ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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From 50 Years Ago: Toward a ‘Jati Model’ for Indian Politics: A Comment

Vol IV, No 21 may 24, 1969

Toward a ‘Jati Model’ for Indian Politics: A Comment

Hira Singh

Harold A Gould’s paper “Toward a ‘Jati Model’ for Indian Politics” (Economic and Political Weekly, February 1, 1969) is bound to catch attention. It is interesting and stimulating. It has been written in a scientific style by a scientist who can legitimately claim familiarity with Indian society and culture ... Gould stands out relatively alone for his bold attempt to formulate a model for politics in India. But the model he presents deserves critical examination, for it fails to satisfy its rather ambitious claim ... The following are some of the more prominent errors committed by Gould in formulating his model:

(1) He identifies Indian society with Hindu society…

Gould’s main hypothesis is that “the focal point of social compartmentalisation in India is the socio-religious Jati.” Jati for him is not the same as caste, and this distinction constitutes the core of his model. Jati is an all-pervasive institution which, though essentially religious in nature, shades over all the domains of Indian society including politics which is a secular category par excellence. Because Jati is an unique institution, which has no parallel in any social system in the West, the modern political structure or structures in India, being influenced by ... Jati, are basically different from their counterparts in the West. This distinction becomes particularly pertinent, says Gould, because of the structural fallacy that all modernising countries must have the same structural characteristics as are present in the already modern West. This leads him to the obvious conclusion that the only way to understand the nature of politics in India on the way to political modernisation is to see it through the ‘Jati’. Hence the ‘Jati model’.

Gould identifies Indian society with Hindu society. This identification is in itself not too disturbing because, as noted by T N Madan (1969) [“Caste and Development,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol IV, No 5], this is done frequently by many, though mistakenly. But this identification is objectionable here only insofar as it has led Gould to make certain assumptions which, we are afraid, may prove to be not logical. Indian society consists of, apart from the numerically preponderant Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. These groups, chiefly because of their proselytising character, cannot be said to be affected by socio-religious Jatis to the same extent and in the same manner as Hindus. Now that these groups have their own place in politics in India, the relevance of Jatis and the Jati model is seriously limited.

Updated On : 24th May, 2019


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