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CONTENTS

FOREWORD iii

A NOTE TO THE TEACHER AND STUDENTS viii

1. SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 1

2. TERMS, CONCEPTS AND THEIR USE IN SOCIOLOGY 24

3. UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS 40

4. CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION 63

5. DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS 82


CHAPTER 1

SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY

market that decides which subject


I
choice may increase or decrease your
chances in the job market. The third
INTRODUCTION
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


III
society is indeed central to sociology.
PLURALITIES AND INEQUALITIES We can take Satyajit Ray’s comments
AMONG SOCIETIES
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 V
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
for.
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 THE MAKING 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
THE MATERIAL ISSUES THAT WENT
of work from the protective contexts of
MAKING OF SOCIOLOGY
INTO THE
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
has
Khud kaate gale sabke kahe isko agriculture.
business
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


VIII
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
steady pace and took place for set of that time? Why is it relevant to start
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
formed?
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
country.
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

GLOSSARY

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
systems.
Microsociology : The study of human behaviour in contexts of face-to-face
interaction.
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.

EXERCISES

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

READINGS

BERGER , PETER L. 1963. Invitation to Sociology : A Humanistic Perspective.


Penguin, Harmondsworth.
BIERSTEDT, ROBERT. 1970. Social Order. Tata Mc. Graw-Hill Publishing Co. Ltd,
Bombay.
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,
Bombay.
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.


I
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


II
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
actions;
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
positions.
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
prerogatives.
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
84-90).
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
society.
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.

GLOSSARY

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
Marx.
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.

EXERCISES

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
change.

READINGS

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.
FERNANDO, FRANCO. MACWAN, JYOTSNA. and RAMANATHAN, SUGUNA. 2004. Journeys
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

UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

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
co-exist.
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.
prevalent.
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
reflect?
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


III
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
occupations.
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,
sectors?
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
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS 51

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
POLITICS
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
matter of the private belief of an was consistent and successful in his or
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


VI
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

GLOSSARY

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
society.
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
area.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS 61

EXERCISES

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?

READINGS

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,
LONDON.
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


INTRODUCTION
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
sphere.
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
change occurs. Recent years have seen self-aware, knowledgeable person,
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
grown-ups.
´ 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

GLOSSARY

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
learned.
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
society.
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.

EXERCISES

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

READINGS

ARMILLAS, PEDRO. 1968. The concept of civilisation, in SILLS , DAVID. ed. The
International Encyclopedia of Social Science. Free Press-Macmillan, New
York.
BERGER, P.L. 1963. Invitation to Sociology : A Humanistic Perspective. Penguin,
Harmondsworth.
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
Socialisation.
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Unit 8. Nature of
Socialisation.
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,
Jaipur.
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


I
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
produced.
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


community.
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
answer.
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
system.
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
Surveys
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
view.
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
questions:
(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
regard?
(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

GLOSSARY

Census : A comprehensive survey covering every single member of a


population.
Genealogy : An extended family tree outlining familial relations across
generations.
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
sense).
Questionnaire : A written list of questions to be asked in a survey or
interview.
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.

EXERCISES

1. Why is the question of a scientific method particularly important in


sociology?
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
objectivity?
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
sample?
9. What are some of the weaknesses of the survey method?
10. Describe the main features of the interview as a research method.

READINGS

B AUMAN, ZYGMUNT . 1990. Thinking Sociologically. Basil Blackwell, Oxford


University Press, New Delhi.
BECKER, H OWARD S. 1970. Sociological Work : Method and Substance. The
Penguin Press, Allen Lane.
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.
George Allen and Unwin, London.
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.