MN Srinivas was one of the most influential sociologists in India, who pioneered the study of social change in modern India. He is best known for his concepts of sanskritization, dominant caste, and vote bank, which have become widely used in the analysis of Indian society and politics.
In this article, we will review his book Social Change in Modern India, which was first published in 1966 and revised in 1995. This book is a collection of his essays on various aspects of social change in India, such as caste, religion, village, city, and democracy. We will also provide a link to download the PDF version of the book for free.
Social Change in Modern India: An Overview
Srinivas begins his book by defining social change as "the alteration, modification, or transformation of public behaviour patterns, roles, institutions, and structures" (p. 1). He argues that social change in India is not a linear or uniform process, but rather a complex and uneven one, influenced by multiple factors such as colonialism, nationalism, modernization, urbanization, industrialization, education, and mass media.
He then proceeds to examine the various dimensions of social change in India, starting with caste. He traces the historical evolution of the caste system and its interaction with other social forces such as religion, economy, and politics. He introduces his concept of sanskritization, which he defines as "the process by which a low caste or tribe or other group takes over the customs, rituals, beliefs, ideology and style of life of a high and in particular a twice-born (dwija) caste" (p. 29). He argues that sanskritization is a form of upward social mobility and cultural assimilation that has been prevalent in Indian society for centuries.
He also discusses his concept of dominant caste, which he defines as "a caste which has demographic preponderance either in a region or in a locality; which owns a sizable amount of land; which has strength of numbers and occupies high positions in the local hierarchy; which has political power; and which commands respect from other castes" (p. 93). He argues that dominant castes play a crucial role in shaping the local power structure and influencing the social change process.
He then moves on to examine the role of religion in social change. He analyzes the impact of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and tribal religions on Indian society. He also explores the phenomenon of religious conversion and its implications for social change. He argues that religion is both a source and an outcome of social change, as it reflects and affects the values, beliefs, and practices of people.
He then shifts his focus to the rural-urban continuum and the dynamics of village and city life. He describes the features and functions of the Indian village as a social unit and its relation to the wider society. He also examines the processes of urbanization and industrialization and their effects on social change. He argues that both village and city are undergoing rapid changes due to various factors such as migration, communication, education, and development.
He finally concludes his book by discussing the role of democracy in social change. He analyzes the emergence and functioning of democracy in India since independence. He also introduces his concept of vote bank, which he defines as "a group whose votes are determined by considerations other than those relating to policies or programmes" (p. 217). He argues that vote bank politics is a manifestation of the interplay between caste, religion, class, region, language, and other factors that shape the electoral behaviour of people.
Social Change in Modern India: A Critical Appraisal
Srinivas's book is widely regarded as a classic work on sociology in India. It provides a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the various dimensions of social change in India from a historical and comparative perspective. It also introduces some original and influential concepts that have enriched the sociological vocabulary and understanding of Indian society.
However, some critics have also pointed out some limitations and drawbacks of Srinivas's book. Some have argued that his concepts are too vague or ambiguous to be operationalized or tested empirically. Some have also questioned 061ffe29dd