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

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A Critique of Non-Marxist Caste Studies

Caste as a system of Brahminical ideas derived from Hinduism in isolation from material conditions and history, a view common to non-Marxist caste studies, is a mystification. The Marxist view of caste as a social relation of production rooted in economic, political, and cultural conditions specific to time and space is a demystification. Neither the theory of caste nor the praxis of its annihilation, which was Ambedkar’s dream, is conceivable outside Marxism.


In his book review titled “Ambedkar as a Philosopher” (EPW, 11 December 2021), Chinnaiah Jangam writes that the author’s article (Singh 2018) titled “Three Moments in the Annihilation of Caste: Marx, Weber, and Ambedkar” in Suraj Yengde and Anand Teltumbde’s edited book titled The Radical in Ambedkar: Critical Reflections illustrates “the historic failure of mainstream Marxism to understand caste” (emphasis added). Jangam’s criticism of Marxism to understand caste is common to non-Marxist (read anti-Marxist) approaches—mainstream socio­logy, subaltern studies, and most Dalit studies of caste. My response below is directed not to Jangam in particular, but to non-Marxist caste studies in general.1 My objective is not the rebuttal of a particular author’s view, but an invitation to debate Marxism and caste seriously.

In my article, I use “mainstream socio­logy” to distinguish it from Marxist sociology. There are theoretical and metho­dological differences between the two. Their approach to caste is fundamentally divergent. Jangam does not provide any clue as to what “mainstream Marxism” stands for. Is there a version of Marxism other than “mainstream” with a possibly different outcome or methodology to understand caste? It would have been helpful had he provided some clarification here.

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Updated On : 22nd May, 2023
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