Louis Dumont: Introduction: Pure or Superior Practices and Criticism

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  • French anthropologist
  • Structural Indological perspective/approach
  • Cognitive historical approach
  • Ideology and tradition
  • Ideology: unified set of ideas and values
  • Ideology of caste in Indology
  • Book view method
  • Combined text with context
  • Structural functional analysis
  • Concept of Purity and Impurity/Pollution
  • Homo Hierachicus: Caste System and its implications in the year 1966
  • Features of caste system according to him:
  • Hierarchy is the core of caste system
  • And in society based on that Western society based on equality – Homo aquealis
  • Purity and impurity denote superiority and inferiority respectively
  • Ritual status and power are different in caste system
  • There is no parallel of Indian caste system
  • Ritual status is of utmost importance
  • Inspired by Binary opposites view by Levi-Strauss
Introduction of Louis Dumont
  • Application in caste - Opposites of pure and polluted
  • Cultural explanation of caste: Inspired by Bougle
  • Division of labour and the caste system is not based on economic but on the cultural basis
  • Position of caste is relative: Position of Brahmins is taken as the ideal reference
  • Caste as an ideology of separation of pure and impure
  • Dual focus on ideology and structure
  • Caste system in terms of ideas and values
  • Binary opposition with Western ideology: His focus was on ideology because it was also reflected in the ancient literature and text
  • He used the examples of Jajmani system, Marriage, dining practices, socialization, and priests.
  • Where the domination is by hierarchy and not economics.
  • Caste as Binary opposition of pure and impure
  • He said, “caste is not a form of stratification, but a special form of inequality and hierarchy is the central tenet of this system.”
  • Principle of purity and pollution is universal in the Indian society
  • He rejects Srinivas՚s idea that caste hierarchy has secular and ritual streams
  • The overall framework of the caste has not changed with time there is change in society and not of society
  • Substantialization of caste: Traditional independence has been replaced by competing interests with changing times

Pure or Superior Practices

  • Endogamy
  • Cleanliness
  • Vegetarianism

Polluted or Inferior Practices

Impure occupations


  • Power and status are the two sides of the same coin- Gerald D Berrmen
  • Indology-based inferences do not match with today՚s reality. Andre Beteille said his view is on ‘What caste ought to be and not what caste today is.’
  • Ignores the conflicts view of caste
  • Textual approach


  • His study is helpful in summarizing cultural complexities of India.
  • His cultural dimension approach was a different approach at that time when only field studies, structural functionalism and Marxist perspective were popular.


Q. 1. Who has opined that … . Indian civilization has a specific ideology whose components are in a binary opposition to that of the West: modern against traditional, holism against individualism, hierarchy against equality, purity against pollution, status against power etc. ?

(A) Louis Dumont

(B) David Hardiman

(C) N. K. Bose

(D) G. S. Ghurye

Answer: (A)

Q. 2. The group of thinkers supported cultural view of caste were

(a) Weber, Barth, Bailey

(b) Srinivas Barth, Bailey

(c) Weber, Srinivas, Dumont

(d) Dumont, Weber, Bailey

Ans. (c)



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