Rural sociology is the scientific study of rural society. It involves a systematic study of rural society, its institutions, activities, interactions and social change. It not only deals with the social relationships of man in a rural environment but also takes urban surroundings into consideration for a comparative study.
According to A.R Desai rural sociology should be to make a systematic, scientific and comprehensive study of the rural social organization of its structure, function and objective tendencies of development and on the basis of such a study to discover the laws of its development.
Such sociological aspects and principles as one derived from the study of rural social relationships may be referred to as rural sociology. Bertrand has observed that in the broadest definition rural sociology is the study of human relationships in rural environment.
Rural sociology is a holistic study of rural social setting. It provides us with valuable knowledge about the rural social phenomena and social problems which helps us in understanding rural society and making prescriptions for its all round progress and prosperity.
- Origin and development of Rural Sociology
- The Indian Context of Rural Sociology
- Main features of Rural Society
- Caste Structure In Rural Set Up
- Role of caste in Rural Society
- Jajmani System in Rural Society
- Agrarian changes after Independence in Rural Society
- Land Reforms in Rural Society
- Community Development Programme in Rural Society
- Green Revolution
Origin and development of Rural Sociology
The period of 1890-1920 in America saw the rural societies facing many socio-economic problems which attracted the attention of the intelligentsia thus establishing study of rural society as an academic discipline. The appointment of Country life Commission by Theodore Roosevelt was an important landmark in the history of rural sociology. In 1916 the first text book on sociology was published by J.N Gillettee.
In response to these critiques of rural sociology a new sub-discipline of sociology emerged that operated largely within the functionalist paradigm and was preoccupied with the study of the community life of rural people. This sub-discipline known as sociology of agriculture focused its attention on understanding and analyzing the social framework of agricultural production and the structures of relations centered on land. It raised questions about how and on what terms the agrarian sector was being integrated into the system of commodity production and about the unequal distribution of agricultural incomes and food among the different social categories of people.The sociology of agriculture also distinguished itself from peasant studies on the grounds that its focus was on capitalist farming where the production was primarily for the market, not on peasants producing for their own consumption by using family labour.Thus it claimed more kinship with the tradition of the political economy of agriculture or agrarian studies. At the methodological level, historical inquiries became as relevant as ethnographic/empirical studies.Thisconceptual shift during the early 1970s also helped in bringing sociologists working on agrarian issues in the western countries closer to those concerned with agrarian transformations in the third world.
The Indian Context of Rural Sociology
According to Nelson up to the comparatively recent times the story of man is largely the story of rural man. So rural society is the basic foundation of human life, the keystone of the developmental process and the basic unit of social structure. Villages have been in existence since time immemorial unlike cities which are of more recent origin. In the Indian context rural sociology is of greater significance of the following reasons.
According to S.C Dubey from time immemorial village has been a basic and important unit in the organization of Indian social life. Unique nature of transformation of Indian society where elements of traditional and modern cultures have been juxtaposed. For rural development and solution of rural problems according to A.R Desai this systematic study of rural organization of its structure; function and evolution has not only become necessary but also urgent after the advent of independence. Growing influence of industrialization and urbanization. Village as the basic unit of study. Scientific study of village community is a prerequisite for democratic decentralization.
In modern India, the need of rural sociology is very urgent and it is progressive social science gaining importance.
Main features of rural society
Village is a community-The village satisfies all their needs in the village. They have a sense of unity and a feeling of amiability towards each other.
Village is a institution-The development of villages is influenced considerably by the life of the village. In this way village is a primary institution.
Religiosity-Faith in religion and universal power is found in the life of the villages. The major occupation is agriculture which involves dependence on nature. Farmers worship forces of nature. The life of the village is the joint family system.
Caste Structure In Rural Set Up
Risley defined caste as a collection of families or group of families bearing a common name claiming a common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine, professing to follow the same hereditary calling and forming a single homogeneous community.
According to M.N Srinivas the features of caste prevailing through the past centuries may be described under 9 heads: hierarchy, restriction on food, drink and smoking; distinction in custom, dress and speech; pollution, ritual and other privileges and disabilities; caste organization and caste mobility.
- a) Hierarchical division of society- Caste brings an element of hierarchy in society by dividing it into different strata, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra on the basis of relative ritual purity. These major groups are again subdivided into a number of small groups which are also graded into various positions in terms of high or low. According to Bottomore in modern India there are perhaps some 2500 jatis in each major region.Ghurye also finds that in each linguistic region there are about 200 caste groups which are further subdivided into about 3000 smaller units each of which is endogamous and constitutes the area of effective social life for the individual.
b) Hereditary-Each caste is a hereditary group. The membership of the caste is confined to those who are born into it by an endogamous marriage relation. The status of an individual is determined by virtue of his birth. Each caste has a traditional occupation and all the members strictly follow this occupation to earn their livelihood.
c) Endogamy-Every caste is an endogamous group. This endogamous character is maintained by the rules and regulation of marriage. However gotra exogamy is maintained in each caste. Every caste is subdivided into different small units on the basis of gotra.The members of one gotra are believed to be successors of a common ancestor-hence prohibition of marriage within the same gotra.
d) Unique culture- Ghurye says that castes are small and complete social worlds in themselves marked differently from one another though subsisting within the larger society. Every caste has a distinct culture, traditions and customs which distinguish it from those of the other groups. The behavioral pattern, food habits etc is prescribed by the caste rules.
e) Closed group- Endogamy, unique culture and heredity combined together to make caste a closed group. No person can enter into a particular caste except by birth.Srinivas talks about process of Sanskritisation which takes place with in Indian society.
f) Organization- Every caste has its own organizational structure known as caste panchayat which lays down rules and regulations that have to be obeyed by the members of that caste. The internal differences and conflicts are settled in the caste panchayat which serves as a judicial system. Socially every caste group is an autonomous body having judiciary, executive and financial power of its own which it exercises over the members of that caste in the interests of the caste as a whole.
g) Rights and Privileges-These vary from caste to caste. Generally the Brahmins enjoy the most privileged position and have extensive rights which they can exercise over the members of other castes. They have a dominant position in social, political and economic fields of rural life. Such rights and privileges decrease as one descends the caste hierarchy.
Role of caste in Rural Society
Jajmani System in Rural Society
The concept of Jajmani systemInter-caste relations at the village level constitute vertical ties. They may be classified into economic, ritual, political and civic ties. The castes living in a village are bound together by economic ties. Generally peasant castes are numerically preponderant in villages and they need the carpenter, blacksmith and leather worker castes to perform agricultural work. Servicing castes such as priest, barber, and washerman and water carrier cater to the needs of everyone except the Harijans.Artisan castes produce goods which are wanted by every one. Most Indian villages do not have more than a few of the essential castes and depend on neighboring villages for certain services, skills and goods.
In rural India with its largely subsistence and not fully monetized economy the relationship between the different caste groups in a village takes a particular form. The essential artisan and servicing castes are paid annually in grain at harvest time. In some parts of India the artisan and servicing castes are also provided with free food, clothing, fodder and residential site. On such occasions as birth, marriage and death, these castes perform extra duties for which they are paid customary money and some gifts in kind. This type of relationship is found all over India and is called by different names-jajmani in north,bara batute in Maharashtra,mirasi in Tamil Nadu and adade in Karnataka.
Oscar Lewis defined jajmani system as that under which each caste group within a village is expected to give certain standardized services to the families of other castes.Jajmani is more than a relationship between families than between castes.Jajmani is sort of mutual give and take form of relationship in which one family is hereditarily entitled to supply goods and render services to the other in exchange of the same. The person rendering the services or supplying the goods is known as kameen or prajan and the person to whom the services are rendered is called a jajman.Thus under jajmani system a permanent informal bond is made between jajman and kameen to meet each other's need for good and services.
Main features of Jajmani SystemThe jajmani system is characterized by the following features:
- Unbroken relationship- Under the jajmani system the kameen remains obliged to render the services throughout his life to a particular jajman and the jajman in turn has the responsibility of hiring services of a kameen.
- Hereditary relationship- Jajmani rights are enjoyed hereditarily. After the death of a man his son is entitled to work as kameen for the same jajman family of families. The son of a jajman also accepts the son of the kameen as his kameen.
- Multidimensional relationship- Due to the permanency of relationship both the jajman and kameen families become mutually dependent on each other. The relationship becomes very deep. They often take part in the personal and family affairs,family rituals and ceremonies.
- Barter exchange-Under jajmani system the payments are made mainly in terms of goods and commodities. The kameen gets his necessities from the jajman in return of his services.
Agrarian changes after Independence in Rural Society
Land Reforms in Rural Society
However the process of agrarian reforms is inherently a political question. The choices made by the Indian state and the actual implementation of land reforms were determined by the politics of the new regime rather than by the theoretical superiority of a particular position. The Indian state chose to reorganize agrarian relations through redistribution of land but not in a comprehensive and radical manner.Joshi described it as sectorial or sectional reforms. The Government of India directed its states to abolish intermediary tenures, regulate rent and tenancy rights, confer ownership rights on tenants, impose ceilings on holdings, distribute the surplus land among the rural poor and facilitate consolidation of holdings. A large number of legislations were passed by the state government over a short period of time.
However most of the legislations provided loopholes that allowed the dominant landowners to tamper with land records by redistributing land among relatives, evicting their tenants and using other means to escape the legislations. In the absence of concerted political will land reforms could succeed only in regions where the peasantry was politically mobilized and could exert pressure from below.
Despite overall failure, land reforms succeeded in weakening the hold of absentee landlords over rural society and assisted in the emergence of a class of substantial peasants and petty landlords as the dominant political and economic group. For example in Rajasthan though the abolition of jagirs was far from satisfactory it made considerable difference to the overall land ownership patterns and to the local and regional power structures. The Rajputs possessed much less land after the land reforms than they did before, Most of the village land had moved into the hands of those who could be called small and medium landowners. In qualitative terms most of the land begins to be self-cultivated and the incidence of tenancy declined considerably. The fear of losing land induced many potential losers to sell or rearrange their lands in a manner that escaped legislations.
However in few cases the landless laborers living in the countryside most of whom belonged to the ex-touchable castes received land. The beneficiaries by and large belonged to middle level caste groups who traditionally cultivated land as a part of the calling of their castes. While land reforms were supposed to deal with the problem of landlordism, the hold of moneylenders over the peasantry was to be weakened by providing credit through institutional sources initially by credit societies and later by the nationalized commercial banks. According to the findings of an official survey carried out immediately after Independence from colonial rule up to approximately 91% of the credit needs of cultivators were being met by informal sources of credit. Much of this came from moneylenders. Indian state planned to expand the network of cooperative credit societies. With the imposition of social control and later their nationalization, commercial banks were also asked to lend to the agricultural sector on priority basis. Over the years the dependence of rural households on informal sources has come down significantly. The assessment studies on the cooperative credit societies showed that much of their credit went to the relatively better of sections of rural society and the poor continued to depend on the more expensive informal sources. This was explained as a consequence of the prevailing structure of land tenures. The state response was to bureaucratize the cooperative societies. Though in some regions this helped in releasing credit societies from the hold of big landowners, bureaucratization also led to rampant corruption and increasing apathy among those whom they were supposed to serve.Yet despite inherent bias of institutional credit against the rural poor, its availability played an important role in making the green revolution a success and definitely helped to marginalize the professional moneylender in the rural power structure.
Community Development Programme in Rural Society
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