C1 Visions of Social Change in India

Topics of interest for CSE:

  1. Idea of development, planning, and mixed economy.
  2. Constitution, law, and social change.
  3. Education and social change.

All three topics can be covered from History and Polity mostly. Pay attention then to social ramifications. Detailed provisions of Constitution and law can be found in MSOE001 Units 18, 19.

A general understanding of education and social change from P1. Indian perspectives below.


Education is the formal process of transfer of knowledge (about norms, values, ideals etc.) from the older generation to the newer.

Formal education came into being with the advent of agricultural societies as literacy and numeracy developed. In such societies, education is restricted to the elite and its content is overwhelmingly religious. Such an education system is not an agent of change rather it maintains the status quo.

With the advent of the industrial society, education becomes exoteric (need for trained workers) and its content becomes increasingly secular, scientific and utilitarian. Such a system play an important role as an agent of change in society.

  • Provides avenues for social mobility by skill training. Intra-generational mobility greatly improved.
  • Increases economic growth from both supply & demand sides. Supply: skill upgrade; demand: raises expectations by providing new RGs.
  • Secularisation of world view and life goals.
  • Transmits new values/beliefs and creates a consensus with respect to new values.
  • Acts as an instrument of modernisation. Nationalism, democracy, rationalism developed the cause of modern education and vice versa.
  • Transmits values of equality and social justice. Widens horizons and introduces changes towards equality for all.
  • Education also impacts the family. Leads to greater individualism and reduction in fertility rates.

Marxist scholars critique education system as:

  • Education leads to social reproduction of class inequality.
  • Education further leads to legitimation of class inequality through the myth of meritocracy.
  • Bowles and Gintis. Correspondence principle: sync between values taught at school and those required at the workplace through the hidden curriculum. Passive subservience to the teacher becomes passive subservience of the manager, acceptance of hierarchy at school becomes acceptance of hierarchy at work etc.
  • Dropout rates are higher in lower classes than in upper classes. Filters out the poor.
  • Cultural capital (Pierre Bourdieu) shapes performance in education systems.
  • Poor develop immediate gratification norms while education system demands delayed gratification. (Scarcity mindset).
  • Opportunity cost is high for the poor, also they are less motivated (due to inadequate RGs) than upper classes to remain in the system.
  • Helps maintain cultural continuity, a generational affiliation of sorts and as dominant strata controls the curriculum it perpetuates the status quo.
  • Sukhdeo Thorat - documented caste based discrimination in AIIMS. Prevents development of talent.
  • Radical feminists say that abuse of girls in school is ignored and underplayed. Example of rapes in Gurugram schools. Further, subject choices reproduce gender inequality.

However, thinkers like Henry Giroux say that Marxist theories are too deterministic and that not every working class student fails at school.Similarly, the correspondence principle may not be as applicable in the current highly complex labour market.

Michael Young - The Rise of Meritocracy

  1. Said that society based on meritocracy would eventually mutate into a dystopia.
  2. Those judged to have merit of a certain kind harden into a new social class while excluding others from it.
  3. Ex. from stratification 7 class studies.


MSA Rao systematically charted the course of the relation between education and social mobility in India. In pre-colonial India & during the earlier phases of colonial rule:

  • Education was generally the monopoly of the upper castes.
  • Vedic learning was confined to the savarnas.
  • Study of Quran was open to all Muslims but only maulvis had the right to interpret.
  • Among Buddhists, education was open to all followers of the religion.

Rao maintains that with the advent of modern education both the meaning and content of education changed significantly. It became more secular and new branches of learning were opened. The western system of education was gradually thrown open to all castes and, religious groups, and to women.

Formal education became the basis of exploiting new economic opportunities which were secular and caste-free. This led to the development of a new middle class which could cut across different castes but frequently the advantage of English education accrued to upper castes because of the initial advantage of their high status.

One of the major changes that the new system of education brought in was the gradual dissociation of occupation from caste. Upward social mobility was also facilitated by westernisation where membership of a caste was not the decisive factor.

Jean Dreze/Amartya Sen brought out the significance of education in terms of functioning and capability.

  1. Functioning refers to what a person does and achieves.
  2. Capability refers to the range of choices and options which a person has in deciding the kind of life s/he wants to lead.

Capability deprivation (systematic absence of opportunities; similar to Merton's ideas of deviance) can lead to severe limitations of freedom and creates incapacity to perform dignified labour. They consider education and other social sector initiatives in areas such as healthcare can drastically improve human capabilities.

Dreze/Sen hold that education is a crucial factor in at least 5 ways:

  • Intrinsic importance. Leads to self-development and personal growth.
  • Instrumental personal growth. Education enables one to get skill set and knowledge that enables them to make use of economic opportunities.
  • Instrumental social roles. Makes one more socially aware and politically assertive.
  • Instrumental social processes. Makes a lasting impact on social processes and enables one to reject and fight against oppressive socio-cultural practices.
  • Empowerment and distributive role. Greater literacy and empowerment allows for emancipation of the marginalised sections of society. Has a re-distributive effect.

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