The Social Contract in India

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The strength of the social contract in India has changed over the past several decades. Globalization and the caste system have developed alongside one another for hundreds of years of Indian history. Scholars have thought on the importance of globalization by discussing the economic and social forces that “integrate economies are undermining the traditional role of the state,” by using these factors to determine local outcomes (Agarwala 375-376). Competition has also put pressure on the government as far as the insurance of economic survival “by reducing costly interference in capital productions. Issues concerning labor protection have comprised a prime target area for such reduced government interventional in recent years” (Agarwala 375-376). Globalization did not cause the Caste system, but it is possible that it caused it to become more established in an effort to create an Indian identity throughout the changes.

Today, the spirit of India has survived for so long that there is almost no difference between modern concepts and spiritual concepts. The political structure of India has been subjugated for many years by foreign countries, Britain for example, but has remained socially unsettled. “The idea of being a modern society is no ordinary thought… but even now, the country’s national opinion is not uniform” (Jahanbegloo 2). One issue that is still relevant in India is the issue of the Caste system, or Westerners may know it better as social stratification. India’s colonial history is vital in understanding how the Caste system still works today. In days past, India was simply owned by other, more powerful countries – most famously, Britain. However, the social contract of the Caste system has not faded from Indian society as an old-fashioned idea. There are a number of issues that Caste causes today in modern India. These societal standards “have their origins in the discourse of the independence movement and policies of the colonial regime: the two were operating in some kind of a dialectical relationship” (Jahanbegloo 83). Despite this move toward independence, the Caste system still exists.

Like in the older, new days of the Caste system, the police still enforce the law strictly. Over the decades, people surrender more often to the police and the confession of lesser crimes has become a normal action. This creates a more ethical way to police citizens, but it grants autonomy on the part of police and citizens. As reported on the Z News website (India): “politicians will also learn to respect their boundaries once they know that people are more satisfied when police are allowed to work honestly and without cutting corners” (Gupta).

While the number of cases registered went up massively, attention was focused on serious crime which earlier got less attention because of trivia taking over the time and attention. Ethical code of conduct for fair and just policing may be needed. This code will imply lesser load of work by better management of complaints and greater transparency (Gupta).

So what is the social contract in India, then? “Citizens permit the ruling party to go on spending spree, borrow what it likes and print as much money as it likes… (but) citizens will vote out that ruling party” (Aiyar). Authority is questioned when the Caste system has cracks in it, and this is one of the most recognizable characteristics of this social system. Citizens who realize that they can move up, that they don’t have to be limited to their birth Caste, are likely to ‘rebel’ simply by bettering their lives.

Caste, in summation, is about religious and political identities that have been consistently overlapping but have “remained unaccounted for in the colonial theory of caste” (Jahanbegloo 84). It is almost as if people forget that there is life outside of Caste and the social contract that has been in place for so many years.

Caste has had a strongly built structure in India’s lasting social contract. “It survived powerful anti-Brahmanic and anti-ritualistic movements like the Shamanic (Buddhism and Jainism), the Tantric, and Bhakti” (Jahanbegloo 84). Caste is, at its core, a way to establish power among the rich, over the poorest citizens of the country. It has been regulated throughout history and “pushed the traditional power structure into the secular, horizontal space” (Jahanbegloo 85). Different groups, political and otherwise, compete for power. There are those who are born into a higher Caste and simply have the resources that are required for a win. However, this becomes unfair because it allows for money and privilege to conquer, instead of social policy and great leadership. Social reform is in action to begin to balance this unfairness, and to utilize the power of the lower Caste groups in the country (Jahanbegloo 85). The social contract of India has not come a long way as far as development, but as a whole, it is taking a turn for the better as far as creating a more equal system for all citizens.

India’s social contract means the Caste system still exists after hundreds of years of globalization and establishment. This social contract means that, despite laws having changed, Indians still move along as though the Caste system were as strong as it was a hundred years ago, because of its tight establishment in society. However, the social contract of India is running out and changes are being made toward a more liberal social system.

Works Cited

Agarwala, R. (2008). Reshaping the social contract: Emerging relations between the state and informal labor in India. Theory and Society, 37(4), 375-408. doi:

Aiyar, Anklesaria. “The Social Contract.” The India Times. 2002. Web. 24 Feb 2014. <>.

Gupta, Anil. “Towards a new social contract: Police and society.” Z-News (India). 2014. Web.

24 Feb. 2014. <>.

Jahanbegloo, Ramin. India Revisited: Conversations on Continuity and Change. Oxford Scholarship Online. 2008.