Andre Beteille is a renounced anthropologist ( the study of human behavior and cultures). He is one of the best sociologists we have with a liberal approach. His work emphasizes in the minds of the people regarding the castes and the classes, rich and the poor, conservatives and the modern people.
His work mainly focuses on the people of South India and the caste practices they adhere to. Beteille personally prefers the methods and ideologies of eminent people like John Rawls and Weber, which can be reflected in his writings and are moreover a base of his work.
Beteille was born on September 30, 1934, in a mixed parentage; and this heterogenic matrimony of his parents broadened his perspective which can be observed in his writings. He received his early education from Patna, later in Calcutta, and finally in Delhi where he pursued his P.hD.
Andre is a Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. He has been a lecturer in many of the colleges and institutions abroad. At a very young age, he bagged numerous awards and fellowships. To understand his contribution to the field one should know that he has been elected as a Fellow of the British Academy which rarely is bestowed upon Indians; that too to an Anthropologist. He added a feather to his cap by being the recipient of the Padma Bhushan which is considered one of the most prestigious awards in India.
Beteille’s work focuses on the paradox of modern society; where the principles or the values of the people are always in a situation of war of what they are actually practicing because of the years of social conditioning they’ve received.
People think that giving reservations (often termed as positive discrimination) to the weaker sections or the minorities justifies their position but vice versa it is deepening the roots of discrimination.
Modern society does not execute the policies well as all they can think about is the benefits they are going to receive or are open to changes where it interests them. The social stratification on the basis of class and caste is not a current issue, but the dream to achieve an egalitarian society definitely has been an issue of concern for ages. He further lays emphasis on the importance of institutions and the way they mold the perspective and the ideologies of individuals.
An Individual being a separate identity has his own intellect and rationale but when it comes to taking major decisions in life his thoughts are always restricted and directed by “what are the people going to think’’. This one thought implies a lot of pressure and eventually suffocates the idea of using logic.
His writings also point out the significance of religion in one’s life and how secularism is perceived in society. Religion always restricts people to think beyond what is being told to them whereas Secularism is a state where there is no space for religion but is often misinterpreted as acceptance to all the religions.
Beteille’s work follows an established procedure based on intense fieldwork, personal interactions, and stays which helps him have a detailed observation. He even tries to merge the theoretical work with the reality in India. His writings are particularly based on the Tanjore Community of South India here has spent his childhood and had family ties. In his books, he even mentions the attitude of the Tamilian Brahmins who considered themselves superior to the non-brahmins and the Untouchables. He even specifies how the people are so rigid in their approach that they themselves have given the concept of discrimination, a legal and a religious sanction into it.
The contribution made by Andre Bateille is significant. His methodological approach, openness, and acceptance towards some of the stereotypical stigmas itself describe a change. In a stratified, classified society; he considers Utopia a mere illusion and hence does not embrace the idea. An inference is drawn from his theories, that Andre seems to be of the opinion that people should work towards building a rationale society where people’s attitude and approach towards the existing social stratification are modified to cut down on the extremities caused by it.
In evidence to the article:
“Ramachandra Guha, one of the pioneers in India said, ‘(Amartya) Sen has recently given us The Argumentative Indian; and now, in your hands, is (Andre) Beteille’s equally compelling collection of essays on Indian ideas, themes, and debates.’ Andre Beteille has, over the past four decades, contributed a series of topical and stimulating articles to various newspapers.”