NCERT Textbook - Pattern of Social Inequality and Exclusion Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

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Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Pattern of Social Inequality and Exclusion Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


2020-21
Page 2


2020-21
Indian Society
82
T    he family, caste, tribe and the market – these are the social institutions that
have been considered in the last two chapters. In Chapters 3 and 4, these
institutions were seen from the point of view of their role in forming communities
and sustaining society.  In this chapter we consider an equally important aspect
of such institutions, namely their role in creating and sustaining patterns of
inequality and exclusion.
For most of us who are born and live in India, social inequality and exclusion
are facts of life. We see beggars in the streets and on railway platforms.  We see
young children labouring as domestic workers, construction helpers, cleaners
and helpers in streetside restaurants (dhabas) and tea-shops.  We are not
surprised at the sight of small children, who work as domestic workers in middle
class urban homes, carrying the school bags of older children to school.  It does
not immediately strike us as unjust that some children are denied schooling.
Some of us read about caste discrimination against children in schools; some of
us face it.  Likewise, news reports about violence against women and prejudice
against minority groups and the differently abled are part of our everyday lives.
This everydayness of social inequality and exclusion often make them appear
inevitable, almost natural.  If we do sometimes recognise that inequality and
exclusion are not inevitable, we often think of them as being ‘deserved’ or ‘justified’
in some sense.  Perhaps the poor and marginalised are where they are because
they are lacking in ability, or haven’t tried hard enough to improve their situation?
We thus tend to blame them for their own plight – if only they worked harder or
were more intelligent, they wouldn’t be where they are.
A closer examination will show that few work harder than those who are located
at the lower ranks of society.  As a South American proverb says – “If hard labour
were really such a good thing, the rich would keep it all for themselves!”  All over
the world, back-breaking work like stone breaking, digging, carrying heavy weights,
pulling rickshaws or carts is invariably done by the poor.  And yet they rarely
improve their life chances.  How often do we come across a poor construction
worker who rises to become even a petty construction contractor?  It is only in
films that a street child may become an industrialist, but even in films it is often
shown that such a dramatic rise requires illegal or unscrupulous methods.
Identify some of the richest and some of the poorest people in your
neigbourhood, people that you or your family are acquainted with.  (For
instance a rickshawpuller or a porter or a domestic worker and a cinema
hall owner or a construction contractor or hotel owner, or doctor… It could
be something else in your context). Try to talk to one person from each
group to find out about their daily routines.  For each person, organise the
information in the form of an imaginary diary detailing the activities of the
person from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep on a typical
(or average) working day.  Based on these diaries, try to answer the following
questions and discuss them with your classmates.
ACTIVITY 5.1
2020-21
Page 3


2020-21
Indian Society
82
T    he family, caste, tribe and the market – these are the social institutions that
have been considered in the last two chapters. In Chapters 3 and 4, these
institutions were seen from the point of view of their role in forming communities
and sustaining society.  In this chapter we consider an equally important aspect
of such institutions, namely their role in creating and sustaining patterns of
inequality and exclusion.
For most of us who are born and live in India, social inequality and exclusion
are facts of life. We see beggars in the streets and on railway platforms.  We see
young children labouring as domestic workers, construction helpers, cleaners
and helpers in streetside restaurants (dhabas) and tea-shops.  We are not
surprised at the sight of small children, who work as domestic workers in middle
class urban homes, carrying the school bags of older children to school.  It does
not immediately strike us as unjust that some children are denied schooling.
Some of us read about caste discrimination against children in schools; some of
us face it.  Likewise, news reports about violence against women and prejudice
against minority groups and the differently abled are part of our everyday lives.
This everydayness of social inequality and exclusion often make them appear
inevitable, almost natural.  If we do sometimes recognise that inequality and
exclusion are not inevitable, we often think of them as being ‘deserved’ or ‘justified’
in some sense.  Perhaps the poor and marginalised are where they are because
they are lacking in ability, or haven’t tried hard enough to improve their situation?
We thus tend to blame them for their own plight – if only they worked harder or
were more intelligent, they wouldn’t be where they are.
A closer examination will show that few work harder than those who are located
at the lower ranks of society.  As a South American proverb says – “If hard labour
were really such a good thing, the rich would keep it all for themselves!”  All over
the world, back-breaking work like stone breaking, digging, carrying heavy weights,
pulling rickshaws or carts is invariably done by the poor.  And yet they rarely
improve their life chances.  How often do we come across a poor construction
worker who rises to become even a petty construction contractor?  It is only in
films that a street child may become an industrialist, but even in films it is often
shown that such a dramatic rise requires illegal or unscrupulous methods.
Identify some of the richest and some of the poorest people in your
neigbourhood, people that you or your family are acquainted with.  (For
instance a rickshawpuller or a porter or a domestic worker and a cinema
hall owner or a construction contractor or hotel owner, or doctor… It could
be something else in your context). Try to talk to one person from each
group to find out about their daily routines.  For each person, organise the
information in the form of an imaginary diary detailing the activities of the
person from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep on a typical
(or average) working day.  Based on these diaries, try to answer the following
questions and discuss them with your classmates.
ACTIVITY 5.1
2020-21
Patterns of Social Inequality and Exclusion
83
Activity 5.1 invites you to rethink the widely held commonsense view that hard
work alone can improve an individual’s life chances.  It is true that hard work matters,
and so does individual ability.  If all other things were equal, then personal effort,
talent and luck would surely account for all the differences between individuals.
But, as is almost always the case, all other things are not equal.  It is these non-
individual or group differences that explain social inequality and exclusion.
5.1 WHAT IS SOCIAL ABOUT SOCIAL
INEQUALITY AND EXCLUSION?
The question being asked in this section has three broad answers which may be
stated briefly as follows. First, social inequality and exclusion are 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 inqualities.  These three broad senses of the
‘social’ will be explored briefly below.
SOCIAL INEQUALITY
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;
and social capital in the form of networks of contacts and social associations
(Bourdieu 1986).  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.
Ø How many hours a day do each of these persons spend at work?  What
kind of work do they do – in what ways is their work tiring, stressful,
pleasant or unpleasant?  What kinds of relationship does it involve with
other people – do they have to take orders, give orders, seek
cooperation, enforce discipline….?  Are they treated with respect by
the people they have to deal with in their work, or do they themselves
have to show respect for others?
It may be that the poorest, and in some cases even the richest, person you
know actually has no real ‘job’ or is currently ‘not working’.  If this is so, do
go ahead and find out about their daily routine anyway.  But in addition, try
to answer the following questions.
Ø Why is the person ‘unemployed’?  Has he/she been looking for work?
How is he/she supporting herself/himself?  In what ways are they affected
by the fact of not having any work?  Is their lifestyle any different from
when they were working?
2020-21
Page 4


2020-21
Indian Society
82
T    he family, caste, tribe and the market – these are the social institutions that
have been considered in the last two chapters. In Chapters 3 and 4, these
institutions were seen from the point of view of their role in forming communities
and sustaining society.  In this chapter we consider an equally important aspect
of such institutions, namely their role in creating and sustaining patterns of
inequality and exclusion.
For most of us who are born and live in India, social inequality and exclusion
are facts of life. We see beggars in the streets and on railway platforms.  We see
young children labouring as domestic workers, construction helpers, cleaners
and helpers in streetside restaurants (dhabas) and tea-shops.  We are not
surprised at the sight of small children, who work as domestic workers in middle
class urban homes, carrying the school bags of older children to school.  It does
not immediately strike us as unjust that some children are denied schooling.
Some of us read about caste discrimination against children in schools; some of
us face it.  Likewise, news reports about violence against women and prejudice
against minority groups and the differently abled are part of our everyday lives.
This everydayness of social inequality and exclusion often make them appear
inevitable, almost natural.  If we do sometimes recognise that inequality and
exclusion are not inevitable, we often think of them as being ‘deserved’ or ‘justified’
in some sense.  Perhaps the poor and marginalised are where they are because
they are lacking in ability, or haven’t tried hard enough to improve their situation?
We thus tend to blame them for their own plight – if only they worked harder or
were more intelligent, they wouldn’t be where they are.
A closer examination will show that few work harder than those who are located
at the lower ranks of society.  As a South American proverb says – “If hard labour
were really such a good thing, the rich would keep it all for themselves!”  All over
the world, back-breaking work like stone breaking, digging, carrying heavy weights,
pulling rickshaws or carts is invariably done by the poor.  And yet they rarely
improve their life chances.  How often do we come across a poor construction
worker who rises to become even a petty construction contractor?  It is only in
films that a street child may become an industrialist, but even in films it is often
shown that such a dramatic rise requires illegal or unscrupulous methods.
Identify some of the richest and some of the poorest people in your
neigbourhood, people that you or your family are acquainted with.  (For
instance a rickshawpuller or a porter or a domestic worker and a cinema
hall owner or a construction contractor or hotel owner, or doctor… It could
be something else in your context). Try to talk to one person from each
group to find out about their daily routines.  For each person, organise the
information in the form of an imaginary diary detailing the activities of the
person from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep on a typical
(or average) working day.  Based on these diaries, try to answer the following
questions and discuss them with your classmates.
ACTIVITY 5.1
2020-21
Patterns of Social Inequality and Exclusion
83
Activity 5.1 invites you to rethink the widely held commonsense view that hard
work alone can improve an individual’s life chances.  It is true that hard work matters,
and so does individual ability.  If all other things were equal, then personal effort,
talent and luck would surely account for all the differences between individuals.
But, as is almost always the case, all other things are not equal.  It is these non-
individual or group differences that explain social inequality and exclusion.
5.1 WHAT IS SOCIAL ABOUT SOCIAL
INEQUALITY AND EXCLUSION?
The question being asked in this section has three broad answers which may be
stated briefly as follows. First, social inequality and exclusion are 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 inqualities.  These three broad senses of the
‘social’ will be explored briefly below.
SOCIAL INEQUALITY
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;
and social capital in the form of networks of contacts and social associations
(Bourdieu 1986).  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.
Ø How many hours a day do each of these persons spend at work?  What
kind of work do they do – in what ways is their work tiring, stressful,
pleasant or unpleasant?  What kinds of relationship does it involve with
other people – do they have to take orders, give orders, seek
cooperation, enforce discipline….?  Are they treated with respect by
the people they have to deal with in their work, or do they themselves
have to show respect for others?
It may be that the poorest, and in some cases even the richest, person you
know actually has no real ‘job’ or is currently ‘not working’.  If this is so, do
go ahead and find out about their daily routine anyway.  But in addition, try
to answer the following questions.
Ø Why is the person ‘unemployed’?  Has he/she been looking for work?
How is he/she supporting herself/himself?  In what ways are they affected
by the fact of not having any work?  Is their lifestyle any different from
when they were working?
2020-21
Indian Society
84
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.  Someone may be endowed with
exceptional intelligence or talent, or may have worked very hard to achieve their
wealth and status.  However, by and large, social inequality is not the outcome of
innate or ‘natural’ differences between people, but is produced by the society in
which they live.  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
then shapes people’s identity and experiences, their relations with others, as
well as their access to resources and opportunities.  Three key principles help
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.  In the
most technologically primitive societies – hunting and gathering societies,
for instance – little was produced so only rudimentary social stratification
could exist.  In more technologically advanced societies where people produce
a surplus over and above their basic needs, however, social resources are
unequally distributed to various social categories regardless of people’s innate
individual abilities.
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.  That is, children assume
the social positions of their parents. Within the caste system, birth dictates
occupational opportunities. A Dalit is likely to be confined to traditional
occupations such as agricultural labour, scavenging, or leather work, with
little chance of being able to get high-paying white-collar or professional
work.  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.  Not everyone, though, thinks of a system of
inequality as legitimate.  Typically, people with the greatest social privileges
express the strongest support for systems of stratification such as caste and
race.  Those who have experienced the exploitation and humiliation of being
at the bottom of the hierarchy are most likely to challenge it.
Often we discuss social exclusion and discrimination as though they pertain
to differential economic resources alone. This however is only partially true. People
often face discrimination and exclusion because of their gender, religion, ethnicity,
language, caste and disability. Thus women from a privileged background may
2020-21
Page 5


2020-21
Indian Society
82
T    he family, caste, tribe and the market – these are the social institutions that
have been considered in the last two chapters. In Chapters 3 and 4, these
institutions were seen from the point of view of their role in forming communities
and sustaining society.  In this chapter we consider an equally important aspect
of such institutions, namely their role in creating and sustaining patterns of
inequality and exclusion.
For most of us who are born and live in India, social inequality and exclusion
are facts of life. We see beggars in the streets and on railway platforms.  We see
young children labouring as domestic workers, construction helpers, cleaners
and helpers in streetside restaurants (dhabas) and tea-shops.  We are not
surprised at the sight of small children, who work as domestic workers in middle
class urban homes, carrying the school bags of older children to school.  It does
not immediately strike us as unjust that some children are denied schooling.
Some of us read about caste discrimination against children in schools; some of
us face it.  Likewise, news reports about violence against women and prejudice
against minority groups and the differently abled are part of our everyday lives.
This everydayness of social inequality and exclusion often make them appear
inevitable, almost natural.  If we do sometimes recognise that inequality and
exclusion are not inevitable, we often think of them as being ‘deserved’ or ‘justified’
in some sense.  Perhaps the poor and marginalised are where they are because
they are lacking in ability, or haven’t tried hard enough to improve their situation?
We thus tend to blame them for their own plight – if only they worked harder or
were more intelligent, they wouldn’t be where they are.
A closer examination will show that few work harder than those who are located
at the lower ranks of society.  As a South American proverb says – “If hard labour
were really such a good thing, the rich would keep it all for themselves!”  All over
the world, back-breaking work like stone breaking, digging, carrying heavy weights,
pulling rickshaws or carts is invariably done by the poor.  And yet they rarely
improve their life chances.  How often do we come across a poor construction
worker who rises to become even a petty construction contractor?  It is only in
films that a street child may become an industrialist, but even in films it is often
shown that such a dramatic rise requires illegal or unscrupulous methods.
Identify some of the richest and some of the poorest people in your
neigbourhood, people that you or your family are acquainted with.  (For
instance a rickshawpuller or a porter or a domestic worker and a cinema
hall owner or a construction contractor or hotel owner, or doctor… It could
be something else in your context). Try to talk to one person from each
group to find out about their daily routines.  For each person, organise the
information in the form of an imaginary diary detailing the activities of the
person from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep on a typical
(or average) working day.  Based on these diaries, try to answer the following
questions and discuss them with your classmates.
ACTIVITY 5.1
2020-21
Patterns of Social Inequality and Exclusion
83
Activity 5.1 invites you to rethink the widely held commonsense view that hard
work alone can improve an individual’s life chances.  It is true that hard work matters,
and so does individual ability.  If all other things were equal, then personal effort,
talent and luck would surely account for all the differences between individuals.
But, as is almost always the case, all other things are not equal.  It is these non-
individual or group differences that explain social inequality and exclusion.
5.1 WHAT IS SOCIAL ABOUT SOCIAL
INEQUALITY AND EXCLUSION?
The question being asked in this section has three broad answers which may be
stated briefly as follows. First, social inequality and exclusion are 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 inqualities.  These three broad senses of the
‘social’ will be explored briefly below.
SOCIAL INEQUALITY
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;
and social capital in the form of networks of contacts and social associations
(Bourdieu 1986).  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.
Ø How many hours a day do each of these persons spend at work?  What
kind of work do they do – in what ways is their work tiring, stressful,
pleasant or unpleasant?  What kinds of relationship does it involve with
other people – do they have to take orders, give orders, seek
cooperation, enforce discipline….?  Are they treated with respect by
the people they have to deal with in their work, or do they themselves
have to show respect for others?
It may be that the poorest, and in some cases even the richest, person you
know actually has no real ‘job’ or is currently ‘not working’.  If this is so, do
go ahead and find out about their daily routine anyway.  But in addition, try
to answer the following questions.
Ø Why is the person ‘unemployed’?  Has he/she been looking for work?
How is he/she supporting herself/himself?  In what ways are they affected
by the fact of not having any work?  Is their lifestyle any different from
when they were working?
2020-21
Indian Society
84
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.  Someone may be endowed with
exceptional intelligence or talent, or may have worked very hard to achieve their
wealth and status.  However, by and large, social inequality is not the outcome of
innate or ‘natural’ differences between people, but is produced by the society in
which they live.  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
then shapes people’s identity and experiences, their relations with others, as
well as their access to resources and opportunities.  Three key principles help
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.  In the
most technologically primitive societies – hunting and gathering societies,
for instance – little was produced so only rudimentary social stratification
could exist.  In more technologically advanced societies where people produce
a surplus over and above their basic needs, however, social resources are
unequally distributed to various social categories regardless of people’s innate
individual abilities.
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.  That is, children assume
the social positions of their parents. Within the caste system, birth dictates
occupational opportunities. A Dalit is likely to be confined to traditional
occupations such as agricultural labour, scavenging, or leather work, with
little chance of being able to get high-paying white-collar or professional
work.  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.  Not everyone, though, thinks of a system of
inequality as legitimate.  Typically, people with the greatest social privileges
express the strongest support for systems of stratification such as caste and
race.  Those who have experienced the exploitation and humiliation of being
at the bottom of the hierarchy are most likely to challenge it.
Often we discuss social exclusion and discrimination as though they pertain
to differential economic resources alone. This however is only partially true. People
often face discrimination and exclusion because of their gender, religion, ethnicity,
language, caste and disability. Thus women from a privileged background may
2020-21
Patterns of Social Inequality and Exclusion
85
face sexual harassment in public places. A middle class professional from a minority
religious or ethnic group may find it difficult to get accommodation in a middle
class colony even in a metropolitan city. People often harbour prejudices about
other social groups.  Each of us grows up as a member of a community from
which we acquire ideas not just about our ‘community’, our ‘caste’ or ‘class’ our
‘gender’ but also about others.  Often these ideas reflect prejudices.
Prejudices refer to pre-conceived opinions or attitudes held by members of
one group towards another.  The word literally means ‘pre-judgement’, that is,
an opinion formed in advance of any familiarity with the subject, before
considering any available evidence.  A prejudiced person’s preconceived views
are often based on hearsay rather than on direct evidence, and are resistant to
change even in the face of new information.  Prejudice may be either positive or
negative.  Although the word is generally used for negative pre-judgements, it
can also apply to favourable pre-judgement.  For example, a person may be
prejudiced in favour of members of his/her own caste or group and – without
any evidence – believe them to be superior to members of other castes or groups.
Prejudices are often grounded in stereotypes, fixed and inflexible
characterisations of a group of people. Stereotypes are often applied to ethnic
and racial groups and to women.  In a country such as India, which was colonised
for a long time, many of these stereotypes are partly colonial creations.  Some
communities were characterised as ‘martial races’, some others as effeminate or
cowardly, yet others as untrustworthy.  In both English and Indian fictional
writings we often encounter an entire group of people classified as ‘lazy’ or
‘cunning’.  It may indeed be true that some individuals are sometimes lazy or
cunning, brave or cowardly.  But such a general statement is true of individuals
in every group.  Even for such individuals, it is not true all the time – the same
individual may be both lazy and hardworking at different times.  Stereotypes fix
whole groups into single, homogenous categories; they refuse to recognise the
variation across individuals and across contexts or across time.  They treat an
entire community as though it were a single person with a single all-encompassing
trait or characteristic.
If prejudice describes attitudes and opinions, discrimination refers to actual
behaviour towards another group or individual. Discrimination can be seen in
practices that disqualify members of one group from opportunities open to others,
as when a person is refused a job because of their gender or religion.
Discrimination can be very hard to prove because it may not be open or  explicitly
stated.  Discriminatory behaviour or practices may be presented as motivated
by other, more justifiable, reasons rather than prejudice.  For example, the person
who is refused a job because of their caste may be told that they were less qualified
than others, and that the selection was done purely on merit.
SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Social exclusion refers to ways in which individuals may become cut off from
full involvement in the wider society. It focuses attention on a broad range of
factors that prevent individuals or groups from having opportunities open to the
2020-21
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