Caste given a racial base. Those who subscribe to the conquest theory of social organization are likely, in an uncritical way, to attribute caste to conquest, even to the racial aspect of conquest. Ward, speaking in general terms, says: "As is well known, one of the first efforts of the conquest is the subdivision . . . into a series of more or less distinct strata called castes." 20Next Page
Karl Bucher states positively: "We know exactly (genau) that the lower castes are of different racial backgrounds (Abstammung) than the higher castes . . ." 21 Max Weber alludes to the differences in skin color among the castes of India; 22 Wund finds that "in India ... the lower castes are clearly distinguishable from the higher, even as to physical characteristics." 23 These definitions do not necessarily conflict with those which hold that castes are social strata.
The modern literature, wherein blacks and whites are referred to as castes, especially in the writings of Donald Young, Warner, and Dollard, is familiar to all sociologists. In these instances the identification of caste and race is complete. Here the word caste, as used, could not simultaneously be used to identify classes or occupations. The whole race becomes a caste and vice versa.
The diversity demonstrated above leaves the conscientious student with a problem to solve, even though the task is a difficult one. Thus far it is easy to see that great confusion exists; the purpose of the citations, and their systematic arrangement, is to offer substance to the generalization that a new formulation of the concept caste is much to be desired by sound theory. The following attempt to attain an adequate definition of caste is offered as contribution to sociological literature. The value of this effort can be judged only in light of the results achieved.
What is a caste?
Caste has been identified with class, hereditary function, hereditary status, conquerors and conquered, and members of races or ethnic groups.
By way of synthesis and distinction one can see that caste is not synonymous with social class to those who write of the classes within the "black caste," for instance. Donald Young states that it "is theoretically possible to have castes without classes, classes without castes, or classes within castes." 24 Here at least one basic distinction has been made.
One sees, too, that those who refer to strictly hereditary occupations as castes are using the word in a particular connection, remotely related to what has been considered to be the situation in India, but which has been applied to this particular custom or practice, wherever found.
Those who refer to castes as social strata, or status groups, are likely to be employing the concept of social status where the notion of religious or holy status would perhaps be more applicable; that is, if they are trying to identify caste with those organizations characteristic of India.
Those who define castes in terms of conquest are thinking either (i) of what has happened after certain particular and rare instances of conquest, or (ii) they are generalizing according to the uncertain historical facts of the Cumplowicz-Oppenheimer school of social theory.
The identification of race with caste loses all meaning if it is carried too far. For instance, does a Chinese laundry man in a small town made up of white people constitute a caste? Or, again, are all blacks to be thought of as members of one caste? And all whites of another? Has the word race found a competitor in the word caste?
20. Lester F. Ward, "Social Class in the Light of Modern Sociological Theory," in the American Journal of Sociology, vol. XIII (March, 1908) p. 617.
21. Karl Bucher, Die Enstehung der Volkswirtschaft (Tübingen, 1904) p. 370; translation ours.
22. Max Weber, Gesammelte Aufsätze zu Religionssoziologie, vol. II (Tübingen, 1921) pp. 123 and 125.
23. Wilhelm Wundt, Elements of Folk Psychology, tr. E.L. Schaub (London, 1916) p. 316.
24. Donald Young, American Minority Peoples (New York, 1932) p. 581.