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Important Questions & Answers: Social Institutions - Continuity & Change - 3 - Notes | Study Sociology Class 12 - Humanities/Arts

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Long Answer Type Question

Q.50. What is Caste System? Give its definitions.

Meaning of caste system. The word ‘caste’ has come out of the Portuguese word ‘Casta’ meaning birth. It is also closely related to the Latin word ‘Castus’ which means Pure race. Actually, the caste system is based upon birth. The caste in which the person takes birth, he has to live with that caste for his entire life. With the birth of the child, his ways of living his life are determined. It keeps some restrictions on its members which are necessary to be obeyed by the person.
This caste system is one of the main bases of the Indian social system and all the aspects of Hindu social life are affected by this system. Its impact is so powerful that it has affected every group and community living in India.
Word ‘caste’ has been taken from the Sanskrit word ‘Jana’ which means birth. The caste system prevailed in other societies also but its developed form was seen in India.

Definitions of a caste system

To know the better meaning of caste it is necessary for us to look at the definitions of the caste system given by different sociologists and psychologists.

  • According to Risley, “Caste is a collection of families or group of families bearing a common name, claiming a common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine, professing to follow the same hereditary calling and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogeneous community.”
  • According to Robert Bierstadt, “When a class system is a closed group on one or more than one issue then it is
  • According to Blunt, “A caste is an endogamous group or collection of endogamous groups, bearing a common name, membership of which is hereditary, imposing on its member’s certain restrictions in the matter of social intercourse, either following a common traditional occupation or claiming a common origin and generally regarded as forming a single homogeneous community.”

So, on the basis of the given definitions, we can say that caste is a group whose membership is based on birth. A person cannot leave his caste until he is not thrown out of his caste. A caste is a closed group. It means no one can marry out of his caste and there are certain rules and restrictions in it.

Q.51. Explain the traditional theory of the origin of the caste system.

  • Traditional Theory: Traditional theory related to the origin of the caste system is written in Hindu religious texts. The most ancient explanation in Vedic literature about the caste system is based upon one mantra of ‘Purush Sakta’ of ‘Rigveda’. According to this mantra, all the four varnas had originated from the different parts of the body of Brahma. Brahmins were originated from the mouth of Brahma, Kshatriyas from arms, Vaishyas from legs and Lower Castes had originated from the feet of Brahma.
  • In Manusmriti, Manu gave the functions of all four varnas. Brahmin will give education because he came from mouth, Kshatriya will use weapons and will protect the people because he came from arms. Vaishya will do the work of trade, agriculture, and rearing of animals. In the end, lower castes will serve the upper three Varnas.
  • In ‘Mahabharata’ it is also written that how different castes and sub-castes originated. In the Vedic age, there was no existence of Pratiloma marriage, only Anuloma marriages were there. Because Pratiloma marriage was not sanctioned by society. That is why the children produced by this marriage were not given any varna and they were differentiated from Hindu society. Later on, they became lower castes and sub-castes.
  • But the traditional theory has been criticized because the explanation of the varna System is there in this theory but there is no name of the caste system in it and caste and varna both are different from each other. Critics also disagree with the fact that all the castes and sub-castes were originated due to the Anuloma and Pratiloma type of marriage. While criticizing Manu, many scholars say that the division of castes had not originated due to the varna system. If it could have happened then the number of sub-castes would have been lesser than that of main castes but it is actually opposite to it.

Q.52. Explain the geographical and occupational theory of the origin of the caste system.

  • Geographical Theory: Gilbert gave the geographical theory about the origin of the caste system. According to him, the caste system came into being due to the living of different groups in different parts of the country. This view is also expressed in Tamil Literature. This view can be explained on the basis of many examples. For example, brahmins living near the bank of Saraswati river were known as ‘Sarswati Brahmins’, and people living in Kannauj were known as Kannaujias. In this way, the names of many other castes were kept on the basis of their living place. But this theory has been criticized by most scholars because many castes exist in one geographical area and the names of all these castes are not related to that geographical area.
  • Occupational Theory: Nesfield and Dahlman gave the occupational theory about the origin of the caste system. According to Nesfield, different castes were originated on the basis of different occupations and he completely disagrees with racial factors. The racial mixture was at its advanced level even before the origin of the caste system. According to him, the caste system has not been originated due to religion because religion cannot give that fundamentalist base which is necessary for the caste system. In this way, according to Nesfield, the only occupation is responsible for the origin of the caste system.
    According to Dahlman, earlier Indian Society was divided into three parts-Priests, King or Ruler, and Bourgouisee. Occupations of all three classes were related to religious, political, and economic activities. Then, with the passage of time, these groups were divided into smaller groups on the basis of occupation and relations. Earlier, they had taken the form of business enterprises and then were changed into business federals. Later on, these federals were developed into castes.
  • This theory has also been criticized: It is not correct to tell the direct relation between religion and caste. This theory is away from racial theory because there is some racial difference between higher and lower groups. With this, if the caste system was originated from business enterprises then why it originated only in India and not in any other country. This theory cannot provide answers to these questions.

Q.53. Give in brief the Mana theory of the origin of the caste system.

Mana Theory: Hutton was of the view that the elements of the caste system were there in India even before the arrival of the Aryans in India. When Aryans came to India then they had strengthened these elements to secure their interests. Social division in India was not much clear before them but the Aryans had differentiated it and kept themselves at the top of the system. According to Hutton, this was at an early stage.

  • In ancient times, Mana was considered the invisible divine force that exists in every person and can move from one person to another just by touching each other. Tribal people believed that the difference among humans was because of Mana power. People stay away from foreigners because they are afraid of Mana. They did not even touch those people, who they considered evil. In this way, tribes keep some restrictions on their members on some things which are known as Taboo.
  • According to Hutton, even Hindu, Muslim, Parsis, and Buddhist people also believed in Mana and Taboo. Discriminations related to Mana and Taboo were there even before the Aryans came to India. That is why restrictions among different groups related to marriage, food, occupation, etc. were there. When the caste system was started then it imposed many restrictions on its members.
  • This theory has also been criticized by scholars. They say that yet Mana and Taboo also exist in tribes of other countries of the world but we cannot find a caste system anywhere else. With this, the culture of tribes never represents the whole Indian culture.

Q.54. What is a tribe? Give its definitions.

A group of people who lives away from our civilization, on mountains, forests, valleys, etc. is known as Tribe. They have been given the name of Scheduled Tribes in the Indian Constitution. A tribal society is a classless society. There is no existence of any type of stratification in these societies. The tribe was considered a very important social group in ancient societies. Most of the population of tribal society lived either on mountains or in forests. They lived almost in every part of our country.
These societies are generally self-dependent which are controlled by themselves and are away from any type of control. Tribal societies are very much different from the structure and culture of rural and urban societies. We can divide them into three categories and these are:

  • hunters, food gatherers, and fish catchers,
  • people engaged in shifting agriculture, and
  • people engaged in the permanent type of agriculture.

They are very much different from our culture, civilization, and society.

Definitions of a tribe

  • According to Imperial Gazetteer of India, “A Tribe is a collection of families bearing a common name, speaking a common dialect, occupying or professing to occupy a common territory and is not usually endogamous, though originally it might have been so.”
  • According to D.N. Majumdar, “A tribe is a collection of families or group of families bearing a common name, members of which occupy the same territory, speak the same language and observe certain taboos regarding marriage, profession or occupation and have developed a well-assessed system of reciprocity and mutuality of obligation.”
  • According to Gillin and Gillin, “Any collection of preliterate local groups which occupies a common general territory, speaks a common language and practices a common culture is a tribe.”

In this way on the basis of the given definitions, we can say that the tribes exist in a limited geographical area and live in the form of small groups. Different tribes are very much different and independent from each other on the basis of some of their aspects like social structure, language, culture, etc. Every tribe has its own language, culture, traditions, eating habits, etc.
They have a sense of unity among themselves because they live with each other in a definite geographical area. It is the collection of groups of many families that were endogamous long ago. These days, these tribal people have been given protection by the Indian Constitution for their development in the form of many facilities like reservation and gradually, they are joining the mainstream.

Q.55. Explain in brief the political organization of North Eastern tribes.

  • Political Organization of North Eastern Tribes. We can include the states of Tripura. Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, etc. in North-Eastern tribes. The main tribes of these states are Naga, Mizo, Apatani, Lushai, Jantiya, Garo, Khasi, etc.
  • Tribes of Assam have democratic political organizations. Most of these tribes have given sanction to the collective ownership of land and personal right over the land has also been given the sanction. People of one village are free to do agriculture anywhere. Yet, different families of the village have different economic conditions but no strict social stratification has ever emerged due to this.
  • Most of these tribes are divided into exogamous clans, the rest of the tribes live without the clan system in communities of villages. These different clans work under different chieftains. In the Khasi tribe, the post of chieftain after his death is given to the eldest son of his eldest sister. If no male is there then the eldest daughter of the eldest sister is given the post of the chieftain. Khasi tribe was divided into 25 Khasi states in ancient times which were independent of each other.
  • Administration in these tribes was democratic which had one of its head. Chieftain in Khasi tribe neither can impose any tax on the people, nor he can make any policy independently and he does not have any right related to forest or land. Decisions were taken according to public opinion. They call the council of all the adults of the tribe and people had to participate in it. Yet, the chieftain had all the rights in the Lushai tribe but even here it was not possible for him to go against the opinion of the people. The chieftain and his post both were ancestral but the administration was generally democratic.
  • Political administration in the Garo tribe is being run on democratic lines. There is no chief in the Garo tribe, just one headman is there who is the head of the tribe only by name. Most of these important decisions of the tribe are taken by the council or administration of the village which has the elders of the families as its members. A lot of diversity can be seen in the political administration of the Naga tribe. Some Naga tribes are being run on the autocratic will of the head but many Naga tribes have the democratic association of the village in which the headman has very few rights. Most of the Naga tribes are considered violent but these ideas are not correct.
  • Naga tribes can be seen on the battlefield but it should be seen from the social-historical point of view. Most people think that it is not possible to establish a consistent administration in this type of violent condition where every person has their own rule. But even in these conditions, one flexible political organization can be seen in these tribes. Headman in the Konyak tribe has many powers and rights.

Q.56. Discuss the political organization of South Indian tribes.

  • South Indian Tribes. This tribal belt is the most technically and financially backward tribes. Most of the tribes of this village live in small groups. They are either dispersed in forests or are working for the farmers. Generally, these people live their fife according to their wish and they like to live away from interference and contact with any external group.
  • Tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands still are living in the hunting and food gathering stage of human development. Many of these tribes are wanderer groups but still, they wander in one definite geographical area. Even local groups have 5-10 families and every group has its own head. These local groups are living and working differently. They meet with each other temporarily at the time of hunting or at the time of any occasion.
  • Some other wanderer tribal groups do not have any post of the head. Heads of the family sit at one place if any problem arises and try to find the solution to that problem. There is no headman in Alios and Arandar people. When elders of the group meet each other then the discussion on any matter takes place and everyone has to accept their decision. Whoever does not like their decision, generally leaves the tribe. The group then becomes part of the other groups. The institution of Headman in the Kadar tribe has come to an end.
  • The post of the headman in the Adyar tribe of Kerala is ancestral. If the son is not good enough for the post then this post is given to the nephew. Headship is a special post but he is not an autocratic ruler. He only presides over the meetings of elders in which the community matters are generally discussed.

Q.57. Discuss in brief the important characteristics of the family.

  • Family is a universal group: A family is a social group. It is also known as the first institution in human history because it exists in every society and at all times. Every member of society is definitely a member of a family. It is so because wherever we take birth, we are related to those members of the group.
  • Emotional base: Family is the base of the human society which is based on basic instincts of humans like to produce the children, relations of husband and wife, maintenance of descent, protection of property, etc., and emotions are also included in this. Feelings of cooperation, love, sympathy also are developed in this and this is necessary for the progress and development of society.
  • Formative Influence: A family is an important unit in a social structure. Family exerts a formative influence on the development of the personality of the child. Family is an institution in which a child gets knowledge about social behavior. All-around development of the man is possible only in the family. Whatever a child observes in the family tries to learn and imitate that thing.
  • Small in size: The size of the family is limited because only those persons are included in the family who either take birth in the family or who have marital relations. In ancient times when society was based on agriculture then joint families were there in which father-mother, grandfather-grandmother, uncle, aunt, etc. were living collectively. Today, nuclear families are coming up especially in big towns and cities where both the parents earn bread for the family. Nuclear or small families are found where only unmanned children live with their parents.
  • Central position in the social structure: Our society is based on the family and different associations are formed only from the family. That is why it has a central position in society. In earlier societies, social organization was based upon the family. Social progress was also based upon this. Most of the functions of the family have been taken by other institutions but still a number of functions are there which only family can do for the society.
  • Responsibility of the members: Every member of the society is connected with other members of the society and every member of the family takes each other’s responsibilities. Members do not have feelings of selfishness amongst themselves. In fact, whatever they do they do it for the family’s development. Even the sense of sacrifice develops only in the family. We cannot find personal relations in any other institution except family. If anyone becomes ill in the family then other members of the family take care of that person. It increases the feeling of cooperation among them. According to Maclver, “In difficult times, people work for the family, die while fighting but the family does all these things for the whole life.”

Q.58. What are the Social Functions of the Family?

  • Socialization: The child learns ways of living in society only in family and becomes a good citizen. With the help of the family, the child establishes social contacts. The child takes birth in the family and, firstly, he comes in contact with his parents because they fulfill his basic needs. The person gets ascribed status from the family. Qualities like cooperation, love, sacrifice, disciplines develop in a person only in the family. If the child gets proper education in the family then good citizens will come forward in society. He comes to know about every type of behavior only while living in the family.
  • Protection and transmission of culture: Family protects our culture and this culture is our social heritage. Every family understands the responsibilities of giving good habits and values to the next generation, traditions, customs, rituals to the person. The child learns everything with an unconscious mind because he automatically does that thing which he observes in the family. Every family has its own customs on which it is based. The family tells the child to learn everything consciously so that the child should move according to the traditions of the family. In this way on the basis of this continuity, the family protects and carries forward their culture and values to the next generation.
  • Social control: Family is an important agency of social control because it is the first agency in which the child is controlled so that the bad habits should not be formed in him. For example, parents control him not to tell a lie, not to misbehave with elders so that he should follow the rules of the family. Every person wants to do that type of work which helps in increasing the prestige of his family in the society. The family controls every type of behavior and actions of its members. In this way the child becomes disciplined. If the child does not behave in a proper way with members of the family then he will definitely misbehave with other members of the society. In this way, the family controls its members.
  • To provide status: In the family, a child comes to know about his status and role. In ancient societies, the child was respected according to the family in which he was born. For example, the child born in a rich family, King’s house, Landlord’s house get social status automatically. Yet, today, man gets status according to his ability but still, the child has to work according to the family in which he is born.
  • Provide occupation: In ancient societies, the child had to adopt the occupation of the family in which he was born. In the caste system, a child born in a Brahmin family adopts the occupation of the brahmins. According to ancient history, division of occupation was based on caste, and caste was related to the birth of the child. Today, a person can adopt the occupation according to his ability.
  • Help in marriage: This function was also done by the family in ancient societies. These days, man establishes marital relations according to his wish. But still, it is necessary that the family members should be present at the time of marriage. Even today it is the duty of the family to marry their children.

Q.59. What is Joint Family? Give its definitions.

The main feature of ancient Indian society was the joint family system. The meaning of joint family is that husband, wife, children, grandparents all should live in one house. In these families property is common and every member of the family has shared in it. The system of the Indian family is just like the socialist community. The joint family system is based upon the authority of the father. Different scholars have different views about the meaning of joint family and these are given below:

  • According to Karve, “A joint family is a group of persons who generally live under one roof, who eat and cook at one hearth, who hold property in common and who participate in common worship and are related to each other as some particular type of kindred.”
  • According to I.P. Desai, “We call that household a joint family which has greater generation depth than the nuclear family and the members of which are related to one another by property, income and mutual rights and obligations.”
  • According to Kingsley Davis, “The joint family consists of males having common male ancestor, females offspring not yet married and women brought into the group by marriage. All of these persons might live in a common household or in several households near to one another. In any case, so long as the joint family holds together, its members are expected to contribute to the support of the whole and to receive from it a share of the total product.”

From these definitions, it is clear that a joint family is a cooperative system of close relations based on the common organization in which a mixture of common property and common rights is there. In this family, all the persons of common ancestors are included. In these families, members of a minimum of three generations are living. Cultural continuity exists in them and every person obeys his duty properly.

Q.60. What are the merits of a Joint Family?

  • Cooperation: Relations between the members of the joint family are of cooperation and mutual understanding. Every member takes care of each other’s needs. They lack a sense of selfishness. In fact, they have a sense of sacrifice. One member is ready to do anything for another.
  • Preservation of Culture: In joint family, members of many generations live with each other. That is why every person has to obey the rules made by the family. These rules and ideas are taken forward from one generation to another.
  • Social Control: In joint family all the members of the family are controlled by the head of the family. Every person has to obey the orders given by elders. That is why a child learns to respect others in the family. Children never try to do anything without the advice of elders.
  • Religious Functions: Common religion is there in the joint family. They celebrate all the religious activities jointly with each other. All the religious and customary functions are done by them jointly.
  • Recreation: Joint family is big in size. That is why they enjoy the company of each other. In the evening they sit with each other, have dinner together, which helps in the recreation.
  • Economic Advantage: All the members of the joint family work jointly and there is no division of land or labor among them. Males work outside and females work at home. All the functions of the family have been done by the members of the family.
  • Security of Members: All the members in a joint family work together. That is why if any member falls sick then other members take care of him. At the death of any member, they take joint responsibility for his wife and children. They help each other economically. In this way, there is no tension of unemployment or any physical ailment in the joint family. They help each other with every type of problem.

Q.61. Why are joint families disintegrating?

  • Importance of Money: In modern society, man has changed his lifestyle by getting an education because of which he needs a lot of money. So, he started earning a lot of money by using his capabilities so that he could be able to raise his status and living standard. This thinking has encouraged him to separate from joint family.
  • Impact of Westernisation: British empire had brought a lot of changes in India. They promoted the Western culture. Western education helped the people to form independent views. That is why people started to live separately. Individualistic interests also developed.
  • Industrialisation: Modern society is also known as an industrial society. Industries came into being. Production of houses was gone to industries. Machines can do a lot of work with less expenditure. Artisans started to move towards industries. In this way, they started to separate from their roots. Now, there was no need to adapt to their traditional occupation. That’s why people started to move towards cities for jobs and joint families started to disintegrate.
  • Social mobility: In modern societies, man can achieve status according to his capabilities. That is why he has to do a lot of hard work. Every person wants to rise upwards in society. In joint family status of the person is ascribed and that is why there is no need to work hard. There is a lot of social mobility in society and thus, the joint families started to disintegrate. Now everyone thinks about his own family. The sense of individualism has been developed. He wants to make his personality himself. In this way, social mobility has encouraged the disintegration of joint family.
  • Development in the means of transportation: Means of transport has been developed. In earlier times man was unable to move from one place to another due to lack of means of transport and communication. That is why they lived a confined life. But with the development of means of transport, this problem was solved. Now they can live in different places and even then they can contact each other very easily. That is why the joint family started disintegrating.
  • Some other reasons: Another reason for the disintegration of the joint family was the conflicts and quarrels of the family because of which there had always been a tense atmosphere in the society. Because of which people started to leave the families. Many functions of the family have been taken by other institutions like stitching was done in the family but now tailor stitches the clothes. Children are going to creches if a mother is going out for a job. The government has also passed some laws with which females get complete independence in society. Now, the husband cannot treat his wife violently. She can five separately by getting a divorce. Both males and females have equal rights over the property. A girl has the same rights over the property of the father as the boy.

Q.62. What is Kinship? Give its definitions.

‘Kin’ is an English word that has been taken from the word ‘Cynn’ which means relative. Sociologists and anthropologists have kept the word ‘relatives’ while studying kinship. In the word kinship, all the relatives are included like blood relatives, relatives made by marriage, etc.
In simple words, according to Sociology and Anthropology, Kinship System is a collection of rules which regulates the nomenclature, heiress, heritage, marriage, extramarital relations, place of living, etc. and determines the status of a person in any specific society or in-group from the point of view of blood relation and relatives.
It means that the system of social relations developed and made by blood relations or affinal relations. Its clear meaning is that all those relations which have been made by blood or by marriage are part of the Kinship system. For example, mother-father, uncle-aunt, maternal uncle-aunt, brother-sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc. All these are relatives and are part of Kinship.
For the broader meaning of Kinship, it is necessary for us to see the definition of Kinship given by different scholars.


  • According to Levi Strauss, “Kinship is an arbitrary system of the idea.”
  • According to Charles Winick, “Kinship system may include socially recognized relationship based on supposed as well as actual genealogical ties.”
  • According to Redcliffe Brown, “All those relations which came as a result or made because of family and marriage are the part of Kinship System.”

On the basis of the given definitions, we can say that two persons are relatives. If their ancestor is one, then, they are the offsprings of one person. The kinship system is the system of relatives that is based on blood relations or affinal relations. The kinship system is cultural and its structure is different in the whole world. It is a system of specific relation groups in which all the relatives are included which understand the responsibilities towards each other. In this way system of social relations established by socially sanctioned real or made up blood and affinal relatives is known as the Kinship system.

Q.63. Explain briefly the different categories of the kinship system.

On the basis of closeness and distance from the person, Kinship has been divided into different categories. In Kinship, we do not have the same type of relations with all the relatives. The type of relations which we have with our parents, husband-wife, and children, we cannot have that type of relations with our uncle, aunt, nephew, etc. We do not have very close relations with them. On the basis of this closeness and distance, Kinship has been divided into three categories which are given below:

  • Primary Relatives: In the first category of Kinship primary relatives like husband-wife, father-son, mother-son, mother-daughter, father-daughter, sister-sister, brother-sister, brother-brother are included. According to Murdock, they are of 8 types. They are primary because relations among them are direct and very close.
  • Secondary Relatives: Some of our relatives are primary like mother-father, brother-sister, etc., and have direct relations with them. But some relatives are there who are not directly related to us. In fact, we are connected with them with the medium of our primary relatives like a brother, of the mother, brother or father, sister or mother, sister of father, husband of sister, wife or brother, etc. We do not have a very close relationship with them. They are our secondary relatives. According to Murdock, these are of 33 types.
  • Tertiary Kins: First relatives are primary. Then, comes the secondary relatives which are related to us through primary relatives. The third types are those relatives which are primary relatives of secondary relatives. Like a son of the brother of father, wife or mother’s brother, wife of the brother of father, .etc. According to Murdock, these are of 151 types.
    So in this way, there are three types of categories of Kinship.
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