ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Marking the Privileged, Researching the Elite

Mapping the Elite: Power, Privilege, and Inequality edited by Surinder S Jodhka and Jules Naudet, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2019; pp xvi + 304, 1,495.


Sociological scholarship has sought to understand elite lifeworlds for several decades now. However, the emphasis in elite studies in the contemporary moment is on power and inequality from above (Khan 2012). Understanding the elite implies comprehending social power dynamics and the ways in which dominant groups shape institutions, be they schools and colleges, corporate offices or “aesthetic frames” that govern our everyday lives. In this trajectory, the book Mapping the Elite: Power, Privilege, and Inequality is a treasure trove of insights into the contemporary workings of the Indian elite.

In their introduction to the volume, the editors delineate two phases in scholarly engagement with the elite as a category of analysis. The first phase of scholarship emphasised the functional role of the elite in society and did not necessarily challenge power hierarchies that enabled the creation of an elite. A critical turn in Euro–American academia in the post-war period inaugurated the second phase of elite studies such that, over time, the endeavour of researching elite groups became morally coded, tightly coupling “elites and illegitimacy,” as a detailed review of elite studies has recognised (Khan 2012). Even as the editors of the volume recognise this coupling, they point to several studies on the Indian elite, particularly its business practices, taking on a moralistic tone, which does not allow us to understand the elite social groups in all their complexity. This recognition enables the essays within this volume to be attentive to self-perceptions of the elite, alongside their disproportionate access to resources.

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Updated On : 14th Jun, 2021
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