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‘Division of Labour’ in a civilized society

Introduction

Individuals differ in natural endowments No society can remain as an integrated-whole all the time. Some sort of classification or stratification is natural and necessary for every society, be it ancient or modern. It has be divided into smaller social groups in order to meet differing requirements and emerging needs of its people.

A proper evaluation of society’s basic requirements usually forms the basis stratifying the society into various social groups and provides a structure to a society. Structure of a society plays a very important role in the efficient performance of tasks and in the harmony and cooperation of all its people.

What necessitates to form different social groups? – Functional necessity gives rise to the formation of various groups in every society. Every society consists of a large number of individuals. Indian philosophy believes that individuals differ from one another in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups.

A feeling, being different from others on account of differences in callings, problems and difficulties lead individuals to constitute various independent groups. Each society is composed of a large number of groups. And every individual in a society belongs to one or the other social group. All the social groups need to be organized systematically. Proper organization of these groups provides a society a stable structure and leads to its smooth management and prosperity.

On the basis of the structure of a society, the Principle of ‘Division of Labour’ helps to find out – what are the basic and important functions that need to be performed; where responsibility lies; how and to what extent responsible and controllable delegation takes place; what emphasis should be given to various objectives and how to fulfil the needs of majority of people.  Structure of a society provides or relatively fails to provide stability to any society.

Principle of ‘Division of Labor’ – Division of labour in a civilized society decentralizes authority and resources, makes performance and management of each function within each unit smooth, efficient and effective. If done rationally, it organizes human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society.

Every society devises its own principles, ways and means to group its people in such a way, that each group, through its creative efforts in given position, can contribute to the sustainable development of the society.

Such an arrangement, on one hand serves whole society by taking care of collective interests, purposes and aspirations of all its people, on the other; it serves interests of a person as an individual.

Advantages of ‘Division of labour’ – The importance of the principle of division of labor’ lies in the facts that –

  • It divides rationally all the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of a society.
  • Each social group is assigned a distinct function/occupation to perform.
  • A proper division of functions  avoids confusion or frustration in matter of work, because individuals know what functions they are supposed to perform.
  • Division of labor lays down clear-cut rights and duties for each social group performing a specific function.
  • The principle also does systematic sorting and ranking of different social groups in a hierarchical or vertical sequence according to comparative difficulty and responsibility.
  • Individuals also develops a clear vision about one’s responsibilities, while performing a work according to its attitude and aptitude, develops .
  • On one hand, it makes all individuals serve the society in one way or the other and encourage them to perform their jobs judiciously.
  • On the other, one could live with peace, dignity and honor with a feeling that each individual is contributing something to his society.
  • System of checks and balances – A proper ‘division of labor’ leads to automatic decentralization of authority.
  • The separation of rights and duties combined with the principle of inter-dependence provides its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority.

Functional necessity gives rise to different groups – Thus, different groups and classes emerge in every society for the functioning of basic necessities. The principle helps to organize it systematically. Structure of a society plays a very important role in the efficient performance of tasks and in the harmony and cooperation of all its people. It is the proper organization of these groups, which provides a society a stable structure and leads to its smooth management and prosperity.

Individuals differ in natural endowments – Individuals differ from one another in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups. A feeling, being different from other groups on account of differences in callings, problems and difficulties lead individuals to constitute independent groups. Thus emerges a large number of groups within a society. And every individual become a part of one or the other social group.

Necessity of a solid social structure The structure of a society determines what are the important functions that needs to be done; where responsibility lies; how and to what extent responsible and controllable delegation takes place; what emphasis should be given to various objectives and how to fulfil the needs of majority of people.  Structure of a society provides or relatively fails to provide stability to any society. Systematic sorting and ranking of different groups is done in a hierarchical sequence according to comparative difficulty and responsibility”

Basis of stratification – The basis of stratification of various groups may differ from a society to society – it may be occupational, economic, intellectual or on the basis of caste, class or region.

Stratification of society leads to smooth management Stratification of society decentralizes authority and resources, makes management within each social group effective. It organizes human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society. Each society devises its own principles, ways and means to group its people in such a way, that each group, through its creative efforts in given position, can contribute to the sustainable development of the society. Such an arrangement, on one hand serves whole society by taking care of collective interests, purposes and aspirations of all its people, on the other; it serves interests of a person as an individual.

Division of society in the past From time immemorial, ancient and Medieval societies were divided into two, three, four or five well-marked status groups all over the world. There were Noblemen (Clergy and ruling class) Common free men and slaves. Stratification was further divided into the privileged, middle and lower underprivileged class.

In ancient Iran, there were four Pistras or classes – Priests, Warriors husbandman and artisans. In ancient Egypt, three principal classes – landowners, serfs and slaves existed. Ancient Roman society was divided into Patricians, Plebeians and slavery.

Later during the 18th dynasty, there were at least four classes – soldiers, priests, craftsman and serfs. existed all over the world. Chinese society, has been divided into Gentlemen, Agriculturists, Artisans and Merchants. In Japan from 12th to middle of 19th century, the society was divided into five distinct groups – hereditary soldiers, farmers, artisans, traders and pariahs or out-castes (Eta and Henin communities).

After revolution of 1867-78 up to present day, three classes are established by law – nobility, gentry and common people. In Mexico, the population is distinctly divided into Spaniards, Half-breed and pure Indians with numerous sub-divisions.

Stratification in Modern worldIn modern world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’ as universal basis of stratification within a society. However, stratification of Indian society is based on ‘caste-system’. For the rest of the world, it is difficult to understand and appreciate Hindu system of stratification. They are mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure.

 of various groups may differ – it may be occupational, economic, intellectual or on the basis of caste, class or region.

Division of society in the past – From time immemorial, ancient and Medieval societies were divided into two, three, four or five well-marked status groups all over the world. There were Noblemen (Clergy and ruling class) Common free men and slaves. Stratification was further divided into the privileged, middle and lower underprivileged class.

In ancient Iran, there were four Pistras or classes – Priests, Warriors husbandman and artisans. In ancient Egypt, three principal classes – landowners, serfs and slaves existed. Ancient Roman society was divided into Patricians, Plebeians and slavery. Later during the 18th dynasty, there were at least four classes – soldiers, priests, craftsman and serfs. existed all over the world. Chinese society, has been divided into Gentlemen, Agriculturists, Artisans and Merchants. In Japan from 12th to middle of 19th century, the society was divided into five distinct groups – hereditary soldiers, farmers, artisans, traders and pariahs or out-castes (Eta and Henin communities). After revolution of 1867-78 up to present day, three classes are established by law – nobility, gentry and common people. In Mexico, the population is distinctly divided into Spaniards, Half-breed and pure Indians with numerous sub-divisions.

Stratification in Modern world – In modern world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’ as universal basis of stratification within a society. However, stratification of Indian society is based on ‘caste-system’. For the rest of the world, it is difficult to understand and appreciate Hindu system of stratification. They are mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure.

Caste system, an indigenous system, conceptualized in India – Caste system is an indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. Its complete localization and unfamiliarity with rest of world made the task more difficult. They criticize Indian society being “a highly stratified society”, where Caste system has provided a mechanism to stratify various social groups in India. To them caste has divided the Indian population into vast number of groups, each one being distinct and having diverse thinking and life styles.

One of the oldest system of stratification – Stratification on the basis of caste may be called one of the oldest systems of stratification in the world. The process of the mixing up of the native culture of land with Aryan culture evolved this system of stratification.

“Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.”  

Don Martindale

Caste a natural response of primitive groups of people – Basham says Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system in ancient India. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity.

Why caste, the basis? –  Caste system has emerged in India to provide the society a mechanism to classify and assimilate various social groups, be it immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups, into its mainstream, at different point of time. It has been done through caste system by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. Indian society has not annihilated their originality, internal order, customs, culture or language.

Integrated not disintegrated various groups – Through caste system, India has integrated different ethnic groups and communities like Negritos, Proto-australoids, Mangoloids, Negritos, Proto-australoids, Mangoloids, Alphinoids, Dinarics, Armenoids and Nordics together under one umbrella –i.e. – Hinduism.

New groups included into Hinduism without conversion – India has never adopted the policy to convert new groups into Hinduism like Islam or Christianity and thrusts on them its own values, thoughts, processes, superstructures and practice. Not only that all the incoming groups has been included into it but also given freedom to prosper/change according to their internal rhythm.

Even equalitarian faiths could not remain immune from caste-system – So much and so that, Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, living in India could not remain immune from it for long, though their respective religions believe in egalitarian society. Muslims, with all their equalitarian faith, formed caste groups like Shia, Sunni, Deobandi, Barelwi, Ahl-I-hadith, Jamaali etc. Christians in Kerala were earlier divided into sections, which later on took a caste character. Sikhs could not over come caste feelings. Even Roman Catholics in South India, converted by missionaries in the 16th century, brought their caste feelings with them..

How did it came into existence? The caste system came into existence with the arrival of numerous Aryan hereditary, kinship, or tribal groups, in waves, from different parts of the world to India, and their mixing up with the native people. At present, it comprises the following groups: –

  • Indigenous people of the land,
  • Tribal affiliations.
  • People coming in groups from different parts of the World at different points of time.
  • People belonging to different professional groups, and
  • Non-Aryan groups admitted en-mass in Hindu-fold.Basis of grouping under caste system – Initially caste or grouping of different individuals was based on their qualities, aptitude and occupation as enunciated in Hindu scriptures. Over time, due to economic and social factors, caste system became a traditional, hereditary system of social-stratification. Hindu philosophy believes that whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa) associated with purity, peace and knowledge; Passion (Rajas)with comfort and action; and dullness (Tamas) with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness. These qualities determines physical strength, mental capacity, aspirations, likes and dislikes, inclinations, expectations, tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and gave them direction for action.System worked well in the past – The system of classification in ancient India worked well when society of a local area was small and simple. It had made the nation a cheerful land.  Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands were deeply fascinated by Indian culture. At different points of time, they confirmed that –
  • Formation of four ‘Varnas – According to their natural instincts and qualities Manu, who set norms of Ancient Indian society, classified Hindu society into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold and assigned duties – Brahmins having flair for learning and possessing intellectual/spiritual qualities to preach, Kshtriyas having warrior skills and men of action to rule and defend the community, Vaishyas having business acumen to carry on business, and Shudras unable to do above three tasks or conquered ones to do service.
  • All these were accommodated into Hinduism in the past. Each new group was assigned a new caste name. The caste system legitimized their beliefs, behavior patterns and life styles with freedom to evolve and change according to their internal rhythm. Thousands of endogamous groups existing in Indian society, were termed as caste or ‘jaati’.
  • There was no rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position in ancient India.
  • The system had made India rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields. Vast treasures of rational thinking, social and religious experiences, evolution of traditional culture etc. are contained in its scriptures.
  • The system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills.
  • There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of excellence.
  • Assignment of different functions to different communities led to the transfer of knowledge and expertise, from one generation to another, through inheritance, which prepared an atmosphere, where a high level of Specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities could be achieved.
  • In the past, people could reach up to a high level of intelligence, having specialization in different areas.
  • It had contributed to all round growth of cultural heritage.
  • It encouraged self-discipline, consciousness, self-control and self-direction.
  • Decentralized self-regulated systems directed all activities in social, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning.
  • Authority/power was decentralised. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity.
  • There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people.
  • The system had prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different groups and provided unity of culture throughout India.
  • Caste-system gave Indian society coherence, stability and continuity. Common man person has found a niche in the social system. An average Indian, according to Dr. Albert Swheitzen, “Did not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs, rather he was willing to accept the world, as he finds it and, extract, what happiness he could, from it”. Former U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbrigth remarked that he found “an unusual attribute among the poor of India. There is richness in their poverty. They did not count wealth in money alone.”
  • Modernization of caste system – In the beginning of Twentieth century, like modern Manu,  Risley, then the Census Commissioner, India, invented a new method to stratify Indian society. Earlier Hindu Society was classified into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold. Instead of four Vernas, British rulers, in 1901  census, created five new unbridgeable water-tight compartments within Indian social structure. –
  • People still have faith in good intentions and wisdom of their ancestors, who contributed in building social culture of India. Almost all the principles of good organisation are found in the system like “team-spirit”, “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (whole world is one family), “live and let live”, “Self restraint”, “automatic checks and balances” “division of labour” along with “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc.
  1. Backward caste’,
  2. ‘Forward caste’ (caste Hindus),
  3. Untouchable or scheduled caste,
  4. Scheduled tribes and
  5. Minorities

Through legal process, they gave each one a new group separate and distinct identity.

Made the system rigid – The new method of stratifying Indian society, done by imperial rule through Censuses had recorded and placed numerous castes into Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes or in categories of outcastes and aborigines and put them in hierarchical order. It has changed the older system in a fundamental way giving rigidity to social stratification and hierarchical ranking. Every group lives in its own water-tight compartment, having virtually no communication with others, unknown and insensitive to the requirements and plusses and minuses of others. To a great extent, such a situation has given rise to intolerance for others, resulted in politicization of caste-system.

Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste. Caste, in itself, was rigid among the higher castes, but malleable amongst the lower…The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.” This division remains a by-word even for the present-day political leaders of Independent India.

Therefore, the Census operations destroyed the flexibility of caste system, led to an all-round hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility.

The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged. Risley’s efforts, in 1901 census, of recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order like modern Manu had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier.[i] Therefore, the Census operations instigated caste consciousness, caste animosities and made caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles, that Hindus fought amongst themselves.

The seeds of caste animosities sown by the British rulers have blossomed to its full after the independence, thanks to Indian politicians and political parties. Today the caste-ism in politics is at its peak.

Census enumeration far from neutral – The process of Census enumeration under British rule was far from neutral. Through it, British rulers in India made an effort to chalk out strategies for the colonial governance. They retained distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one. Census operations kept Brahmins at periphery and instigated other castes against them, because British administrators, Christian Missionaries and Orientalists considered them as potential threat to British rule.

Consequences of the change – The consequences of this system has been that Indians have forgotten about their roots. The new system has made a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts have increased. Sectarian and regional imbalances has generated social and psychological tensions. Work culture has been degenerated. People have lost faith not only in basic principles/systems of their own culture, but also in themselves and their fellow-beings. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have weakened social fabric beyond repair. A few Individuals and groups, with political, money or muscle power control destiny of millions and have a say in almost every walk of national life. They work day and night to deny justice to ordinary citizens. Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”. Scientific progress has endowed him with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, they do not hesitate to unleash its destructive powers accessible to them. Swami Vivekanand had said, “It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.”

Winding-upReal India does not believe in words/theories/doctrines only, but realizes it in real life – not in only believing but also in being and becoming. Seeing the way, the great philosophers dream-t of stratifying an ideal society, was already practiced by ancient India in real life. Many people still regard it as one of the most scientific social system of classification ever evolved anywhere in the world.

Swami Vivekanand had once said “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality or the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, it dies.” C. Rajgopalachari said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. Don Martindale says, that the system of stratification on caste basis has “succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India,… (accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplishedand “at the same time bring considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.”

Traditional systems and way of living is always like anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbor. Once that the anchor goes away, the boat is left at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean. As far as stratification of Indian society to adopt caste as basis is concerned, neither it could be said to be unusual nor to be an exception to the universal rules of stratification.

[i]    Das Veena and Kagal Ayesha, Through the Prism of Clerkdom, Times of India, dated September 16, 1990, p2.

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July 28, 2016 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems |

2 Comments »

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