11th social-socialogy-introduction to socialogy by deathadderprateek

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     FOREWORD                                            iii

     A NOTE   TO THE   TEACHER   AND   STUDENTS         viii

1.   SOCIOLOGY   AND   SOCIETY                            1



4.   CULTURE   AND   SOCIALISATION                      63

5.   DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                  82
                                     CHAPTER 1

                        SOCIOLOGY           AND   SOCIETY

                                             market that decides which subject
                                             choice may increase or decrease your
                                             chances in the job market. The third
                                             and fourth advice complicate the matter
Let us begin with some suggestions           even more. It is not just our personal
that are often made to young students        effort or just the job market that makes
like you. One advice often made is,          a difference — our gender and family or
“Study hard and you will do well in          social background also matter.
life.” The second advice as often made           Individual efforts matter a great deal
is, “ If you do this subject or set of       but do not necessarily define outcomes.
subjects you will have a better chance       As we saw there are other social factors
of getting a good job in the future”. The    that play an important role in the final
third could be, “ As a boy this does not     outcome. Here we have only mentioned
seem a correct choice of subject” or “As     the ‘job market’, the ‘socioeconomic
a girl, do you think your choice of          background’ and ‘gender’. Can you
subjects is a practical one?” The fourth,    think of other factors? We could well
“Your family needs you to get a job soon     ask, “Who decides what is a ‘good job’?”
so why choose a profession that will         Do all societies have similar notions of
take a very long time” or “You will join     what is a “good job?” Is money the
your family business so why do you           criteria? Or is it respect or social
wish to do this subject?”                    recognition or individual satisfaction
     Let us examine the suggestions. Do      that decides the worth of a job? Do
you think the first advice contradicts       culture and social norms have any role
the other three? For the first advice        to play?
suggests that if you work very hard, you         The individual student must study
will do very well and get a good job.        hard to do well. But how well h/she
The onus rests upon the individual. The      does is structured by a whole set of
second advice suggests that apart from       societal factors. The job market is
your individual effort, there is a job       defined by the needs of the economy.
2                                                             INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

The needs of the economy are again                Third, this chapter introduces
determined by the economic and                sociology as a systematic study of
political policies pursued by the             society, distinct from philosophical and
government. The chances of the                religious reflections, as well as our
individual student are affected both by       everyday common sense observation
these broader political and economic          about society. Fourth, this distinct way
measures as well as by the social             of studying society can be better
background of her/his family. This            understood if we look back historically
gives us a preliminary sense of how           at the intellectual ideas and material
sociology studies human society as an         contexts within which sociology was
interconnected whole. And how society         born and later grew. These ideas and
and the individual interact with each         material developments were mainly
other. The problem of choosing subjects       western but with global consequences.
in the senior secondary school is a           Fifth, we look at this global aspect and
source of personal worry for the              the manner in which sociology emerged
individual student. That this is a            in India. It is important to remember
broader public issue, affecting students      that just as each of us have a
as a collective entity is self evident. One   biography, so does a discipline.
of the tasks of sociology is to unravel       Understanding the history of a
the connection between a personal             discipline helps understand the
problem and a public issue. This is the       discipline. Finally the scope of sociology
first theme of this chapter.                  and its relationship to other disciplines
    We have already seen that a ‘good         is discussed.
job’ means different things to different
societies. The social esteem that a                               II
particular kind of job has or does not
have for an individual depends on the         THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION:
culture of his/her ‘relevant society’.        THE P ERSONAL P ROBLEM AND THE
What do we mean by ‘relevant society’?        PUBLIC ISSUE
Does it mean the ‘society’ the individual     We began with a set of suggestions that
belongs to? Which society does the
                                              drew our attention to how the individual
individual belong to? Is it the
                                              and society are dialectically linked. This
neighbourhood? Is it the community?
                                              is a point that sociologists over several
Is it the caste or tribe? Is it the
professional circle of the parents? Is it     generations have been concerned with.
the nation? Second, this chapter              C. Wright Mills rests his vision of the
therefore looks at how the individual in      sociological imagination precisely in
modern times belongs to more than one         the unravelling of how the personal and
society. And how societies are unequal.       public are related.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                                   3

                                      Activity 1
  Read the text from Mills carefully. Then examine the visual and report below.
  Do you notice how the visual is of a poor and homeless couple? The sociological
  imagination helps to understand and explain homelessness as a public issue.
  Can you identify what could be the causes for homelessness? Different groups
  in your class can collect information on possible causes for example, employment
  possibilities, rural to urban migration, etc. Discuss these. Do you notice how
  the state considers homelessness as a public issue that requires concrete
  measures to be taken, for instance, the Indira Awas Yojana?

    The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and
    the relations between the two within society. That is its task and promise…
    Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination
    works is between ‘the personal troubles of the milieu’ and ‘the public issues
    of social structure’... Troubles occur within the character of the individual
    and within the range of his immediate relations with others; they have to do
    with his self and with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly
    and personally aware... Issues have to do with matters that transcend these
    local environments of the individual and the range of his inner life.
    The facts of contemporary history are also facts about the success and the
    failure of individual men and women. When a society is industrialised, a
    peasant becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or becomes a
    businessman. When classes rise or fall, a man is employed or unemployed;
    when the rate of investment goes up or down, a man takes new heart or goes
    broke. When wars happen, an insurance salesman becomes a rocket
    launcher; a store clerk, a radar man; a wife lives alone; a child grows up
    without a father. Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society
    can be understood without understanding both... (Mills 1959).

                                                     The Indira Awas Yojana,
                                                     operationalised from 1999-
                                                     2000 is a major scheme by
                                                     the government’s Ministry of
                                                     Rural Development (MORD)
                                                     and Housing and Urban
                                                     Development Corporation
                                                     (HUDCO) to construct houses
                                                     free of cost for the poor and
                                                     the homeless. Can you think
                                                     of other issues that show the
                                                     connection between personal
                                                     problems and public issues?
              A homeless couple
4                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                                This question of what to focus in
                                            society is indeed central to sociology.
PLURALITIES    AND INEQUALITIES             We can take Satyajit Ray’s comments
                                            further and wonder whether his
In the contemporary world we belong,        depiction of the village is romantic.
in a sense, to more than one ‘society’.     It would be interesting to contrast this
When amidst foreigners reference to         with a sociologist’s account of the Dalit
‘our society’ may mean ‘Indian society’,    in the village below.
but when amongst fellow Indians we
may use the term ‘our society’ to denote      The first time I saw him, he was
a linguistic or ethnic community, a           sitting on the dusty road in
religious or caste or tribal society.         front of one of the small thatch-
    This diversity makes deciding             roofed tea shops in the village
which ‘society’ we are talking about          with his glass and saucer
difficult. But perhaps this difficulty        placed conspicuously beside him—
of mapping society is one not confined        a silent signal to the shopkeeper
to sociologists alone as the comment          that an Untouchable wanted to buy
below will show.
                                              some tea. Muli was a gaunt forty-
    While reflecting on what to focus
                                              year-old with betel-blackened teeth
on in his films, the great Indian film
                                              who wore his long hair swept back
maker Satyajit Ray wondered:
                                              (Freeman 1978).
    What should you put in your films?
    What can you leave out? Would you       A quote from Amartya Sen perhaps
    leave the city behind and go to the     illustrates well how inequality is central
    village where cows graze in the         to differences among societies.
    endless fields and the shepherd           Some Indians are rich; most are
    plays the flute? You can make a
                                              not. Some are very well educated;
    film here that would be pure and
                                              others are illiterate. Some lead
    fresh and have the delicate rhythm
                                              easy lives of luxury; others toil hard
    of a boatman’s song.
                                              for little reward. Some are politically
    Or would you rather go back in
                                              powerful: others cannot influence
    time-way back to the Epics,
                                              anything. Some have great
    where the gods and demons took
                                              opportunities for advancement in
    sides in the great battle where
                                              life: others lack them altogether.
    brothers killed brothers…
                                              Some are treated with respect by
    Or would you rather stay where
    you are, right in the present, in         the police; others are treated like
    the heart of this monstrous,              dirt. These are different kinds of
    teeming, bewildering city, and try        inequality, and each of them
    to orchestrate its dizzying contrasts     requires serious attention (Sen
    of sight and sound and milieu?            2005: 210-11).
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                    5

                                 Discuss the visuals
               What kind of pluralities and inequalities do they show?
6                                                               INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                        Activity 2
    The Economic Survey of the Government of India suggests that access to
    sanitation facilities is just 28 per cent. Find out about other indicators of social
    inequality, for instance education, health, employment etc.

                     IV                         everyday life and also about others’
                                                lives, about our own ‘society’ and also
INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY                           about others’ ‘society’. These are our
You have already been acquainted with           everyday notions, our common sense
the sociological imagination and the            in terms of which we live our lives.
central concern of sociology to study           However the observations and ideas
society as an interconnected whole.             that sociology as a discipline makes
Our discussion on the individual’s              about ‘society’ is different from both that
choices and the job market showed               of philosophical reflections and
how the economic, political, familial,          common sense.
cultural, educational institutions are              Observations of philosophical and
interconnected. And how the individual          religious thinkers are often about
is both constrained by it and yet can           what is moral or immoral in human
change it to an extent. The next few            behaviour, about the desirable way of
chapters will elaborate on different            living and about a good society.
institutions as well as on culture. It will     Sociology too concerns itself with norms
also focus on some key terms and                and values. But its focus is not on
concepts in sociology that will enable          norms and values as they ought to be,
you to understand society. For                  as goals that people should pursue. Its
sociology is the study of human social          concern is with the way they function
life, groups and societies. Its subject         in actual societies. (In Chapter 3, you
matter is our own behaviour as social           will see how sociology of religion is
beings.                                         different from a theological study).
     Sociology is not the first subject to      Empirical study of societies is an
do so. People have always observed and          important part of what sociologists do.
reflected upon societies and groups in          This however does not mean that
which they live. This is evident in the         sociology is not concerned with values.
writings of philosophers, religious             It only means that when a sociologist
teachers, and legislators of all                studies a society, the sociologist is
civilisations and epochs. This human            willing to observe and collect findings,
trait to think about our lives and about        even if they are not to her/his personal
society is by no means confined to              liking.
philosophers and social thinkers. All of            Peter Berger makes an unusual but
us do have ideas about our own                  effective comparison to make the point.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                               7

  In any political or military conflict      evidence that allow others to check on
  it is of advantage to capture the          or to repeat to develop his/her findings
  information used by the intelligence       further. There has been considerable
  organs of the opposing side. But this      debate within sociology about the
  is so only because good intelligence       differences between natural science and
  consists of information free of bias.      human science, between quantitative
  If a spy does his/her reporting in         and qualitative research. We need not
  terms of the ideology and ambitions        enter this here. But what is relevant
  of his/her superiors, his/her              here is that sociology in its observation
  reports are useless not only to the        and analysis has to follow certain rules
  enemy, if the latter should capture
                                             that can be checked upon by others.
                                             In the next section, we compare
  them, but also to the spy’s own
                                             sociological knowledge to common
  side... The sociologist is a spy in very
                                             sense knowledge which will once again
  much the same way. His/her job is
                                             emphasise the role of methods,
  to report as accurately as h/she
                                             procedures and rules in the manner in
  can about a certain terrain (Berger
                                             which sociology conducts its
  1963:16-17).                               observation of society. Chapter 5 of this
     Does this mean that the sociologist     book will provide you with a sense of
has no social responsibility to ask          what sociologists do and how they go
about the goals of his/her study or the      about studying society. An elaboration
work to which the sociological findings      of the differences between sociology
will be applied. H/she has such a            and common sense knowledge will
responsibility, just like any other          help towards a clearer idea of the
citizen of society. But this asking is not   sociological approach and method.
sociological asking. This is like the
biologist whose biological knowledge
can be employed to heal or kill. This        SOCIOLOGY AND COMMON
does not mean the biologist is free of       SENSE KNOWLEDGE
responsibility as to which use s/he          We have seen how sociological
serves. But this is not a biological         knowledge is different from theological
question.                                    and philosophical observations.
     Sociology has from its beginnings       Likewise sociology is different from
understood itself as a science. Unlike       common sense observations. The
commonsensical observations or               common sense explanations are
philosophical reflections or theological     generally based on what may be called
commentaries, sociology is bound by          ‘naturalistic’ and/or individualistic
scientific canons of procedure. It means     explanation. A naturalistic explanation
that the statements that the sociologist     for behaviour rests on the assumption
arrives at must be arrived at through        that one can really identify ‘natural’
the observations of certain rules of         reasons for behaviour.
8                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                                   ledge have been made, generally
                  Activity 3                       incrementally and only rarely by a
                                                   dramatic breakthrough.
    An example of poverty has been
    given below and we also touched                    Sociology has a body of concepts,
    upon it in our discussion on the               methods and data, no matter how
    homeless. Think of other issues and            loosely coordinated. This cannot be
    how they could be explained in a               substituted by common sense.
    naturalistic and sociological way.             Common sense is unreflective since it
                                                   does not question its own origins. Or
     Sociology thus breaks away from               in other words it does not ask itself:
both common sense observations and                 “Why do I hold this view?” The
ideas as well as from philosophical                sociologist must be ready to ask of any
thought. It does not always or even                of our beliefs, about ourselves — no
generally lead to spectacular results.             matter how cherished — “is this really
But meaningful and unsuspected                     so?” Both the systematic and question-
connections can be reached only by                 ing approach of sociology is derived
sifting through masses of connections.             from a broader tradition of scientific
Great advances in sociological know-               investigation. This emphasis on
 Explanation of                  Naturalistic                          Sociological
Poverty                People are poor because they are      Contemporary poverty is caused
                       afraid of work, come from             by the structure of inequality in
                       ‘problem families’, are unable to     class society and is experienced
                       budget properly, suffer from low      by those who suffer from chronic
                       intelligence and shiftlessness.       irregularity of work and low
                                                             wages (Jayaram 1987:3).

                               Unsuspected Connections?
    In many societies, including in many parts of India, the line of descent and
    inheritance passes from father to son. This is understood as a patrilineal system.
    Keeping in mind that women tend not to get property rights, the Government of
    India in the aftermath of the Kargil War decided that financial compensation for
    the death of Indian soldiers should go to their widows so that they were provided
         The government had certainly not anticipated the unintended consequence
    of this decision. It led to many forced marriages of the widows with their brother-
    in-law (husband’s brother or dewar). In some cases the brother-in-law (then
    husband) was a young child and the sister-in-law (then wife) a young woman.
    This was to ensure that the compensation remained with the deceased man’s
    patrilineal family. Can you think of other such unintended consequences of a
    social action or a state measure?
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                             9

scientific procedures can be understood   developed. The Indian colonial
only if we go back in time. And           experience has to be seen in this light.
understand the context or social          Indian sociology reflects this tension
situation within which the sociological   which “go far back to the history of
perspective emerged as sociology was      British colonialism and the
greatly influenced by the great           intellectual and ideological response
developments in modern science. Let us    to it…” (Singh 2004:19). Perhaps
have a very brief look at what            because of this backdrop, Indian
intellectual ideas went into the making   sociology has been particularly
of sociology.                             thoughtful and reflexive of its practice
                                          (Chaudhuri 2003). You will be
                  VI                      engaging with Indian sociological
                                          thought, its concerns and practice in
THE INTELLECTUAL IDEAS THAT WENT          greater detail in the book,
INTO THEMAKING OF SOCIOLOGY               Understanding Society (NCER T,
Influenced by scientific theories of      2006).
natural evolution and findings about          Darwin’s ideas about organic
pre-modern societies made by early        evolution were a dominant influence on
travellers, colonial administrators,      early sociological thought. Society was
sociologists and social anthropologists   often compared with living organisms
sought to categorise societies into       and efforts were made to trace its
types and to distinguish stages in        growth through stages comparable to
social development. These features        those of organic life. This way of looking
reappear in the 19th century in works     at society as a system of parts, each
of early sociologists, Auguste Comte,     part playing a given function influenced
Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer.            the study of social institutions like the
Efforts were therefore made to classify   family or the school and structures
different types of societies on that      such as stratification. We mention this
basis, for instance:                      here because the intellectual ideas that
• Types of pre-modern societies such      went into the making of sociology have
   as hunters and gatherers, pastoral     a direct bearing on how sociology
                                          studies empirical reality.
   and agrarian, agrarian and non-
                                              The Enlightenment, an European
   industrial civilisations.
                                          intellectual movement of the late 17th
• Types of modern societies such as       and 18th centuries, emphasised reason
   the industrialised societies.          and individualism. There was also great
    Such an evolutionary vision           advancement of scientific knowledge
assumed that the west was                 and a growing conviction that the
necessarily the most advanced and         methods of the natural sciences should
civilised. Non- western societies were    and could be extended to the study of
often seen as barbaric and less           human affairs. For example poverty, so
10                                                         INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

far seen as a ‘natural phenomena’,         how far reaching the change
began to be seen as a ‘social problem’     industrialisation brought about was,
caused by human ignorance or               we take a quick look at what life in pre-
exploitation. Poverty therefore could be   industrial England was like. Before
studied and redressed. One way of          industrialisation, agriculture and
studying this was through the social       textiles were the chief occupations of the
survey that was based on the belief that   British people. Most people lived in
human phenomena can be classified          villages. Like in our own Indian villages
and measured. You will be discussing       there were the peasants and landlords,
social survey in chapter 5.                the blacksmith and leather worker, the
    Thinkers of the early modern era       weaver and the potter, the shepherd
were convinced that progress in            and the brewer. Society was small. It
knowledge promised the solution to all     was hierarchical, i.e. the status and
social ills. For example, Auguste Comte,   class positions of different people were
the French scholar (1789–1857 )            clearly defined. Like all traditional
considered to be the founder of            societies it was also characterised by
sociology, believed that sociology would   close interaction. With industrialisation
contribute to the welfare of humanity.     each of these features changed.
                                                One of the most fundamental
                  VII                      aspects of the new order was the
                                           degradation of labour, the wrenching
                                           of work from the protective contexts of
                                           guild, village, and family. Both the
The Industrial Revolution was based        radical and conservative thinker was
upon a new, dynamic form of economic       appalled at the decline of the status of
activity — capitalism. This system of      the common labourer, not to mention
capitalism became the driving force        the skilled craftsman.
behind the growth of industrial                 Urban centres expanded and grew.
manufacturing. Capitalism involved         It was not that there were no cities
new attitudes and institutions.            earlier. But their character prior to
Entrepreneurs engaged in the               industrialisation was different. The
sustained, systematic pursuit of profit.   industrial cities gave birth to a
The markets acted as the key               completely new kind of urban world. It
instrument of productive life. And         was marked by the soot and grime of
goods, services and labour became          factories, by overcrowded slums of the
commodities whose use was                  new industrial working class, bad
determined by rational calculation.        sanitation and general squalor. It was
     The new economy was completely        also marked by new kinds of social
different from what it replaced. England   interactions.
was the centre of the Industrial                The Hindi film song on the next
Revolution. In order to understand         page captures both the material as well
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                  11

               From working class neighbourhoods to slum localitites
12                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

as the experiential aspects of city life.
From the film C.I.D. 1956                                   Activity 4
     Aye dil hai mushkil jeena yahan            Note how quicly Britain, the seat of
     Zara hat ke, zara bach ke, yeh             the Industrial Revolution became
     hai Bombay meri jaan                       an urban from a predominantly
     Kahin building kahin traame,
                                                rural society. Was this process
     kahin motor kahin mill
                                                identical in India?
     Milta hai yahan sab kuchh ik milta
     nahin dil                                  1810: 20 per cent of the population
     Insaan ka nahin kahin naam-o-              lived in towns and cities.
     nishaan                                    1910: 80 per cent of the population
     Kahin satta, kahin patta kahin chori       lived in towns and cities.
     kahin res                                      Significantly the impact of the
     Kahin daaka, kahin phaaka kahin            same process was different in India,
     thokar kahin thes                          Urban centres did grow. But with
     Bekaaro ke hain kai kaam yahan
                                                the entry of British manufactured
     Beghar ko aawara yahan kehte has
                                                goods, more people moved into
     Khud kaate gale sabke kahe isko            agriculture.
     Ik cheez ke hain kai naam yahan
     Geeta:(Bura duniya woh hai kehta           The mass of Indian handicraftsmen
     aisa bhola tu na ban                       ruined as a result of the influx
     Jo hai karta woh hai bharta hai            of manufactured machine-made
     yahan ka yeh chalan                        goods of British industries were
                                                not absorbed in any extensively
PARAPHRASE: Dear heart, life is hard            developed indigenous industries.
here, you must watch where you’re               The ruined mass of these
going if you want to save yourself, this        handicraftsmen, in the main, took
                                                to agriculture for subsistence
is Bombay my dear! You’ll find
                                                (Desai 1975:70).
buildings, you’ll find trams, you’ll find
motors, you’ll find mills, you’ll find        The factory and its mechanical
everything here except a human heart,         division of labour were often seen as
there’s no trace of humanity here. So         a deliberate attempt to destroy the
much of what is done here is                  peasant, the artisan, as well as family
meaningless, it’s either power, or it’s       and local community. The factory was
money, or it’s theft, or it’s cheating. The   perceived as an archetype of an
rich mock the homeless as vagabonds,          economic regimentation hitherto
but when they cut each other’s throats        known only in barracks and prisons.
themselves, it’s called business! The         For some like Marx the factory was
same action is given various names in         oppressive. Yet potentially liberating.
this place.                                   Here workers learnt both collective
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                            13

functioning as well as concerted
efforts for better conditions.
                                           WHY SHOULD WE STUDY THE
    Another indicator of the emergence
of modern societies was the new            BEGINNING AND GROWTH OF SOCIOLOGY
                                           IN EUROPE?
significance of clock-time as a basis of
social organisation. A crucial aspect of   Most of the issues and concerns of
this was the way in which, in the 18th     sociology also date back to a time when
and 19th centuries, the tempo of           European society was undergoing
agricultural and manufacturing             tumultuous changes in the 18th and
labour increasingly came to be set by      19th centuries with the advent of
the clock and calendar in a way very       capitalism and industrialisation. Many
different from pre-modern forms of         of the issues that were raised then, for
work. Prior to the development of          example, urbanisation or factory
industrial capitalism, work-rhythms        production, are pertinent to all modern
were set by factors such as the period     societies, even though their specific
of daylight, the break between tasks       features may vary. Indeed, Indian
and the constraints of deadlines or        society with its colonial past and
                                           incredible diversity is distinct. The
other social duties. Factory production
                                           sociology of India reflects this.
implied the synchronisation of
labour — it began punctually, had a            If this be so, why focus on Europe
                                           of that time? Why is it relevant to start
steady pace and took place for set
                                           there? The answer is relatively simple.
hours and on particular days of the
                                           For our past, as Indians is closely
week. In addition, the clock injected a
                                           linked to the history of British
new urgency to work. For both
                                           capitalism and colonialism. Capitalism
employer and employee ‘time is now
                                           in the west entailed a world-wide
money: it is not passed but spent.’
                                           expansion. The passages in the box on
                                           next page represent but two strands in
                                           the manner that western capitalism
              Activity 5                   impacted the world.
  Find out how work is organised in a      R.K. Laxman’s travelogue of Mauritius
  traditional village, a factory and a     brings home the presence of this
  call centre.
                                           colonial and global past.

                                             Here Africans and Chinese, Biharis
                                             and Dutch, Persians and Tamils,
              Activity 6                     Arabs, French and English all rub
  Find out how industrial capitalism         merrily with one another... A Tamil,
  changed Indian lives in villages and       for instance, bears a deceptively
  cities.                                    south Indian face and a name to go
                                             with it to boot; Radha Krishna
14                                                             INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

         Capitalism and its global but uneven transformation of societies
     Between the 17th and 19th centuries an estimated 24 million Africans were
     enslaved. 11 million of them survived the journey to the Americas in one of a
     number of great movements of population that feature in modern history. They
     were plucked from their existing homes and cultures, transported around the
     world in appalling conditions, and put to work in the service of capitalism.
     Enslavement is a graphic example of how people were caught up in the
     development of modernity against their will. The institution of slavery declined
     in the 1800s. But for us in India it was in the 1800s that indentured labour was
     taken in ships by the British for running their cotton and sugar plantations in
     distant lands such as Surinam in South America or in the West Indies or the
     Fiji Islands. V.S. Naipaul the great English writer who won the Nobel prize is a
     descendant of one of these thousands who were taken to lands they had never
     seen and who died without being able to return.

     Govindan is indeed from Madras. I           India, the great workshop of cotton
     speak to him in Tamil. He surprises         manufacture for the world, since
     me by responding in a frightfully           immemorial times, now became
     mangled English with a heavy French         innundated with English twists and
     accent. Mr Govindan has no                  cotton stuffs. After its own produce
     knowledge of Tamil and his tongue           had been excluded from England,
     has ceased curling to produce Tamil         or only admitted on the most cruel
     sounds centuries ago (Laxman 2003) !        terms, British manufactures were
                                                 poured into it at a small and merely
                      IX                         nominal duty, to the ruin of the
                                                 native cotton fabrics once so
THE GROWTH       OF   SOCIOLOGY   IN   INDIA     celebrated (Marx 1853 cited in
Colonialism was an essential part of             Desai 1975).
modern capitalism and industrialisation.
The writings of Western sociologists on        Sociology in India also had to deal with
capitalism and other aspects of modern         western writings and ideas about
society are therefore relevant for             Indian society that were not always
understanding social change in India.          correct. These ideas were expressed
Yet as we saw with reference to                both in the accounts of colonial officials
urbanisation, colonialism implied that         as well western scholars. For many of
the impact of industrialisation in India       them Indian society was a contrast to
was not necessarily the same as in the         western society. We take just one
west. Karl Marx’s comments on the              example here, the way the Indian
impact of the East India Company bring         village was understood and portrayed
out the contrast.                              as unchanging.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                                 15

    In keeping with contemporary-             characteristic feature of the two
Victorian-evolutionary ideas, western         subjects in many western countries.
writers saw in the Indian village a           Perhaps the very diversity of the
remnant or survival from what was             modern and traditional, of the village
called “the infancy of society”. They saw     and the metropolitan in India accounts
in nineteenth-century India the past of       for this.
the European society.
    Yet another evidence of the colonial                          X
heritage of countries like India is the
                                              T HE S COPE OF S OCIOLOGY AND ITS
distinction often made between
                                              RE L A T I O N S H I P TO OTHER SO C I A L
sociology and social anthropology. A
standard western textbook definition of
                                              SCIENCE DISCIPLINES
sociology is “the study of human              The scope of sociological study is
groups and societies, giving particular       extremely wide. It can focus its analysis
emphasis to the analysis of the               of interactions between individuals
industrialised world” (Giddens 2001:          such as that of a shopkeeper with a
699). A standard western definition of        customer, between teachers and
social anthropology would be the study        students, between two friends or family
of simple societies of non-western and        members. It can likewise focus on
therefore “other” cultures. In India the      national issues such as unemployment
story is quite different. M.N. Srinivas       or caste conflict or the effect of state
maps the trajectory:                          policies on forest rights of the tribal
                                              population or rural indebtedness. Or
  In a country such as India, with its
                                              examine global social processes such
  size and diversity, regional, linguistic,
  religious, sectarian, ethnic (including     as: the impact of new flexible labour
  caste), and between rural and urban         regulations on the working class; or that
  areas, there are a myriad ‘others’...       of the electronic media on the young;
  In a culture and society such as            or the entry of foreign universities on
  India’s, ‘the other’ can be                 the education system of the country.
  encountered literally next door...
                                              What defines the discipline of sociology
  (Srinivas 1966: 205).
                                              is therefore not just what it studies (i.e.
Furthermore social anthropology in            family or trade unions or villages) but
India moved gradually from a pre-             how it studies a chosen field.
occupation with the study of ‘primitive           Sociology is one of a group of
people’ to the study of peasants, ethnic      social sciences, which also includes
groups, social classes, aspects and           anthropology, economics, political
features of ancient civilisations, and        science and history. The divisions
modern industrial societies. No rigid         among the various social sciences are
divide exists between sociology and           not clearcut, and all share a certain
social anthropology in India, a               range of common interests, concepts
16                                                         INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

     Discuss how you think history, sociology, political science, economics
           will study fashion/clothes, market places and city streets
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                                17

and methods. It is therefore very
important to understand that the                            Activity 7
distinctions of the disciplines are to
                                               ´   Do you think advertisements
some extent arbitrary and should not
                                                   actually influence people’s
be seen in a straitjacket fashion. To              consumption patterns?
differentiate the social sciences would
be to exaggerate the differences and           ´   Do you think the idea of what
                                                   defines ‘good life’ is only
gloss over the similarities. Furthermore
                                                   economically defined?
feminist theories have also shown the
greater need of interdisciplinary              ´   Do you think ‘spending’ and
                                                   ‘saving’ habits are culturally
approach. For instance how would a
political scientist or economist study
gender roles and their implications for
politics or the economy without a
                                             context of social norms, values, practices
sociology of the family or gender
division of labour.                          and interests. The corporate sector
                                             managers are aware of this. The large
Sociology and Economics                      investment in the advertisement industry
                                             is directly linked to the need to reshape
Economics is the study of production         lifestyles and consumption patterns.
and distribution of goods and services.      Trends within economics such as feminist
The classical economic approach dealt        economics seek to broaden the focus,
almost exclusively with the inter -          drawing in gender as a central
relations of pure economic variables:        organising principle of society. For
the relations of price, demand and
                                             instance they would look at how work in
supply; money flows; output and input
                                             the home is linked to productivity outside.
ratios, and the like. The focus of
                                                  The defined scope of economics has
traditional economics has been on a
                                             helped in facilitating its development as
narrow understanding of ‘economic
                                             a highly focused, coherent discipline.
activity’, namely the allocation of scarce
goods and services within a society.         Sociologists often envy the economists
Economists who are influenced by a           for the precision of their terminology
political economy approach seek to           and the exactness of their measures.
understand economic activity in a            And the ability to translate the results
broader framework of ownership of and        of their theoretical work into practical
relationship to means of production.         suggestions having major implications
The objective of the dominant trend in       for public policy. Yet economists’
economic analysis was however to             predictive abilities often suffer
formulate precise laws of economic           precisely because of their neglect of
behaviour.                                   individual behaviour, cultural norms
    The sociological approach looks          and institutional resistance which
at economic behaviour in a broader           sociologists study.
18                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

Pierre Bourdieu wrote in 1998.               Sociology and Political Science

     A true economic science would look      As in the case of economics, there is an
     at all the costs of the economy-not     increased interaction of methods and
     only at the costs that corporations     approaches between sociology and
     are concerned with, but also at         political science. Conventional political
     crimes, suicides, and so on.            science was focused primarily on two
          We need to put forward an          elements: political theory and
     economics of happiness, which           government administration. Neither
     would take note of all the profits,     branch involves extensive contact with
     individual and collective, material     political behaviour. The theory part
     and symbolic, associated with           usually focuses on the ideas about
     activity (such as security), and also   government from Plato to Marx while
     the material and symbolic costs
                                             courses on administration generally
     associated with inactivity or
                                             deal with the formal structure of
     precarious employment (for example
     consumption of medicines: France        government rather than its actual
     holds the world record for the use      operation.
     of tranquilisers), (cited in Swedberg       Sociology is devoted to the study of
     2003).                                  all aspects of society, whereas
                                             conventional political science restricted
Sociology unlike economics usually           itself mainly to the study of power as
does not provide technical solutions.        embodied in formal organisation.
But it encourages a questioning and          Sociology stresses the inter-relation-
critical perspective. This helps             ships between sets of institutions
questioning of basic assumptions. And        including government, whereas
thereby facilitates a discussion of not      political science tends to turn attention
just the technical means towards a           towards the processes within the
given goal, but also about the social        government.
desirability of a goal itself. Recent            However, sociology long shared
trends have seen a resurgence of             similar interests of research with
economic sociology perhaps because of
both this wider and critical perspective
                                                            Activity 8
of sociology.
    Sociology provides clearer or more         Find out the kind of studies that
adequate understanding of a social             were conducted during the last
situation than existed before. This can        general elections. You will probably
be either on the level of factual              find both features of political science
knowledge, or through gaining an               and sociology in them. Discuss how
improved grasp of why something is             disciplines interact and mutually
happening (in other words, by means            influence each other.
of theoretical understanding).
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                               19

political science. Sociologists like Max    history of less glamorous or exciting
Weber worked in what can be termed          events as changes in land relations or
as political sociology. The focus of        gender relations within the family have
political sociology has been increasingly   traditionally been less studied by
on the actual study of political            historians but formed the core area of
behaviour. Even in the recent Indian        the sociologist’s interest. Today
elections one has seen the extensive        however history is far more sociological
study of political patterns of voting.      and social history is the stuff of history.
Studies have also been conducted in         It looks at social patterns, gender
membership of political organisations,      relations, mores, customs and
process of decision-making in               important institutions other than the
organisations, sociological reasons for     acts of rulers, wars and monarchy.
support of political parties, the role of
gender in politics, etc.                    Sociology and Psychology
                                            Psychology is often defined as the
Sociology and History
                                            science of behaviour. It involves itself
Historians almost as a rule study the       primarily with the individual. It is
past, sociologists are more interested in   interested in her/his intelligence and
the contemporary or recent past.            learning, motivations and memory,
Historians earlier were content to          nervous system and reaction time,
delineate the actual events, to establish   hopes and fears. Social psychology,
how things actually happened, while in      which serves as a bridge between
sociology the focus was to seek to          psychology and sociology, maintains a
establish causal relationships.             primary interest in the individual but
    History studies concrete details        concerns itself with the way in which
while the sociologist is more likely to     the individual behaves in social groups,
abstract from concrete reality,             collectively with other individuals.
categorise and generalise. Historians           Sociology attempts to understand
today are equally involved in doing         behaviour as it is organised in society,
sociological methods and concepts in        that is the way in which personality is
their analysis.                             shaped by different aspects of society.
    Conventional history has been           For instance, economic and political
about the history of kings and war. The     system, their family and kinship
                                            structure, their culture, norms and
                                            values. It is interesting to recall that
               Activity 9                   Durkheim who sought to establish a
  Find out how historians have              clear scope and method for sociology
  written about the history of art, of      in his well-known study of suicide left
  cricket, of clothes and fashion, of       out individual intentions of those who
  architecture and housing styles.
                                            commit or try to commit suicide in
                                            favour of statistics concerning various
20                                                        INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

social characteristics of these            between those who studied and those
individuals.                               who were studied as not remarked
                                           upon too often earlier. But times have
Sociology and Social Anthropology          changed and we have the erstwhile
                                           ‘natives’ be they Indians or Sudanese,
Anthropology in most countries
                                           Nagas or Santhals, who now speak
incorporates archaeology, physical
                                           and write about their own societies.
anthropology, cultural history, many
branches of linguistics and the study      The anthropologists of the past
of all aspects of life in “simple          documented the details of simple
societies”. Our concern here is with       societies apparently in a neutral
social anthropology and cultural           scientific fashion. In practice they were
anthropology for it is that which is       constantly comparing those societies
close to the study of sociology.           with the model of the western modern
Sociology is deemed to be the study of     societies as a benchmark.
modern, complex societies while social         Other changes have also redefined
anthropology was deemed to be the          the nature of sociology and social
study of simple societies.                 anthropology. Modernity as we saw led
   As we saw earlier, each discipline      to a process whereby the smallest
has its own history or biography.          village was impacted by global
Social anthropology developed in the       processes. The most obvious example
west at a time when it meant that          is colonialism. The most remote village
western- trained social anthropologists    of India under British colonialism saw
studied non-European societies often       its land laws and administration
thought of as exotic, barbaric and         change, its revenue extraction alter, its
uncivilised. This unequal relationship     manufacturing industries collapse.

                               Tea pickers in Assam
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                               21

                                                  Today the distinction between a
               Activity 10                    simple society and a complex one itself
  ´   Find out where in India did             needs major rethinking. India itself is a
      ancestors of the community of           complex mix of tradition and
      Santhal workers who have been           modernity, of the village and the city,
      working in the tea plantations in       of caste and tribe, of class and
      Assam come from.                        community. Villages nestle right in the
  ´   When was tea cultivation
                                              heart of the capital city of Delhi. Call
      started in Assam?
  ´   Did the British drink tea before
                                              centres serve European and American
      colonialism?                            clients from different towns of the
                                                  Indian sociology has been far more
Contemporary global processes have
                                              eclectic in borrowing from both
further accentuated this ‘shrinking of
                                              traditions. Indian sociologists often
the globe’. The assumption of studying
                                              studied Indian societies that were both
a simple society was that it was
                                              part of and not of one’s own culture. It
bounded. We know this is not so today.
                                              could also be dealing with both
     The traditional study of simple,
                                              complex differentiated societies of
non-literate societies by social
                                              urban modern India as well as the
anthropology had a pervasive influence
                                              study of tribes in a holistic fashion.
on the content and the subject matter
of the discipline. Social anthropology            It had been feared that with the
tended to study society (simple               decline of simple societies, social
societies) in all their aspects, as wholes.   anthropology would lose its specificity
In so far as they specialised, it was on      and merge with sociology. However
the basis of area as for example the          there have been fruitful interchanges
Andaman Islands, the Nuers or                 between the two disciplines and today
Melanesia. Sociologists study complex         often methods and techniques are
societies and would therefore often           drawn from both. There have been
focus on parts of society like the            anthropological studies of the state and
bureaucracy or religion or caste or a         globalisation, which are very different
process such as social mobility.              from the traditional subject matter
     Social anthropology was charac-          of social anthropology. On the
terised by long field work tradition,         other hand, sociology too has been
living in the community studied and           using quantitative and qualitative
using ethnographic research methods.          techniques, macro and micro
Sociologists have often relied on survey      approaches for studying the
method and quantitative data using            complexities of modern societies. As
statistics and the questionnaire mode.        mentioned before we will in a sense carry
Chapter 5 will give you a more                on this discussion in Chapter 5 . For in
comprehensive account of these two            India, sociology and social anthropology
traditions.                                   have had a very close relationship.
22                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY


     Capitalism : A system of economic enterprise based on market exchange.
     “Capital” refers to any asset, including money, property and machines, which
     can be used to produce commodities for sale or invested in a market with
     the hope of achieving a profit. This system rests on the private ownership of
     assets and the means of production.
     Dialectic : The existence or action of opposing social forces, for instance,
     social constraint and individual will.
     Empirical Investigation : A factual enquiry carried out in any given area of
     sociological study.
     Feminist Theories : A sociological perspective which emphasises the
     centrality of gender in analysing the social world. There are many strands
     of feminist theory, but they all share in common the desire to explain gender
     inequalities in society and to work to overcome them.
     Macrosociology : The study of large-scale groups, organisations or social
     Microsociology : The study of human behaviour in contexts of face-to-face
     Social Constraint : A term referring to the fact that the groups and societies
     of which we are a part exert a conditioning influence on our behaviour.
     Values : Ideas held by human individual or groups about what is desirable,
     proper, good or bad. Differing values represent key aspects of variations in
     human culture.


     1. Why is the study of the origin and growth of sociology important?
     2. Discuss the different aspects of the term ‘society’. How is it different
        from your common sense understanding?
     3. Discuss how there is greater give and take among disciplines today.
     4. Identify any personal problem that you or your friends or relatives are
        facing. Attempt a sociological understanding.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY                                                                 23


    BERGER , PETER L. 1963. Invitation to Sociology : A Humanistic Perspective.
       Penguin, Harmondsworth.
    BIERSTEDT, ROBERT. 1970. Social Order. Tata Mc. Graw-Hill Publishing Co. Ltd,
    BOTTOMORE, TOM. 1962. Sociology : A Guide to Problems and Literature. George,
       Allen and Unwin, London.
    C HAUDHURI, M AITRAYEE . 2003. The Practice of Sociology. Orient Longman,
        New Delhi.
    DESAI, A.R. 1975. Social Background of Indian Nationalism, Popular Prakashan,
    DUBE, S.C. 1977. Understanding Society : Sociology : The Discipline and its
       Significance : Part I. NCERT, New Delhi.
    FREEMAN, JAMES M. 1978. ‘Collecting the Life History of an Indian Untouchable’,
        from V ATUK, SYLVIA. ed., American Studies in the Anthropology of India.
        Manohar Publishers, Delhi.
    GIDDENS, ANTHONY. 2001. Sociology. Fourth Edition, Polity Press, Cambridge.
    INKELES, ALEX. 1964. What is Sociology? An Introduction to the Discipline and
        Profession. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
    JAYARAM, N. 1987. Introductory Sociology. Macmillan India Ltd, Delhi.
    LAXMAN, R.K. 2003. The Distorted Mirror. Penguin, Delhi.
    MILLS, C. WRIGHT. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. Penguin, Harmondsworth.
    SINGH , YOGENDRA . 2004. Ideology and Theory in Indian Sociology. Rawat
        Publications, New Delhi.
    SRINIVAS, M.N. 2002. Village, Caste. Gender and Method : Essays in Indian
        Social Anthropology. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
    SWEDBERG, RICHARD. 2003. Principles of Economic Sociology. Princeton University
       Press, Princeton and Oxford.
24                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                       CHAPTER 2

     TERMS, CONCEPTS                AND THEIR        USE     IN   SOCIOLOGY

                                              terms and concepts to understand this.
                                              Why does sociology need to have a
                                              special set of terms when we use terms
INTRODUCTION                                  like status and roles or social control
The previous chapter introduced us to         anyway in our everyday life?
an idea both about society as well as             For a discipline such as, say,
sociology. We saw that a central task of      nuclear physics that deals with matters
sociology is to explore the interplay of      unknown to most people and for which
society and the individual. We also saw       no word exists in common speech, it
that individuals do not float freely in       seems obvious that a discipline must
society but are part of collective bodies     develop a terminology. However,
like the family, tribe, caste, class, clan,   terminology is possibly even more
nation. In this chapter, we move further      important for sociology, just because
                                              its subject matter is familiar and just
to understand the kinds of groups
                                              because words do exist to denote it. We
individuals form, the kinds of unequal
                                              are so well acquainted with the social
orders, stratification systems within
                                              institutions that surround us that we
which, individuals and groups are
                                              cannot see them clearly and precisely
placed, the way social control operates,
                                              (Berger 1976:25).
the roles that individuals have and play,         For example we may feel that since
and the status they occupy.                   we live in families we know all about
    In other words we start exploring         families. This would be conflating or
how society itself functions. Is it           equating sociological knowledge
harmonious or conflict ridden? Are            with common sense knowledge or
status and roles fixed? How is social         naturalistic explanation, which we have
control exercised? What kinds of              discussed in Chapter 1.
inequalities exist? The question however          We also found in the previous
remains as to why do we need specific         chapter how sociology as a discipline
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                         25

has a biography or history. We saw how      essentially harmonious. They found it
certain material and intellectual           useful to compare society to an
developments shaped the sociological        organism where different parts have a
perspective as well as its concerns.        function to play for the maintenance of
Likewise sociological concepts too have     the whole. Others, in particular the
a story to tell. Many of the concepts       conflict theorists influenced by Marxism
reflect the concern of social thinkers to   saw society as essentially conflict
understand and map the social               ridden.
changes that the shift from pre-modern           Within sociology some tried to
to modern entailed. For instance            understand human behaviour by
sociologists observed that simple, small    starting with the individual, i.e. micro
scale and traditional societies were        interaction. Others began with macro
more marked by close, often face-to-        structures such as class, caste, market,
face interaction. And modern, large         state or even community. Concepts
scale societies by formal interaction.      such as status and role begin with the
They therefore distinguished primary        individual. Concepts such as social
from secondary groups, community            control or stratification begin from a
from society or association. Other          larger context within which individuals
concepts like stratification reflect the    are already placed.
concern that sociologists had in                 The important point is that these
understanding the structured                classifications and types that we
inequalities between groups in society.     discuss in sociology help us and are the
    Concepts arise in society. However      tools through which we can
just as there are different kinds of        understand reality. They are keys to
individuals and groups in society so        open locks to understand society. They
there are different kinds of concepts and   are entry points in our understanding,
ideas. And sociology itself is marked by    not the final answer. But what if the key
different ways of understanding society     becomes rusted or bent or does not fit
and looking at dramatic social changes      the lock, or fits in with effort? In such
that the modern period brought about.       situations we need to change or modify
    We have seen how even in the early      the key. In sociology we both use and
stage of sociology’s emergence there        also constantly interrogate or question
were contrary and contesting                the concepts and categories.
understandings of society. If for Karl           Very often there is considerable
Marx class and conflict were key            unease about the coexistence of
concepts to understand society, social      different kinds of definitions or concepts
solidarity and collective conscience        or even just different views about the
were key terms for Emile Durkheim. In       same social entity. For example conflict
the Post-World War II period sociology      theory versus the functionalist theory.
was greatly influenced by the structural    This multiplicity of approaches is
functionalists who found society            particularly acute in sociology. And it
26                                                               INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

cannot but be otherwise. For society
itself is diverse.
                                                 SOCIAL GROUPS    AND    SOCIETY
                 Activity 1                      Sociology is the study of human social
     Choose any one of the following             life. A defining feature of human life is
     topics for class discussion :               that humans interact, communicate
     ´   democracy is a help or hind-            and construct social collectivities. The
         rance to development                    comparative and historical perspective
                                                 of sociology brings home two appa-
     ´   gender equality makes for a
                                                 rently innocuous facts. The first that in
         more harmonious or more
         divisive society
                                                 every society whether ancient or feudal
                                                 or modern, Asian or European or
     ´   punishments or greater dis-             African human groups and collectivities
         cussion are the best way to
                                                 exist. The second that the types of
         resolve conflicts.
                                                 groups and collectivities are different in
     Think of other topics.                      different societies.
     What kind of differences emerged?                Any gathering of people does not
     Do they reflect different visions of        necessarily constitute a social group.
     what a good society ought to be like?       Aggregates are simply collections of
     Do they reflect different notions of        people who are in the same place at the
     the human being?                            same time, but share no definite
                                                 connection with one another.
    In our discussion on the various             Passengers waiting at a railway station
terms you will notice how there is               or airport or bus stop or a cinema
divergence of views. And how this very           audience are examples of aggregates.
debate and discussion of differences             Such aggregates are often termed as
helps us understand society.                     quasi groups.

                                What kind of groups are these?
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                              27

    A quasi group is an aggregate or       attention to how social groups emerge,
combination, which lacks structure or      change and get modified.
organisation, and whose members                A social group can be said to have
may be unaware, or less aware, of the      at least the following characteristics :
existence of groupings. Social classes,      (i) persistent interaction to provide
status groups, age and gender groups,            continuity;
crowds can be seen as examples of           (ii) a stable pattern of these inter-
quasi groups. As these examples
suggest quasi groups may well
                                           (iii) a sense of belonging to identify
become social groups in time and in
                                                 with other members, i.e. each
specific circumstances. For example,
                                                 individual is conscious of the
individuals belonging to a particular
                                                 group itself and its own set of
social class or caste or community may
                                                 rules, rituals and symbols;
not be organised as a collective body.
They may be yet to be infused with a       (iv) shared interest;
sense of “we” feeling. But class and        (v) acceptance of common norms and
caste have over a period of time given           values;
rise to political parties. Likewise        (vi) a definable structure.
people of different communities in              Social structure here refers to
India have over the long anti-colonial     patterns of regular and repetitive
struggle developed an identity as a        interaction between individuals or
collectivity and group — a nation with     groups. A social group thus refers to a
a shared past and a common future.         collection of continuously interacting
The women’s movement brought about         persons who share common interest,
the idea of women’s groups and             culture, values and norms within a
organisation. All these examples draw      given society.

                                    Activity 2

  Find out a name that is relevant under each heading.
  Caste       An anti caste movement             A caste based political party
  Class       A class based movement             A class based political party
  Women       A women’s movement                 A women’s organisation
  Tribe       A tribal movement                  A tribe/tribes based political party
  Villagers   An environmental movement          An environmental organisation
  Discuss whether they were all social groups to start with and if some were not,
  then at what point can one apply the term social group to them, using the term
  as sociologically understood.
28                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                        Activity 3
     Discuss the age group of teenagers. Is it a quasi group or social group? Were
     ideas about ‘teenage’ and ‘teenagers’ as a special phase in life always there? In
     traditional societies how was the entry of children into adulthood marked? In
     contemporary times do marketing strategies and advertisement have anything
     to do with the strengthening or weakening of this group/quasi group? Identify
     an advertisement that targets teenagers or pre-teens? Read the section on
     stratification and discuss how teenage may mean very different life experiences
     for the poor and rich, for the upper and lower class, for the discriminated and
     privileged caste.

TYPES    OF   GROUPS                           However a complete contrast is
As you read through this section on            probably not an accurate description
                                               of reality.
groups you will find that different
sociologists and social anthropologists
                                               Primary and Secondary
have categorised groups into different
                                               Social Groups
types. What you will be struck with
however is that there is a pattern in the      The groups to which we belong are not
typology. In most cases they contrast          all of equal importance to us. Some
the manner in which people form                groups tend to influence many aspects
groups in traditional and small scale          of our lives and bring us into personal
societies to that of modern and large          association with others. The term
scale societies. As mentioned earlier,         primary group is used to refer to a
they were struck by the difference             small group of people connected by
between close, intimate, face-to-face          intimate and face-to-face association
interaction in traditional societies and       and co-operation. The members of
impersonal, detached, distant                  primary groups have a sense of
interaction in modern societies.               belonging. Family, village and groups

                              Contrast the two types of group
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                            29

of friends are examples of primary
groups.                                                    Activity 4
    Secondary groups are relatively
                                              Collect a copy of a memorandum of
large in size, maintain formal and
                                              any association that you know of or
impersonal relationships. The primary
                                              can find out about for example a
groups are person-oriented, whereas
                                              Resident Welfare Association, a
the secondary groups are goal oriented.
                                              women’s association (Mahila
Schools, government offices, hospitals,
                                              Samiti), a Sports Club. You will find
students’ association etc. are examples
of secondary groups.                          clear information about its goals,
                                              objectives, membership and other
Community and Society                         rules that govern it. Contrast this
or Association                                with a large family gathering.

The idea of comparing and contrasting             You may find that many a times
the old traditional and agrarian way of       that interaction among members of
life with the new modern and urban one        a formal group over time becomes
in terms of their different and               more close and ‘just like family and
contrasting social relationships and          friends.’ This brings home the point
lifestyles, dates back to the writings of     that concepts are not fixed, frozen
classical sociologists.                       entities. They are indeed keys or
     The term ‘community’ refers to           tools for understanding society and
human relationships that are highly           its changes.
personal, intimate and enduring, those
where a person’s involvement is
considerable if not total, as in the
family, with real friends or a close-knit   In-Groups and Out-Groups
group.                                      A sense of belonging marks an in-
     ‘Society’ or ‘association’ refers to   group. This feeling separates ‘us’ or ‘we’
everything opposite of ‘community’, in      from ‘them’ or ‘they’. Children
particular the apparently impersonal,       belonging to a particular school may
superficial and transitory relationships    form an ‘in-group’ as against those who
of modern urban life. Commerce and          do not belong to the school. Can you
industry require a more calculating,        think of other such groups?
rational and self-interesting approach          An out-group on the other hand is
to one’s dealings with others. We make      one to which the members of an in-
contracts or agreements rather than         group do not belong. The members of
getting to know one another. You may        an out-group can face hostile reactions
draw a parallel between the community       from the members of the in-group.
with the primary group and the              Migrants are often considered as an
association with the secondary group.       out-group. However, even here the
30                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

actual definition of who belongs and         but we do identify ourselves with that
who does not, changes with time and          group.      Reference groups are
social contexts.                             important sources of information
    The well known sociologist M.N.          about culture, life style, aspiration
Srinivas observed while he was carrying      and goal attainments.
out a census in Rampura in 1948 how              In the colonial period many middle
distinctions were made between recent        class Indians aspired to behave like
and later migrants. He writes:               proper Englishman. In that sense they
                                             could be seen as a reference group for
     I heard villagers use two expressions   the aspiring section. But this process
     which I came to realise were            was gendered, i.e. it had different
     significant: the recent immigrants      implications for men and women. Often
     were almost contemptuously des-
                                             Indian men wanted to dress and dine
     cribed as nenne monne’ bandavartu
     (‘came yesterday or the day before;)
                                             like the British men but wanted the
     while old immigrants were des-          Indian women to remain ‘Indian’ in
     cribed as arsheyinda bandavaru          their ways. Or aspire to be a bit like the
     (‘came long ago’) or khadeem            proper English woman but also not
     kulagalu (‘old lineages’), (Srinivas    quite like her. Do you still find this valid
     1996:33).                               today?

                 Activity 5                  Peer Groups
                                             This is a kind of primary group,
     Find out about the experience of
                                             usually formed between individuals
     immigrants in other countries. Or
                                             who are either of similar age or who are
     may be even from different parts of
                                             in a common professional group. Peer
     our own country.
                                             pressure refers to the social pressure
        You will find that relationships     exerted by one’s peers on what one
     between groups change and modify.       ought to do or not.
     People once considered members of
     an out-group become in-group
     members. Can you find out about                         Activity 6
     such processes in history?
                                               Do your friends or others of your
                                               age group influence you? Are you
Reference Group                                concerned with their approval or
                                               disapproval about the way you
For any group of people there are
                                               dress, behave, the kind of music
always other groups whom they look
                                               you like to listen to or the kind of
up to and aspire to be like. The
groups whose life styles are emulated          films you prefer? Do you consider
are known as reference groups. We do           it to be social pressure? Discuss.
not belong to our reference groups
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                           31

SOCIAL STRATIFICATION                         enter into details about estates here but
                                              very briefly touch upon caste and class
Social stratification refers to the           as systems of social stratification. We
existence of structured inequalities          shall be dealing in greater detail with
between groups in society, in terms of        class, caste, gender as bases of social
their access to material or symbolic          stratification in the book, Under-
rewards. Thus stratification can most         standing Society (NCERT, 2006).
simply be defined as structural
inequalities between different                Caste
groupings of people. Often social
stratification is compared to the             In a caste stratification system an
geological layering of rock in the earth’s    individual’s position totally depends on
surface. Society can be seen as               the status attributes ascribed by birth
consisting of ‘strata’ in a hierarchy, with   rather than on any which are achieved
the more favoured at the top and the          during the course of one’s life. This is
less privileged near the bottom.              not to say that in a class society there
    Inequality of power and advantage         is no systematic constraint on
is central for sociology, because of the      achievement imposed by status
crucial place of stratification in the        attributes such as race and gender.
organisation of society. Every aspect of      However, status attributes ascribed by
the life of every individual and house-       birth in a caste society define an
hold is affected by stratification.           individual’s position more completely
Opportunities for health, longevity,          than they do in class society.
security, educational success, fulfillment        In traditional India different castes
in work and political influence are all       formed a hierarchy of social precedence.
unequally distributed in systematic ways.     Each position in the caste structure was
    Historically four basic systems of        defined in terms of its purity or
stratification have existed in human          pollution relative to others. The
societies: slavery, caste, estate and         underlying belief was that those who
class. Slavery is an extreme form of          are most pure, the Brahmin priestly
inequality in which some individuals          castes, are superior to all others and
are literally owned by others. It has         the Panchamas, sometimes called the
existed sporadically at many times and        ‘outcastes’ are inferior to all other
places, but there are two major               castes. The traditional system is
examples of a system of slavery; ancient      generally conceptualised in terms of the
Greece and Rome and the Southern              four fold varna of Brahmins, Kshatriyas,
States of the USA in the 18th and 19th        Vaishyas and Shudras. In reality there are
centuries. As a formal institution,           innumerable occupation-based caste
slavery has gradually been eradicated.        groups, called jatis.
But we do continue to have bonded                 The caste system in India has
labour, often even of children. Estates       undergone considerable changes over
characterised feudal Europe. We do not        the years. Endogamy and ritual
32                                                          INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

avoidance of contact with members of           with us. This is because they feel
so-called lower castes were considered         and believe they are superior. It has
critical for maintaining purity by the so-     been like that for years. No matter
called upper castes. Changes brought           how well we dress they are not
in by urbanisation inevitably                  prepared to accept certain things
challenged this. Read well known               (Franco et. al. 2004:150).
sociologist A.R. Desai’s observations
below.                                           Even      today     acute     caste
     Other social consequences of            discrimination exists. At the same time
urbanisation in India are commented          the working of democracy has affected
upon by sociologist A.R. Desai as:           the caste system. Castes as interest
                                             groups have gained strength. We have
     Modern industries brought into          also seen discriminated castes asserting
     b e i n g modern cities honey-          their democratic rights in society.
     combed with cosmopolitan hotels,
     restaurants, theatres, trams,           Class
     buses, railways. The modest hotels      There have been many attempts to
     and restaurants catered for the         explain class. We mention here, very
     workers and middle classes became       briefly just the central ideas of Marx,
     crowded in cities with persons          Weber and that of, functionalism. In
     belonging to all castes and even        the Marxist theory social classes are
     creeds... In trains and buses one       defined by what relation they have to
     occasionally rubbed shoulders with      the means of production. Questions
     members of the depressed classes...     could be asked as to whether groups
     should not, however be supposed         are owners of means of production such
     that caste had vanished (Desai          as land or factories? Or whether they
     1975:248).                              are owners of nothing but their own
                                             labour? Weber used the term life-
While change did take place,                 chances, which refers to the rewards
discrimination was not so easy to do         and advantages afforded by market
away with, as a first person narrative       capacity. Inequality, Weber argued
suggests.                                    might be based on economic relations.
    In the mill there may be no open         But it could also be based on prestige
discrimination of the kind that exists       or on political power.
in the villages, but experience of private       The functionalist theory of social
interactions tells another story. Parmar     stratification begins from the general
observed…                                    presupposition or belief of function-
                                             alism that no society is “classless” or
     They will not even drink water from     unstratified. The main functional
     our hands and they sometimes use        necessity explains the universal
     abusive language when dealing           presence of social stratification in
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                         33

requirements faced by a society             Tribes population lives below the
of placing and motivating individuals       poverty line. This proportion is only
in the social structure. Social             slightly less for the Schedule Castes at
inequality or stratification is thus an     about 43 per cent, and lesser still for
unconsciously evolved device by which       the Other Backward Classes at about
societies ensure that the most              34 per cent (Deshpande 2003:114).
important positions are deliberately
filled by the most qualified persons. Is    Status and Role
this true?
                                            The two concepts ‘status’ and ‘role’ are
     In a traditional caste system social
                                            often seen as twin concepts. A status is
hierarchy is fixed, rigid and transmitted
                                            simply a position in society or in a
across generations in these societies.
                                            group. Every society and every group
Modern class system in contrast is
                                            has many such positions and every
open and achievement based. In
                                            individual occupies many such
democratic societies there is nothing to
legally stop a person from the most
                                                Status thus refers to the social
deprived class and caste from reaching
                                            position with defined rights and duties
the highest position.
                                            assigned to these positions. To
                                            illustrate, the mother occupies a status,
              Activity 7                    which has many norms of conduct as
                                            well as certain responsibilities and
  Find out more about the life of
  the late President K. R. Naraynan.
                                                A role is the dynamic or the
  Discuss the concept of ascription
                                            behavioural aspect of status. Status is
  and achieved status, caste and
                                            occupied, but roles are played. We may
  class in this context.                    say that a status is an institutionalised
                                            role. It is a role that has become
    Such stories of achievement do exist    regularised, standardised and forma-
and are sources of immense inspiration.     lised in the society at large or in any of
Yet for the most part the structure of      the specific associations of society.
the class system persists. Sociological         It must be apparent that each
studies of social mobility, even in         individual in a modern, complex society
western societies are far removed from      such as ours occupies many different
the ideal model of perfect mobility.        kinds of status during the course of
Sociology has to be sensitive to both the   his/her life. You as a school student
challenges to the caste system as well      may be a student to your teacher, a
as the persistence of discrimination.       customer to your grocer, a passenger
Significantly those, at the lower levels    to the bus driver, a brother or sister to
of the system are not just disadvantaged    your sibling, a patient to the doctor.
socially but also economically. In rural    Needless to say we could keep adding
India, more than half of the Schedule       to the list. The smaller and simpler the
34                                                          INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

society, the fewer the kinds of status      position, rather than to the person who
that an individual can have.                occupies it or to his/her performance
    In a modern society an individual       or to his/her actions. The kind of value
as we saw occupies multiple status          attached to the status or to the office is
which is sociologically termed as status    called prestige. People can rank status
set. Individuals acquire different status   in terms of their high or low prestige.
at various stages of life. A son becomes    The prestige of a doctor may be high in
a father, father becomes a grandfather      comparison to a shopkeeper, even if the
and then great grandfather and so on.       doctor may earn less. It is important
This is called a status sequence for it     to keep in mind that ideas of what
refers to the status, which is attained     occupation is considered prestigious
in succession or sequence at the            varies across societies and across
various stages of life.                     periods.
    An ascribed status is a social
position, which a person occupies
because of birth, or assumes                               Activity 8
involuntarily. The most common bases          What kinds of jobs are consi-
for ascribed status are age, caste, race      dered prestigious in your society?
and kinship. Simple and traditional           Compare these with your friends.
societies are marked by ascribed status.
                                              Discuss the similarities and
An achieved status on the other hand
                                              differences. Try and understand the
refers to a social position that a person
                                              causes for the same.
occupies voluntarily by personal
ability, achievements, virtues and
choices. The most common bases for              People perform their roles according
achieved status are educational             to social expectations, i.e. role taking
qualifications, income, and professional    and role playing. A child learns to
expertise. Modern societies are             behave in accordance with how her
characterised by achievements. Its          behaviour will be seen and judged by
members are accorded prestige on the        others.
basis of their achievements. How often          Role conflict is the incompatibility
you would have heard the phrase “you        among roles corresponding to one or
have to prove yourself”. In traditional     more status. It occurs when contrary
societies your status was defined and       expectations arise from two or more
ascribed at birth.         However, as      roles. A common example is that of the
discussed above, even in modern
achievement based societies, ascribed                      Activity 9
status matters.
    Status       and     prestige     are     Find out how a domestic worker or
interconnected terms. Every status is         a construction labourer faces role
accorded certain rights and values.           conflict.
Values are attached to the social
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                          35

middle class working woman who has         is mistaken. It suggests that
to juggle her role as mother and wife      individuals simply take on roles, rather
at home and that of a professional at      than creating or negotiating them. In
work.                                      fact, socialisation is a process in which
    It is a common place assumption        humans can exercise agency; they are
that men do not face role conflict.        not simply passive subjects waiting to
Sociology being both an empirical and      be instructed or programmed.
comparative discipline suggests            Individuals come to understand and
otherwise.                                 assume social roles through an ongoing
                                           process of social interaction. This
  Khasi matriliny generates intense        discussion perhaps will make you
  role conflict for men. They are torn     reflect upon the relationship between
  between their responsibilities to        the individual and society, which we
  their natal house on the one hand
                                           had studied in Chapter 1.
  and to their wife and children on
                                               Roles and status are not given and
  the other. T hey feel deprived of
  sufficient authority to command
                                           fixed. People make efforts to fight
  their children’s loyalty and lack the    against discrimination roles and status
  freedom to pass on after death, even     for example those based on caste or
  their self-acquired property to their    race or gender. At the same time there
  children…                                are sections in society who oppose such
  The strain affects Khasi women, in       changes. Likewise individual violation
  a way more intensely. A woman can        of roles are often punished. Society thus
  never be fully assured that her          functions not just with roles and status
  husband does not find his sister’s       but also with social control.
  house more congenial place than
  her own house (Nongbri 2003:190).
                                                           Activity 10
    Role stereotyping is a process of
                                             Collect newspaper reports where
reinforcing some specific role for some
member of the society. For example           dominant sections of society seek to
men and women are often socialised in        impose control and punish those
stereotypical roles, as breadwinner and      whom they consider to have
homemaker respectively. Social roles         transgressed or violated socially
and status are often wrongly seen as         prescribed roles.
fixed and unchanging. It is felt that
individuals learn the expectations that
                                           SOCIETY   AND   SOCIAL CONTROL
surround social positions in their
particular culture and perform these       Social control is one of the most
roles largely as they have been defined.   generally used concepts in sociology.
Through socialisation, individuals         It refers to the various means used by
internalise social roles and learn how     a society to bring its recalcitrant or
to carry them out. This view, however,     unruly members back into line.
36                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

    You will recall how sociology has             groups on the one hand, and on the
different perspectives and debates                other, to mitigate tensions and conflicts
about the meaning of concepts. You                among individuals and groups to
will also recall how functionalist                maintain social order and social
sociologists understood society as                cohesion. In this way social control is
essentially harmonious and conflict               seen as necessary to stability in society.
theorists saw society as essentially                  Conflict theorists usually would see
unequal, unjust and exploitative. We              social control more as a mechanism to
also saw how some sociologists                    impose the social control of dominant
focussed more on the individual and               social classes on the rest of society.
society, others on collectivities like            Stability would be seen as the writ of
classes, races, castes.                           one section over the other. Likewise law
    For a functionalist perspective social        would be seen as the formal writ of the
control refers to: (i) the use of force to        powerful and their interests on society.
regulate the behaviour of the individual              Social control refers to the social
and groups and also refers to the (ii)            process, techniques and strategies by
enforcing of values and patterns for              which the behaviours of individual or
maintaining order in society. Social              a group are regulated. It refers both to
control here is directed to restrain              the use of force to regulate the
deviant behaviour of individuals or               behaviour of the individual and groups

     The ultimate and, no doubt, the oldest means of social control is physical
     violence... even in the politely operated societies of modern democracies the
     ultimate argument is violence. No state can exist without a police force or its
     equivalent in armed might... In any functioning society violence is used
     economically and as a last resort, with the mere threat of this ultimate violence
     sufficing for the day-to-day exercise of social control... Where human beings live
     or work in compact groups, in which they are personally known and to which
     they are tied by feelings of personal loyalty (the kind that sociologists call primary
     groups), very potent and simultaneously very subtle mechanisms of control are
     constantly brought to bear upon the actual or potent deviant... One aspect of
     social control that ought to be stressed is the fact that it is frequently based on
     fraudulent claims... A little boy can exercise considerable control over his peer
     group by having a big brother who, if need be, can be called upon to beat up any
     opponents. In the absence of such a brother, however it is possible to invent
     one. It will then be a question of the public-relations talents of the little boy as to
     whether he will succeed in translating his invention into actual control (Berger
         Have you ever seen or heard a young child threaten another with “ I will tell
     my elder brother.”
         Can you think of other examples?
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                              37

and also refers to the enforcing of values
and patterns for maintaining order in                       Activity 11
    Social control may be informal or           Can you think of examples drawn
formal. When the codified, systematic,          from your life how this ‘unofficial’
and other formal mechanism of control           social control operates? Have you in
is used, it is known as formal social           class or in your peer group noticed
control. There are agencies and                 how a child who behaves a bit
mechanism of formal social control, for         differently from the rest is treated?
example, law and state. In a modern             Have you witnessed incidents where
society formal mechanisms and                   children are bullied by their peer
agencies of social control are                  group to be more like the other
emphasised.                                     children?
    In every society there is another type
of social control that is known as
informal social control. It is personal,     newspaper report which is given below
unofficial and uncodified. They include      and identify the different agencies of
smiles, making faces, body language          social control involved.
frowns, criticism, ridicule, laughter etc.       A sanction is a mode of reward or
There can be great variations in their       punishment that reinforces socially
use within the same society. In day-         expected forms of behaviour. Social
to-day life they are quite effective.        control can be positive or negative.
    However, in some cases informal          Members of societies can be rewarded
methods of social control may not be         for good and expected behaviour. On
adequate in enforcing conformity or          the other hand, negative sanctions are
obedience. There are various agencies        also used to enforce rules and to
of informal social control e.g. family,      restrain deviance.
religion, kinship, etc. Have you heard           Deviance refers to modes of action,
about honour killing? Read the               which do not conform to the norms or

              Man kills sister for marrying from outside the caste

  ... The elder brother of a 19-year-old girl here carried out an apparent ‘honour
  killing’ by allegedly beheading her while she was asleep at a hospital ... police
  said on Monday.
    The girl... was undergoing treatment at ... Hospital for stab wounds after her
  brother... attacked her on December 16 for marrying outside the caste, they
  said. She and her lover eloped on December 10 and returned to their houses
  here on December 16 after getting married, which was opposed by her parents,
  they said.
     The Panchayat also tried to pressurise the couple but they refused to be swayed.
38                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

values held by most of the members of           be considered deviant at one time, and
a group or society. What is regarded as         be applauded at another time even in
‘deviant’ is as widely variable as the          the same society. You are already
norms and values that distinguish               familiar with how sociology is different
different cultures and subcultures.             from common sense. The specific
Likewise ideas of deviance are                  terms and concepts discussed in this
challenged and change from one period           chapter will help you further to move
to another. For example, a woman                towards a sociological understanding
choosing to become an astronaut may             of society.


     Conflict Theories : A sociological perspective that focuses on the tensions,
     divisions and competing interests present in human societies. Conflict
     theorists believe that the scarcity and value of resources in society produces
     conflict as groups struggle to gain access to and control those resources.
     Many conflict theorists have been strongly influenced by the writings of
     Functionalism : A theoretical perspective based on the notion that social
     events can best be explained in terms of the function they perform — that is
     the contribution they make to the continuity of a society. And on a view of
     society as a complex system whose various parts work in relationship to
     each other in a way that needs to be understood.
     Identity : The distinctive characteristic of a person’s character or the
     character of a group which relate to who they are and what is meaningful to
     them. Some of the main sources of identity include gender, nationality or
     ethnicity, social class.
     Means of Production : The means whereby the production of material goods
     is carried on in a society, including not just technology but the social
     relations between producers.
     Microsociology and Macrosociology : The study of everyday behaviour in
     situations of face-to-face interaction is usually called microsociology. In
     microsociology, analysis occurs at the level of individuals or small groups. It
     differs from macrosociology, which concerns itself with large-scale social
     systems, like the political system or the economic order. Though they appear
     to be distinct, they are closely connected.
     Natal : It relates to the place or time of one’s birth.   R
     Norms : Rules of behaviour which reflect or embody a culture’s values, either
     prescribing a given type of behaviour, or forbidding it. Norms are always
TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY                                             39

   backed by sanctions of one kind or another, varying from informal disapproval
   to physical punishment or execution.
   Sanctions : A mode of reward or punishment that reinforce socially expected
   forms of behaviour.


   1. Why do we need to use special terms and concepts in sociology?
   2. As a member of society you must be interacting with and in different
      groups. How do you see these groups from a sociological perspective?
   3. What have you observed about the stratification system existing in your
      society? How are individual lives affected by stratification?
   4. What is social control? Do you think the modes of social control in different
      spheres of society are different? Discuss.
   5. Identify the different roles and status that you play and are located in.
      Do you think roles and status change? Discuss when and how they


   BERGER, L. PETER. 1976. Invitation to Sociology : A Humanistic Perspective.
      Penguin, Harmondsworth.
   BOTTOMORE, TOM. and ROBER T, NISBET. 1978. A History of Sociological Analysis.
      Basic Books, New York.
   BOTTOMORE, TOM. 1972. Sociology. Vintage Books, New York.
   DESHPANDE, SATISH. 2003. Contemporary India : A Sociological View. Viking, Delhi.
      to Freedom Dalit Narratives. Samya, Kolkata.
   GIDDENS, ANTHONY. 2001. Sociology. Fourth Edition. Polity Press, Cambridge.
   JAYARAM, N. 1987. Introductory Sociology. Macmillan India Ltd, Delhi.
   NONGBRI, TIPLUT. 2003. ‘Gender and the Khasi Family Structure : The Meghalaya
      Succession to Self-Acquired Property Act’, 1984, in ed. REGE, SHARMILA.
      Sociology of Gender The Challenge of Feminist Sociological Knowledge,
      pp.182-194. Sage Publications, New Delhi.
   SRINIVAS, M.N. 1996. Village, Caste, Gender and Method. Oxford University
       Press, New Delhi.
40                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                      CHAPTER 3


                    I                        least acknowledged by law or by
                                             custom. And whose regular and
INTRODUCTION                                 continuous operation cannot be
                                             understood without taking those rules
This book began with a discussion            into account. Institutions impose
about the interaction of the individual      constraints on individuals. They also
and society. We saw that each of us as       provide him/her with opportunities.
individuals, occupies a place or                 An institution can also be viewed as
location in society. Each one of us has
                                             an end in itself. Indeed people have
a status and a role or roles, but these
                                             viewed the family, religion, state or even
are not simply what we as individuals
                                             education as an end in itself.
choose. They are not like roles a film
actor may or may not opt to do. There
                                                            Activity 1
are social institutions that constrain and
control, punish and reward. They could         Think of examples of how people
be ‘macro’ social institutions like the        sacrifice for the family, for religion,
state or ‘micro’ ones like the family.         for the state.
Here in this chapter we are introduced
to social institutions, and also to how          We have already seen that there
sociology/social anthropology studies        are conflicting and different
them. This chapter puts forth a very         understandings of concepts within
brief idea of some of the central areas      sociology. We have also been introduced
where important social institutions are      to the functionalist and conflict
located namely: (i) family, marriage and     perspective, and seen how differently
kinship; (ii) politics; (iii) economics;     they saw the same thing, for instance
(iv) religion; and (v) education.            stratification or social control. Not
     In the broadest sense, an               surprisingly, therefore, there are
institution is something that works          different forms of understanding of
according to rules established or at         social institutions as well.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                    41

    A functionalist view understands                              II
social institutions as a complex set of
social norms, beliefs, values and role         FAMILY, MARRIAGE    AND   KINSHIP
relationship that arise in response to         Perhaps no other social entity appears
the needs of society. Social institutions      more ‘natural’ than the family. Often we
exist to satisfy social needs. Accordingly     are prone to assume that all families are
we find informal and formal social             like the ones we live in. No other social
institutions in societies. Institutions        institution appears more universal and
such as family and religion are                unchanging. Sociology and social
examples of informal social institutions       anthropology have over many decades
while law and (formal) education are           conducted field research across
formal social institutions.                    cultures to show how the institutions
                                               of family, marriage and kinship are
    A conflict view holds that all             important in all societies and yet their
individuals are not placed equally in          character is different in different
society. All social institutions whether       societies. They have also shown how the
familial, religious, political, economic,      family (the private sphere) is linked to
legal or educational will operate in the       the economic, political, cultural,
interest of the dominant sections of           educational (the public) spheres. This
society be it class, caste, tribe or gender.   may remind you of why there is a need
The dominant social section not only           to share and borrow from different
dominates political and economic               disciplines, which we have discussed in
                                               Chapter 1.
institutions but also ensures that the
                                                   According to the functionalists the
ruling class ideas become the ruling
                                               family performs important tasks, which
ideas of a society. This is very different
                                               contribute to society’s basic needs and
from the idea that there are general           helps perpetuate social order. The
needs of a society.                            functionalist perspective argues that
    As you go about reading this               modern industrial societies function
chapter, see whether you can think             best if women look after the family and
of examples to show how social                 men earn the family livelihood. In India
                                               studies however suggest that families
institutions constrain and also offer
                                               need not become nuclear in an
opportunities to individuals. Notice
                                               industrial pattern of economy (Singh
whether they impact different sections
                                               1993: 83). This is but one example to
of society unequally. For instance, we         show how trends based on experiences
could ask, “How does the family                of one society cannot necessarily be
constrain as well provide opportunities        generalised.
to men and women?” Or “How do                      The nuclear family is seen as the
political or legal institutions affect the     unit best equipped to handle the
privileged and dispossessed?”                  demands of industrial society by the
42                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

functionalists. In such a family one            families have always existed in India
adult can work outside the home while           particularly among the deprived castes
the second adult cares for the home and         and classes.
children. In practical terms, this                The sociologist A.M. Shah remarks
specialisation of roles within the                that in post-independent India the
nuclear family involves the husband               joint family has steadily increased.
adopting the ‘instrumental’ role as               The contributing factor is the
breadwinner, and the wife assuming                increasing life expectancy in India
the ‘affective’, emotional role in domestic       according to him. It has increased
settings (Giddens 2001). This vision is           from 32.5 - 55.4 years for men and
questionable not just because it is               from 31.7 - 55.7 years for women
gender unjust but because empirical               during the period 1941 - 50 to
                                                  1981 - 85. Consequently, the
studies across cultures and history
                                                  proportion of aged people (60 years
show that it is untrue. Indeed, as you            and above) in the total population
will see in the discussion on work and            has increased. “We have to ask”
economy how in contemporary                       writes Shah — “in what kind of
industries like the garment export,               household do these elderly people
women form a large part of the labour             live? I submit, most of them live in
force. Such a separation also suggests            joint household” (Shah; 1998).
that men are necessarily the heads of
                                                This again is a broad generalisation.
households. This is not necessarily true
                                                But in the spirit of the sociological
as the box which is given below shows.
                                                perspective, it cautions us against
                                                blindly believing a common sense
Variation in Family Forms
                                                impression that the joint family is fast
A central debate in India has been              eroding. And alerts us to the need for
about the shift from nuclear family to          careful comparative and empirical
joint families. We have already seen how        studies.
sociology questions common sense                Studies have shown how diverse
impressions. The fact is that nuclear           family forms are found in different

                               Female headed households

     When men migrate to urban areas, women have to plough and manage the
     agricultural fields. Many a time they become the sole providers of their families.
     Such households are known as female headed households. Widowhood too
     might create such familial arrangement. Or it may happen when men get re-
     married and stop sending remittance to their wives, children and other
     dependents. In such a situation, women have to ensure the maintenance of the
     family. Among the Kolams, a tribal community in south-eastern Maharashtra
     and northern Andhra Pradesh, a female headed household is an accepted norm.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                   43

societies. With regard to the rule of          Families are Linked to other Social
residence, some societies are matrilocal       Spheres and Families Change
in their marriage and family customs
                                               Often in our everyday life we look at
while others are patrilocal. In the first
case, the newly married couple stays           the family as distinct and separate from
with the woman’s parents, whereas in           other spheres such as the economic or
the second case the couple lives with          political. However, as you will see for
the man’s parents. A patriarchal family        yourself the family, the household, its
structure exists where the men                 structure and norms are closely linked
exercise authority and dominance, and          to the rest of society. An interesting
matriarchy where the women play a              example is that of the unintended
major role in decision-making in the           consequences of the German uni-
family. While matrilineal societies exist,     fication. During the post-unification
the same cannot be claimed about               period in the 1990s Germany
matriarchal societies.                         witnessed a rapid decline in marriage

                     Notice how families and residences are different

                                     Work and Home
44                                                                      INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

because the new German state                          the female child will leave on marriage
withdrew all the protection and welfare               results in families investing more in a
schemes which were provided to the                    male child. Despite the biological fact
families prior to the unification. With               that a female baby has better chances
growing sense of economic insecurity                  of survival than a male baby the rate of
people responded by refusing to marry.                infant mortality among female children
This can also be understood as a                      is higher in comparison to male
case of unintended consequence                        children in lower age group in India.
(Chapter 1).
    Family and kinship are thus                       The Institution of Marriage
subject to change and transformation                  Historically marriage has been found
due to macro economic processes but                   to exist in a wide variety of forms in
the direction of change need not always
be similar for all countries and regions.                              Activity 2
Moreover, change does not mean the
                                                         A Telegu expression states:
complete erosion of previous norms and
                                                         ‘Bring-ing up a daughter is like
structure. Change and continuity
                                                         watering a plant in another’s
                                                         courtyard’. Find out other such
How gendered is the family?                              sayings that are contrary. Discuss
                                                         how popular sayings reflect the
The belief is that the male child will                   social arrangement of a society,
support the parents in the old age and
                               Sex Ratio in India between 1901-2001
           Year                    Sex Ratio                 Year                   Sex Ratio
           1901                      972                     1951                        946
           1911                      964                     1961                        941
           1921                      955                     1971                        930
           1931                      950                     1981                        934
           1941                      945                     1991                        926
           2001                                                                         (927)*
                  * In 2001 the sex ratio of girls in 0-6 group was enumerated as 927

     The incidence of female foeticide has led to a sudden decline in the sex ratio.
     The child sex ratio has declined from 934 per thousand males in 1991 to 927 in
     2001. The percentage of decline in the child sex ratio is more alarming. The
     situation of prosperous states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and western
     Utter Pradesh is all the more grave. In Punjab the child sex ratio has declined
     to 793 girls per 1,000 boys. In some of the districts of Punjab and Haryana it
     has fallen below 700.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                               45

different societies. It has also been     right for upper caste Hindu widows
found to perform differing functions.     was denied and that the campaign for
Indeed, the manner in which marriage      widow remarriage was a major issue
partners are arranged reveal an           in the 19th century reform movements.
astonishing variety of modes and          What you are probably less aware is
customs.                                  that today in modern India nearly 10
                                          per cent of all women and 55 per cent
              Activiy 3                   of women over fifty years are widows
                                          (Chen 2000:353).
  Find out about the different ways           Polygamy denotes marriage to
  that different societies go about       more than one mate at one time and
  finding marriage partners.              takes the form of either: Polygyny (one
                                          husband with two or more wives) or
                                          Polyandry (one wife with two or more
Forms of Marriage
                                          husbands). Usually where economic
Marriage has a large variety of forms.    conditions are harsh, polyandry may
These forms can be identified on the      be one response of society, since in
basis of the number of partners and       such situations a single male cannot
rules governing who can marry whom.       adequately support a wife and
In terms of the number of partners that   children. Also, extreme poverty
can legitimately enter into matrimony,    conditions pressurise a group to limit
we have two forms of marriage,            its population.
namely, monogamy and polygamy.
Monogamy restricts the individual to      The Matter of Arranging Marriages:
one spouse at a time. Under this          Rules and Prescriptions
system, at any given time a man can
                                          In some societies, the decisions
have only one wife and a woman can
                                          regarding mate selection are made
have only one husband. Even where
                                          by parents/relatives; in some other
polygamy is permitted, in actual
                                          societies individuals are relatively free
practice, monogamy is more widely
                                          to choose their own mates.
    In many societies, individuals are
                                          Rules of Endogamy and Exogamy
permitted to marry again, often on the
death of the first spouse or after        In some societies these restrictions
divorce. But they cannot have more        are subtle, while in some others,
than one spouse at one and the same       individuals who can or cannot be
time. Such a monogamous marriage          married, are more explicitly and
is termed serial monogamy. Re-            specifically defined. Forms of marriage
marriages on the death of a wife have     based on rules governing eligibility/
been a norm for men for the most part.    ineligibility of mates is classified as
But as all of you are aware that the      endogamy and exogamy.
46                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

    Endogamy requires an individual            Rock-a-bye-baby, combs in your
to marry within a culturally defined           pretty hair,
group of which he or she is already a          The bridegroom will come soon and
                                               take you away
member, as for example, caste.
                                               The drums beat loudly, the shehnai
Exogamy, the reverse of endogamy,              is playing softly
requires the individual to marry outside       A stranger’s son has come to fetch me
of his/her own group. Endogamy and             Come my playmates, come with our
exogamy are in reference to certain            toys
kinship units, such as, clan, caste and        Let us play, for I shall never play
racial, ethnic or religious groupings. In      again
                                               When I go off to the strangers’ house.
India, village exogamy is practised in
certain parts of north India. Village                              (Dube 2001: 94)
exogamy ensured that daughters were
married into families from villages far                     Activity 4
away from home. This arrangement
ensured smooth transition and                  Collect different wedding songs and
adjustment of the bride into the affinal       discuss how they reflect the social
home without interference of her               dynamics of marriages and of
kinsmen. The geographical distance             gender relations.
plus the unequal relationship in the
patrilineal system ensured that married
                                                            Activity 5
daughters did not get to see their
parents too often. Thus parting from           Have you ever seen matrimonial
natal home was a sad occasion and is           advertisements? Divide your class
the theme of folk songs, which depict          into groups and look at different
the pain of departure.                         newspapers, magazines and the
                                               internet. Discuss your findings. Do
     Father, we are like flocks of bird        you think endogamy is still the
     We shall fly away; Our flight will be     prevalent norm? How does it help
     long,                                     you to understand choice in
     We know not to which,                     marriage? More importantly, what
     Region we will go.                        kind of changes in society does it
     Father, my palanquin cannot
     Pass through your palace,
     (because the door is too small)
     Daughter, I shall remove a brick        Defining Some Basic Concepts,
     (to enlarge the passage for your        Particularly those of Family,
     palanquin),                             Kinship and Marriage
     You must go to your home.               A family is a group of persons
                (Chanana 1993: WS 26)        directly linked by kin connections,
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                  47

the adult members of which assume
responsibility for caring for children.
Kinship ties are connections between       WORK   AND   ECONOMIC LIFE
individuals, established either through
marriage or through the lines of descent   What is Work?
that connect blood relatives (mothers,
fathers, siblings, offspring, etc.)        As children and young students we
Marriage can be defined as a socially      imagine what kind of ‘work’ we will do
acknowledged and approved sexual           when we grow up. ‘Work’ here quite
union between two adult individuals.       clearly refers to paid employment. This
When two people marry, they become         is the most widely understood sense of
kin to one another. The marriage bond      ‘work’ in modern times.
also, however, connects together a wider       This in fact is an oversimplified view.
range of people. Parents, brothers,        Many types of work do not conform to
sisters and other blood relatives become   the idea of paid employment. Much of
relatives of the partner through           the work done in the informal economy,
marriage. The family of birth is called    for example, is not recorded in any
family of orientation and the family in    direct way in the official employment
which a person is married is called the    statistics. The term informal economy
family of procreation. The kin who are     refers to transactions outside the
related through “blood” are called         sphere of regular employment,
consanguinal kin while the kin who are     sometimes involving the exchange of
related through marriage are called        cash for services provided, but also
affines. As we move on to the next         often involving the direct exchange of
section on work and economic               goods or services.
institutions, you will notice how the          We can define work, whether paid
family and economic life are closely       or unpaid, as the carrying out of tasks
interconnected.                            requiring the expenditure of mental and

  There was no occupation, which Tiny’s Granny had not tried at some stage of
  her life. From the time she was old enough to hold her own cup she had started
  working at odd jobs in people’s houses in return for her two meals a day and
  cast-off clothes. Exactly what the words ‘odd jobs’ mean, only those know who
  have been kept at them at an age when they ought to have been laughing and
  playing with other children. Anything from the uninteresting duty of shaking
  the baby’s rattle to massaging the master’s head comes under the category of
  ‘odd jobs’ (Chugtai 2004:125).
      Find out more about the various kinds of ‘work’ done from your own
  observation or literature or even films. Discuss.
48                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                      Kind of Works

physical effort, which has as its objective
the production of goods and services
                                                             Activity 6
that cater to human needs.
                                                 Find out the proportion of Indians
Modern Forms of Work and Division                who are in rural based occupations.
of Labour                                        Make a list of these occupations.
In pre-modern forms of society most
people worked in the field or cared for
the livestock. In the industrially            agriculture, and farming itself has
developed society only a tiny pro-            become industrialised — it is carried on
portion of the population works in            largely by means of machines rather
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                     49

than by human hand. In a country like
India, the larger share of the population                  Activity 8
continues to be rural and agricultural
                                              Have you seen a master weaver at
or involved in other rural based
                                              work? Find out how long one piece
                                              of shawl may take to make?
     There are other trends in India too,
for instance an expansion of the service
sector.                                         People seeking jobs in factories
     One of the most distinctive            were trained to perform a specialised
characteristics of the economic system      task and receive a wage for this work.
of modern societies is the existence of a   Managers supervised the work, for
highly complex division of labour. Work     their task was to enhance worker
has been divided into an enormous           productivity and discipline.
number of different occupations in              One of the main features of modern
which people specialise. In traditional     societies is an enormous expansion of
societies, non-agricultural work            economic interdependence. We are all
entailed the mastery of a craft. Craft      dependent on an immense number of
skills were learned through a lengthy       other workers-stretching right across
period of apprenticeship, and the           the world- for the products and services
worker normally carried out all aspects     that sustain our lives. With few
of the production process from              exceptions, the vast majority of people
beginning to end.                           in modern societies do not produce the
                                            food they eat, the houses they live in or
               Activity 7                   the material goods they consume.
  Find out whether there has been a
  shift to the service sector in India                     Activity 9
  in recent times. Which are these
                                              Make a list of the food that you eat,
                                              the materials that were used to make
    Modern society also witnesses a           the houses you live in, the clothes
shift in the location of work. Before         you wear. Find out how and who
industrialisation, most work took place       made them.
at home and was completed collectively
by all the members of the household.
Advances in industrial technology,          Transformation of Work
such as machinery operating on              Industrial processes were broken down
electricity and coal, contributed to the    into simple operations that could be
separation of work and home. Factories      precisely timed, organised and
owned by capitalist entrepreneurs           monitored. Mass production demands
became the focal point of industrial        mass markets. One of the most
development.                                significant innovations was the
50                                                     INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

     Discuss the two forms of production in the two sets of visuals
                     Cloth production in a factory

                         Threshing of paddy in a village
52                                                             INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

construction of a moving assembly line.         vision here is that of the creation of
Modern industrial production needed             an international opinion forum
expensive equipment and continuous              (Roy Choudhury 2005 :2254).
monitoring of employees through
monitoring or surveillance systems.           Read the above given report carefully.
    Over the last decades there has been      Notice how the new organisation of
a shift to what is often called ‘flexible     production and a body of customers
production’ and ‘decentralisation of          outside the country have altered the
work’. It is argued that in this period       economics and the politics of
of globalisation, it is the growing           production.
competition between firms and
countries that makes it essential for                             IV
firms to organise production suiting the
changing market conditions. To
illustrate how this new system operates       Political institutions are concerned with
and what the implications may be for          the distribution of power in society. Two
the workers, read the quote from a            concepts, which are critical to the
                                              understanding of political institutions,
study of the garment industry in
                                              are power and authority. Power is the
Bangalore.                                    ability of individuals or groups to carry
     The industry is essentially part of a    out their will even when opposed by
     long supply chain, and the freedom
                                              others. It implies that those who hold
                                              power do so at the cost of others. There
     of manufacturers is to that extent
                                              is a fixed amount of power in a society
     extremely limited. There are, in fact    and if some wield power others do not.
     more than a hundred operations           In other words, an individual or group
     between the designer and the final       does not hold power in isolation, they
     consumer. In this chain, only            hold it in relation to others.
     15 are in the hands of the                   This notion of power is fairly
     manufacturer.         Any     serious    inclusive and extends from family elders
     agitation for a rise in wages would      assigning domestic duties to their
     lead manufacturers to shift their        children to principals enforcing
     operations to other localities,          discipline in school; from the General
     beyond the reach of unionists...         Manager of a factory distributing work
                                              among the executives to political leaders
     whether it is the payment of the
                                              regulating programmes of their parties.
     existing minimum wage, or its
                                              The principal has power to maintain
     substantial revision upwards, what       discipline in school. The president of a
     is important is to enlist the support    political party possesses power to expel
     of the retailer in order to create the   a member from the party. In each case,
     necessary pressure upon the              an individual or group has power to the
     government and local agencies for        extent to which others abide by their
     a higher wage structure and its          will. In this sense, political activities or
     effective implementation. Thus the       politics is concerned with ‘power’.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                    53

    But how is this ‘power’ applied to        capacity to use military force to
achieve its aim? Why do people comply         implement its policies. The functionalist
with others’ commands? Answers to             perspective sees the state as
these questions could be found with           representing the interests of all sections
reference to a related concept of             of society. The conflict perspective sees
‘authority’. Power is exercised through       the state as representing the dominant
authority. Authority is that form of          sections of society.
power, which is accepted as legitimate,           Modern states are very different
that is, as right and just. It is             from traditional states. These states are
institutionalised because it is based on      defined by sovereignty, citizenship
legitimacy. People in general accept the      and, most often, ideas of nationalism.
power of those in authority as they           Sovereignty refers to the undisputed
consider their control to be fair and         political rule of a state over a given
justified. Often ideologies exist that help   territorial area.
this process of legitimation.                     The sovereign state was not at first
                                              one in which citizenship carried with it
Stateless Societies                           rights of political participation. These
                                              were achieved largely through
Empirical studies of stateless societies by
                                              struggles, which limited the power of
social anthropologists over sixty years
                                              monarchs, or actively overthrew them.
ago demonstrated how order is
                                              The French Revolution and our own
maintained without a modern
                                              Indian independence struggle are two
governmental apparatus. There was
                                              instances of such movements.
instead the balanced opposition
                                                  Citizenship rights include civil,
between parts; cross-cutting alliances,
                                              political and social rights. Civil rights
based on kinship, marriage and
                                              involve the freedom of individuals to
residence; rites and ceremonies involving
                                              live where they choose; freedom of
the participation of friends and foes.
                                              speech and religion; the right to own
    As we all know, the modern state
                                              property; and the right to equal justice
has a fixed structure and formal
                                              before the law. Political rights include
procedures. Yet are not some of the
                                              the right to participate in elections and
informal mechanisms mentioned above
                                              to stand for public office. In most
as features of stateless societies present
                                              countries governments were reluctant
also in state societies?
                                              to admit the principle of universal
The Concept of the State                      franchise. In the early years not only
                                              women, but a large section of the male
A state exists where there is a political     population was excluded as holding a
apparatus of government (institutions         certain amount of property was an
like a parliament or congress, plus civil     eligibility criterion. Women had to wait
service officials) ruling over a given        longer for the vote.
territory. Government authority is                The third type of citizenship rights
backed by a legal system and by the           are social rights. These concern the
54                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                       Activity 10

     Find out when women got voting rights in different countries. Why do you think
     that despite the right to vote and the right to stand for public office, women are
     so inadequately represented? Will power in its wider sense be a useful concept
     to understand this under-representation in the Parliament and other bodies?
     Does the existing division of labour within families and households impact
     women’s participation in political life? Find out why there is a demand for 33
     per cent reservation for women in the Parliament?

prerogative of every individual to enjoy        community. Thus, individuals feel a
a certain minimum standard of                   sense of pride and belonging, in being
economic welfare and security. They             ‘British’, ‘Indian’, ‘Indonesian’ or
include such rights as health benefits,         ‘French’. Probably people have always
unemployment allowance, setting of              felt some kind of identity with social
minimum level of wages. The                     groups of one form or another — for
broadening of social or welfare rights          example, their family, clan or religious
led to the welfare state, which was             community. Nationalism, however, only
established in Western societies since          made its appearance with the
the Second World War. States of the             development of the modern state.
erstwhile socialist countries had               Contemporary world is marked both by
far-reaching provision in this sector. In       a rapid expansion of the global market
most developing countries, this was             as well as intense nationalist feelings
virtually non-existent. All over the            and conflicts.
world today these social rights are                 Sociology has been interested in the
being attacked as liabilities on the state      broader study of power, not just with
and hindrances to economic growth.              the formal apparatus of government. It
    Nationalism can be defined as a set         has been interested in the distribution
of symbols and beliefs providing the            of power between parties, between
sense of being part of a single political       classes, between castes, and between

                Activity 11                                   Activity 12

     Collect information about different          Collect information of events that
     states doing away with social                show the growth of global inter -
     rights. Find out what explanation            connectedness as well as instances
     is given for this. Discuss and               of divisions along ethnic, religious,
     see whether you can see the                  national conflicts. Discuss how
     relationship between the economic,           politics and economics may have a
     political and social spheres.                part to play in them.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                   55

communities based on race, language           it to domestic life, economic life and
and religion. Its focus is not just on what   political life.
may be called specifically political              Religion exists in all known
association, such as state legislatures,      societies, although religious beliefs and
town councils and political parties but       practices vary from culture to culture.
also associations such as schools,            Characteristics that all religions seem
banks and religious institutions whose        to share are:
aims are not primarily political. The
                                               ´   set of symbols, invoking feelings of
scope of sociology has been wide. Its
                                                   reverence or awe;
range has extended from the study of
                                               ´   rituals or ceremonies;
international movements (such as
                                               ´   a community of believers.
women or environmental) to village
factions.                                         The rituals associated with religion
                                              are very diverse. Ritual acts may include
                    V                         praying, chanting, singing, eating
                                              certain kinds of food (or refraining from
RELIGION                                      doing so), fasting on certain days, and
Religion has been a subject of study          so on. Since ritual acts are oriented
and reflection for a very long time. In       towards religious symbols, they are
Chapter 1, we have seen how                   usually seen as quite distinct from the
sociological findings about society are       habits and procedures of ordinary life.
different from religious reflections. The     Lighting a candle or diya to honour the
sociological study of religion is different   divine differs completely in its
from a religious or theological study of      significance from doing so simply to
religion in many ways. One, it conducts       light a room. Religious rituals are often
empirical studies of how religions            carried out by an individual in his/her
actually function in society and its          personal everyday life. But all religions
relationship to other institutions. Two,      also involve ceremonials practised
it uses a comparative method. Three, it       collectively by believers. Regular
investigates religious beliefs, practices     ceremonials normally occur in special
and institutions in relation to other         places — churches, mosques, temples,
aspects of society and culture.               shrines.
    The empirical method means that               Religion is about the sacred realm.
the sociologist does not have a               Think of what members of different
judgemental approach to religious             religions do before entering a sacred
phenomena. The comparative method             realm. For example covering one’s head,
is important because in a sense it            or not covering one’s head, taking off
brings all societies on level with each       shoes, or wearing particular kind of
other. It helps to study without bias         clothes, etc. What is common to them
and prejudice. The sociological               all is the feeling of awe, recognition
perspective means that religious life         and respect for a sacred places or
can be made intelligible only by relating     situations.
56                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

    Sociologists of religion, following       aspects of society. Why do you think
Emile Durkheim, are interested in             this is so?
understanding this sacred realm which             A pioneering work by Max Weber
every society distinguishes from              (1864 -1920) demonstrates how
the profane. In most cases, the               sociology looks at religion in its
sacred includes an element of the             relationship to other aspects of social
supernatural. Often the sacred quality        and economic behaviour. Weber argues
of a tree or a temple comes with the          that Calvinism (a branch of Protestant
belief that it is sacred precisely because    Christianity) exerted an important
there is some supernatural force behind       influence on the emergence and growth
it. However, it is important to keep in       of capitalism as a mode of economic
mind that some religions like early           organisation. The Calvinists believed
Buddhism and Confucianism had no              that the world was created for the glory
conception of the supernatural, but did       of God, meaning that any work in this
allow sufficient reverence for things and     world had to be done for His glory,
persons which they considered sacred.         making even mundane works acts of
    Studying religion sociologically          worship. More importantly, however,
lets us ask questions about the               the Calvinists also believed in the
relationship of religion with other social    concept of predestination, which meant
institutions. Religion has had a very         that whether one will go to heaven or
close relationship with power and             hell was pre-ordained. Since there was
politics. For instance periodically in
                                              no way of knowing whether one has
history there have been religious
                                              been assigned heaven or hell, people
movements for social change, like
                                              sought to look for signs of God’s will in
various anti-caste movements
                                              this world, in their own occupations.
or movements against gender
                                              Thus if a person in whatever profession,
discrimination. Religion is not just a
                                              was consistent and successful in his or
matter of the private belief of an
individual but it also has a public           her work, it was interpreted as a sign
character. And it is th is public character   of God’s happiness. The money earned
of religion, which has an important           was not to be used for worldly
bearing on other institutions of society.     consumption; rather the ethics of
    We have seen how sociology looks          Calvinism was to live frugally. This
at power in a wide sense. It is therefore     meant that investment became
of sociological interest to look at the       something like a holy creed. At the
relationship between the political and        heart of capitalism is the concept of
religious sphere. Classical sociologists      investment, which is about investing
believed that as societies modernised,        capital to make more goods, which
religion would become less influential        create more profit, which in turn
over the various spheres of life. The         creates more capital. Thus Weber was
concept secularisation describes this         able to argue that religion, in this case
process. Contemporary events suggest          Calvinism, does have an influence on
a persisting role of religion various         economic development.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                        57

    Religion cannot be studied as a
separate entity. Social forces always
and invariably influence religious            EDUCATION
institutions. Political debates, economic     Education is a life long process,
situations and gender norms will              involving both formal and informal
always influence religious behaviour.         institutions of learning. Here we are
Conversely, religious norms influence         however confining ourselves only to
and sometimes even determine social           school education. We are all aware how
understanding. Women constitute half          important getting admission into a
of the world’s population. Sociologically     school is. We also know, for many of us,
therefore it becomes important to ask         school is a step towards higher
what relationship this vast segment of        education and finally employment. For
human population has with religion.           some of us it may mean acquiring some
Religion is an important part of society      necessary social skills. What is common
and is inextricably tied to other parts.      in all cases is that there is a felt need
The task of sociologists is to unravel        for education.
these various interconnections. In                Sociology understands this need as
traditional societies, religion usually       a process of transmission/commu-
plays a central part in social life.          nication of group heritage, common to
Religious symbols and rituals are often       all societies. There is a qualitative
integrated with the material and artistic     distinction between simple societies
culture of society. Read the extract          and complex, modern societies. In the
which is given below in the box to get a      case of the former there was no need
sense of how sociology studies religion.      for formal schooling. Children learnt

  Many extraneous factors have affected the traditional lives of the religious
  specialists. The most important of these are the growth of new employment and
  educational opportunities in Nasik... after Independence, the way of life of the
  priests has been changing fast. Now the sons and daughters are sent to school,
  and are trained for jobs other than traditional ones… Like all places of pilgrimage,
  Nasik also gave rise to supplementary centres around religious activities. It was
  a normal routine for a pilgrim to take home the sacred water of the Godavari in
  a copper pot. The coppersmiths provided these wares. The pilgrims also bought
  wares, which they took home to be distributed as gifts among their relatives and
  friends. For long Nasik was known for its proficient craftsmen in brass, copper
  and silver... Since the demand for their wares is intermittent and uncertain,
  not all the adult males can be supported by this occupation... Many
  craftsmen have entered industry and business-both small and large scale
  (Acharya 1974: 399-401).
58                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

customs and the broader way of life by           For Emile Durkheim, no society can
participating in activities with their       survive without a ‘common base-a
adults. In complex societies, we saw         certain number of ideas, sentiments
there is an increasing economic division     and practices which education must
of labour, separation of work from           inculcate in all children indiscriminately,
home, need for specialised learning and      to whatever social category they belong’
skill attainment, rise of state systems,     (Durkheim 1956: 69). Education
nations and complex set of symbols and       should prepare the child for a special
ideas. How do you get educated               occupation, and enable the child to
informally in such a context? How            internalise the core values of society.
would parents or other adults                    The functionalist sociologist thus
informally communicate all that has to       speaks in terms of general social
be known to the next generation?             needs and social norms. For the
Education in such a social context has       functionalists, education maintains
to be formal and explicit.                   and renews the social structure,
    Furthermore modern complex               transmits and develops culture. The
societies in contrast to simple societies    educational system is an important
rest on abstract universalistic values.      mechanism for the selection and
This is what distinguishes it from a         allocation of the individuals in their
simple society that depends on               future roles in the society. It is also
particularistic values, based on family,     regarded as the ground for proving
kin, tribe, caste or religion. Schools in    one’s ability and hence selective
modern societies are designed to             agency for different status according
promote uniformity, standardised             to their abilities. Recall our
aspirations and universalistic values.       discussion on the functionalist
There are many ways of doing this. For       understanding of roles and
example one can speak of ‘uniform            stratification in Chapter 2.
dress for school children’. Can you              For the sociologists who perceive
think of other features that promote         society as unequally differentiated,
standardisation?                             education functions as a main

                                    Discuss the visuals
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                       59

stratifying agent. And at the same              The above report indicates how
time the inequality of educational           gender and caste discrimination
opportunity is also a product of social      impinges upon the chances of
stratification. In other words we go to      education. Recall how we began this
different kinds of schools depending on      book in Chapter 1 about a child’s
our socio-economic background. And
because we go to some kind of schools,
we acquire different kind of privileges
and finally opportunities.
    For instance some argue that
schooling ‘intensifies the existing divide
between the elite and the masses.’
Children going to privileged schools
learn to be confident while children
deprived of that may feel the opposite
(Pathak 2002:151). However, there are
many more children who simply cannot
attend school or drop out. For instance
a study reports :

  You are seeing some children in the
  school now. If you come during the
  cultivation season you may see
  almost zero attendance from the SC
  and ST children. They all take some
  household responsibilities while the
  parents are out to work. And the girl                     Discuss the visual
  children of these communities
  seldom attend school as they do            chances for a good job being shaped
  various kinds of work both domestic        by a host of social factors. Your
  and income generating. A 10 year           understanding of the way social
  old girl picks dry cow dung to sell        institutions function should help you
  for example (Pratichi 2002:60).            analyse the process better now.

                                     Activity 13

  A study of a kindergarten suggested that children learn that:
    ´ ‘work activities are more important than play activities’.
    ´ ‘work includes any and all teacher -directed activities.’
    ´ ‘work is compulsory and free time activities are called play’ (Apple 1979:102).

  What do you think? Discuss.
60                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY


     Citizen : A member of a political community, having both rights and duties
     associated with that membership.
     Division of Labour : The specialisation of work tasks, by means of which
     different occupations are combined within a production system. All societies
     have at least some rudimentary form of division of labour. With the
     development of industrialism, however, the division of labour becomes vastly
     more complex than in any prior type of production system. In the modern
     world, the division of labour is international in scope.
     Gender : Social expectations about behaviour regarded as appropriate for
     the members of each sex. Gender is seen as a basic organising principle of
     Empirical Investigation : Factual enquiry carried out in any given area of
     sociological study.
     Endogamy : When marriage is within a specific caste, class or tribal group.
     Exogamy : When marriage occurs outside a certain group of relations.
     Ideology : Shared ideas or beliefs, which serve to justify the interests of
     dominant groups. Ideologies are found in all societies in which there are
     systematic and engrained inequalities between groups. The concept of
     ideology connects closely with that of power, since ideological systems serve
     to legitimise the differential power which groups hold.
     Legitimacy : The belief that a particular political order is just and valid.
     Monogamy : When marriage involves one husband and one wife alone.
     Polygamy : When marriage involves more than one mate at one time.
     Polyandry : When more than one man is married to a woman.
     Polygyny : When more than one woman is married to a man.
     Service Industries : Industries concerned with the production of services
     rather than manufactured goods, such as the travel industry.
     State Society : A society which possesses a formal apparatus of government.
     Stateless Society : A society which lacks formal institutions of government.
     Social Mobility : Movement from one status or occupation to another.
     Sovereignty : The undisputed political rule of a state over a given territorial
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS                                                     61


   1. Note what are the marriage rules that are followed in your society.
      Compare your observations with that made by other students in the
      class. Discuss.
   2. Find out how membership, residence pattern and even the mode of
      interaction changes in the family with broader economic, political and
      cultural changes, for instance migration.
   3. Write an essay on ‘work’. Focus on both the range of occupations, which
      exist and how they change.
   4. Discuss the kind of rights that exist in your society. How do they affect
      your life?
   5. How does sociology study religion?
   6. Write an essay on the school as a social institution. Draw from both your
      reading as well as your personal observations.
   7. Discuss how these social institutions interact with each other. You can
      start the discussion from yourself as a senior school student. And move
      on to how you are shaped by different social institutions. Are you entirely
      controlled or can you also resist and redefine social institutions?


   ACHARYA, HEMLATA. 1974. ‘Changing Role of Religious Specialists in Nasik —
       The Pilgrim City’, in ed. RAO, M.S. An Urban Sociology in India : Reader
      and Source Book, Orient Longman, New Delhi, pp. 391-403.
   APPLE, MICHAEL W. 1979. Ideology and Curriculum. Routledge and Kegan Paul,
   CHUGTAI, ISMAT. 2004. Tiny’s Granny in Contemporary Indian Short Stories;
      Series 1. Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
   DUBE, LEELA. 2001. Anthropological Explorations in Gender : Intersecting Fields.
      Sage Publications, New Delhi.
   DURKHEIM, EMILE. 1956. Education and Sociology. The Free Press, New York.
   PATHAK, AVIJIT. 2002. Social Implications of Schooling : Knowledge, Pedagogy
       and Consciousness. Rainbow Publishers, Delhi.
   PRATICHI. 2002. The Pratichi Education Report. Pratichi Trust, Delhi.
62                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

     R OY C HOUDHUR Y , S UPRIYA . 2005. ‘Labour Activism and Women in the
         Unorganised Sector : Garment Export Industry in Bangalore’, Economic
         and Political Weekly. May 28-June 4. pp. 2250-2255.
     SHAH, A.M. 1998. Family in India : Critical Essays. Orient Longman, Hyderabad.
     S INGH , Y OGENDRA . 1993. Social Change in India : Crisis and Resilience.
          Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi.
     UBEROI, PATRICIA. 2002. ‘Family, Kinship and Marriage in India’, in Student’s
        Britannica, India. Vol.6, pp.145-155. Encyclopedia Britannica Private Ltd,
        New Delhi.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                              63

                                     CHAPTER 4

                   CULTURE         AND      SOCIALISATION

                    I                                      Activity 1

                                              How do you greet another person in
                                              your ‘culture’? Do you greet different
‘Culture’, like ‘society’, is a term used
                                              kinds of persons (friends, older
frequently and sometimes vaguely.
                                              relatives, the other gender, people
This chapter is meant to help us define
                                              from other groups) differently?
it more precisely and to appreciate
its different aspects. In everyday            Discuss any awkward experience
conversation, culture is confined to the      you may have had when you did not
arts, or alludes to the way of life of        know how you should greet a
certain classes or even countries.            person? Is that because you did not
Sociologists and anthropologists study        share a common ‘culture’? But next
the social contexts within which culture      time round you will know what to
exists. They take culture apart to try        do. Your cultural knowledge thereby
and understand the relations between          expands and rearranges itself.
its various aspects.
     Just like you need a map to
navigate over unknown space or              constantly being added, deleted,
territory, you need culture to conduct      expanded, shrunk and rearranged.
or behave yourself in society. Culture      This makes cultures dynamic as
is the common understanding, which          functioning units.
is learnt and developed through social          The capacity of individuals to
interaction with others in society. A       develop a common understanding with
common understanding within a group         others and to draw the same meanings
demarcates it from others and gives it      from signs and symbols is what
an identity. But cultures are never         distinguishes humans from other
finished products. They are always          animals. Creating meaning is a social
changing and evolving. Elements are         virtue as we learn it in the company of
64                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

others in families, groups and                    social densities like in villages, towns
communities. We learn the use of tools            and cities. In different environments,
and techniques as well as the non-                people adapt different strategies to cope
material signs and symbols through                with the natural and social conditions.
interaction with family members,                  This leads to the emergence of diverse
friends and colleagues in different               ways of life or cultures.
social settings. Much of this knowledge               Disparities in coping mechanisms
is systematically described and                   were evident during the devastating
conveyed either orally or through                 tsunami of 26 December 2004, which
books.                                            affected some parts of the Tamil Nadu
    For example, notice the interaction           and Kerala coast as well as the Andaman
below. Notice how words and facial                and Nicobar Islands in India. People on
expressions convey meaning in a                   the mainland and islands are integrated
conversation.                                     into a relatively modern way of life. The

     Commuter asks autodriver: “Indiranagar?” The verb that conveys the question —
     “Bartheera?” or “Will you come?” — is implied in the arch of the eyebrow. Driver
     jerks his head in the direction of the back seat if the answer is “Yes”. If it is “No”
     (which is more likely the case as every true blue Bangalorean knows) he might
     just drive away or grimace as if he has heard a bad word or shake his head with
     a smile that seems to suggest a “Sorry”, all depending on the mood of the moment.

    This learning prepares us for                 fisherfolk and the service personnel in the
carrying out our roles and                        islands were caught unawares and
responsibilities in society. You have             suffered large scale devastation and
already dealt with status and roles.              much loss of life. On the other hand, the
What we learn in the family is primary            ‘primitive’ tribal communities in the
socialisation, while that which happens           islands like the Onges, Jarawas, Great
in school and other institutions are              Andamanese or Shompens who had no
secondary socialisation. We shall                 access to modern science and technology,
discuss this in greater detail later in this      foresaw the calamity based on their
chapter.                                          experiential knowledge and saved
                                                  themselves by moving on to higher
                       II                         ground. This shows that having access
                                                  to modern science and technology does
DIVERSE SETTINGS, DIFFERENT CULTURES              not make modern cultures superior to
Humans live in a variety of natural               the tribal cultures of the islands. Hence,
settings like in the mountains and                cultures cannot be ranked but can be
plains, in forests and cleared lands, in          judged adequate or inadequate in
deserts and river valleys, in islands and         terms of their ability to cope with the
main lands. They also inhabit different           strains imposed by nature.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                         65

                    Discuss how natural settings affect culture
66                                                          INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                             habits acquired by man as a member
                Activity 2                   of society” (Tylor 1871 I:1).
     Find out from at least one region
     other than your own how the
     natural environment affects food
     habits, patterns of dwelling,
     clothing and the ways in which God
     or gods are worshipped.

Defining Culture
Often the term ‘culture’ is used to refer
to the acquiring of refined taste in
classical music, dance forms, painting.
This refined taste was thought to
distinguish people from the ‘uncul-
tured’ masses, even concerning                        Discuss how the visual
                                                       capture a way of life
something we would today see as
individual, like the preference for coffee
                                                 Two generations later, the founder
over tea!
                                             of the “functional school” of anthro-
     By contrast, the sociologist looks at
                                             pology, Bronislaw Malinowski of
culture not as something that
                                             Poland (1884-1942) wrote: “Culture
distinguishes individuals, but as a way
                                             comprises inherited artifacts, goods,
of life in which all members of society
                                             technical process, ideas, habits and
                                             values” (Malinowski 1931: 621-46).
                Activity 3                       Clifford Geertz suggested that we
                                             look at human actions in the same way
     Identify equivalents in Indian
                                             as we look at words in a book, and see
     languages for the word culture.
                                             them as conveying a message. “… Man
     What associations do these carry?
                                             is an animal suspended in webs of
                                             significance he himself has spun. I take
participate. Every social organisation       culture to be those webs…”.The search
develops a culture of its own. One early     is not for a causal explanation, but for
anthropological definition of culture        an interpretative one, that is in search
comes from the British scholar Edward        for meaning (Geertz 1973: 5). Likewise
Tylor: “Culture or civilisation taken in     Leslie White had placed a comparable
its wide ethnographic sense, is that         emphasis on culture as a means of
complex whole which includes                 adding meaning to objective reality,
knowledge, belief, art, morals, law,         using the example of people regarding
custom and any other capabilities and        water from a particular source as holy.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                            67

´   Do you notice anything in                     The multiple definitions of culture
    Malinowski’s definition that is           in anthropological studies led Alfred
    missing in Tylor’s?                       Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn
                                              (anthropologists from the United
    Apart from his mention of art, all the
                                              States) to publish a comprehensive
things listed by Tylor are non-material.      survey entitled Culture: A Critical
This is not because Tylor himself never       Review of Concepts and Definitions in
looked at material culture. He was in         1952. A sample of the various
fact a museum curator, and most of his        definitions is presented below.
anthropological writing was based on          ´ Try comparing these definitions to
the examination of artifacts and tools            see which of these or which
from societies across the world, which            combination of these you find most
he had never visited. We can now see              satisfactory.
his definition of culture as an attempt           You may first find yourself noticing
to take into account its intangible and       words which recur–‘way’, ‘learn’ and
abstract dimensions, so as to acquire a       ‘behaviour’. However, if you then look
comprehensive understanding of the            at how each is used, you may be struck
societies he was studying. Malinowski         by the shifts in emphasis. The first
happened to be stranded on an island          phrase refers to mental ways but the
in the Western Pacific during the First       second to the total way of life.
World War, and discovered thereby the         Definitions (d), (e) and (f) lay stress on
value of remaining for an extended            culture as what is shared and passed
period with the society one was               on among a group and down the
studying. This led to the establishment       generations. The last two phrases are
of the tradition of “field work” you will     the first to refer to culture as a means
read about it in Chapter 5.                   of directing behaviour.

     Culture is…

        (a)    a way of thinking, feeling, believing.
        (b)    the total way of life of a people.
        (c)    an abstraction from behaviour.

        (d)    learned behaviour.
        (e)    a storehouse of pooled learning.

        (f)    the social legacy the individual acquires from his group.
        (g)    a set of standardised orientations to recurrent problems.
        (h)    a mechanism for the normative regulation of behaviour.
68                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

   Make a list of phrases you have                It may have occurred to you that
heard containing the word ‘culture’.          our understanding of material culture,
Ask your friends and family what they         especially art, is incomplete without
mean by culture? What criteria do they        knowledge acquired from the cognitive
use to distinguish among cultures.            and normative areas. It is true that our
                                              developing understanding of social
                 Activity 4                   process would draw upon all these
     Compare these definitions to see
                                              areas. But we might find that in a
                                              community where few have acquired
     which of these (or combination of
                                              the cognitive skill of literacy, it in fact
     these) you find most satisfactory.
                                              becomes the norm for private letters to
     You could do this by listing familiar
                                              be read out by a third party. But as we
     uses of the word ‘culture’ (the
                                              see below, to focus on each of these
     culture of eighteenth century
                                              areas separately provides many
     Lucknow, the culture of hospitality
                                              important insights.
     or the much used term ‘Western
     culture’...) Which of the definitions    Cognitive Aspects of Culture
     best capture the impressions
     conveyed by each?                        The cognitive aspects of one’s own
                                              culture are harder to recognise than its
                                              material aspects (which are tangible or
Dimensions of Culture
                                              visible or audible) and its normative
Three dimensions of culture have been         aspects (which are explicitly stated).
distinguished :                               Cognition refers to understanding, how
  (i) Cognitive: This refers to how we        we make sense of all the information
      learn to process what we hear or        coming to us from our environment. In
      see, so as to give it meaning           literate societies ideas are transcribed
      (identifying the ring of a cell-phone   in books and documents and pre-
      as ours, recognising the cartoon of     served in libraries, instititutions or
      a politician).                          archives. But in non-literate societies
 (ii) Normative: This refers to rules of      legend or lore is committed to memory
      conduct (not opening other              and transmitted orally. There are
      people’s letters, performing rituals    specialist practitioners of oral tradition
      at death).                              who are trained to remember and
(iii) Material: This includes any activity    narrate during ritual or festive occasions.
      made possible by means of                   Let us think about how writing
      materials. Materials also include       may affect the production and
      tools or machines. Examples             consumption of art. In his influential
      include internet ‘chatting’, using      book, Orality and Literacy Walter Ong
      rice-flour paste to design kolam on     cites a study of 1971 that states that
      floors.                                 only 78 of the approximately 3,000
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                          69

existing languages possess a               different contexts. We most often follow
literature. Ong suggests that material     social norms because we are used to
that is not written down has certain       doing it, as a result of socialisation. All
specific characteristics. There is a lot   social norms are accompanied by
of repetition of words, to make it         sanctions that promote conformity. We
simpler to remember. The audience of       have already discussed social control
an oral performance is likely to be        in Chapter 2 .
more receptive and involved than                While norms are implicit rules,
would be readers of a written text from    laws are explicit rules. Pierre
an unfamiliar culture. Texts become        Bourdieu, the French sociologist has
more elaborate when they are written.      reminded us that when we try to
    In societies like ours historically    understand another culture’s norms,
literacy has been made available only      we must remember that there are
to the more privileged. Sociological       certain implicit understandings. For
studies are often concerned with           example, if a person wants to show
investigating how literacy can be made     gratitude for something s/he has been
relevant to the lives of people whose      given, s/he should not offer a return-
families have never gone to school. This   gift too quickly, or it seems like an
can lead to unexpected responses, like     attempt to get rid of a debt, not a
a vegetable-seller who asked why he        friendly gesture.
needed to know the alphabet when he             A law is a formal sanction defined
could mentally calculate what his          by government as a rule or principle
customers owed him?                        that its citizens must follow. Laws are
    The contemporary world allows us       explicit. They are applicable to the
to rely far more on written, audio and     whole society. And a violation of the
visual records. Yet students of Indian     law attracts penalties and punishment.
classical music are still discouraged      If in your home children are not
from writing down what they learn          allowed to stay outdoors after
rather than carrying it in their memory.   sundown, that is a norm. It is specific
We still do not know enough about the      to your family and may not be
impact of the electronic media, of         applicable to all families. However, if
multiple channels, of instant accessing    you are caught stealing a gold necklace
and surfing. Do you think these new        from someone else’s home, you have
forms impact our attention span and        violated the universally accepted law
cognitive culture?                         of private property and can be sent to
                                           jail after trial as punishment.
Normative Aspects of Culture                    Laws, which derive from the
The normative dimension consists of        authority of the State are the most
folkways, mores, customs, conven-          formal definitions of acceptable
tions and laws. These are values or        behaviour. While different schools may
rules that guide social behaviour in       establish different norms for students,
70                                                        INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

laws would apply to all those accepting    norms. This can give rise to a situation
the authority of the State. Unlike laws,   of culture lag when the non-material
norms can vary according to status.        dimensions are unable to match the
Dominant sections of society apply         advances of technology.
dominant norms. Often these norms are
discriminating. For example norms that     Culture and Identity
did not allow dalits from drinking water
                                           Identities are not inherited but
from the same vessel or even source. Or
                                           fashioned both by the individual and
women from moving freely in the public
                                           the group through their relationship
                                           with others. For the individual the
                                           social roles that s/he plays imparts
Material Aspects of Culture
                                           identity. Every person in modern
The material aspect refers to tools,       society plays multiple roles. For
technologies, machines, buildings and      instance within the family s/he may be
modes of transportation, as well as        a parent or a child but for each of the
instruments of production and              specific roles there are particular
communication. In urban areas the          responsibilities and powers.
widespread use of mobile phones,               It is not sufficient to enact roles.
music systems, cars and buses, ATMs        They also have to be recognised and
(automated teller machines), refri-        acknowledged. This can often be done
gerators and computers in everyday life    through the recognition of the
indicates the dependence on                particular language that is used among
technology. Even in rural areas the use    role players. Students in schools have
of transistor radios or electric motor     their own way of referring to their
pumps for lifting water from below the     teachers, other students, class
surface for irrigation demonstrate the     performances. By creating this
adoption of technological devices for      language which also serves as a code,
increasing production.                     they create their own world of meanings
    In sum there are two principal         and significances. Similarly, women are
dimensions of culture: material and        also known to create their own
non-material. While the cognitive and      language and through it their own
normative aspects are non-material, the    private space beyond the control of men
material dimension is crucial to           especially when they congregate at the
increase production and enhance            pond to bathe in rural areas or across
the quality of life. For integrated        washing lines on rooftops in urban
functioning of a culture the material      areas.
and non-material dimensions must               In a culture there can be many sub-
work together. But when the material       cultures, like that of the elite and
or technological dimensions change         working class youth. Sub-cultures are
rapidly, the non-material aspects can      marked by style, taste and association.
lag behind in terms of values and          Particular sub-cultures are identifiable
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                            71

by their speech, dress codes, preference      cultural values projected as the
for particular kind of music or the           standard or norm are considered
manner in which they interact with their      superior to that of the beliefs and values
group members.                                of other cultures. We have seen in
    Sub-cultural groups can also              Chapter 1 and in Chapter 3 (particularly
function as cohesive units which              in the discussion on religion) how
imparts an identity to all group              sociology is an empirical and not a
members. Within such groups there             normative discipline.
can be leaders and followers but group             Underlying ethnocentric compari-
members are bound by the purpose of           sons is a sense of cultural superiority
the group and work together to achieve        clearly demonstrated in colonial
their objectives. For instance young          situations. Thomas Babbington
members of a neighbourhood can form           Macaulay’s famous Minute on
a club to engage themselves in sports         Education (1835) to the East India
and other constructive activities. Such       Company in India exemplifies
activities create a positive image of the     ethnocentrism when he says, ‘We must
members in the locality and this gives        at present do our best to form a class
the members not only a positive self-         who may be interpreters between us and
image but also inspires them to perform       the millions whom we govern, a class of
better in their activities. The orientation   persons Indian in blood and colour but
of their identity as a group undergoes        English in tastes, in opinions, morals
a transformation. The group is able to        and intellect’ (quoted in Mukherji 1948/
differentiate itself from other groups        1979: 87), (emphasis added).
and thereby create its own identity                Ethnocentrism is the opposite of
through the acceptance and                    cosmopolitanism, which values other
recognition of the neighbourhood.             cultures for their difference. A
                                              cosmopolitan outlook does not seek to
               Activity 5                     evaluate the values and beliefs of other
                                              people according to one’s own. It
  Are you aware of any sub-cultural
                                              celebrates and accommodates different
  group in your locality? How are you         cultural propensities within its fold and
  able to identify them?                      promotes cultural exchange and
                                              borrowings to enrich one’s own culture.
Ethnocentrism                                 The English language has emerged as
It is only when cultures come into            a leading vehicle of international
contact with one another that the             communication through its constant
question of ethnocentrism arises.             inclusion of foreign words into its
Ethnocentrism is the application of           vocabulary. Again the popularity of
one’s own cultural values in evaluating       Hindi film music can be attributed to
the behaviour and beliefs of people from      its borrowings from western pop music
other cultures. This means that the           as well as from different traditions of
72                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

Indian folk and semi-classical forms           Cultural Change
like the bhangra and ghazal.
                                               Cultural change is the way in which
    A modern society is appreciative of
                                               societies change their patterns of
cultural difference and does not close         culture. The impetus for change can be
its doors to cultural influences from          internal or external. In regard to
abroad. But such influences are                internal causes, for instance, new
always incorporated in a distinctive           methods of farming or agriculture can
way, which can combine with elements           boost agricultural production, which
of indigenous culture. The English             can transform the nature of food
language despite its foreign inclusions        consumption and quality of life of an
does not become a separate language,           agrarian community. On the other
nor does Hindi film music lose its             hand external intervention in the form
character through borrowings. The              of conquest or colonisation can also
absorption of diverse styles, forms,           effect deep seated changes in the
sounds and artifacts provides an               cultural practices and behaviour of a
identity to a cosmopolitan culture. In         society.
a global world where modern means of               Cultural change can occur through
communication are shrinking                    changes in the natural environment,
distances between cultures, a                  contact with other cultures or pro-
cosmopolitan outlook allows diverse            cesses of adaptation. Changes in the
influences to enrich one’s own culture.        natural environment or ecology can

                     Notice the words in the box. Have you heard or
                        used these words in your conversations?

                      Hinglish’ may soon conquer the world

       Some of the Hinglish words in vogue include airdash (travel by air),
       chaddis (underpants), chai (Indian tea), crore (10 million), dacoit (thief),
       desi (local), dicky (boot), gora (white person), jungli (uncouth), lakh
       (100,000), lampat (thug), optical (spectacles), prepone (bring forward),
       stepney (spare tyre) and would-be (fiancé or fiancée). Hinglish contains
       many words and phrases that Britons or Americans may not easily
       understand, according to a report... Some are archaic, relics of the
       Raj, such as ‘pukka’. Others are newly coined, such as ‘time-pass’,
       meaning an activity that helps kill time. India’s success in attracting
       business has recently produced a new verb. Those whose jobs are
       outsourced to India are said to have been ‘Bangalored’.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                             73

drastically alter the way of life of a                        III
people. When forest dwelling
communities are deprived of access to      SOCIALISATION
the forest and its produce either            I believe that a complete life is
because of legal restrictions or due to      inclusive of everything around us :
its decimation, it can have disastrous       plants, cattle, guests, feasts,
effects on the dwellers and their way of     festivals, quarrels, friendship,
                                             companionship, discrimination,
life. Tribal communities in North East
                                             scorn. All these and more were
India as well as in middle India have        present in one single place, my
been the worst affected by the loss of       home. Although life sometimes
forest resources.                            appeared complicated then, I now
     Along with evolutionary change          understand how consummate it
there can also be revolutionary change.      was. It is thanks to such a
                                             childhood, perhaps, that if I get just
When a culture is transformed rapidly
                                             a glimpse of someone’s suffering, I
and its values and meaning systems           feel I can comprehend the whole of
undergo a radical change then                it (Vaidehi 1945).
revolutionary change takes place.
Revolutionary change can be initiated      At the time of birth, the human infant
through political intervention,            knows nothing about we call society or
technological innovation or ecological     social behaviour. Yet as the child grows
transformation. The French Revolution      up, s/he keeps learning not just about
(1789) transformed French society by       the physical world. But about what it
destroying the estate system of            means to be a good or bad girl/boy.
ranking, abolishing the monarchy, and      S/he knows what kind of behaviour will
inculcating the values of liberty,         be applauded and, what kind will be
equality and fraternity among its          disapproved. Socialisation can be
citizens. When a different under-          defined as the process whereby the
standing comes to prevail, culture         helpless infant gradually becomes a
                                           self-aware, knowledgeable person,
change occurs. Recent years have seen
                                           skilled in the ways of the culture into
an amazing expansion of the media,
                                           which s/he is born. Indeed without
both electronic and print. Do you think
                                           socialisation an individual would not
the media has brought about an
                                           behave like a human being. Many of
evolutionary or revolutionary change?      you will be familiar with the story of the
We are familiar with the various           ‘Wolf-children of Midnapore’. Two small
dimensions of culture now. To return       girls were reportedly found in a wolf
to the point we started with in Chapter    den in Bengal in 1920. They walked on
1 about the interplay between the          all four like animals, preferred a diet of
individual and society, we now move on     raw meat, howled like wolves and
to the concept of socialisation.           lacked any form of speech. Interestingly
74                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

such incidents have been reported from       how the process of socialisation takes
other parts of the world too.                place. A child, in the first instance is a
    We have so far been talking about        member of a family. But s/he is also a
socialisation and the new-born infant.       member of a larger kin-group (biradari,
But the birth of a child also alters the     khaandaan, a clan etc.) consisting of
lives of those who are responsible for       brothers, sisters and other relatives of
its upbringing. They too undergo new         the parents. The family into which
learning experiences. Becoming               s/he is born may be a nuclear or
grandparents and parenting involves a        extended family. It is also a member of
whole set of activities and experiences.     a larger society such as a tribe or sub-
Older people still remain parents when       caste, a clan or a biradri, a religious and
they become grandparents, of course,         linguistic group. Membership of these
thus forging another set of relationships    groups and institutions imposes certain
connecting different generations with        behavioural norms and values on each
each other. Likewise the life of a young     member. Corresponding to these
                                             memberships there are roles that are
child changes with the birth of a sibling.
                                             performed, e.g. that of a son, a
Socialisation is a life long process even
                                             daughter, a grandchild or a student.
though the most critical process
                                             These are multiple roles, which are
happens in the early years, the stage of
                                             performed simultaneously. The process
primary socialisation. Secondary
                                             of learning the norms, attitudes, values
socialisation as we saw extends over the     or behavioural patterns of these groups
entire life of a person.                     begins early in life and continues
    While socialisation has an imp-          throughout one’s life.
ortant impact on individuals it is not a          The norms and values may differ
kind of ‘cultural programming’, in           within a society in different families
which the child absorbs passively the        belonging to different castes, regions or
influences with which he or she comes        social classes or religious groups
into contact. Even the most recent new-      according to whether one lives in a
born can assert her/his will. S/he will      village or a city or one belongs to a tribe
cry when hungry. And keep crying until       and if to a tribe, to which tribe. Indeed
those responsible for the infant’s care      the very language that one speaks
respond. You may have seen how               depends on the region one comes from.
normal, everyday schedules of the            Whether the language is closer to a
family get completely reorganised with       spoken dialect or to a standardised
the birth of a child.                        written form depends on the family and
    You have already been introduced         the socio-economic and cultural profile
to the concepts of status/role, of social    of the family.
control, of groups and social strati-
fication. You are also acquainted with       Agencies of Socialisation
what culture, norms and values are. All      The child is socialised by several
these concepts will help us understand       agencies and institutions in which
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                                75

s/he participates, viz. family, school,            Families have varying ‘locations’
peer group, the neighbourhood, the            within the overall institutions of a
occupational group and by social              society. In most traditional societies, the
class/caste, by region, by religion.          family into which a person is born
                                              largely determines the individual’s
Family                                        social position for the rest of his or her
Since family systems vary widely, the         life. Even when social position is not
infants’ experiences are by no means          inherited at birth in this way the region
standard across cultures. While many          and social class of the family into
of you may be living in what is termed        which an individual is born affect
a nuclear family with your parents and        patterns of socialisation quite sharply.
siblings, others may be living with           Children pick up ways of behaviour
extended family members. In the first         characteristic of their parents or others
case parents may be key socialising           in their neighbourhood or community.
agents but in the others, grandparents,            Of course, few if any children
an uncle, a cousin may be more                simply take over in an unquestioning
significant.                                  way the outlook of their parents. This

                                      Activity 6

  Suggest ways in which the child of a domestic worker would feel herself different
  from the child whose family her mother works for. Also, what are the things they
  might share or exchange?
  To start with the obvious, one would have more money spent on clothes, the
  other might wear more bangles…
  They might have watched the same serials, heard the same film songs… they
  might pick up different kinds of slang from each other…
  Now you are left to follow up the difficult areas, like the sense of security within
  the family, the neighbourhood and on the street...

                                      Activity 7

  The presence or absence of which of the items below do you think would affect
  you most as an individual?
     (possessions) television set/music system …
     (space) a room of your own…
     (time) having to balance school with household or other work…
     (opportunities) travel, music classes…
     (people around you)
76                                                          INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

is especially true in the contemporary
world, in which change is so pervasive.                    Activity 8
Moreover, the very existence of a
                                               Reflect on your own experience.
diversity of socialising agencies leads to
                                               Compare your interaction with
many differences between the outlooks
                                               friends to that of your parents and
of children, adolescents and the
parental generation. Can you identify          other elders. What is different? Does
any instance where you felt that what          the earlier discussion on roles and
you learnt from the family was at              status help you understand the
variance from your peer group or maybe         difference?
media or even school?
                                             ages at work, and in other contexts, are
Peer Groups
                                             usually of enduring importance in
Another socialising agency is the peer       shaping individuals’ attitudes and
group. Peer groups are friendship            behaviour.
groups of children of a similar age. In
some cultures, particularly small            Schools
traditional societies, peer groups are
                                             Schooling is a formal process: there is
formalised as age-grades. Even without
                                             a definite curriculum of subjects
formal age-grades, children over four
                                             studied. Yet schools are agencies of
or five usually spend a great deal of
                                             socialisation in more subtle respects
time in the company of friends of the
                                             too. Alongside the formal curriculum
same age. The word ‘peer’ means ‘equal’,
                                             there is what some sociologists
and friendly relations established
                                             have called a hidden curriculum
between young children do tend to be
                                             conditioning children’s learning. There
reasonably egalitarian. A forceful or
                                             are schools in both India and South
physically strong child may to some
                                             Africa where girls, but rarely boys, are
extent try to dominate others. Yet there
                                             expected to sweep their classroom. In
is a greater amount of give and take
                                             some schools efforts are made to
compared to the dependence inherent
                                             counter this by making boys and girls
in the family situation. Because of their
                                             do those tasks that are normally not
power, parents are able (in varying
                                             expected of them. Can you think of
degrees) to enforce codes of conduct
                                             examples that reflect both trends?
upon their children. In peer groups, by
contrast, a child discovers a different
                                             Mass Media
kind of interaction, within which rules
of behaviour can be tested out and           The mass media has increasingly
explored.                                    become an essential part of our
    Peer relationships often remain          everyday lives. While today the
important throughout a person’s life.        electronic media like the television is
Informal groups of people of similar         expanding, the print media continues
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                              77

to be of great importance. Even in the
early print media in nineteenth century                       Activity 9
India, ‘conduct-books’ instructing
                                                 You might want to explore how
women on how to be better house-
                                                 people relate to serials set in
keepers and more attentive wives
                                                 surroundings unlike their own. Or
were popular in many languages. The
                                                 if children are watching television
media can make the access to
information more democratic. Electronic          with their grandparents, are
communication is something that can              there disagreements about which
reach a village not connected by road            programmes are worth watching,
to other areas and where no literacy             and if so, what differences in
centres have been set up.                        viewpoint emerge? Are these
    There has been much research on              differences gradually modified?
the influence of television upon children
and adults. A study in Britain showed         Mahabharat was aired after dubbing in
that the time spent by children               Tashkent, but even without dubbing
watching television is the equivalent of      was watched in London by children who
almost a hundred school days a year,          spoke only English!
and that adults are not far behind them.
Apart from such quantitative aspects,         Other Socialising Agencies
what emerges from such research is not
always conclusive in its implications.        Besides the socialising agencies
The link between on-screen violence           mentioned, there are other groups, or
and aggressive behaviour among                social contexts, in which individuals
children is still debated.                    spend large parts of their lives. Work
    If one cannot predict how the media       is in all cultures an important setting
influences people, what is certain is the     within which socialisation processes
extent of the influence, in terms both of     operate, although it is only in indus-
information and of exposure to areas          trial societies that large numbers of
of experience distant from one’s own.         people “go out to work” — that is, go
There is a sizeable audience for Indian       each day to places of work quite
television serials and films in countries     separate from the home. In traditional
like Nigeria, Afghanistan and among           communities many people tilled the
émigrés from Tibet. The televised             land close to where they live, or had
            Look at the report and discuss how mass media influences children

  The Shaktimaan serial telecast a few years ago had children trying to
  dive down buildings resulting in fatal accidents. “Learning by imitation
  is a method followed frequently by people and children are no different,”
  says clinical psychologist.
78                                                                INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

workshops in their dwellings (see                 and come to maturity so influence our
visuals on page 43).                              behaviour, it might appear that we are
                                                  robbed of any individuality or free will.
Socialisation and Individual                      Such a view is fundamentally
Freedom                                           mistaken. The fact that from birth to
                                                  death we are involved in interaction
It is perhaps evident that socialisation          with others certainly conditions our
in normal circumstances can                       personalities, the values we hold, and
never completely reduce people to                 the behaviour in which we engage. Yet
conformity. Many factors encourage                socialisation is also at the origin of
conflict. There may be conflicts                  our very individuality and freedom.
between socialising agencies, between             In the course of socialisation each of
school and home, between home and                 us develops a sense of self-identity,
peer groups. However since the                    and the capacity for independent
cultural settings in which we are born            thought and action.

                             How Gendered is Socialisation?

     We boys used the streets for so many different things — as a place to stand
     around watching, to run around and play, try out the manoeuvrability of our
     bikes. Not so for girls. As we noticed all the time, for girls the street was simply a
     means to get straight home from school. And even for this limited use of the
     street they always went in clusters, perhaps because behind their purposeful
     demeanour they carried the worst fears of being assaulted (Kumar 1986).

                                         Activity 11

     We have completed four chapters. Read the text of the next page carefully and
     discuss the following themes :

       ´ The relation between individual and society in the girl’s rebellion against
       ´ How the normative dimensions of culture are different in town and village?
       ´ The question of ascribed status in that the priest’s daughter is permitted
         to touch.
       ´ Conflict between socialising agencies for example in the text note: “thankful
         none of her school friends could see her like this”. Can you find any other
         sentence that illustrates this?
       ´ Gendered = combing hair + escort + not playing football
       ´ Punishment = “tight-lipped silence” + conspicuous absence of pappadams
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                                79

  An unusual sense of excitement pervaded her visit to the temple this evening.
  There had been an argument over lunch, between her and the grown-ups, when
  she had announced her decision to ring the bell in front of the sanctuary.
      ‘If Thangam can ring it, so can I,’ she debated hotly.
      They protested in shocked voices. ‘Thangam is the daughter of the temple
  priest, she is permitted to touch the bell.’
      She responded angrily that Thangam came over to play hide-and-seek every
  afternoon and behaved no differently from any of them. ‘Besides,’ she added,
  goading them deliberately, ‘we are equal in the eyes of god.’ She was not quite
  sure whether they had heard this bit, for they had already turned away in
  disgust. But, after lunch, she caught them whispering about ‘that horrid English
  school she goes to,’ which meant that they had heard…
      She was sure they had not taken her seriously. That was the trouble with
  grown-ups: they always presumed that if they told her that she would understand
  everything when she was older, she would accept their wisdom and authority
  unquestioningly and not dream of going against them. Oh well, she would show
  them, this time... Back again at the house, she had to endure the intensely
  uncomfortable ritual of hairdressing. Her grandmother soothed her hair with
  what felt like a whole jar of oil, separated each shining strand till it hung limp
  and straight and lifeless down her back, then tied it up in a tight, skin stretching
  knot on the top of her head. She was thankful none of her school friends could
  see her like this.…
      Why wouldn’t they understand how ridiculous she felt, being escorted…She
  had reminded her mother many times that she walked alone to school everyday
  when they were back in town… [S]he noticed that the football game had already
  begun on the courtyard beside the temple of Krishna. She enjoyed watching the
  players, particularly since her obvious delight in the vigour of the game, and in
  the raucously voiced comments irritated Kelu Nair profoundly.…
      She came hurriedly upon the crowded main sanctuary... Before she could
  regret her decision or go back upon it, she elbowed herself quickly through the
  circle of women, nearly floundering on the slippery steps. The sight of the big
  bell above her touched her with a heady excitement. She could distinguish Kelu
  Nair’s frantically whispered threats, but she reached up, rang the bell with one
  resounding clang and was down the steps before he realised what was happening.
      Dimly she was aware of dark looks and subdued murmurs pursuing her as
  she permitted Kelu Nair to drag her away... She was in dire disgrace. Their
  tight-lipped silence was infinitely more eloquent than speech, as was the
  conspicuous absence of her favourite tiny pappadams at dinner...
                                              (From The Bell, by Gita Krishnakutty)
80                                                             INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY


     Cultural Evolutionism : It is a theory of culture, which argues that just like
     natural species, culture also evolves through variation and natural selection.
     Estates System : This was a system in feudal Europe of ranking according
     to occupation. The three estates were the nobility, clergy and the ‘third
     estate’. The last were chiefly professional and middle class people. Each
     estate elected its own representatives. Peasants and labourers did not have
     the vote.
     Great Tradition : It comprises of the cultural traits or traditions which are
     written and widely accepted by the elites of a society who are educated and
     Little Tradition : It comprises of the cultural traits or traditions which are
     oral and operates at the village level.
     Self Image : An image of a person as reflected in the eyes of others.
     Social Roles : These are rights and responsibilities associated with a person’s
     social position or status.
     Socialisation : This is the process by which we learn to become members of
     Subculture : It marks a group of people within a larger culture who borrow
     from and often distort, exaggerate or invert the symbols, values and beliefs
     of the larger culture to distinguish themselves.


     1.   How does the understanding of culture in social science differ from the
          everyday use of the word ‘culture’?
     2.   How can we demonstrate that the different dimensions of culture
          comprise a whole?
     3.   Compare two cultures with which you are familiar. Is it difficult not to
          be ethnocentric?
     4.   Discuss two different approaches to studying cultural change.
     5.   Is cosmopolitanism something you associate with modernity? Observe
          and give examples of ethnocentrism.
     6.   What in your mind is the most effective agent of socialisation for your
          generation? How do you think it was different before?
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                             81


    ARMILLAS, PEDRO. 1968. The concept of civilisation, in SILLS , DAVID. ed. The
       International Encyclopedia of Social Science. Free Press-Macmillan, New
    BERGER, P.L. 1963. Invitation to Sociology : A Humanistic Perspective. Penguin,
    FORGE, J.A.W. 1976. Learning to see in New Guinea, in MEYER, PETER. ed.
       Socialisation : The Approach from Social Anthropology.
    GEERTZ, CLIFFORD. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, New York.
    GIDDENS, ANTHONY. 2001. Sociology. Polity Press, Cambridge.
    Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU),          Unit 9, Agencies of
    Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Unit 8. Nature of
    KOTTAK, CONRAD P. 1994. Anthropology : The Exploration of Human Diversity,
       Sixth Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York.
    KRISHNA KUMAR. 1986. ‘Growing up Male’. in Seminar. No. 318, February.
    LARKIN, BRIAN. 2002. ‘Indian Films and Nigeria Lovers, Media and the Creation
        of Parallel Modernities’ in ed. XAVIER, JONATHAN. and ROSALDO, RENATO. The
        Anthropology of Globalisation : A Reader, Blackwell, Malden.
    MALINOWSKI, BRONISLAW. 1931. ‘Culture’, in SELIGMAN. ed. Encyclopedia of the
       Social Sciences. Macmillan, New York.
    MUKHERJI, D.P. 1948/1979. Sociology of Indian Culture. Rawat Publications,
    T YLOR , E DWARD B. 1871/1958. Primitive Culture : Researches onto the
        Development of Mythology, Philosophy Religion, Art and Custom. 2 volumes.
        Volume 1: Origins of Culture. Volume 2. Religion in Primitive Culture,
        Gloucester, Mass., Smith.
    VOGT, EVON Z. 1968. ‘Culture Change’, in SILLS, DAVID. ed. The International
       Encyclopedia of Social Science. Free Press-Macmillan, New York.
    WILLIAMS, RAYMOND. 1976. Keywords : A Vocabulary of Culture and Society.
        Fontana/Croom Helm, London.
82                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                       CHAPTER 5

         DOING          SOCIOLOGY        : RESEARCH METHODS

                                                  As you have seen in the previous
                                              chapters, sociology is deeply interested
INTROUDUCTION                                 in the lived experience of people. For
                                              example, when studying social
Have you ever wondered why a subject
                                              phenomena like friendship or religion
like sociology is called a social science?
                                              or bargaining in markets, the
More than any other discipline,
sociology deals with things that are          sociologist wants to know not only
already familiar to most people. All of       what is observable by the bystander,
us live in society, and we already know       but also the opinions and feelings of
a lot about the subject matter of             the people involved. Sociologists try to
sociology — social groups, institutions,      adopt the point of view of the people
norms, relationships and so on —              they study, to see the world through
through our own experience. It seems          their eyes. What does friendship mean
fair, then, to ask what makes the             to people in different cultures? What
sociologist different from other              does a religious person think he or she
members of society. Why should she            is doing when performing a particular
or he be called a social scientist?           ritual? How do shopkeeper and
    As with all scientific disciplines, the   customer interpret each other’s words
crucial element here is method, or the        and gestures while bargaining for a
procedures through which knowledge
                                              better price? The answers to such
is gathered. For in the final analysis,
                                              questions are clearly part of the lived
sociologists can claim to be different
                                              experience of actors involved, and they
from lay persons not because of how
much they know or what they know,             are of great interest to sociology. This
but because of how they acquire their         need to understand both the outsider’s
knowledge. This is one reason for the         and the insider’s points of view is
special importance of method in               another reason why method is
sociology.                                    particularly important in sociology.
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                   83

                    II                        geologist and the botanist are not
                                              themselves part of the world they study,
SOME METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES                    i.e., the natural world of rocks or of
Although it is often used simply as a         plants. By contrast, social scientists
substitute for (or synonym of) ‘method’,      study the world in which they
the word ‘methodology’ actually refers        themselves live — the social world of
to the study of method. Methodological        human relations. This creates special
issues or questions are thus about the        problems for objectivity in a social
general problems of scientific know-          science like sociology.
ledge-gathering that go beyond any one             First of all, there is the obvious
particular method, technique or               problem of bias. Because sociologists
procedure. We begin by looking at the         are also members of society, they will
ways in which sociologists try to             also have all the normal likes and
produce knowledge that can claim to           dislikes that people have. A sociologist
be scientific.                                studying family relations will herself
                                              be a member of a family, and her
Objectivity and Subjectivity                  experiences are likely to influence her.
in Sociology                                  Even when the sociologist has no direct
In everyday language, the word                personal experience of the group she
‘objective’ means unbiased, neutral, or       or he is studying, there is still the
based on facts alone. In order to be          possibility of being affected by
objective about something, we must            the values and prejudices of one’s
ignore our own feelings or attitudes          own social context. For example,
about that thing. On the other hand,          when studying a caste or religious
the word ‘subjective’ means something         community other than her own, the
that is based on individual values and        sociologist may be influenced by the
preferences. As you will have learnt          attitudes about that community
already, all science is expected to be        prevalent in her own past or present
‘objective’, to produce unbiased              social environment. How do sociologists
knowledge based solely on facts. But          guard against these dangers?
this is much harder to do in the social            One method is to rigorously and
sciences than in the natural sciences.        continuously examine one’s own ideas
    For example, when a geologist             and feelings about the subject of
studies rocks, or a botanist studies          research. More generally, the sociologist
plants, they must be careful not to let       tries to take an outsider’s perspective
their personal biases or preferences          on her/his own work — she tries to
affect their work. They must report the       look at herself and her research
facts as they are; they must not (for         through the eyes of others. This
example) let their liking for a particular    technique is called ‘self-reflexivity’, or
scientific theory or theorist influence the   sometimes just ‘reflexivity’. The
results of their research. However, the       sociologist constantly subjects her own
84                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

attitudes and opinions to self-                   (You could go back to Chapter 1, and
examination. She or he tries to                   re-read the section (pp. 8-9) which talks
consciously adopt the point of view of            about the difference between common
others, specially those who are the               sense and sociology).
subjects of her research.                              Another problem with objectivity in
     One of the practical aspects of              sociology is the fact that, generally,
reflexivity is the importance of carefully        there are many versions of the ‘truth’
documenting whatever one is doing.                in the social world. Things look different
Part of the claims to superiority                 from different vantage points, and so
of research methods lies in the                   the social world typically involves many
documentation of all procedures and               competing versions or interpretations
the formal citing of all sources of               of reality. For example, a shopkeeper
evidence. This ensures that others can            and a customer may have very different
retrace the steps we have taken to arrive         ideas about what is a ‘good’ price, a
at a particular conclusion, and see for           young person and an aged person may
themselves if we are right. It also helps         have very different notions of ‘good
us to check and re-check our own                  food’, and so on. There is no simple
thinking or line of argument.                     way of judging which particular
     But however self-reflexive the               interpretation is true or more correct,
sociologist tries to be, there is always          and often it is unhelpful to think in
the possibility of unconscious bias. To           these terms. In fact, sociology tries not
deal with this possibility, sociologists          to judge in this way because it is really
explicitly mention those features of their        interested in what people think, and
own social background that might be               why they think what they think.
relevant as a possible source of bias on               A further complication arises from
the topic being researched. This alerts           the presence of multiple points of view
readers to the possibility of bias and            in the social sciences themselves. Like
allows them to mentally ‘compensate’              its sister social sciences, sociology too
for it when reading the research study.           is a ‘multi-paradigmatic’ science. This

                                          Activity 1

     Can you observe yourself as you observe others? Write a short description of
     yourself as seen from the perspective of : (i) your best friend; (ii) your rival; (iii)
     your teacher. You must imagine yourself to be these people and think about
     yourself from their point of view. Remember to describe yourself in the third
     person — as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’. Afterwards, you can share similar
     descriptions written by your classmates. Discuss each others’ descriptions —
      how accurate or interesting do you find them? Are there any surprising things
     in these descriptions?
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                    85

means that competing and mutually             families are still ‘joint families’, then a
incompatible schools of thought               census or survey are the best methods.
coexist within the discipline (Recall the     However, if one wishes to compare the
discussion in Chapter 2 about                 status of women in joint and nuclear
conflicting theories of society).             families, then interviews, case studies
    All this makes objectivity a very         or participant observation may all be
difficult and complicated thing in            appropriate methods.
sociology. In fact, the old notion of             There are different ways of
objectivity is widely considered to be an     classifying or categorising the various
outdated perspective. Social scientists       methods commonly used by
no longer believe that the traditional        sociologists. It is conventional, for
notion of an ‘objective, disinterested’       example, to distinguish between
social science is attainable; in fact such    quantitative and qualitative methods:
an ideal can actually be misleading.          the former deal in countable or
This does not mean that there is no           measurable variables (proportions,
useful knowledge to be obtained via           averages, and the like) while the latter
sociology, or that objectivity is a useless   deal with more abstract and hard to
concept. It means that objectivity has        measure phenomena like attitudes,
to be thought of as the goal of a             emotions and so on. A related
continuous, ongoing process rather            distinction is between methods that
than an already achieved end result.          study observable behaviour and those
                                              that study non-observable meanings,
Multiple Methods and Choice of                values and other interpretational things.
Methods                                           Another way of classifying methods
Since there are multiple truths and           is to distinguish the ones that rely on
multiple perspectives in sociology, it is     ‘secondary’ or already existing data (in
hardly surprising that there are also         the form of documents or other records
multiple methods. There is no single          and artefacts) from those that are
unique road to sociological truth. Of         designed to produce fresh or ‘primary’
course, different methods are more or         data. Thus historical methods typically
less suited to tackle different types of      rely on secondary material found in
research questions. Moreover, every           archives, while interviews generate
method has its own strengths and              primary data, and so on.
weaknesses. It is thus futile to argue            Yet another way of categorisation is
about the superiority or inferiority of       to separate ‘micro’ from ‘macro’
different methods. It is more important       methods. The former are designed to
to ask if the method chosen is the            work in small intimate settings usually
appropriate one for answering the             with a single researcher; thus the
question that is being asked.                 interview and participant observation
    For example, if one is interested in      are thought of as micro methods.
finding out whether most Indian               Macro methods are those that are able
86                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

to tackle large scale research involving     Participant Observation
large numbers of respondents and
                                             Popular in sociology and specially
investigators. Survey research is the most
                                             social anthropology, participant
common example of a ‘macro’ method,
                                             observation refers to a particular
although some historical methods can         method by which the sociologist learns
also tackle macro phenomena.                 about the society, culture and people
     Whatever the mode of classification,    that he or she is studying (Recall the
it is important to remember that it is a     discussion on sociology and social
matter of convention. The dividing line      anthropology from Chapter 1).
between different kinds of methods               This method is different from
need not be very sharp. It is often          others in many ways. Unlike other
possible to convert one kind of method       methods of primary data collection like
into another, or to supplement one with      surveys or interviews, field work
another.                                     involves a long period of interaction
     The choice of method is usually         with the subjects of research.
dictated by the nature of the research       Typically, the sociologist or social
question being addressed, by the             anthropologist         spends       many
preferences of the researcher, and by        months — usually about a year or
the constraints of time and/or               sometimes more — living among the
resources. The recent trend in social        people being studied as one of them.
science is to advocate the use of            As a non-native ‘outsider’, the
multiple methods to bear on the same         anthropologist is supposed to
research problem from different              immerse himself/herself in the culture
vantage points. This is sometimes            of the ‘natives’ — by learning their
referred to as ‘triangulation’, that is, a   language and participating intimately
process of reiterating or pinpointing        in their everyday life — in an effort to
something from different directions. In      acquire all the explicit and implicit
this way, different methods can be           knowledge and skills of the ‘insider’.
used to complement each other to             Although the sociologist or anthro-
produce a much better result than            pologist usually has specific areas of
what might have been possible with           interest, the overall goal of ‘participant
each method by itself.                       observation’ field work is to learn
     Because the methods most                about the ‘whole way of life’ of a
distinctive of sociology are those that      community. Indeed the model is that
are designed to produce ‘primary’ data,      of the child: sociologists and
these are the ones stressed here. Even       anthropologists are supposed to
within the category of ‘field work’ based    learn everything about their adoptive
methods, we shall introduce you to           communities in just the holistic way that
only the most prominent, namely the          small children learn about the world.
survey, interview and participant                Participant observation is often
observation.                                 called ‘field work’. The term originated
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                 87

in the natural sciences, specially        results obtained from first hand work
those like botany, zoology, geology       helped cement this growing prejudice
etc. In these disciplines, scientists     (See Box on next page).
could not only work in the laboratory,        Since the 1920s, participant
they had to go out into ‘the field’ to    observation or field work has been
learn about their subjects (like rocks,   considered an integral part of social
insects or plants).                       anthropological training and the
                                          principal method through which
                  III                     knowledge is produced. Almost all of
                                          the influential scholars in the discipline
FIELD WORK IN SOCIAL                      have done such field work — in fact,
A NTHROPOLOGY                             many communities or geographical
Field work as a rigorous scientific       places have become famous in the
method played a major role in             discipline because of their association
establishing anthropology as a social     with classic instances of field work.
science. The early anthropologists were       What did the social anthropologist
amateur enthusiasts interested in         actually do when doing fieldwork?
exotic primitive cultures. They were      Usually, he or she began by doing a
‘armchair scholars’ who collected and     census of the community they were
organised information about distant       studying. This involved making a
communities (which they had never         detailed list of all the people who lived
themselves visited) available from the    in a community, including information
reports and descriptions written by       such as their sex, age group and family.
travellers, missionaries, colonial        This could be accompanied by an
administrators, soldiers and other ‘men   attempt to map the physical layout of
on the spot’. For example, James          the village or settlement, including the
Frazer’s famous book, The Golden          location of houses and other socially
Bough, which inspired many early          relevant sites. One of the important
anthropologists was based entirely on     techniques anthropologists use,
such second hand accounts, as was the     specially in the beginning stages of
work of Emile Durkheim on primitive       their field work is to construct a
religion. Towards the end of the 19th     genealogy of the community. This may
and in the first decade of the 20th       be based on the information obtained
century many early anthropologists,       in the census, but extends much further
some of whom were natural scientists      since it involves creating a family tree for
by profession, began to carry out         individual members, and extending the
systematic surveys and first hand         family tree as far back as possible. For
observation of tribal languages,          example, the head of a particular
customs, rituals and beliefs. Reliance    household or family would be asked
on second hand accounts began to be       about his relatives — brothers, sisters,
thought of as unscholarly, and the good   cousins — in his or her own generation;
88                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

               Bronislaw Malinowski and the ‘Invention’ of Field Work
     Although he was not the first to use this method — different versions of it had
     been tried out all over the world by other scholars — Bronislaw Malinowski, a
     Polish anthropologist settled in Britain, is widely believed to have established
     field work as the distinctive method of social anthropology. In 1914, when the
     First World War broke out in Europe, Malinowski was visiting Australia, which
     was a part of the British Empire at that time. Because Poland was annexed by
     Germany in the war, it was declared an enemy country by Britain, and
     Malinowski technically became an ‘enemy alien’ because of his Polish nationality.
     He was, of course, a respected professor at the London School of Economics and
     was on very good terms with the British and Australian authorities. But since
     he was technically an enemy alien, the law required that he be “interned” or
     confined to a specific place.
          Malinowski had anyway wanted to visit several places in Australia and the
     islands of the South Pacific for his anthropological research, so he requested
     the authorities to allow him to serve his internment in the Trobriand Islands, a
     British-Australian possession in the South Pacific. This was agreed to — the
     Australian government even financed his trip and Malinowski spent a year
     and a half living in the Trobriand Islands. He lived in a tent in the native villages,
     learnt the local language, and interacted closely with the ‘natives’ in an effort to
     learn about their culture. He maintained careful and detailed records of his
     observations and also kept a daily diary. He later wrote books on Trobriand
     culture based on these field notes and diaries; these books quickly became
     famous and are considered classics even today.
          Even before his Trobriand experience, Malinowski had been converted to
     the belief that the future of anthropology lay in direct and unmediated interaction
     between the anthropologist and the native culture. He was convinced that the
     discipline would not progress beyond the status of an intellectual hobby unless
     its practitioners engaged themselves in systematic first-hand observation
     preceded by intensive language learning. This observation had to be done in
     context — that is, the anthropologist had to live among the native people and
     observe life as it happened rather than interviewing individual natives
     summoned to the town or outpost for this purpose. The use of interpreters was
     also to be avoided — it was only when the anthropologist could interact directly
     with the natives that a true and authentic account of their culture could be
          His influential position at the London School of Economics and the reputation
     of his work in the Trobriand enabled Malinowski to campaign for the
     institutionalisation of field work as a mandatory part of the training imparted to
     students of anthropology. It also helped the discipline to gain acceptance as a
     rigorous science worthy of scholarly respect.
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                   89

then about his/her parents                  would be like a child, always asking
generations — father, mother, their         why, what and so on. In doing this,
brothers and sisters etc. — then about      the anthropologist usually depends on
the grandparents and their brothers,        one or two people for most of the
sisters and so on. This would be done       information. Such people are called
for as many generations as the person       ‘informants’ or ‘principal informants’; in
could remember. The information             the early days the term native
obtained from one person would              informant was also used. Informants
be cross-checked by asking other            act as the anthropologist’s teachers and
relatives the same questions, and after     are crucially important actors in the
confirmation, a very detailed family tree   whole process of anthropological
could be drawn up. This exercise helped     research. Equally important are the
the social anthropologist to understand     detailed field notes that the
the kinship system of the community —       anthropologist keeps during field work;
what kinds of roles different relatives     these notes have to written up every day
played in a person’s life and how these     without fail, and can be supplemented
relations were maintained.                  by, or take the form of, a daily diary.
    A genealogy would help acquaint
the anthropologist with the structure
of the community and in a practical                        Activity 2
sense would enable him or her to meet
                                                 Some famous instances of field
with people and become familiar with
the way the community lives. Building            work include the following:
on this base, the anthropologist would           Radcliffe-Brown        on    the
constantly be learning the language of           Andaman Nicobar islands;
the community. He or she would also              Evans Pritchard on the Nuer
be observing life in the community and           in the Sudan; Franz Boas on
making detailed notes in which the               various Native American tribes
significant aspects of community life            in the USA; Margaret Mead on
would be described. Festivals, religious         Samoa; Clifford Geertz on Bali
or other collective events, modes of             etc.
earning a living, family relations, modes             Locate these places on a
of child rearing — these are examples            map of the world. What do
of the kinds of topics that                      these places have in common?
anthropologists would be specially               What would it have been like
interested in. Learning about these              for an anthropologist to live in
institutions and practices requires the
                                                 these places in a ‘strange’
anthropologist to ask endless questions
                                                 culture? What could be some
about things that are taken for granted
                                                 of the difficulties they faced?
by members of the community. This is
the sense in which the anthropologist
90                                                                INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                       IV                        of one’s time with the members of the
FIELD WORK       IN   SOCIOLOGY                      For example, William Foote Whyte,
More or less the same techniques are             an American sociologist, did his field
used by sociologists when they do                work among members of a street
field work. Sociological field work              ‘gang’ in an Italian-American slum in
differs not so much in its content —             a large city and wrote a famous book
what is done during fieldwork — but              Street Corner Society. He lived in the
in its context — where it is done —              area for three and half years ‘hanging
and in the distribution of emphasis              out’ — just spending time together —
across different areas or topics of               with members of the gang or group,
research. Thus, a sociologist would              who were mostly poor unemployed
also live among a community and                  youth, the first American-born
attempt to become an ‘insider’.                  generation in a community of
However, unlike the anthropologist               immigrants. While this example of
who typically went to a remote tribal            sociological field work is very close to
community to do field work,                      anthropological field work, there are
sociologists did their field work                important differences (See Box). But
among all sorts of communities.                  sociological field work need not only
Moreover, sociological field work did            be this kind — it can take different
not necessarily involve ‘living in’,             forms, as in the work of Michael
although it did involve spending most            Burawoy, for example, another

                       Field Work in Sociology – Some Difficulties

     Compared to the anthropologist who studies a primitive tribe in a remote part of
     the world, the student of a modern American community faces distinctly different
     problems. In the first place, he is dealing with a literate people. It is certain
     that some of these people, and perhaps many of them, will read his research
     report. If he disguises the name of the district as I have done, many outsiders
     apparently will not discover where the study was actually located... The people
     in the district, of course, know it is about them, and even the changed names do
     not disguise the individuals for them. They remember the researcher and know
     the people with whom he associated and know enough about the various groups
     to place the individuals with little chance of error.
         In such a situation the researcher carries a heavy responsibility. He would
     like his book to be of some help to the people of the district; at least, he wants to
     take steps to minimise the chances of it doing any harm, fully recognising the
     possibility that certain individuals may suffer through the publication.
                                    — William Foote Whyte, Street Corner Society, p.342
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                   91

American sociologist who worked for          modern aspects of colonised societies
several months as a machinist in a           rather than their progressive or positive
Chicago factory and wrote about the          side. So, studying villages and villagers
experience of work from the perspective      seemed much more acceptable and
of workers.                                  worthwhile for a sociologist than
    In Indian sociology, an important        studying tribes only. Questions were
way in which fieldwork methods have          also being asked about the links
been used is in village studies. In the      between early anthropology and
1950s, many anthropologists and              colonialism. After all, the classic
sociologists, both Indian and foreign        instances of field work like that of
began working on village life and            Malinowski, Evans Pritchard and
society. The village acted as the            countless others were made possible
equivalent of the tribal community           by the fact that the places and
studied by the earlier anthropologists.      people where field work was done were
It was also a ‘bounded community’,           part of colonial empires ruled by the
and was small enough to be studied by        countries from where the Western
a single person — that is, the sociologist   anthropologists came.
could get to know almost everyone in             However,       more     than      the
the village, and observe life there.         methodological reasons, village studies
Moreover, anthropology was not very          were important because they provided
popular with nationalists in colonial        Indian sociology with a subject that was
India because of its excessive concern       of great interest in newly independent
with the primitive. Many educated            India. The government was interested
Indians felt that disciplines like           in developing rural India. The national
anthropology carried a colonial bias         movement and specially Mahatma
because they emphasised the non-             Gandhi had been actively involved in

                                      Activity 3
  If you live in a village: Try to describe your village to someone who has never
  been there. What would be the main features of your life in the village that you
  would want to emphasise? You must have seen villages as they are shown in
  films or on television. What do you think of these villages, and how do they
  differ from yours? Think also of the cities you have seen which are shown in
  film or on television: would you want to live in them? Give reasons for your
  If you live in a town or a city: Try to describe your neighbourhood to someone
  who has never been there. What would be the main features of your life in the
  neighbourhood that you would want to emphasise? How does your
  neighbourhood differ from (or resemble) city neighbourhoods as shown in film
  or on television? You must have seen villages being shown in film or on television:
  would you want to live in them? Give reasons for your answer.
92                                                               INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

what were called ‘village uplift’                a very important part of Indian
programmes. And even urban                       sociology, and field work methods were
educated Indians were very interested            very well suited for studying village
in village life because most of them             society.
retained some family and recent
historical links to the villages. Above          Some Limitations of Participant
all, the villages were the places where          Observation
most Indians lived (and still do). For           You have already seen what participant
these reasons village studies became             observation can do — its main strength

                        Different Styles of Doing Village Studies
     Village studies became the main preoccupation of Indian sociology during the
     1950s and 1960s. But long before this time, a very well known village study,
     Behind Mud Walls, was written by William and Charlotte Wiser, a missionary
     couple who lived for five years in a village in Uttar Pradesh. The Wisers’ book
     emerged as a by-product of their missionary work, although William Wiser was
     trained as a sociologist and had earlier written an academic book on the jajmani
          The village studies of the 1950s grew out of a very different context and were
     done in many different ways. The classical social anthropological style was
     prominent, with the village substituting for the ‘tribe’ or ‘bounded community’.
     Perhaps the best known example of this kind of field work is reported in M.N.
     Srinivas’s famous book, The Remembered Village. Srinivas spent a year in a
     village near Mysore that he named Rampura. The title of his book refers to the
     fact that Srinivas’s field notes were destroyed in a fire, and he had to write
     about the village from memory.
          Another famous village study of the 1950s was S.C. Dube’s Indian Village.
     As a social anthropologist at Osmania University, Dube was part of a multi-
     disciplinary team — including the departments of agricultural sciences,
     economics, veterinary sciences and medicine — that studied a village called
     Shamirpet near Secunderabad. This large collective project was meant not only
     to study the village but also to develop it. In fact, Shamirpet was meant to be a
     sort of laboratory where experiments in designing rural development programmes
     could be carried out.
          Yet another style of doing village studies is seen in the Cornell Village Study
     Project of the 1950s. Initiated by Cornell University, the project brought together
     a group of American social anthropologists, psychologists and linguists to study
     several villages in the same region of India, namely eastern Uttar Pradesh. This
     was an ambitious academic project to do multi-disciplinary studies of village
     society and culture. Some Indian scholars were also involved with this project,
     which helped train many Americans who later became well known scholars of
     Indian society.
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                 93

is that it provides a very rich and         is really very common in the larger
detailed picture of life from the           community (i.e., in other villages, in the
perspective of the ‘insider’. It is this    region, or in the country) or whether it
insider perspective that is the greatest    is exceptional. This is probably the
return on the substantial investment of     biggest disadvantage of field work.
time and effort that field work demands.        Another important limitation of the
Most other research methods cannot          field work method is that we are never
claim to have a detailed knowledge of       sure whether it is the voice of the
the ‘field’ over a fairly long period of    anthropologist we are hearing or that
time — they are usually based on a          of the people being studied. Of course,
short and quick field visit. Field work     the aim is to represent the views of the
allows for the correction of initial        people being studied, but it is always
impressions, which may often be             possible that the anthropologist —
mistaken or biased. It also permits the     whether consciously or unconsci-
researcher to track changes in the          ously — is selecting what will be written
subject of interest, and also to see the    down in his/her notes, and how it will
impact of different situations or           be presented to the readers of his/her
contexts. For example, different aspects    books or articles. Because there is no
of social structure or culture may be       other version available to us except that
brought out in a good harvest year and      of the anthropologist, there is always
in a bad harvest year; people could         the chance of bias or error. However,
behave differently when employed or         this risk is present in most research
unemployed, and so on. Because she          methods.
or he spends a long period in ‘full time’       More generally, field work methods
engagement with the field, a participant    are criticised because of the one-sided
observer can avoid many of the errors       relationship they are based on. The
or biases that surveys, questionnaires      anthropologist/sociologist asks the
or short term observation are inevitably    questions and presents the answers
subject to.                                 and speaks for ‘the people’. To counter
    But like all research methods, field    this, some scholars have suggested are
work also has some weaknesses —             more ‘dialogic’ formats — that is, ways
otherwise all social scientists would be    of presenting field work results where
using this method alone!                    the respondents and people can be
    Field work by its very nature           more directly involved. In concrete
involves very long drawn out and            terms, this involves translating the
intensive research usually by a single      work of the scholar into the language
scholar working alone. As such, it can      of the community, and asking their
only cover a very small part of the         opinion of it, and recording their
world — generally a single village or       responses. As the social, economic and
small community. We can never be sure       political distance or gap between the
whether what the anthropologist or          researcher and the researched becomes
sociologist observed during fieldwork       less wide, there is greater and greater
94                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

chance that the scholar’s version will be    ‘investigators’ or ‘research assistants’).
questioned, qualified, or corrected by       The survey questions may be asked
the people themselves. This will surely      and answered in various forms. Often,
make sociological research more              they are asked orally during personal
controversial and much more difficult.       visits by the investigator, and
But in the long run this can only be a       sometimes through telephone
good thing because it will help to take      conversations. Responses may also be
social science forward and make it more      sought in writing, to ‘questionnaires’
democratic, thus allowing many more          brought by investigators or sent
people to participate in producing and       through the post. Finally, with the
critically engaging with ‘knowledge’.        increasing presence of computers and
                                             telecommunication technology, these
                                             days it is also possible for surveys to
The survey is probably the best known        be conducted electronically. In this
sociological method, one that is now so      format, the respondent receives and
much a part of modern public life that       responds to questions by email, the
it has become commonplace. Today it          Internet, or similar electronic medium.
is used all over the world in all sorts of       The survey’s main advantage as a
contexts going well beyond the               social scientific method is that it allows
concerns of sociology alone. In India,       us to generalise results for a large
too, we have seen the increasing use of      population while actually studying
surveys for various non-academic             only a small portion of this population.
purposes, including the prediction of        Thus a survey makes it possible to
election results, the devising of            study large populations with a
marketing strategies for selling             manageable investment of time, effort
products, and for eliciting popular
                                             and money. That is why it is such a
opinions on a wide variety of subjects.
                                             popular method in the social sciences
    As the word itself suggests, a survey
                                             and other fields.
is an attempt to provide an overview. It
                                                 The sample survey is able to provide
is a comprehensive or wide-ranging
                                             a generalisable result despite being
perspective on some subject based on
                                             selective by taking advantage of the
information obtained from a carefully
chosen representative set of people.         discoveries of a branch of statistics
Such people are usually referred to as       called sampling theory. The key
‘respondents’ — they respond to the          element enabling this ‘shortcut’ is the
questions asked of them by the               representativeness of the sample. How
researchers. Survey research is usually      do we go about selecting a representative
done by large teams consisting of those      sample from a given population?
who plan and design the study (the           Broadly speaking, the sample selection
researchers) and their associates and        process depends on two main
assistants (the latter are called            principles.
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                     95

           The Census and the National Sample Survey Organisation
  The population Census of India conducted every ten years is the largest such
  exercise in the world. (China, the only country with a larger population, does
  not conduct a regular census.) It involves literally lakhs of investigators and a
  stupendous amount of logistical organisation not to speak of the huge
  expenditure incurred by the Government of India. However, in return for this
  outlay, we get a genuinely comprehensive survey in which every household in
  India and every one of the more than one billion people living in India get included.
  Obviously, it is not possible to conduct such a gigantic survey very often; in fact,
  many developed countries no longer conduct a full census; instead they depend
  on sample surveys for their population data, because such surveys have been
  found to be very accurate. In India, the National Sample Survey Organisation
  (NSSO) conducts sample surveys every year on the levels of poverty and
  unemployment (and other subjects). Every five years it also conducts a bigger
  survey involving about 1.2 lakh households covering more than 6 lakh persons
  all over India. In absolute terms this is considered a large sample, and the
  NSSO surveys are among the biggest regularly conducted surveys in the world.
  However, since the total population of India is over 100 crore persons, you can
  see that the five-yearly survey of the NSSO involves a sample that is only about
  0.06 per cent or just over one twentieth of one per cent — of the Indian population!
  But because it is scientifically selected to be representative of the total
  population, the NSSO sample is able to estimate population characteristics
  despite being based on such a tiny proportion.

     The first principle is that all the      one state, we have to allow for the fact
relevant sub-groups in the population         that this population lives in villages of
should be recognised and represented          different sizes. In the same way, the
in the sample. Most large populations         population of a single village may be
are not homogenous — they belong to           stratified by class, caste, gender, age,
distinct sub-categories. This is called       religion or other criteria. In short, the
stratification (Note that this is a           notion of stratification tells us that the
statistical notion of stratification which    representativeness of a sample depends
is different from the sociological            on its being able to reflect the
concept of stratification that you have       characteristics of all the relevant strata
studied in Chapter 4). For example,           in a given population. Which kinds of
when considering the population of            strata are considered relevant depends
India, we must take account of the fact       on the specific objectives of the research
that this population is divided into rural    study. For example, when doing
and urban sectors which are very              research on attitudes towards religion,
dif ferent from each other. When              it would be important to include
considering the rural population of any       members of all religions. When
96                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

researching attitudes towards trade          again likely to be biased. The point is
unions it would be important to              that after the relevant strata in a
consider workers, managers and               population are identified, the actual
industrialists, and so on.                   choosing of sample households or
     The second principle of sample          respondents should be a matter of pure
selection is that the actual unit — i.e.,    chance. This can be ensured in various
person or village or household —             ways. Different techniques are used to
should be based purely on chance. This       achieve this, the common ones being
is referred to as randomisation, which       drawing of lots (or lottery), rolling of
itself depends on the concept of             dice, the use of random number tables
probability. You may have come across        specially produced for this purpose,
the idea of probability in mathematics       and more recently, random numbers
course. Probability refers to the chance     generated by calculators or computers.
(or the odds) of an event happening. For         To understand how a survey
example, when we toss a coin, it can         sample is actually selected, let us take
fall with the ‘head’ side up or the ‘tail’   a concrete example. Suppose we wish
side up. With normal coins, the              to examine the hypothesis that living
chance — or probability — of heads or        in smaller, more intimate communities
tails appearing is exactly the same, that    produces greater intercommunity
is 50 per cent each. Which of the two        harmony than living in larger, more
events actually happens when you toss        impersonal communities. For the sake
the coin — i.e., whether it comes up         of simplicity, let us suppose we are
heads or tails — depends purely on           interested only in the rural sector of a
chance and nothing else. Events like         single state in India. The simplest
this are called random events.               possible sample selection process
     We use the same idea in selecting a     would begin with a list of all villages in
sample. We try to ensure that the actual     the state along with their population
person or household or village chosen        (Such a list could be obtained from the
to be part of the sample is chosen           census data). Then we would decide on
purely by chance and nothing else.           the criteria for defining ‘small’ and
Thus, being chosen in the sample is a        ‘large’ villages. From the original list of
matter of luck, like winning a lottery.      villages we now eliminate all the
It is only if this is true that the sample   ‘medium’ villages, i.e., those that are
will be a representative sample. If a        neither small nor big. Now we have a
survey team chooses only villages that       revised list stratified by size of village.
are near the main highway in their           Given our research question, we want
sample, then the sample is not a             to give equal weightage to each of the
random or chance sample but a biased         strata, i.e., small and big villages, so we
one. Similarly, if we choose mostly          decide to select 10 villages from each.
middle class households, or house-           To do this, we number the list of small
holds that we know, then the sample is       and big villages, and randomly select
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                   97

10 numbers from each list by drawing         because we are using a small sample
lots. We now have our sample,                to stand for a large population. When
consisting of 10 big and 10 small            reporting the results of sample surveys,
villages from the state, and we can          researchers must specify the size and
proceed to study those villages to see if    design of their sample and the margin
our initial hypothesis was true or false.    of error.
    Of course, this is an extremely              The main strength of the survey
simple design; actual research studies       method is that it is able to provide a
usually involve more complicated             broad overview representative of a large
designs with the sample selection            population with relatively small outlays
process being divided into many stages       of time and money. The bigger the
and incorporating many strata. But the       sample the more chance it has of being
basic principles remain the same — a         truly representative; the extreme case
small sample is carefully selected such      here is that of the census, which
that it is able to represent or stand for    includes the entire population. In
the entire population. Then the sample       practice, sample sizes may vary from
is studied and the results obtained for      30-40 to many thousands. (See the box
it are generalised to the entire             on the National Sample Survey). It is
population. The statistical properties       not only the size of the sample that
of a scientifically selected sample          matters; its mode of selection is even
ensure that the characteristics of the       more important. Of course, decisions
sample will closely resemble the             on sample selection can often be based
characteristics of the population it is      on practical considerations.
drawn from. There may be small                   In situations where a census is not
differences, but the chance of such          feasible the survey becomes the only
deviations occuring can be specified.        available means of studying the
This is known as the margin of error,        population as a whole. The unique
or sampling error. It arises not due to      advantage of the survey is that it
any mistakes made by researchers but         provides an aggregated picture, that is,

                                     Activity 4
  Discuss among yourselves some of the surveys you have come across. These
  may be election surveys, or other small surveys by newspapers or television
  channels. When the results of the survey were reported, was the margin of
  error also mentioned? Were you told about the size of the sample and how it was
  selected? You must always be suspicious of surveys where these aspects of the
  research method are not clearly specified, because without them, it is not possible
  to evaluate the findings. Survey methods are often misused in the popular
  media: big claims are made on the basis of biased and unrepresentative sample.
  You could discuss some specific surveys you have come across from this point of
98                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                        Activity 5

     How would you go about selecting a representative sample for a survey of all the
     students in your school if the objective of the survey were to answer the following
         (i) Do students with many brothers and sisters do better or worse in studies
              compared to those with only one brother or sister (or none)?
        (ii) What is the most popular break-time activity for students in the primary
              school (Classes I-V), middle school (Classes VI-VIII), secondary school
              (Classes IX-X) and senior secondary school (Classes XI-XII)?
        (iii) Is a student’s favourite subject likely to be the subject taught by the
              favourite teacher? Is there any difference between boys and girls in this
     (Note: Make different sample designs for each of these questions).

            Aggregate Statistics: the Alarming Decline in the Sex Ratio
     You have read about the sharp fall in the sex ratio in Chapter 3. In recent
     decades, fewer and fewer girls are being born relative to the number of boys,
     and the problem has reached worrying levels in states such as Punjab, Haryana,
     Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.
         The (juvenile, or child) sex ratio is expressed as the number of girls per
     1,000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years. This ratio has been falling steadily
     over the decades both for India as a whole and for many states. Here are some
     of the average juvenile sex ratios for India and selected states as recorded in the
     Census of 1991 and 2000.
               Number of girls per 1,000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years
                                           1991       2001
                                 India      945        927
                               Punjab       875        793
                             Haryana        879        820
                                Delhi       915        865
                              Gujarat       928        878
                  Himachal Pradesh          951        897
         The child sex ratio is an aggregate (or macro) variable that only becomes
     visible when you collate (or put together) statistics for large populations. We
     cannot tell by looking at individual families that there is such a severe problem.
     The relative proportion of boys and girls in any individual family could always
     be compensated by a different proportion in other families we have not looked
     at. It is only by using methods like a census or large scale survey that the
     overall ratio for the community as a whole can be calculated and the problem
     can be identified. Can you think of other social issues that can only be studied
     by surveys or censuses?
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                99

a picture based on a collectivity rather   sensitive kind cannot be asked, or if
than on single individuals taken           asked are likely to be answered
separately. Many social problems and       ‘safely’ rather than truthfully. These
issues become visible only at this         kinds of problems are sometimes
aggregative level — they cannot be         refered to as ‘non-sampling errors’,
identified at the more micro levels of     that is, errors due not to the sampling
investigation.                             process but to faults or shortcomings
    However, like all research methods,    of the research design or the manner
the survey also has its disadvantages.     in which it was implemented.
Although it offers the possibility of      Unfortunately, some of these errors are
wide coverage, this is at the cost of      difficult to foresee and guard against,
depth of coverage. It is usually not       so that it is possible for surveys to go
possible to get in-depth information       wrong and produce misleading or false
from respondents as part of a large        estimates of the characteristics of a
survey. Because of the large number        population. Ultimately, the most
of respondents, the time spent on each     important limitation of the survey is
must be limited. Moreover, since the       that, in order to be successful,
survey questionnaire is being taken        they must depend on a tightly
around to respondents by a relatively      structured inflexible questionnaire.
large number of investigators, it          Moreover, howsoever well designed the
becomes difficult to ensure that           questionnaire might be, its success
complicated questions or those             depends finally on the nature of the
requiring detailed prompting will be       interactions between investigators and
asked of all respondents in exactly the    respondents, and specially on the
same way. Differences in the way           goodwill and cooperation of the latter.
questions are asked or answers
recorded could introduce errors into       Interview
the survey. That is why the
questionnaire for a survey (sometimes      An interview is basically a guided
called a ‘survey instrument’) has to be    conversation between the researcher
designed very carefully — since it will    and the respondent. Although it has
be handled by persons other than the       few technicalities associated with it, the
researchers themselves, there is little    simplicity of the format can be
chance of corrections or modifications     deceptive because it actually takes a
in the course of its use.                  lot of practice and skill to become a
    Given that there is no long-term       good interviewer. The interview
relationship between investigator and      occupies the ground between a
respondent and hence no familiarity        structured questionnaire of the type
or trust, questions that can be asked      used in surveys, and the completely
in a survey have to be of the kind that    open-ended interactions typical
can be asked and answered between          of participant observation methods.
strangers. Questions of a personal or      Its chief advantage is the extreme
100                                                         INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

flexibility of the format. Questions can    after it is concluded? The introduction
be re-phrased or even stated differently;   of equipment like recorders and so on
the order of subjects or questions can      frequently makes the respondent
be changed according to the progress        uneasy and introduces a degree of
(or lack of progress) in the conver -       formality into the conversation. On the
sation; subjects that are producing         other hand, important information can
good material can be extended and           sometimes go unnoticed or not be
built upon others that provoke              recorded at all when other less
unfavourable reactions can be cut           comprehensive methods of record
short or postponed to a later occasion,     keeping are being employed.
and all this can be done during the         Sometimes the physical or social
course of the interview itself.             circum-stances in which the interview
     On the other hand, many of the         is being conducted determine the mode
disadvantages of the interview as a         of recording. The way in which the
research method are also related to its     interview is later written for publication
advantages. The very same flexibility       or as part of a research report can also
can also make the interview vulnerable      differ widely. Some researchers prefer
to changes of mood on the part of the       to edit the transcript and present a
respondent, or to lapses of                 ‘cleaned up’ continuous narrative;
concentration on the part of the            others wish to retain the flavour of the
interviewer. It is in this sense an         original conversation as much as
unstable and unpredictable format —         possible and therefore include all the
 it works very well when it works, and      asides and digressions as well.
fails miserably when it doesn’t.                The interview is often used along
     There are different styles of          with or as a supplement to other
interviewing and opinions and               methods, specially participant obser-
experiences differ as to their relative     vation and surveys. Long conversations
advantages. Some prefer a very loosely      with ‘key informants’ (the main
structured format, with only a check-       informant in a participant observation
list of topics rather than actual           study) can often provide a concentrated
questions; others like to have more         account that situates and clarifies the
structure, with specific questions to be    accompanying material. Similarly,
asked of all respondents. How the           intensive interviews can add depth and
interview is recorded can also differ       detail to the findings of a survey.
according to circumstances and              However, as a method, the interview is
preferences, ranging from actual video      dependent on personalised access and
or audio recording, detailed note taking    the degree of rapport or mutual trust
during the interview, or relying on         between the respondent and the
memory and writing up the interview         researcher.
DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS                                                  101


   Census : A comprehensive survey covering every single member of a
   Genealogy : An extended family tree outlining familial relations across
   Non-sampling Error : Errors in survey results due to mistakes in the design
   or application of methods.
   Population : In the statistical sense, the larger body (of persons, villages,
   households, etc.) from which a sample is drawn.
   Probability : The likelihood or odds of an event occuring (in the statistical
   Questionnaire : A written list of questions to be asked in a survey or
   Randomisation : Ensuring that an event (such as the selection of a
   particular item in the sample) depends purely on chance and nothing else.
   Reflexivity : The researcher’s ability to observe and analyse oneself.
   Sample : A subset or selection (usually small) drawn from and representing
   a larger population.
   Sampling Error : The unavoidable margin of error in the results of a survey
   because it is based on information from only a small sample rather than
   the entire population.
   Stratification : According to the the statistical sense, the subdivision of a
   population into distinct groups based on relevant criteria such as gender,
   location, religion, age etc.


     1.   Why is the question of a scientific method particularly important in
     2.   What are some of the reasons why ‘objectivity’ is more complicated in
          the social sciences, particularly disciplines like sociology?
     3.   How do sociologists try to deal with these difficulties and strive for
     4.   What is meant by ‘reflexivity’ and why is it important in sociology?
     5.   What are some of the things that ethnographers and sociologists do
          during participant observation?
102                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

       6.   What are the strengths and weaknesses of participant observation
            as a method?
       7.   What are the basic elements of the survey method? What is chief
            advantage of this method?
       8.   What are some of the criteria involved in selecting a representative
       9.   What are some of the weaknesses of the survey method?
      10.   Describe the main features of the interview as a research method.


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      BETEILLE, ANDRE and MADAN, T.N. ed. 1975. Encounter and experience: Personal
         Accounts of Fieldwork. Vikas Publishing House, Delhi.
      BURGESS, ROBER T G. ed. 1982. Field Research : A Sourcebook and Field Manual.
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      COSER, LEWIS. RHEA, A, B. STEFFAN, P.A. and NOCK, S.L. 1983. Introduction to
         Sociology. Harcourt Brace Johanovich, New York.
      SRINIVAS. M.N. SHAH, A.M. and RAMASWAMY, E.A. ed. 2002. The fieldworker and
          the Field : Problems and Challenges in Sociological Investigation. 2nd
          Edition. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

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