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Louis Dumont

Louis Dumont (1911-1998) an eminent sociologist and Indologist was a towering figure in the fields of sociology and anthropology in the world. His focus of debate has been India and the West. As a study of the caste system in India, Dumont's Homo Hierarchicus offers several new perspectives of social structure. The notions of ideology and tradition are intrinsic parts of his paradigm. He has brought the method of structuralism to bear upon his study of the caste system. The chief elements of his methodology are:

  • Ideology and structure
  • Dialectic transformational relationship and comparison
  • Indological and structuralist approach
  • Cognitive historical approach

    Dumont seeks the ideology of caste in Indology and in the assumption of the unity of Indian civilization. Defining ideology according to him it designates a more or less unified set of ideas and values. Indian civilization is 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. This opposition is basis for comparison at the level of global ideology within the specific ideology of the caste system. The opposite is between the principles of purity and pollution. The notion of hierarchy has a pivotal place in Dumont's study of caste system. Hierarchy implies opposition between pure and impure which also determines its dialectics. It also suggests the relationship of encompassing and being encompassed. In the caste system the principle of purity encompasses the impure.