the economic sphere of labour markets and income categories. Broadly speaking, she does it by looking at three things. First, the book provides an extensive review of the literature on caste and discrimination. Although the review of literature on caste itself is rather limited, confined mostly to the anti-caste ideologues, such as Phule and Ambedkar, and some known literature produced by socio-logists and social anthropologists, more intere-sting is the discussion on discrimination, a relatively less known and less researched sub-ject in India. The literature on discrimination that she reviews is mostly taken from the works of American economists and sociologists writings on race and labour markets. The second component of the book con-sists of data drawn from the available macro-level data-sets that uses the classificatory cate-gory of social groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Apart from identifying links between subjects like caste and poverty, the author also attempts to develop a caste development index using this ...

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