India: Culture and Society Rowena Robinson Professor of Sociology Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Indian Institute of Technology Bombay Introduction

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Whether considered socially or culturally, India is today a study in contrasts. There are the already existing divides between the rich and the poor, the upper and lower castes and men and women; these are further complicated, especially when we map them on regional and religio-cultural differences. All such differences are exacerbated in the context of relentless modernization, increasing urbanization and, above all, globalization. Globalization has increased economic inequalities and has hastened the pace of change to a degree difficult for those on the margins to cope with. As already described, contrary to expectations, globalization has not reduced religious or ethnic differences but appears to have further sharpened awareness of them.

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these tensions, which may be remarked upon here, is the increase in violence of different kinds and at different levels of society. Terrorism is but one expression, though a singularly devastating one, of such aggression on a global scale. Increasing domestic violence, caste and ethnic violence as well as forms of individual violence as ‘road rage’ are other and perhaps, given their social spread, more insidious expressions. The focus on terrorism sometimes effaces these other forms from active scrutiny or public concern. The changes in Indian society are shifting the balance of power from the sections that traditionally held it: men of the upper castes and classes. Power is not easily yielded; it is the struggles to wrest it away from these groups that must be a critical reason for increasing social conflicts. We need to sharpen our understanding of these issues in order to think of ways to enable social change to occur in a less damaging way.

Béteille, A. 1991. ‘The reproduction of inequality: Occupation, caste and family’. Contributions to Indian sociology n.s. 25(1): 3-28.

Shah, A. M. 1998. The family in India: Critical essays. Delhi: Orient Longman.

Srinivas, M. N. 1988. Social change in modern India. Hyderabad: Orient Longman.

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