Compare the caste system to other systems of social inequality devised by early and classical civilizations, including slavery

Lets look at the possible themes you should keep in mind while analyzing this question.
I would recommend you focusing on "development of transformation of social structures" and really look into the idea of "social and economic classes" as well as "racial and ethnic constructions". Social class is effected by and affects all political, economic, and social factors of a society, so keep that in mind as well.



Inequality can be divided into numerous factors such as political inequality, gender inequality (patriarchal families), economic inequality, religious inequality, and however you divide your "themes". In each area, however, you see a trend where the wealthier have more advantages than the ones with less advantages. (of course) For example, in some religions, Priests were given more opportunities and better life-styles because their job was considered to be more important than other jobs in the society. In China, merchants were actually pushed down to a lower class although in areas such as the Mediterranean, merchants were actually regarded with some respect. This all depends on each civilization's characteristics, morals, and perspectives. There are so many factors that vary depending on each idea. Therefore, keep your mind open for more interpretations other than the ones listed here, and constantly remind yourself each civilization's characteristics as you read along.

The caste system : a quick check up

When nomadic warriors from Central Asia migrated to India around 1500CE, they brought many aspects of current Indian culture such as their language, Vedas, and a government that later evolved into the caste system. The caste system and Hinduism go hand in hand. Hinduism's belief in reincarnation, karma, and dharma work as the justifications for the existence of the rigid, strict caste system.

The caste system is divided into four varnas

pyramide.jpgMore specifically...
priests and scholars
warriors and ruling class
farmers and buisnessman
You're a no one. You're not even represented in the pyramid

The caste system was based on the idea of "purity" and "pollution". This basically means that your "rank" in the social hierarchy depends on that job you have. The more you use your brain and thoughts, the purer you were, therefore leading you to the upper class. On the other side, "polluted" things were categorized as sweat or human excrement- so the dirtier work you had to do, the lower in caste you were. Also, the higher the caste, the lighter your skin color; the lower- the darker.

In order to keep the "purity" within each castes, people were to marry only people in their own caste. Also, there was no social movility of classes although in subcastes (jati), you were able to move up and down. HOWEVER, if you did do something extremely bad, there was a possibility you can move DOWN a caste.

Break it DOWN : inequality is...

- justified through hinduism (religion)
- based on race and color
- based on your job about "purity" and "pollution"

Hierarchy in a Glance

priests and scholars
warriors and ruling class
farmers and buisnessman
no one.... :(

Priests / Priestesses
Free commoners: peasants/builders/craftsmen/professionals
Dependent clients: no property


Pharaoh (higher to him = higher social status)

Shang and Zhou
Ruling Elite
Artisans / craftsman

Gender Inequality

- woman's main role was to have children
- sati : ritual suicide of a wife after her husband's death

- Code of Hammurabi gives men less severe punishments compared to woman
- the men had the final word of the household

- obviously, only men were expected to be pharaohs
- women had to chance to rule, but had to dress up as a man

- woman have no power at all: must be submissive to husbands

- patriarchal societies were inevitable because the shift of work from women to men
- in general, all early civilizations see woman's job to be at HOME

Religious Inequality

India : Hindu
China : Confucianism
Egypt : "Sun God"
- look above for the caste chart
- scholar gentry were on top, then peasants, then merchants
- ultimate power to the pharaoh, who is perceived as a sun god
- men and women are supposed to be equal under God
- however, allowed slaves

- god rid of castes
- equality among all : wants to achieve nirvana

- religion was a justification for most cases of social inequalities in the early civilizations

Political Inequality


- The caste system did not allow for movement among castes, so politically, where it is possible to move up and down depending on your wealth, did not effect the religious-based social stratification
-patricians, the wealthy class, dominated the republic
- wealthy had large plantations with slaves

-pharaohs had ultimate power
- Athen's government allowed representation of free adult males
- no woman, slaves, foreigners

- although there was a civil service exam, only landlords were able to take it
- However, the King had the most power

Usage of Slavery

slavery-1.jpgSlavery was in fact, seen during early civilizations and classical civilizations. Because these civilizations relied on "surplus", farming was a pivotal factor of the society. Farming was hard-work, so if people were able to afford slaves, many civilizations tended to use them as cheap labor. Moreover, in most of the civilizaitons, although the level of degree may differ, slaves received no respect and in many cases did not receive money for their wore. Rome, China, India, all used slavery whether or not what their religions were. For example, Muslims did not enslave Muslims, but enslaved any other religions. Christianity, no matter what religion, enslaved anyone depending on eaach circumstance. (conquering, etc).

AP World History 2009 Kaplan Book
world civilization global experience text book