Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Caste as freedom, if you don’t harm others physically, mentally…

The historian Polly O’Hanlon says

  • India’s “…caste encouraged the development of exceptional handicraft skills. Many Indian goods, from specific kinds of textile to hardened sword steels, could not be reproduced under the work conditions prevalent anywhere else in the world, at least before industrialization. 
  • High levels of specialization also meant well-established systems of exchange—and to mobilize these, a widely developed facility with money use, a willingness to exchange goods for cash and long-distance credit networks of increasing sophistication. Kin and caste connections helped to establish relations of trust that were essential for these credit networks. 
  • The mobility of India’s population —particularly of its specialized artisan communities and skilled agriculturalists—was another critical factor in the development of these exchange relations. Skilled people were a highly sought after social and commercial asset and regional states competed to attract them. Caste was also a factor here in facilitating mobility and preserving long-distance social ties. 
  • why many of the things that we have come to regard as “backward”—a high degree of human specialization in production, caste and family as the basis for commercial organization —continued to be important”.

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