A+| A| A-

The Tiruppur Story

Caste as Social Capital

There are suggestions that caste networks can be used as a means to reduce transaction costs and promote economic development. Based on critiques of the "social capital for development" literature and the experience of the knitwear cluster in Tiruppur, this article contends that caste-based economic networks reinforce socio-economic hierarchies and generate new forms of exclusion.

Like caste, its defenders too have a number of avatars. The most recent one is being promoted by proponents of the free market and Hindu right-wing ideologues. They view caste as a “driver of development” and as a form of “social capital”. Taking his cue from the book Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity where Francis Fukuyama argues that culture constitutes 20% of the missing element in economics, S Gurumurthy, ideologue and convenor of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch,1 looks at caste as the missing cultural element in the Indian context. He claims that caste is a safety net or a shock absorber that counteracts the problems posed by an expanding individualistic and acquisitive ethic. As he reasons,

Caste is a very strong bond. While individuals are related by families, castes link the families. Castes transcended the local limits and networked the people across. This has prevented the disturbance that industrialism caused to neighbourhood societies in the West, resulting in unbridled individualism and acute atomisation.2

Gurcharan Das, writer and newspaper columnist, and R Vaidyanathan of the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B), make similar arguments. Das argues that the caste structure provides rules of self-restraint which smoothen market functioning by providing the required trust between economic agents. Caste also, according to him, provides knowledge and capital. He claims,

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Investment in research or in scientific activity is ultimately a community decision, supported by public funds. Scientists, therefore, have the...

Empirical data from the last two-and-a-half decades tells stories of upper-caste hegemony and lack of lower-caste representation in Indian media....

In recent times, the right to speech, expression and the right to protest have been constantly undermined. An attack on these rights runs contrary...

This article argues in favour of dismantling the Industrial Disputes Act. For several decades now, the provisions in the IDA have been the leading...

The presence of status quo bias and information asymmetry in the market of menstrual products as deterrents for urban, educated menstruating women...

This article raises wider questions like whether the social sciences have been able to provide any meaning to the Covid-19 crisis by exploring the...

As a signatory to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, India is committed to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational...

There is a tendency to view the threat to judicial independence in India as emerging from the executive branch, and occasionally the legislature....

COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns have severely curtailed the mobility of persons with disabilities, restricted their ability to seek basic...

The extraordinary nature of the crisis faced by the Congress means that the revival of the party is necessarily predicated upon its renewal. This...

Back to Top