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Rosseau May Have Liked Indian Caste System

March 21, 2011

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In Rousseau’s writing of “On the Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right”, he says, “The law can create several classes of citizens, and even stipulate the qualifications that determine membership in these classes” (441). There are many situations where Rousseau’s ideas are applicable with one example given in the post below about the differences in tuition; however, a specific situation is the Indian caste system. Stated as a law in India until 1949, people would judge others off the caste they were a part of. The caste was a law because it would classify people into different occupations, characteristics and statuses in society. For example, the Brahmins were the highest caste and its specific members were predominantly priests. They were the most respected individuals in society. In contrast, the “Untouchables” were the servants and people would go out of their way to harass those individuals. Once in a specific caste, it was very difficult to get out of it, which is similar to the “hereditary line” that Rosseau says is established through a law.

However, today the caste system is no longer a stated law. Rosseau alludes to the following: “every state [is] ruled by laws a republic, regardless of the form its administration may take” (442). Originally, when India was following the caste system, the rulers were not taking the public interest into account as they created the different castes. So, would the Aryans identify with the Rosseau by not taking the general will into account before creating a law? With a republican government, the public interest is taken into account to create some control over the laws that are being instated for the general body. By taking the public interest into account, the rulers sometimes have a better understanding of what people want. Personally, I believe Burke would not want people to do the latter. He would want people to make decisions for others because of his conservative mentality. He wouldn’t want others to be able to openly express themselves.

Additionally, Rosseau stated the following: “By itself the populace always wants the good, but by itself it does not always see it” (442). When the caste system was created, the Aryans thought it would benefit society if they separated people depending on their class. At that point in history, they thought it was the right thing to do because they had a mindset of the importance of class. In today’s world, Burke would not like the democratic government that we have. He would think that taking everyone’s interests into account would be a waste of time.

And, Rosseau also stressed the importance of laws being created by people who are associated with each other. The Aryans chose not to associate with the Indians, so they created the different classes. In contrast, our public officials choose to create laws after they are elected from the general public. In today’s world, what would be an object that would identify with Burke’s ideas, like the caste system did in the past? Additionally, what do you think Burke would advocate for us to change?


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