Difference Between Caste and Class

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Sep 23, 2022, 20:36

The major difference between caste and class is that caste is determined at the time of birth of an individual while class is determined by the position of the individual in society. All around the world, people are classified based on various factors like gender, religion, colour, caste, and class. In a diverse country like India, entrenched in classism and casteism, people on the lower hierarchy levels are greatly discriminated against. The key difference between caste and class is that the caste is restricted to customs, religions, and traditions while class is not restricted to that.

As Max Weber mentioned, both caste and class are social status groups, but they are very different. People often confuse these two, making discrimination more complex and brutal. Read the meaning and difference between caste and class below -

What Is Caste?

A caste is a social group determined at birth, and hence it is hereditary. A person born in a particular caste is expected to follow its rituals, customs, and traditions. The caste system is very deeply embedded in India as compared to any other part of the world. The Indian caste system segregates Hindus, the majority religion in India, into four categories:

  • Brahmins
  • Kshatriyas
  • Vaishyas
  • Shudras

Caste is also referred to as 'Varna' according to the Vedic Indian texts.

In the four classes mentioned above, the Brahmins are the priestly people, Kshatriyas are the rulers, administrators, and warriors, and the Vaishyas are the tradesman, farmers, merchants, and artisans, whereas Shudras are the labour and working-class people. There is also a fifth element of the Varna System that falls at the bottom of the hierarchy, the untouchables. These are tribal people and undergo extreme discrimination as they are seen to be too impure to be touched.

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What Is Class?

An economic and social class is a category of people who have the same socio-economic status in relation to other groups in society. Unlike caste, class is not determined at birth but is determined much later in life through various aspects like wealth, education, social standing, etc. However, in a country like India, where caste and class walk in hand, it is very challenging for people to climb up the class ladder due to class discrimination.

Difference Between Caste and Class

Mark the key differences between caste and class to comprehend the meaning of both terms aptly. Stereotypes and prejudices are attached to the classification of society on the basis of caste and class. 

Key Difference Between Class And Caste

Caste

Class

Determined at birth

Determined by social and economic standing in society

Stems from religious beliefs

Not affected by religious beliefs

Bound to follow its custom, rituals, and traditions

Does not come with such constraints

Static

Dynamic

No scope for upward social mobility

Can change their class state by climbing up the social and economic ladder

Inter-caste marriages are frowned upon and not very acceptable

Inter-class marriages are more common and acceptable, especially when a girl is married into the upper class

Many political forces work behind the caste system

The class system is not as political

Forced to follow their ancestors' occupations irrespective of personal interests

People are free to choose any occupation they desire

 

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FAQs On Difference Between Caste and Class

Q1 What is the difference between caste and class?

Ans: The major differences between caste and class are that class is determined by the position in society, and caste is determined at birth. The caste is rooted in religious beliefs while the class is not affected by beliefs associated with religion. The caste cannot be changed while the class can be upgraded by moving up the social and economic ladder.

Q.2. How does the difference between caste and class affect the poor?

The difference between caste and class affects poor people falling on the lower levels of caste and class hierarchy since they often face double discrimination, thus making their discrimination intersectional.

Q.3. What is the key difference between caste and class?

The significant difference between Caste and Class is that Caste is determined at birth, whereas Class is ascribed according to someone's economic and social standing in society.

Q.4. What is the difference between caste and class in terms of social mobility?

The difference between caste and class with regard to social mobility is that there is no scope for upward social mobility in the caste system, whereas a person can change their class state by climbing up the social and economic ladder.

Q.5. What is the difference between class and caste with regard to religion?

The difference between caste and class with regard to religion is that a caste is a social group determined at birth depending on religious and ritualistic beliefs whereas class is determined based on the economic and social group a person belongs to.