Showing posts with label Sociological Thought. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sociological Thought. Show all posts

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Hierarchy of Sciences

Comte’s second-best known theory, that of the hierarchy of the sciences or classification of sciences is intimately connected with the law of three stages. Just as mankind progresses only through determinant stages, each successive stage builds on the accomplishments of its predecessors; so scientific knowledge passes through similar stages of development. But different sciences progress at different rates. Since time immemorial thinkers have tried to classify knowledge on one or the other basis. Early Greek thinkers had made a tripartite classification of knowledge. These were Physics, Ethics and Politics. Bacon made the classification on the basis of the faculties of man namely memory, imagination and reason. The Science which was based upon memory is called History, imagination is poetry and reason is Physics, Chemistry etc.

Comte classified knowledge on the basis of observation of the scientific or positive levels of human thinking. The main aim of his classification of science by Comte is to prepare the background and basis for the study of society, Sociology, a science invented by him. On this also he determined the methodology of sociology. Comte thought that each Science came into being not arbitrarily. It has come to seek the “Laws” of a particular kind or level of facts that man had encountered in his experience of the world. Each Science is concerned with some definite event or subject matter and these constitute the subject of its study.

Comte spoke of sociology as the “crowning edifice” of the hierarchy of sciences. He did not mean that it is in any sense superior to any other science; but only that it serves to bring all other sciences into a relationship with each other, in the overall intellectual history of man. Comte says Astronomy, the most general and simple of all-natural sciences develops first. It is followed by physics, chemistry, biology and finally sociology. Each science in this series depends on its emergence on the prior developments of its predecessors in a hierarchy marked by the law of increasing complexity and decreasing generality.

According to Comte behind and before all these sciences however lies the great science of mathematics—the most powerful instrument the mind can employ in the investigation of natural law. The Science of mathematics must be divided into abstract mathematics or calculus, and concrete mathematics embracing general geometry and rational mathematics. So, we have thus really six great sciences.

The classification of sciences follows the order of development of the sciences. It indicates their social relation and relative perfection. In order to reach effective knowledge, the sciences must be studied in the order named. Sociology cannot be understood without knowledge of the anterior sciences.

Comte arranged the sciences so that each category may be grounded on the principal laws of the preceding category and serve as a basis for the next ensuing category. The order hence is one of increasing complexity and decreasing generality. The simplest phenomena must be the most general – general in the sense of being everywhere present. In the hierarchy, Comte places mathematics on the lowest rung and the topmost rung is occupied by Sociology. Comte creates the following hierarchy of sciences in ascending order.

  1. Mathematics:

Mathematics may be defined briefly as the indirect measurement of magnitudes and the determination of magnitudes by each other. It is the business of concrete mathematics to discover the equations of phenomena; it is the business of abstract mathematics to reduce results from the equations. Thus concrete mathematics discovers by actual experiment the acceleration which takes place per second in a falling body and abstract mathematics educes results from the equations so discovered and obtains unknown quantities from known.

  1. Astronomy:

Astronomy may be defined as the science by which we discover the laws of the geometrical and mechanical phenomena presented by heavenly bodies. To discover these laws we can use only our sense of sight and our reasoning power, the reasoning bears a great proportion to observation here than in any other science.

The sight alone would never teach us the figure of the earth or the path of a planet, and only by the measurement of angles and computations of times can we discover astronomical laws? The observation of these invariable laws frees man from servitude to the theological and metaphysical conceptions of the universe.

  1. Physics:

Physics may be defined briefly as the study of the laws which regulate the general properties of bodies regarded en masse, their molecules remaining unaltered and usually in a state of aggregation. In the observations of physics, all the senses are employed and mathematical analysis and experiments assist observation. In the phenomena of astronomy, human intervention was impossible. In the phenomena of physics, man begins to modify natural phenomena. Physics includes the sub-divisions: statics, dynamics, thermology, optics and electrology. Physics is still handicapped by metaphysical conceptions of the primary courses of phenomena.

  1. Chemistry:

Chemistry may be briefly defined as the study of the laws of the phenomena of composition and decomposition which result from the molecular and specific mutual action of different substances, natural or artificial. In the observations of chemistry, the senses are still more employed, and experiment is still more utility. Even in chemistry metaphysical conceptions linger.

  1. Biology:

The physiology of plants and animals is studied in Biology. Physiology may be defined as the study of the laws of organic dynamics in relation to structure and environment. Placed in a given environment, a definite organism must always act in a definite way, and physiology investigates the reciprocal relations, between organism, environment and function.

In physiology observation and experiment are of the greatest value, and apparatus of all kinds is used to assist both observation and experiment. Physiology is most closely connected with chemistry since all the phenomena of life are associated with the compositions and decompositions of a chemical character.

  1. Sociology:

Comte developed social physics or what in 1839 he called sociology. The use of the term social physics made it clear that Comte sought to model sociology after the hard sciences. This new science which in his view would ultimately become the dominant science was to be concerned with both social statics (existing social structure) and Social Dynamics (Social change). Although both involved the search for laws of social life.

According to Comte, the social organic science is sociology. It is a relatively new science. Being young it has not yet attended the status of a full-fledged science. Sociology is still a growing and developing science. However, it is quite clear that sociology is gradually moving towards the goal of a definite science.

Comte spoke of sociology as the ‘crowning edifice’ of the hierarchy of sciences. He did not mean that it is in any sense superior to any other science; but only that it serves to bring all other sciences into a relationship with each other, in the overall intellectual history of man. 

Comte invented the specific hybrid term sociology which rests in turn upon biological, chemical, physical and astronomical knowledge and uses Mathematics as its tool. At the end of the second chapter of the first volume of Comte’s book titled ‘Hierarchy of Positive Sciences’, Comte proves the following order of the sciences: mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and sociology.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022


G. S. Ghurye’s Caste and Race in India (1932), which cognitively combined historical, anthropological and sociological perspectives to understand caste and kinship system in India. He tried to analyse caste system through textual evidence using ancient texts on the one hand and from both structural and cultural perspectives on the other hand. Ghurye studied caste system from a historical, comparative, and integrative perspective. Later, he did comparative study of kinship in Indo-European cultures. In his study of caste and kinship, Ghurye emphasizes two important points:

  1. The kin and caste networks in India had parallels in some other societies also.

  2. The kinship and caste in India served in the past as integrative frameworks. The evolution of society was based on the integration of diverse, racial or ethnic groups through these networks.

It is to be noted that Govind Sadashiv Ghurye demonstrated, through textual evidence, the dynamism of the caste system. The caste system had not remained static. Ghurye showed that in the early centuries of the Christian era, the Vaishyas were reduced to the position of the Sudras and the Sudras were elevated to the Vaishyas. Govind Sadashiv Ghurye examined the caste system from both cultural and structural points of view. The Hindu society was governed by the ideal pattern of caste.

Ghurye highlights six structural features of caste system as follows:

  1. Segmental division

  2. Hierarchy

  3. Restrictions on feeding and social intercourse

  4. Civil and religious disabilities and privileges of different sections

  5. Lack of unrestricted choice of occupation

  6. Restrictions on marriage

Besides the above characteristics, Ghurye laid particular stress on endogamy as the most important feature of the caste system. Any effective unit of the caste hierarchy is marked by endogamy. Every caste had in the past segmented into smaller sub-divisions or sub-castes. Each of these sub-castes practised endogamy. For example, Vaishya (Baniya or Mahajan) castes are divided into various sub-castes such as Agrawal, Maheshwari etc. Caste is also linked with kinship through caste endogamy and also clan (gotra) exogamy. Gotra has been treated as a thoroughly exogamous unit by the Brahmins and later by the non-Brahmins. The basic notion here is that all the members of a gotra are related to one another, through blood, i.e., they have rishi (sage) as their common ancestor. Therefore, marriage between two persons of the same gotra will lead to an incestuous relationship. It will lead the lineage of the gotra to near extinction. He emphasized that, in past, kinship and caste in India played an integrative role to evolve in the Indian society.


There are two conflicting views about the growth and accumu­lation pattern of culture. One theory maintains that in any community culture grows quite independently of similar events happening elsewhere or predominantly with reference to local needs and local situations. The other group believes that culture grows by diffusion. A single invention or discovery is made at one place and ultimately this cultural trait diffuses throughout the world. Sir G. E. Smith was the most ardent advocate of the diffusion theory.

In one of his papers, “The Disposal of Human Placenta”, published in 1937, Ghurye examines the practices of human beings with regard to the disposal of discarded human body like first out hair, nail pairing, first fallen teeth and the after birth. The purpose of this paper is, as he says, to compare the methods of disposal of the human placenta in the different regions of the world to see if they shed any light on the problem of diffusion of culture.

Culture diffusion is essentially an anthropological theory, which is concerned with the nature of cultural contact operating principally among the preliminary people. According to Ghurye, culture constitutes the central or core element for understanding society and its evolution. In fact, culture is a totality involving the entire heritage of mankind. Ghurye’s abiding interest was to analyze the course of cultural evolution and the nature of heritage which mankind has denied in the past.

Culture relates to the realm of values. It is a matter of individual attainment of excellence and creativity. Ghurye had a strong faith in the power of man to preserve the best of his old culture while creating from his own spirit of a new culture. He was more concerned with the process of evolution of Hindu civili­zation, which has been termed as a ‘complex civilization’.

And Ghurye thought that for analyzing the dynamics of culture in such a long historical civilization. In this context, the process of accultur­ation is more relevant than the process of diffusion. He thinks that the challenging task of a sociologist is to analyze this complex accul­turation process in India.

According to him, India has been the home of many ethnic stocks and cultures from pre-historic times. In his analysis of caste, Ghurye refers to how the caste system was developed by the Brahmins and how it spread to other sections of the population. The operation of the process of Hinduization also provides the general backdrop of his analysis of the trial phenomenon.

Ghurye was promoted by the belief that there is a “common heritage of modern civilization”, and that civilization is a “collective endeavour of humanity”. He holds that behind the rise and fall of civilization, there has occurred a steady growth of the culture. Cutting across the vicissitudes of civilization growth, there are certain values, which have been established as final. These values have been termed by Ghurye as the ‘foundations of culture’.

He delineates five such values or foundations of culture. These are:

  1. Religious consciousness

  2. Conscience

  3. Justice

  4. Free pursuit of knowledge and free expression

  5. Toleration

According to Ghurye, “civilization is the sum total of social heritage projected on the social plane”. It is also an attribute of society. Different societies can be differentiated with reference to their civilizational attainment.

Ghurye makes four general conclu­sions with regard to the nature of civilization:

  1. Firstly, there has been no society, which has been either completely civilized or very highly civilized.

  2. Secondly, Ghurye believes in the law of continuous progress.

  3. Thirdly, the gradation of civilization is also correlated with the distribution of values. In a high civilization, humanitarian and cultural values will be accepted by a wide cross-section of the population.

  4. Fourthly, every civilization, high or low, possesses some distinctive qualities.



Ghurye’s works on the tribes were general as well as specific. He wrote a general book on The Scheduled Tribes in which he dealt with the historical, administrative, and social dimensions of Indian tribes. He also wrote on specific tribes such as the Kolis in Maharashtra. Ghurye presented his thesis on tribes at a time when a majority of the established anthropologists and administrators were of the opinion that the separate identity of the tribes is to be maintained at any cost.

Ghurye, on the other hand, believes that most of the tribes have been Hinduized after a long period of contact with Hindus. He holds that it is futile to search for the separate identity of the tribes. They are nothing but the ‘backward caste Hindus’. Their backwardness was due to their imperfect integration into Hindu society. The Santhals, Bhils, Gonds, etc., who live in South-Central India are its examples.

The tribal deities like Ganesh, Kali, and Shiva were getting equal space in Hinduism with Aryan deities like Indira, Vishnu and Brahma. Animism, totemism, naturalism for establishing synthesis between multiple cultures present in Indian society. As a result, the tribes of India consider the Hindu society and its cultural tradition a new home for them. Therefore, voluntarily they assimilate themselves within the folds of Hindu society.

There has been fierce debate between G. S. Ghurye and Verrier Elwin. Elwin in his book Loss of Nerve said that tribals should be allowed to live in isolation, whereas Ghurye argued that tribals should be assimilated into Hindu castes.

Many tribal leaders like Tana Bhagat, Vishnu Bhagwat, Kabir Panthi and others successfully carried Hindu cultural attributes to tribal life. As a result, the tribes of the heartland of the country sharing Hindu values have Hinduised themselves. Hence their assimilation within Indian society is almost complete. Consequently, tribes, now, may be regarded as ‘backward Hindus’. The incorporation of Hindu values and norms into tribal life was a positive step in the process of development.

The tribes in India had slowly absorbed certain Hindu values and style of life through contact with the Hindu social groups. Today, it is being considered a part of Hindu society. Under Hindu influence, the tribes gave up liquor drinking, received education and improved their agriculture.

In this context, Hindu voluntary organizations, such as Ramakrishna Mission and Arya Samaj, played a constructive role for the development of the tribes. In his later works of north-eastern tribes, Ghurye documented secessionist trends. He felt that unless these were held in check, the political unity of the country would be damaged.

Ghurye presents a huge data on the thoughts, practices and habits of the tribes inhabiting the Central Indian region. He quotes extensively from various writings and reports to show that Katauris, Bhuiyas, Oraons, Khonds, Gonds, Korkus etc. have substantially adopted Hinduism as their religion. Ghurye suggests that the economic motivation behind the adoption of Hinduism is very strong among the tribes. They can come out of their tribal crafts and adopt a specialized type of occupation, which is in demand in society.

He further indicated that separatist movement in Northeast India is a product of the cultural distinction between tribes located there and the larger Hindu society.  

In conclusion, one can advocate that Ghurye understanding of tribes and their problems largely manifest his nationalist appeal as he considers cultural unity between tribes and caste can only promote integration in Indian society.



Ghurye’s understanding of caste is comparative, historical and Indological. Unlike his contemporaries he doesn’t glorify or condemn caste, rather he considers caste as a product of Indian culture, changing with the passage of time. Hence, it is a subject of sociological interest. In his book Caste and Race in India”, he agrees with Sir Herbert Risley that caste is a product of race that comes to India along with Aryans. 

Ghurye considers it as unfortunate that caste system is mostly understood in terms of Brahminic domination. Caste has gone through the process of fusion and fission in different ways in Indian history.  During Vedic period caste was a product of race. Ghurye points out that caste was considered as central to organized form of division of labour in Aryan society. According to G. S. Ghurye “Castes are small and complete social worlds in themselves marked off definitely from one another though subsisting within the larger society.”

Ghurye explains caste in India on the basis of six distinctive characteristics:

  1. Segmental division: Segment is the compartmentalization of the population into groups. It is basically horizontal in character. It generates social grouping but not labeling. The membership is ascribed in character, i.e., it is based on birth and flows from generation to generation.  

Based on the membership every member has fixed status, roles and tasks. According to the roles assigned they have to perform it. There are moral ethics, obligations and justification value behind these roles.

  1. Hierarchy: It is the second major characteristic of caste through which Hindu social organization and Indian Society penetrates.  After the segmental divisions of the society, they are put in a pyramidal structure then it is called as hierarchy.

Certain cultural principles like purity and pollution, prioritization of certain group, preferences of the society, determine the positioning of the social segments in the hierarchy in layer.  The layering of the segments is basically vertical in nature.

This caste hierarchy is responsible for spelling out the access and prevention of caste and it becomes the primary consideration for role allocation, responsibility sharing and the imposition of restrictive rules.

Hierarchy determines caste norms. According to Ghurye hierarchy becomes the major consideration for deciding all these aforesaid variables. It basically implies the Division of Labour.

The entire gamut of activities in the society is divided into four types like 

  1. Religious

  2. Governance

  3. Maintenance and 

  4. Menial

Among all these activities the religious activities are given the highest position in society. Therefore, Brahmin is given this responsibility. The second major activity is governance, which implies for managing the state craft and defending the populace from external aggression. So, it is accorded to Khatriyas. The managerial activities are fixed on Vaishyas, who have to generate sustenance for the society. And the menial activities though an integral part of the society, are given the least priority and accorded to the Shudras.

  1. Restriction on food, drinks and social intercourse: Some rules have been imposed upon all caste people.  Restrictions on feeding and social intercourse are still prevalent in Indian society. There are two types of food i.e. Kachchā (any food in the cooking of which water has been used) food and Pakkā (all food cooked in “ghi” without the addition of water) food upon which certain restrictions are imposed with  regard to sharing, for example: caste can be divided into five groups;

    1. The twice-born castes.

    2. Those castes at whose hands the twice-born can take ‘Pakkā’ food.

    3. Those castes at whose hands the twice-born cannot accept any kind of food but may take water.

    4. Cates that are not untouchable yet are such that water from them cannot be used by the twice-born.

    5. All those castes whose touch defiles not only the twice-born but any othodox Hindu.

  2. Civil and religious disabilities: Civil and religious disabilities expressed the rigidity of the caste system. To Ghurye the general reflection of Hindu social life was observed and felt through such disabilities. The disabilities were common to caste in different parts of the country, but the caste groups included in it were not common, rather there are variations.  Civil and religious disabilities basically came from the concept of purity and pollution. Disabilities were for impure and polluted caste and privileges were for pure/higher castes.

  3. Lack of unrestricted choice of occupation: The occupations have been fixed by heredity. Generally, they have not been allowed to change their traditional occupations.  Members of a caste maintain their supremacy and secrecy in their jobs and do not allow the other caste group to join in. The upper caste people like Brahmins are free to opt for study of religious books, while this cannot be done by other classes. The lower ranking activities like sweeping bathrooms, washing clothes, scavenging etc., have been kept in untouchable category.

  4. Restrictions on marriage: Indian caste system is also polarized due to endogamy being determined primarily by Caste. People can marry within caste only. To disobey the caste rule is not only treated as a crime but is also condemned as a sin. The caste panchayat not only denounces inter-caste marriages but also imposes severe punishment upon those who break these rules.

Ghurye view about new roles of caste in India

The caste system in India is undergoing changes due to progress in education, technology, modernization and changes in general social outlook. In spite of the general improvement in conditions of the lower castes, India has still a long way to go, to root out the evils of the caste system from the society. Ghurye doesn’t glorify or condemn caste, rather he considers caste as a product of Indian culture, changing with the passage of time. Ghurye considers it as unfortunate that caste system is mostly understood in terms of Brahminic domination.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Max Weber - Ideal Type

The Ideal Type

The ideal type is one of Weber’s major concepts. It has according to him “no connection at all with value judgements, and it has nothing to do with any type of perfection there than a purely logical one.” There are all sorts of ideal types “of brothels as well as of religions.” It is “methodological device.” “Its function is the comparison with empirical reality in order to establish its divergence or similarities, to describe them with the most unambiguously intelligible concepts, and to understand and explain them casually.”

“An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a grant many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phenomena, which are arranged according to those one-sidedly emphasized viewpoints into a unified analytical construct.” An ideal type “can never be found” as such in reality. It does not correspond to concrete reality.

The ideal type, Raymond points out, is “related to the notion of comprehension, in that every ideal type is an organization of intelligible relations within a historical entity or sequence of events.” It is “related to a characteristic of both our society and our science, namely the process of rationalization. The construction of ideal types is an expression of the attempt characteristic of all scientific disciplines to render subject matter intelligible by revealing (or constructing) its internal rationality.” It is related to the analytic and partial concept of casualty. It helps us to understand historical elements of entities.

The Three Types of Ideal Types

Weber has provided three types of ideal types, which according to Lewis are “distinguished by their levels of abstraction.” 

The first is the ideal type of historical particulars, as Raymond describes them. These historical particularities such as “the Protestant Ethic” or “modern capitalism”. A phenomenon like these appears only in specific historical periods and in particular cultural areas. Commenting on it, Raymond observes that ideal type of historical particular “remains a partial reconstruction since the sociologist selects a certain number of traits from the historical whole to constitute an intelligible entity. This reconstruction is only one among many possible reconstructions and the whole reality does not enter into the sociologist’s mental image.”

The second type designates the abstract element of the historical reality. It includes institutions like ‘bureaucracy’ or ‘feudalism’. These are not specific phenomena. These may occur in a variety of historical and cultural contexts.

The third of the ideal type, according to Raymond “includes those that constitute rationalizing reconstruction of a particular kind of behaviour. For example, according to Weber, all propositions in economic theory are merely ideal-typical reconstructions of the ways men would behave if they were pure economic subjects. Economic theory religiously conceives behaviour as consistent with its essence, this essence being defined in a precise manner.”