Conceiving Caste Capitalism and Caste The nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed a sea change in India's commercial and political relations with the rest of the world—a change that, in Wallerstein'sterms, "incorporated" and "peripheralized" India in a British-dominated world system. To say this, however, is not to accept auxiliary allegations about the noncapitalist qualities of India's precolonial political economy or other allegations about the locus of agency and the role of Indian class interests in the colonial transformation.
All such claims seem to me to deserve a thorough rethinking.
Yet, although much of what I have to say in the present book bears on attrzctive topics, I will not take the opportunity to comment on them. Instead, I shall focus on an additional claim, rooted in the classic sociological theories of Marx, Weber, and Simmel: namely, the claim that any capitalist transformation entails as cause, consequence, or both a form of commodity fetishism and objectification of labor that brings about the dissolution of social groups and the creation of alienated individuals.
The exploitative essentialism and evolutionism inherent in these and most comparisons between modern Western society and every other society remain attactive in the social sciences and have recently received considerable critical attention Chandravarkar ; Fabian ; Fuller ; Inden; Said This book participates in that criticism by taking issue with the underlying assumptions behind orientalist interpretations of Indian political economy—whether classic or contemporary, Marxist or a product of modernization theory.
The Standard View of Caste "Standard" anthropological views of caste were well established by the s and s.
By and large, they were shaped by studies of dominant agrarian castes. Some studies focused their attention on peasant cultivating castes, others on warrior or robber castes, and still others seekking nondominant, landless laboring castes. Almost no studies focused on mercantile castes. From the standard but agrarian perspective, castes were held to be commensal, endogamous groups, ritually ranked with other castes in consideration of local standards of relative purity.
They were also xttractive to be economically specialized with respect to their members, who were, therefore, interdependent with members from other, differently specialized castes Dumont ; Leach ; Marriott ; Srinivas Indigenous conceptions about varna the religious ideal of the caste order were seen, in Geertz's terms, to act as models of and for interaction between members of different castes within villages Dumont ; Marriott and Inden ; Rocher Concomitant conceptions about kinship were seen to regulate interaction between members of the same caste who lived in different villages Dumont ; Mayer All of these characteristics were supposed to be maintained by the corporate organization of castes within traditional, politically defined regions referred to as chiefdoms or '"little kingdoms"—at least in South India Dumont ; Miller ; Srinivas Each corporate caste was governed by the operation of its own caste panchayat: a decision-making body composed of elder caste members whose purpose was to establish and sanction castewide standards of behavior.
Within this standard view there were disagreements about the relative importance of economic interdependence versus competition, of politico-economic power versus atractive ideology, of attributional versus interactional systems of ritual ranking, and of other important considerations in the understanding of Indian society.
65 — Santa Cruz Sentinel 28 March — California Digital Newspaper Collection
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❶There remains, however, one more lesson about caste that I wish to draw xwf Washbrook and from one of his critics. It is a cultural category deating an aggregate of people with the potential for participating in useful but less inclusive forms of social organization.
Caste and capitalism in colonial india
The social obligations of membership were wholly specified by the local situation and were not generalized to caste members belonging to regionally disbursed subcastes sharing nothing other than a common name. It would clearly be wrong to argue from the absence of information about Komati organization that the Komatis therefore lacked pan-regional organization, especially without any systematic effort to establish what kinds of cooperation may have existed.
Like Dumont and Barnett, Washbrook finds that precolonial caste identity fits more or less closely with what I have characterized as the standard model of caste society. Indigenous conceptions about varna the religious ideal of the caste order were seen, in Geertz's terms, to act as models of and for interaction between members of different castes within villages Dumont ; Marriott and Inden ; Rocher Moreover, they traditionally and often successfully claimed special rights in the administration and execution of government in those states in which they played a commercial role.
She differs from the three South Indian historians in presenting a much richer picture of multilocale, intracaste organization. Nevertheless, the lesson that I draw from their studies concerns, again, adaptive variability in the social organization of different castes.
At the very least, for Nakarattars and other large-scale merchant-banking castes and I suspect for many landholding and military castes as wellsuch relatively recent interpretations of caste, like the more standard anthropological views they superceded, ignore a variety of corporate institutional arrangements between caste members. Finally, Nakarattars exercised a variety of collective rights over their ancestral zwf of Chettinad.|I have my own place and I work full time but I don't drive right now so if you do, great.
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