“India's Overdetermined Précarité: Caste and Class Between Tradition and Modernity”

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
John O'BRIEN, Portland State University (ret.), France
Indian caste identity, coupled with the emerging neoliberal class logic, is intensifying the précarité for the bottom of the labor and economic ladder; leaving half-billion people in poverty. What’s to be done and what might a Public Sociology contribute?

After moving intrepidly from colonial subservience to the world's largest democracy, India is a favored case of modernization. Is the result enlightened opening to the world, or a threat to the symbolic infrastructure that allows governances for this huge, diverse population? Blocked opportunity, prosperity and privilege at the bottom, allows less than one-percent to enjoy life in the comfort zone at the top.  This resists modification in a way that eludes the normal language of Western analytics.

India's burden on the bottom is equal to the entire population of European Economic Union.  Still, because of the unusual power of the Indian spiritual system, with less concern about material conditions and an identity linked to caste, there is little alienation of the sort experienced in London, Berlin—or New York.  These people want food, clothing and shelter, but leave such worry in the hands of the gods; with powerful sub-national social movements none the less showing its explosive nature. The marginally employed, undereducated and poor in India are squeezed twice: once by their caste identity and once by the growing importance of technical economic class processes.

Indian government data will be used to profile the inequality related to labor status and life style.  Interview material developed during six field visits over the past three years (government, industry, academic), are used to explore alternative scenarios, from entropic collapse due to précarité and overpopulation, to a second heroic political movement. Theoretical foundation will rest on the work of Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Smelser; with stress on macro-processes of allocation and constraint in dialectic relation.