Difference Between Caste and Class - Caste System vs Class System

By Trisha Tewari|Updated : January 2nd, 2023

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, color, caste, and class. In a diverse country like India, entrenched in classism and casteism, people on the lower hierarchy levels are greatly discriminated against.

Difference Between Caste and Class PDF

The key difference between caste and class is that caste is restricted to customs, religions, and traditions, while class is not restricted to that. As Max Weber mentioned, 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.

Table of Content

Difference Between Caste and Class with Reference to Indian Politics

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

Caste vs Class

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.

What are Caste and Class?

Caste and Class are predominant in India at a much higher rate than in other countries. There is a huge social gap between people of different castes that acts as an obstacle to the nation's advancement, while the social gap among individuals is narrow in the class system. Below is a brief explanation of caste and Class in Indian society.

Caste System

A caste is a social group determined at birth and is hereditary. A person born in a particular caste must follow its rituals, customs, and traditions. The caste system is deeply embedded in India compared to other parts 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 labor and working-class people.

  • A fifth element of the Varna System also falls at the bottom of the hierarchy, the untouchables.
  • These are tribal people and undergo extreme discrimination as they are seen as too impure to be touched.

Class System in India

An economic and social class is a category of people with the same socio-economic status relative to other social groups. Unlike caste, class is not determined at birth but 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.

Summary:

Key Difference Between Caste and Class

The Key Difference Between Caste and Class is that the caste system is static in nature, whereas the class system is relatively dynamic. Caste inequality is highly observant in the caste system, while scattered inequality is witnessed in the class system.

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FAQs on Difference Between Caste and Class

  • The major difference between caste and class is that the position in society determines class, 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.
  • The major characteristics of the Caste system include the following:

    • The caste system segregates the Hindus into four substantial categories, i.e., Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. 
    • Caste is distinctive in the Indian sub-continent. 
    • The caste system in India does not promote Democracy.
  • Considering social mobility, the difference between class and caste 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.

  • The difference between Caste and Class is that Caste is determined at birth, whereas Class is elucidated according to someone's economic and social standing in society. Caste includes ritual holiness, status, etc., while class is represented by the social prestige of a person in the society like money, profession, etc.

  • The difference between caste and class concerning 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.

  • A class is defined as the social stature of a person in society. Many factors influence class, like money, caste, occupation, etc. There are five social classes:

    • Upper class
    • Upper-middle class
    • Middle class
    • The working class, and;
    • Lower class.
  • The difference between caste and class is based on how they affect poor people falling on the lower levels of caste and class hierarchy since they often face double discrimination, thus making their discrimination intersectional.

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