Elites In India

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Elites and the Educational Change: An Exploratory Study of Perceptions of Policy-Elites in India The elite by its manner of acting and thinking, sets the standard for the whole society. As the anthropologist, Nadel (2006) points out, ‘its influence or power being that of a model accepted and considered worth following’ (p.35). Conceptually, the elite control key material, symbolic and political resources within a society. However, operationally, they can be identified in institutional terms (Reis and Moore 2005: 2), that is, they are powerful individuals who command key positions in various institutions- political parties, bureaucracy, military and police, large companies and business organizations, large land-owners, trade unions, mass media,…show more content…
According to Desai, the Indian elites can be divided into ‘old elite’ and the ‘new elite’ (Desai 1984). But whether such a clear distinction exists or not is something that will emerge from the following discussion. What is important in the context of the present study is that the elites in India have played a significant role in both the phases and continuing to do. They have been responsible for influencing and representing the masses before independence and shaping their future as policy makers since the independence of the country. Whether their policies and decisions have always been in the best interest of the sections they are formulated for is again debatable and for which one needs to delve into the nuances of these policies. The discussion that follows is an attempt to first understand the different types of elites in India and their role during some crucial periods of history and secondly, to explore who constitute the elites in contemporary Indian society and their role in decision…show more content…
Society in ancient India was hierarchically organized around the varna (caste) system which was central to the country’s polity at the time (Rath 1993: 96). Brahmins were considered to be the most learned class and enjoyed high social power and prestige. Second in the hierarchy were the Kshatriyas who represented the military class. The Vaishyas were the economic class and fourth in the order were the Sudras who were to serve the other three classes. Of the four varnas Brahmins and Kshatriyas were the ruling class and power oscillated between these two classes. These two classes constituted the power elite of that time. The social structure of elites in traditional India was based on the cardinal principles of Hindu tradition- hierarchy, holism and continuity. Both the king and the priest derived their role from the traditional caste system which ‘offered a cultural and moral frame of reference to the elite structure’. Ancient elite structure remained authoritarian, monarchial, feudal and charismatic (ibid:
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