“It is not my argument that the consciousness of caste is dying out and will cease to exist in the next 50 or even the next 100 years. But the growth and expansion of a new middle class, attendant on demographic, technological and economic changes is altering the operation of caste.

“Life chances are very unequally distributed in India. The reproduction of inequality is a fact. But individual mobility is also a fact. The two tendencies operate simultaneously. When we see how well people who start with certain advantages at birth preserve those advantages, we tend to ignore examples of downward mobility. But downward mobility does take place in a rapidly changing society as well as upward mobility. There are people from various castes moving into superior non-manual occupations. There are also people from peasant and artisan castes moving into business, and occasionally succeeding in it. As an example of this kind of movement, I may refer to Harish Damodaran's book India's New Capitalists (New Delhi: Permanent Black 2008).”

(The writer is Professor Emeritus of sociology, Delhi University, and National Research Professor.)


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