Dissertation Abstracts

Democracy, Development and Regional Dynamics of Change: Exploring Elite Differentiation in Bikaner Town, Rajasthan

Author: Suraj Beri, criticalsun@gmail.com
Department: Centre for the Study of Social Systems
University: Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Supervisor: Prof. Surinder S. Jodhka
Year of completion: 2018
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: elites , social inequality , social mobility , class reproduction
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Regional and Urban Development , Stratification

Abstract

This thesis explores the social organization of elite structure in Bikaner town of Rajasthan. It provides a sociological account of the formation of elites within the context of democratic change and economic development. Elite is not a new concept in social sciences and there has been an academic tradition popularized by Pareto, Mosca and Michels to understand elite in relation to political power. However, due to their ideological challenges to egalitarian worldviews, assertion of ‘inevitability of elites’, and association with fascism; scholarly interest in elite studies declined significantly during the early twentieth century. However, with the drastic rise of income and wealth inequalities in the wake of neoliberal capitalism, in past decade, sociological interest in ‘studying up’ has revived. Thus the task is to identify the challenges and difficulties involved in researching elite, power, and privilege. Engaging elite studies through the works of Pierre Bourdieu, this study reflects upon the historical and economic processes, which sustain or challenge elite reproduction. Instead of explaining the ‘top’ as a monolith category, this approach suggests to investigate how elites are internally divided in sociologically meaningful ways. This study seeks to understand the undercurrents of changing elite structure within three broad contexts of – rising global inequalities, changing urban politics and regional transformation of authority and inequalities. Based on extensive fieldwork, it shows the empirical dynamics of elite differentiation in Bikaner. It looks at the domains of social closure of elite sphere. This paper stresses the analysis of the multifold contestations between old and new elites in these fields mediated by state. It discusses the emerging differentiation as well as continuation of strong ‘social closures’ in the field of power. Drawing upon various sources this work discusses the complex process of differentiation within elite sphere and how privilege is maintained by ‘established elites’ and negotiated by ‘aspiring elites’ in Bikaner.

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