The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition
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The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

Social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key roles social values play in the economy and economic life. This second edition of the Elgar Companion to Social Economics revises all chapters from the first edition, and adds important new chapters to reflect the expansion and development of social economics. The expert contributions explain a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics in the field, mapping out possible directions of future social economic research. Social economics treats the economy and economics as embedded in a web of social and ethical relationships. It considers economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom, and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. This book will be a leading resource and guide to social economics for many years to come.
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Chapter 12: Caste and diversity in India

Ashwini Deshpande


Insights into the Indian caste system, in its changing manifestations from the ancient through the colonial to the contemporary, come primarily from the vast pool of research that has been undertaken by sociologists, historians, political scientists – almost all social scientists except economists. Faced with analyzing persistent underdevelopment in India, the primary focus of economic research on inequality and poverty had been on the overall trends. However, inter-group disparity has now come to the fore in shaping the contours of research on inequality to gain deeper insights into the pattern of stratification. Inter-group disparity in India is multifaceted: religion, region/language, gender and class are all very important descriptors of inter-group disparity. I focus on caste because of the enduring relevance of caste categories in contemporary India, and due to the presence of caste-based affirmative action policies enshrined in the constitution of independent India. Also, while caste is conventionally associated with Hinduism, all major religions in India exhibit features of caste divisions. Caste in English translates into two distinct concepts – the varna and the jati. Briefly, the varna system divided the ancient Hindu society into initially four, later five, distinct varna (castes) that are mutually exclusive, hereditary, endogamous and occupation specific: Brahmins (priests and teachers), Kshatriya (warriors and royalty), Vaisya (traders, merchants, moneylenders) and Sudras (those engaged in menial, lowly jobs), which later split into those doing the most despicable menial jobs, the Ati Sudra or the former ‘untouchables’.

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