[Marxism] Materialist History of Abraham Religions?

Greg McDonald gregmc59 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 13 18:43:46 MDT 2011

Sorry to interject again, but this sums it up nicely:

How Class Works in Caste: Trajectory of an Erroneous Discourse from Max Weber to
Louis Dumont”
Hira Singh
Department of Sociology
York University
[Paper presented at the Conference, “How Class Works - 2010”, SUNY, Stony Brook,
June 3-5, 2010]


Max Weber’s distinction between ‘class’ and ‘status’ remains, to date,
a seminal text for
the mainstream sociology. For Max Weber, caste represents the ideal
type of status, as
opposed to class. While Max Weber’s distinction between class and
status is marked by
inconsistency - both logical and historical (at worst), or ambiguity
(at best), the
succeeding generations of sociologists and social-cultural
anthropologists studying caste
have overlooked the inconsistency, and erased the ambiguity, in Weber’s
conceptualization of class and status. The common refrain of sociological and
anthropological studies of caste is to contrast caste and class. One
important, and
unfortunate, consequence of this tendency, apart from a distorted view
of class and caste,
is the notion of ‘Indian exceptionalism’ - the argument that, given
the dominance of
caste, albeit status, class is irrelevant to the study of Indian
society and history. This view
is presented most forcefully by Louis Dumont in his famous work,
Dumont’s protagonists and detractors alike, numerous as they are, have
not seriously
examined the flawed – both logically and historically –
conceptualization of class-status
distinction by Weber, which Dumont accepts uncritically and takes it
to another extreme
to turn caste inequality into a religious hierarchy and deny caste as
a case of social
stratification altogether. My paper is a critical examination of
Weber’s conceptualization
of caste as status and its further distortion by Dumont to show that
class and caste are not
mutually exclusive. Historically, the dominant caste in India is
indeed, the dominant
class. The objective of my paper, in the short run, is to argue against ‘Indian
exceptionalism’ – an offshoot of orientalism and colonial
anthropology. Its objective, in
the long run, is to rescue class from Weberian distortion premised on
the distinction
between class and status.

Louis Dumont and the Caste System in India
US-Them (India, the other)

Louis Dumont believes in studying a society primarily in terms of its
dominant ideology. He contrasts Indian ideology with modern Western
ideology in order to understand Indian as well as the modern Western
society and history. This contrast is a characteristic feature of his entire
exercise. In his scheme, India is a typical case of holism and hierarchy, the
exact opposite modern Western ideology of equality and individualism. As
pointed out by Andre Beteille (2006), Dumont has a taste for symmetry:
Homo Hierarchicus vs. Homo Aequqlis; hierarchy vs. equality; holism vs.
individualism. This craving for symmetry, Beteille rightly notes, is more
than a matter of personal taste. It is characteristic of an
intellectual tradition
called Orientalism. According to Dumont, Holism entails hierarchy while
individualism entails equality. India stays at the extreme end of
holistic societies,
while France at the time of her Revolution was distinguished by an
extreme ideological
stress on equality

On Sat, Aug 13, 2011 at 8:21 PM, Greg McDonald <gregmc59 at gmail.com> wrote:
> For a more contemporary and ethnographic approach in the Weberian vein
> see Louis Dumont:
> http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-professor-louis-dumont-1189259.html

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