Social Change and Modernisation
In the wake of modernization and globalization, the processes of social mobility, the nature of demographic changes and increase in urbanization and industrialization have brought significant changes in Indian society. We have substantial material on changes in rural and urban communities. There have come vast changes in the fields of new professions, banking, management, media and information and several other sectors of service.
Changes in Indian society are massive indeed. But what is the direction of this massive change. On the strength of material generated by sociologists and anthropologists it could be stated that much has been said about caste, family, kin and village and the changes occurring in these fields of social life.
The stress is on social aspect of our nation’s life. What has been tried by sociologists is to evaluate social change from the vantage point of tradition. If the traditions witness change, it is social change. Sometimes breakdown of or deviation from traditions is analyzed as disintegration. And, therefore, sociologists have much talked about the breakdown of caste system or joint family. The stress, therefore, is on the breaking up of traditions. Interestingly enough, no serious effort has been made to identify the direction of India’s social change.
The policies of the Indian nation-state and its constitution revolve round making India a modern nation. It means we have adopted modernization as our goal. In other words, capitalism, democracy, rationality, industrialism, science and technology, and above all secularism constitute our society’s structural and value components.
It is also expected that our categorical values would provide us continuity as a nation. It should also be clear that national social structure should aim to attain secularism, democracy, rationality and equal relations between people as a mark of modernity.
Interestingly enough, in this context, our pioneer sociologists have constructed conceptual frameworks which are only cultural and which focus on caste and particularly Brahmanic values. The weaker sections have largely been marginalized. What is worse, the so-called pioneers along with the eminent contemporary sociologists have devoted the whole of their lives in building up these concepts and enjoyed the status of eminence.
They remained ‘worshipped’ for contributing these trivial parochial categories. They delivered only that much which is expected from structural-functional method. We discuss below the social change which Indian society has witnessed during the aftermath of independence.
There is non-scientific element in the evaluation of social change in India, elements of which are found in many studies. Authors of these studies evaluate these changes or non-changes in India from their own moral or ideological viewpoints.
With varying emphasis, these writers accept the desirability of change for the sake of change. Some of them assume prophetic while others express dismay at the slow change, and still others postulate quosic-deterministic interpretations about phenomena of change.
Indian sociologists, time and again, have reiterated that Indian sociology is distinct from sociology in the west or in other parts of the world. This particularism of some Indian sociologists introduces yet another ideological element in the analysis of change.
Some of these components include:
- Sanskritization and westernization,
- Little and great traditions,
- Parochialization and universalization,
- Dialectical process, and
- Cognitive historical or ideological processes.
During the last four decades, students of sociology are fed with these approaches conveying the notion that whatever social changes that Indian society has witnessed are changes only in caste system and religion. The idea is ‘sold’ that the only model available for the subaltern people is to borrow the norms, values, beliefs, ideology and lifestyle of the Brahmins, Rajput’s, Baniyas and the higher-ups of the society.
Strangely enough, the notion, that is, modernity, has constitutionally abandoned caste system and has given equal status to all, irrespective of sex and religion, the sociologists did not show any guts to analyze social change with the perspective of the norms and values of modernity. Obviously, social change does not mean Hindu social change. It must mean change in the secular direction, change for all.
There is difference in social change and the social change brought about by modernization. It needs some explanation. Social change is any change, which is witnessed in the structures of society. This kind of change is comprehensive and includes all the aspects of society.
On the other hand, modernization is a specific change aimed at the attainment of the norms of modernity. In the modernization-directed change, the traditions themselves change to modernization. There is adaptation of traditions to modernity. In this context, sanskritization is not a social change directed towards the attainment of modernity.
Sociological writings on secularism
One of the strongest pillars of modernity in India is secularism. It assumes much importance in the context of Indian tradition. Hinduism is not only a religion of the vast majority of people; it is also a way of life of the masses of people. Even the caste system and in this respect the social stratification, i.e., hierarchy is drawn from Hinduism. But Hindus are not the only people in India.
There are Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who also belong to this country. The Hindu-Muslim tension has become a historical matter of conflict for both the communities. The Babri Masjid demolition and the Gujarat communal genocide have made a great divide between the two communities.
It is in this context that the prime problem of modernity is to focus on the issues related to secularism. In any programme of the building of our nation-state, secularism occupies the priority. It becomes obligatory for sociologists – if they are worth the salt of nation – to focus on the issues pertaining to secularism.
A review of the themes included in the Survey of Sociology and Social Anthropology reveals that secularism, modernization and rationality hardly occupy any place in it. In the name of modernity, however, social stratification, social movements, sociology of science, sociology of education, sociology of profession, sociology of law, tribal studies, and industrial sociology find some place for discussion.
In this critique of the modernist historiography to understanding the nation-building process they hold that the very logic of modernity and its various attributes such as, centralized state power, industrialization, nationalism, democracy and secularism are responsible for society’s ills, particularly growing violence reflected in caste, communal and rural-urban conflicts.
In particular, they reject secularism as alien to Indian tradition and custom and hold the very process of secularization responsible for the growing communal/religious violence in society, blaming it for displacing religion from the public sphere and destroying the people’s faith.
These social scientists go to the extent of arguing that if India wants remedy to its ills, it should return to genuine religion and the indigenous tradition of religious tolerance as the best means to preserve and maintain a pluralist and multi-religious Indian society.
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