Pattern of Social Inequality - Revision Notes

 CBSE Class 12 Sociology

Revision Notes
Pattern of Social Inequality and Exclusion

Facts That Matter

Social inequality

  • Social inequality and exclusion are facts of life.
  • The everydayness of social inequality and exclusion often make them appear inevitable, almost natural.
  • We often think of them as being ‘deserved’ or ‘justified’ in some sense.
  • Life chances and opportunities are not equally available to everyone. They are less for the suppressed castes.
  • Patterns of unequal access to social resources are commonly called social inequality.
  • Some social inequality reflects innate differences between individuals for example, their varying abilities and efforts.

Social inequality is social because:

  • They are not about individuals but about groups.
  • Second, they are social in the sense that they are not economic, although there is usually a strong link between social and economic inequality.
  • Third, they are systematic and structured – there is a definite pattern to social inequalities.

Social resources

  • In every society, some people have a greater share of valued resources – money, property, education, health, and power – than others.
  • These social resources can be divided into three forms of capital
  • Economic capital in the form of material assets and income
  • Cultural capital such as educational qualifications and status.
  • Social capital in the form of networks of contacts and social associations.
  • Often, these three forms of capital overlap and one can be converted into the other. For example, a person from a well-off family (economic capital) can afford expensive higher education, and so can acquire cultural or educational capital. Someone with influential relatives and friends (social capital) may – through access to good advice, recommendations or information – manage to get a well-paid job.

Social stratification

  • Sociologists use the term social stratification to refer to a system by which categories of people in a society are ranked in a hierarchy.
  • This hierarchy shapes people’s identity and experiences, their relations with others, as well as their access to resources and opportunities.

Three Key principles to explain social stratification

  1. Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a function of individual differences. Social stratification is a society-wide system that unequally distributes social resources among categories of people.
  2. Social stratification persists over generations. It is closely linked to the family and to the inheritance of social resources from one generation to the next. A person’s social position is ascribed. The ascribed aspect of social inequality is reinforced by the practice of endogamy. That is, marriage is usually restricted to members of the same caste, ruling out the potential for blurring caste lines through inter-marriage.
  3. Social stratification is supported by patterns of belief, or ideology. No system of social stratification is likely to persist over generations unless it is widely viewed as being either fair or inevitable. The caste system, for example, is justified in terms of the opposition of purity and pollution, with the Brahmins designated as the most superior and Dalits as the most inferior by virtue of their birth and occupation.

People face discrimination because:

  • Due to their gender, religion, ethnicity, language, caste and disability.


  • Pre conceived notion/pre judgment
  • Mostly negative
  • An opinion formed in advance of any familiarity with the subject, before considering any available evidence
  • Often based on hearsay rather than on direct evidence, and are resistant to change even in the face of new information.


  • Grounded on prejudices
  • Fixed and inflexible characterisation of people
  • Often applied to ethnic and racial groups and to women.
  • A whole group is considered homogeneous e.g. Rajputs are supposed to be courageous, girls are emotional, boys don't cry.


  • The way you treat people differently in reality
  • Disqualify members of on group from opportunities open to others, as when a person is refused a job because of their gender or religion.

  • Can be very hard to prove because it may not be open or explicitly stated.

Social Exclusion
• You are isolating them and exclude them from your group.
• When the people who are excluded are not given the opportunities which are given to others; (except their basic food, clothes and shelter) like medical, educational and naturalistic comforts.
• It is not accidental, it is systematic.
• It is openly done.
• It is involuntary, the ones who are excluded don't want to be excluded but we exclude them.
• After centuries, some people who are excluded lean either to ignore or they protest.
• Dalits came up with 2 things.
• They started making their own associations.
• They converted their religion (Muslims and Christians i.e., Islamisation)
• People excluded once the years are still excluded but the issues are changing.
• To bring about change, the mindset of the people has to change.

Caste System as a Discriminatory System

Correlation between Social Status and Economic Status
• There is a very close relation between class and caste.
• The members of the upper caste have better life chances and opportunities to use the resources.
• Now it is changing, people from Shudra community are occupying higher positions and vice versa e.g. K.R. Narayanan-Ex-President who was from a Dalit community. Mira Kumar-Ex-Speaker of the Parliament.

• But it is at a micro level in urban areas where Brahmins are peons, clerks while Dalits are doctors and are educated.
• The mindset of the people has not changed, so it is not prevalent at the micro level.

(a) Exclusion: The untouchables went through the worst type of exclusion. They were not given opportunities like others and were excluded from the smallest things and they
were excluded from everything.
e.g. They weren't allowed to take water from the wells, pumps or lakes that the Brahmins used. They weren't allowed to take part in festivals rituals and ceremonies that other would participate in. They had to have a bath with the buffaloes and cows.
(b) Exploitation: They were given very low salaries and low grade jobs (washing the bathroom, wetting the roads, cremations).
They were given jobs which no one wanted to do and were not paid. They were treated in an inhuman manners and were taken advantage of.
(c) Humiliation: They were not allowed to wear bright clothes full of colour, could not use the same roads, which Brahmins use, had to walk with their heads bowed down while a Brahmin walked by, couldn't 'walk with their chappals in front of Brahmins so they
would hold it in their hands.
They would clean up dead bodies and the cremation and were only included to play the
drums from a far off distance.
(d) Subordination: They were below the upper caste and the Brahmins were suppressed.

Provisions by the Government for SC and ST


• Laws, Policies, Amendments, Welfare programmes.
• They are meant for those who are socially and economically backward as they don't have life chances and opportunities which they should have.
• The government reserves seats for the SC's and ST's and no one else can take those seats from the upper caste.
• They are reserved in educational institutions, jobs, parliament. They have a lot of provisions like age relaxation and low marks for selection.
• You have to follow the laws.
• It is a legal framework, not like norms.

• Brahmins were the only educated people and the British needed the Brahmins support.
• Laws were made about caste but implementation was poor.

  1. Caste disability Removal Act-1850: Introduced because they wanted the lower caste to get into educational institution so that they could study and educate themselves.
  2. Abolition of Untouchability-Article 17: If practiced, punishable by law.
  3. Prevention of Atrocities Act-1889: The acts, the Brahmins carried out on the lower castes e.g. beating them, not letting them wear bright colours, washing streets, etc.
  4. Constitutional Amendment Act-2005: The 93rd amendment. It is to do with education and no one can be devoid of education.

They are still socially, economically and culturally backward.
There are social organisation, associations and political parties and social movements fighting for these classes.

  1. Satyashodhak Samaj (Truth Seekers Society) mainly for Dalits and women by Jyotiba Phule.
  2. Brahma Samaj]- Raja Rammohun Roy
  3. Arya Samaj-Dayanand Saraswati
  4. Dalit Sangharsh Samiti
  5. Bahujan Samaj Party
  6. BSP-Kanchuians
  7. Dalit Panther Movement in 1970's

Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

  • Those groups of the forward caste who are economically backward.
  • These people are very poor and are treated like the Dalits but there is no untouchability.
  • Reservations are provided to them since they are illiterate, uneducated and are given the same jobs as the Dalits.

Kaka Kelelkar Commission

  • Set up to go to different villages to decide which caste/subcaste should be given the status of OBC.

Mandal Commission

  • Large issue in late 80's and 90's.
  • V.P. Singh gave reservation in some states but not in other states.
  • This led to protests by other people.