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National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) Book for Class XII
Chapter: Chapter 1 – Introducing Indian Society
Class XII NCERT Sociology Text Book Chapter 1 Introducing Indian Society is given below
In one important sense, Sociology is unlike any other subject that you may havestudied. It is a subject in which no one starts from zero – everyone alreadyknows something about society. Other subjects are learnt because they are taught(at school, at home, or elsewhere); but much of our knowledge about society isacquired without explicit teaching. Because it is such an integral part of theprocess of growing up, knowledge about society seems to be acquired “naturally”or “automatically”. No child is expected to already know something about History,Geography, Psychology or Economics when they come to school. But even a sixyear old already knows something about society and social relationships. It is allthe more true then, that, as young eighteen year old adults, you know a lot aboutthe society you live in without ever having studied it.
This prior knowledge or familiarity with society is both an advantage and adisadvantage for sociology, the discipline that studies society. The advantageis that students are generally not afraid of Sociology – they feel that it can’t bea very hard subject to learn. The disadvantage is that this prior knowledge canbe a problem – in order to learn Sociology, we need to “unlearn” what we alreadyknow about society. In fact, the initial stage of learning Sociology consistsmainly of such unlearning. This is necessary because our prior knowledgeabout society – our common sense – is acquired from a particular viewpoint.This is the viewpoint of the social group and the social environment that we aresocialised into. Our social context shapes our opinions, beliefs and expectationsabout society and social relations. These beliefs are not necessarily wrong,though they can be. The problem is that they are ‘partial’. The word partial isbeing used here in two different senses – incomplete (the opposite of whole),and biased (the opposite of impartial). So our ‘unlearnt’ knowledge or commonsense usually allows us to see only a part of social reality; moreover, it is liableto be tilted towards the viewpoints and interests of our own social group.
Sociology does not offer a solution to this problem in the form of a perspectivethat can show us the whole of reality in a completely unbiased way. Indeedsociologists believe that such an ideal vantage point does not exist. We canonly see by standing somewhere; and every ‘somewhere’ offers only a partialview of the world. What sociology offers is to teach us how to see the worldfrom many vantage points – not just our own, but also that of others unlikeourselves. Each vantage point provides only a partial view, but by comparingwhat the world looks like from the eyes of different kinds of people we get somesense of what the whole might look like, and what is hidden from view in eachspecific standpoint.
What may be of even more interest to you is that sociology can show youwhat you look like to others; it can teach you how to look at yourself ‘from theoutside’, so to speak. This is called ‘self-reflexivity’, or sometimes just reflexivity.This is the ability to reflect upon yourself, to turn back your gaze (which isusually directed outward) back towards yourself. But this self-inspection mustbe critical – i.e., it should be quick to criticise and slow to praise oneself.
At the simplest level, you could say that understanding Indian society andits structure provides a sort of social map on which you could locate yourself.Like with a geographical map, locating oneself on a social map can be useful inthe sense that you know where you are in relation to others in society. Forexample, suppose you live in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. If you look at ageographical map of India, you know that your state is in the North-easterncorner of India. You also know that your state is small compared to many largestates such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra or Rajasthan,but that it is larger than many others such as Manipur, Goa, Haryana or Punjab.If you look at a physical features map, it could tell you what kind of terrainArunachal has (hilly, forested) compared to other states and regions of India,and what natural resources it is rich in, and so on.
A comparable social map would tell you where you are located in society.For example, as a seventeen or eighteen year old, you belong to the social groupcalled “young people”. People your age or younger account for about forty percent of India’s population. You might belong to a particular regional or linguisticcommunity, such as a Gujarati speaker from Gujarat or a Telugu speaker fromAndhra Pradesh. Depending on your parent’s occupation and your familyincome, you would also be a member of an economic class, such as lowermiddle class or upper class. You could be a member of a particular religiouscommunity, a caste or tribe, or other such social group. Each of these identitieswould locate you on a social map, and among a web of social relationships.Sociology tells you about what kinds of groups or groupings there are in society,what their relationships are to each other, and what this might mean in termsof your own life.
But sociology can do more than simply help to locate you or others in thissimple sense of describing the places of different social groups. As C.WrightMills, a well-known American sociologist has written, sociology can help you tomap the links and connections between “personal troubles” and “social issues”.By personal troubles Mills means the kinds of individual worries, problems orconcerns that everyone has. So, for example, you may be unhappy about theway elders in your family treat you or how your brothers, sisters or friends treatyou. You may be worried about your future and what sort of job you might get.Other aspects of your individual identity may be sources of pride, tension,confidence or embarrassment in different ways. But all of these are about oneperson and derive meaning from this personalised perspective. A social issue,on the other hand, is about large groups and not about the individuals whomake them up.
Thus, the “generation gap” or friction between older and younger generationsis a social phenomenon, common to many societies and many time periods.Unemployment or the effects of a changing occupational structure is also asocietal issue, that concerns millions of different kinds of people. It includes,for example, the sudden increase in job prospects for information technology related professions, as well as the declining demand for agricultural labour.Issues of communalism or the animosity of one religious community towardsanother, or casteism, which is the exclusion or oppression of some castes byothers, are again society-wide problems. Different individuals may be implicatedin them in different roles, depending on their social location. Thus, a personfrom a so-called upper caste who believes in the inferiority of the people borninto so-called lower castes is involved in casteism as a perpetrator, while amember of a so-called low caste community is also involved, but as a victim. Inthe same way, both men and women, as distinct social groups, are affected bygender inequalities, but in very different ways.
One version of such a map is already provided to us in childhood by theprocess of socialisation, or the ways in which we are taught to make sense ofthe world around us. This is the common sense map. But as pointed outearlier, this kind of map can be misleading, and it can distort. Once we leaveour common sense maps behind, there are no other readymade maps availableto us, because we have been socialised into only one, not several or all, socialgroups. If we want other kinds of maps, we must learn how to draw them.A sociological perspective teaches you how to draw social maps.
1.1 INTRODUCING AN INTRODUCTION…
This entire book is meant to introduce you to Indian society from a sociologicalrather than common sense point of view. What can be said by way of anintroduction to this introduction? Perhaps it would be appropriate at this pointto indicate in advance the larger processes that were at work in shaping Indiansociety, processes that you will encounter in detail in the pages to follow.
Broadly speaking, it was in the colonial period that a specifically Indianconsciousness took shape. Colonial rule unified all of India for the first time,and brought in the forces of modernisation and capitalist economic change. Byand large, the changes brought about were irreversible – society could neverreturn to the way things were before. The economic, political and administrativeunification of India under colonial rule was achieved at great expense. Colonialexploitation and domination scarred Indian society in many ways. Butparadoxically, colonialism also gave birth to its own enemy – nationalism.
Historically, an Indian nationalism took shape under British colonialism.The shared experience of colonial domination helped unify and energise differentsections of the community. The emerging middle classes began, with the aid ofwestern style education, to challenge colonialism on its own ground. Ironically,colonialism and western education also gave the impetus for the rediscovery oftradition. This led to the developments on the cultural and social front whichsolidified emergent forms of community at the national and regional levels.
Colonialism created new classes and communities which came to playsignificant roles in subsequent history. The urban middle classes were themain carriers of nationalism and they led the campaign for freedom. Colonialinterventions also crystallised religious and caste based communities. Thesetoo became major players. The complex ways in which the subsequent historyof contemporary Indian society evolved is something you will encounter in thefollowing chapters.
1.2 A PREVIEW OF THIS BOOK
In this, the first of two textbooks on sociology, you will be introduced to thebasic structure of Indian society. (The second textbook will be focussed on thespecifics of social change and development in India.)
We begin with a discussion of the demographicstructure of the Indian population (Chapter 2). As youknow, India is currently the second most populouscountry in the world, and in a few decades is projectedto overtake China and become the most populouscountry in the world. What are the ways in whichsociologists and demographers study a population?Which aspects of the population are socially significant,and what has been happening on these fronts in theIndian case? Is our population simply an obstacle todevelopment, or can it also be seen as helpingdevelopment in some ways? These are some of thequestions that this chapter tries to tackle.
In Chapter 3, we revisit the basic building blocks ofIndian society in the form of the institutions of caste,tribe and family. As a unique feature of the Indiansubcontinent, caste has always attracted a lot of scholarlyattention. How has this institution been changing overthe centuries, and what does caste really mean today?What is the context in which the concept of ‘tribe’ wasintroduced into India? What sorts of communities aretribes supposed to be, and what is at stake in definingthem as such? How do tribal communities definethemselves in contemporary India? Finally, the familyas an institution has also been subjected to tremendouspressure in these times of rapid and intense social change. What changes dowe see in the diverse forms of the family that exist in India? By addressingquestions like these, Chapter 3 builds the base for looking at further aspects ofIndian society which would pre-suppose caste, tribe andfamily.
Chapter 4 explores the socio-cultural dimensions ofthe market as a powerful institution that has been thevehicle of change throughout world history. Given thatthe most sweeping and rapid economic changes werebrought about first by colonialism and then bydevelopmental policies, this chapter looks at how marketsof different kinds have evolved in India, and the chainreactions they set in motion.
Among the features of our society that have been thecause of greatest concern are its seemingly unlimitedcapacity for generating inequality and exclusion. Chapter5 is devoted to this important subject. Chapter 5 looksat inequality and exclusion in the context of caste, tribe,gender and the ‘differently abled’. Notorious as aninstrument of division and injustice, the caste systemhas been the object of concerted attempts by the stateand by the oppressed castes to reform or even abolishit. What are the concrete problems and issues that thisattempt faced? How successful have movements to resistcaste exclusion been in our recent past? What have been the special problemsof tribal movements? In what context are tribal identities reasserting themselvestoday? Similar questions are dealt with in the context of gender relations, andthe ‘disabled’ or differently abled. To what extent is our society responsive tothe needs of the differently abled? How much of an impact has the women’smovement had on the social institutions that have oppressed women?
Chapter 6 deals with the difficult challenges posed bythe immense diversity of Indian society. This chapter invitesus to step outside our normal, comfortable ways of thinking.The familiar cliches and slogans about India being a landof unity in diversity have a hard and complex side to them.Despite all the failures and inadequacies, India has notdone too badly on this front. What have been our strengthsand our weaknesses? How may young adults face issueslike communal conflict, regional or linguistic chauvinism,and casteism without either wishing them away or beingoverwhelmed by them? Why is it important for our collectivefuture as a nation that every minority in India not feel thatit is insecure or at risk?
Finally, in Chapter 7, some suggestions are providedfor you and your teachers to think about the practicalcomponent of your course. This can be quite interestingand enjoyable, as you will discover.
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