Encompassing of the Contrary?
Encompassing of the Contrary
Those lacking a deeper understanding of the Indian caste system perceive it as base and morally flawed. At times it has drawn comparisons with the institution of slavery. However, such titles and comparisons are unfounded insofar as its critics lacked a complete understanding of the system.
The beauty of the caste system lies not in its ability to exclude and discredit certain elements, but rather its complete encompassment of all its parts within the whole.
A better understanding of the hierarchical caste system may be reached by examining our most basic relatives “ Adam and Eve. As the first man, Adam is the representative of the species mankind and the prototype of the male individuals of this species(Dumont 240). Let us call these two distinctions levels(Dumont 240.) If we consider these two levels we can come to the conclusion that on a second level, woman is opposite or the contrary of man(Dumont 240). Dumont believes hierarchy is characterized by these two distinctions. More clearly, man and woman are both components of the human species, yet they are opposites in reference to sex. Further, Eve sprung from Adam thus Adam inhabits the top of the hierarchy. This hierarchical relation is, very generally, that between a whole (or a set) and an element of this whole (or set): the element belongs to the set and is in the sense consubstantial or identical with it; at the same time¦ it stands in opposition to it(Dumont 240). This allows us to understand Dumont™s titling of hierarchy as the encompassing of the contrary™, for it is the inclusion of all parts and their opposites which comprises the whole.
Dumont™s approach to understanding hierarchy deviated from that of his predecessors. In the hierarchical case, according to Apthorpe, one category (the superior) includes the other (the inferior), which in turn excludes the first(Dumont 241). This understanding encompasses all the parts only at the superior level, distinguishing between parts and excluding the lesser in the inferior.
By excluding the lesser he loses his sense of dignity and pride. Whereas Dumont posits, Hierarchy consists in the combination of these two propositions concerning different levels. In hierarchy thus defined, complementariness or contradiction is contained in a unity of superior order(Dumont 242). The idea of complete encompassment of all parts within the system is the source of beauty.
Unfortunately this system becomes very unstable if we mix the defining levels™ of the hierarchy. This is clearly illustrated if we assign woman and men equal status within a universe of discourse. But as soon as we intermingle the two levels, we have a logical scandal, because there is identity and contradiction at the same time.(Dumont 242). Moreover, a whole cannot exist of many different elements if all the elements are the same. No doubt this fact has contributed to the movement of modern thought away from the idea of hierarchy due to emphasis on the idea of equality (Dumnont 242).
Yet equality may not be the best policy. Within an equal system the components of the whole no longer function in harmony. The direction of the system shifts entirely if we assume equality among its parts. For within an equal system classes arise and distinctions are made. The wealthy are the same as the poor insofar as they are human beings, yet the wealthy have something that the poor do not thus distinguishing the poor. These class distinctions exclude a portion of the society and making them feel undignified. This feeling of non-inclusion or isolation is absent within a hierarchy because each individual comprises an element of the whole which cannot function without it. Whereas in a system of equality that part will not be missing because its equal can take its place. Thus we find in considering hierarchy that its implications are highly misunderstood, for there is good that comes from this system.