Each nation has always been inclined to the societal division of people according to their capabilities, wealth level, skin color or gender and age.
The main difference between caste and class, as two of the most prominent subdivision groups, lies in the fact that class welcomes social mobility and everyone can become a part of it, whereas, in a caste no vertical mobility is possible at all (members cannot upgrade their status from the initial one). For example, in India, the caste is based on the religion which leads to the main difficulty in breaking it as people strictly perform religious caste duties. In a class system, mental and physical qualities play more important role.
Class and caste also have a common function – determining the place of a person in the social life. This tendency is particularly supported in the rural areas. In cities the cast division is distinct among the members of the middle and upper classes.
The other significant differences between class and caste are as follows (Caste and Class, n.d.):
- Members of certain class have outstanding achievements in education, are wealthy, influential, or with certain virtues that distinguish them among other people, anyone can enter such class or leave one and go to another; Caste members gain their position hereditary and nothing can change it as their status lasts their whole life;
- Members are conscious of their position in the society in the class, while in the caste members do not generally even think of it;
- An important feature is the ban to marry with the person from a different caste, whereas in the class one can marry anyone without losing their status;
- Class has no special rituals and customs, while in the caste members have to follow them diligently;
- The superiority or inferiority which is in the basis of the social class determines only social status and helps to promote democracy; whereas in the caste it determines how the person will be treated;
- Caste members are obliged to have particular religious beliefs as religious grounds support the activity of the caste, while class members can choose to follow any religion they wish;
- In the class people are free to choose their occupation and are able to change it as many times as they wish, however, in the caste one can do only what his or her ancestors did, and nothing can change it;
- Social gap is very wide in the caste and comparatively small in the class.
In India the problem with castes is especially burning. The whole system there comprises four castes, however, I will focus on the lowest one – the Untouchables or the Dalits.
People who are born in this caste perform the dirtiest work which no one else does (killing pests, preparing dead body for the funeral, etc.). Buddhists and Hindus believe tell that all jobs that have any connection to death destroy the souls of the workers, prohibiting them to interact with other people.
Untouchables are born due to some wrongful behavior in their past lives as the belief tells us (Szczepanski, n.d.).
I cannot even imagine being born as an untouchable. Our nation, comparing to such caste division seems to be very democratic. If still such a situation happened, I suppose, I would be lower than nothing in the society. People would regard me as hideous trash which is better not even to be looked at. The life would become extremely complicated. No hope for the better life. For women it is even more difficult than to men due to the patriarchal way of life in India. Despite the fact that the woman is nothing in the society, she is also nothing to her man or father (Caste and Class, n.d.).
Nowadays, the situation gradually improves with the Dalit population in India. The government has adopted many laws since the 1950s which help to alleviate the poor economic and social conditions of the untouchables.
The members of this Dalit caste are now elected to the highest political and judicial offices. Their life expectancy increases. In general, the Dalits are a very powerful political force in the country now. They have much better opportunities to get a good education than they have ever had before.
Moreover, some temples of Hindus even allow now the untouchables to have the positions of priests, which can be called an unimaginable leap forward as everything started, first of all, from the religious beliefs about the inferiority of these people. Let me to compare it with the situation in the near past, when the untouchables caste could not even come close to the temple, not talking about stepping on its grounds (Szczepanski, n.d.).
Despite all these improvements, the situation is still quite complicated. This caste of Dalits still faces certain prejudiced discrimination, particularly in the rural communities. In y opinion, this will last for still many more years until the new generations of unbiased people come to live in India.
To conclude, I would like to add that any social discrimination and division only show the low moral values of the society and the sooner we get rid of them, the better for us.