Social Institutions Continuity - Revision Notes

 CBSE Class 12 Sociology

Revision Notes
Social Institutions: Continuity and Change

Facts that Matter

I. Caste
The term is derived from the Portuguese word 'casta' which means pure breed. In other words it also means a group/community of people. The word refers to a broad institutional arrangement that in Indian languages (beginning with the ancient Sanskrit) is referred to by two distinct terms, varna and jati.

 Caste Varna
(1)Closed system(1)Open system
(2)Post vedic period(2)Vedic Period
(3)3000 castes and sub castes(3)Four Varnas
(4)No social mobility(4)Social mobility present
(5)Very rigid(5)Not rigid

Varna, literally ‘colour’, is the name given to a four-fold division of society into brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra, though this excludes a significant section of the population composed of the ‘outcastes’, foreigners, slaves, conquered peoples and others, sometimes referred to as the panchamas or fifth category.

Jati is a generic term referring to species or kinds of anything, ranging from inanimate objects to plants, animals and human beings. Jati is the word most commonly used to refer to the institution of caste in Indian languages, though it is interesting to note that, increasingly, Indian language speakers are beginning to use the English word ‘caste’.


1. Ascribed status: determined by birth, you are born into your status, no choice, permanent.
2. Hierarchical of rank and status

3. Strict rules about marriage: Membership in a caste involves strict rules about marriage. Caste groups are “endogamous”, i.e. marriage is restricted to members of the group.

4. Rules about food and food-sharing: What kinds of food may or may not be eaten is prescribed and who one may share food with is also specified.”


5. Segmental organisation: Castes also involve sub-divisions within themselves, i.e., castes almost always have sub-castes and sometimes sub-castes may also have sub-sub-castes. This is referred to as a segmental organisation.

6. Occupation: Brahmins were meant to be priests, teacher, kshatriyas were meant to be warriors, vaishyas were meant to be businessmen or traders, shudras were meant to serve the rest and do all the dirty work. There was no mobility in terms of occupation.



Principles of Caste
1. Differentiation and Separation: Separation in each caste is distinct by itself and has its
own rules and regulations:
• Ascribed status
• Occupation
• Concept of communality
• Endogamous marriage
• Concept of pollution and purity
2. Wholism and Hierarchy: Each caste is dependent on the other caste system rather than egalitarian system. Each caste has its place in the hierarchical system.
• Each caste also has its own occupation, but there was no social mobility.
• Hierarchical system
• Concept of pollution and purity
• Segmental division

Caste and Colonialism
• When the British came to India, they were shocked by two things:
(i) Untouchability (ii) The number of sub-castes
• They decided to take some initiatives:
(i) Census: To make sure of number and sizes of the castes and sub-castes.
(ii) They wanted to know the values, beliefs, customs, etc of different sections of society. (iii) Land settlements
• There were three types:
(i) Zamindari: The zamindars/landlords were appointed to collect tax on behalf of the British. However they exploited the farmers and collected more tax than required.

(ii) Ryatwari: They saw that there was a lot of exploitation in the zamindari system.
The head of the family collected revenue from the members, this ensures much less exploitation from the zamindari system.
(iii) Mahalwari: Each village was appointed a head who collected taxes from the villagers and this also ensured much less exploitation than the zamindari system.
• Government of India Act of 1935: They used the term 'Scheduled caste' and 'Scheduled Tribes' and they felt that these people should be looked after.

Caste System and Freedom Struggle
• Everyone came together, including the lower caste people (untouchables)

• Names used for the lower caste: Shudras ~untouchables~ harijans -e schedule castes Harijan.
• Many people fought for the upliftment of the Harijan and made it part of the national movement.
e.g. Mahatma Gandhi (Brahmin), BR Ambedkar (Dalit), and Jyotiba Phule (Dalit)

Gandhi's views
• Harijans should not be ill-treated which includes removal of untouchability and other
social evils.
• Upliftment of Harijans was required.
• Even when Harijans are uplifted, the rights and superiority of the Brahmins will remain.
• They should be included in the national movement.

Caste in Contemporary India
• Abolition of untouchability: The implementation of Article 17 was difficult initially because of upper caste people protest.
• Constitution: People should be given jobs without considering castes etc, it should be based on achievements. Now there are reservation for SCs and STs therefore successful SCs and STs become a part of the mainstream leading to the upliftment of the SCs and STs.
• In urban areas, industries were encouraged and job opportunities were given to people irrespective of their caste and based on their skill and qualification.
• However, till today in small areas etc, people still offer jobs based on ones caste e.g. in BSP of Ms Mayawati there are 80% dalits.
• Two aspects where caste is still important
Marriage- rural areas - honour killings for inter-caste marriage, urban areas - inter caste marriages now accepted.
Politics-reservation in educational systems, parties etc. It is also called politicisation of caste.
When the lower caste tries to copy/imitate, model of the upper caste, without changing their caste.
• Better standard of living.
• Improve social status of everyone.
• The gap between upper caste and lower caste is reduced.
• Their culture gets eroded.
• They automatically become inferior because they copy them.
• Copy practices such as dowry which declines the position of women.
• It is a positional change, not a structural change.
• People look down to people of their own caste of copying others.
How do they copy?
• Tribals give up eating non-veg and give up drinking alcohol. They thought by giving up their practices, people would consider them of a higher caste/status/ position.

Dominant Caste
• After independence there was the zamindari system where the zamindar's land was
sold off to marginal, small and/or landless farmers due to the Land Ceiling Act.
• The zamindars thus sold off their land to work in the industries.
• Thus the middle/medium landowners acquired the land.
• So they had social, political and economic power.
• These people comprised of the dominant caste.
• Even some shudras got land.
For example-
Yadavas - Bihar
Jats - Haryana, Punjab
Reddys and Khammans Arunachal Pradesh

Upper Caste
• Caste is invisible.
• Achieved status is given more importance than the ascribed status.
• Life chances are better.
• Education also plays a very important role.
• Had resources available (technological and educational).
• Qualifications will be considered.
Lower Caste
• Caste is visible.
• For education there is reservations and it leads to upliftment of the castes.
• In rural areas especially in occupation more importance is given to ascribed status.
• The lower castes take advantages of reservations using caste to push themselves forward.
• They did not have life clauses before but now they use their caste to power themselves.

Tribal Community
• The total population of tribes in India is 8.2%.
• They are also called Janjatis, Adivasis (first inhabitants of our planet), vanjatis and Harijans.
• Have hierarchy but have an egalitarian society.
• Share same name, language, area, occupation, culture e.g. Gonds, Santhals, Gujjars.
• Isolated community are trying to get them into mainstream.

Classification of Tribal Societies In terms of positive characteristics, tribes have been classified according to their ‘permanent’ and ‘acquired’ traits.

Permanent Traits include region, language, physical characteristics and ecological habitat.

In terms of population

  1. The tribal population of India is widely dispersed, but there are also concentrations in certain regions.
  2. 85% in ‘middle India’, from Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west to West Bengal and Orissa in the east, with Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and parts of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh forming the heart of this region.
  3. Over 11% is in the North Eastern states
  4. 3% living in the rest of India. I
  5. The North Eastern states have the highest concentrations, with all states except Assam having concentrations of more than 30%
  6. States like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland has more than 60% and upto 95% of tribal population.
  7. In the rest of the country, however, the tribal population is very small, being less than 12% in all states except Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
  8. The ecological habitats covered includes hills, forests, rural plains and urban industrial areas.”

In terms of language

  1. Categorised into four categories.
  2. Two of them, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, are shared by the rest of the Indian population as well, and tribes account for only about 1% of the former and about 3% of the latter.
  3. The other two language groups, the Austric and Tibeto-Burman, are primarily spoken by tribals, who account for all of the first and over 80% of the second group.

In terms of physical-racial terms

  1. Classified under the Negrito, Australoid, Mongoloid, Dravidian and Aryan categories.
  2. The last two are shared with the rest of the population of India.


In terms of size

  1. Vary a great deal, ranging from about seven million to some Andamanese islanders who may number less than a hundred persons.
  2. The biggest tribes are the Gonds, Bhils, Santhals, Oraons, Minas, Bodos and Mundas, all of whom are at least a million strong.
  3. The total population of tribes amounts to about 8.2% of the population of India, or about 84 million persons according to the 2001 Census.

Acquired Traits

  1. Classifications based on acquired traits use two main criteria – mode of livelihood, and extent of incorporation into Hindu society – or a combination of the two.
  2. On the basis of livelihood, tribes can be categorised into fishermen, food gatherers and hunters, shifting cultivators, peasants and plantation and industrial workers.
  3. The dominant classification both in academic sociology as well as in politics and public affairs is the degree of assimilation into Hindu society.
  4. Assimilation can be seen either from the point of view of the tribes, or (as has been most often the case) from the point of view of the dominant Hindu mainstream.
  5. From the tribe’s point of view, apart from the extent of assimilation, attitude towards Hindu society is also a major criterion, with differentiation between tribes that are positively inclined towards Hinduism and those who resist or oppose it.
  6. From the mainstream point of view, tribes may be viewed in terms of the status accorded to them in Hindu society, ranging from the high status given to some, to the generally low status accorded to most.

Integration towards the mainstream.
• Tribal point of view
~ They want to be part of non-tribals due to reservations, better opportunities so that their status gets uplifted.

They didn't want to be Part of non tribals because they didn't want to lose their identity and wanted to be isolated didn't want to lose their culture.

Tribal elite-upliftment of status, educated gained a position and are treated very well.
Others who are not as high casual laboures are treated badly.
Give respect to skilled and don't respect the unskilled.

 Caste Tribes
(1)All India character(1)Different tribes in different geographical
(2)Do not have a particular name(2)Have their own nature
(3)Don't have their own religion(3)Have their own religion totemism,
(4)Hierarchical Society(4)Egalitarian society
(5)Occupation based on ascribed Status(5)Occupation based on geographical