The two terms equality and inequality, according to Andre Beteille holds a very significant position in society of the modern world. People attach themselves the idea of equality but in reality, are encountered with inequality, this is a great contradiction of the modern world.
In political ideology, the two principles of socialism and democracy on a whole are regarded as the ideology of equality constructed for human beings and also has a universal character. These ideas were created and developed in western societies and are that of the west but eventually and gradually flourished to other parts of the world. These are simple ideologies but when it is placed under reality it has a different character, which is different from one society to another. On the other hand, inequality has deep roots in human societies, which is created by human social behaviour. Inequality is more of the technical problem of social reality but can be seen from the naked eye and a problem which is to be studied by a sociologist, for example, Industrialization in western societies apart from its advancement, it created ill effects that of inequality. Many of the new forms of inequality emerged with industrialization process. The third world countries such as that of India is also considered as the society which have strong roots in the traditional and cultural ideologies and has the essence of inequality.
There is also a difference between the advanced societies and backward societies, that is societies which are advanced are advanced both economically and ideologically, and societies which are backward that is the third world countries (INDIA), have traditional and cultural ideologies where inequalities emerge as a result of old ways and conservative conception.
The two types of inequalities are first, which is natural that is a man is naturally superior to that of an animal, this is natural inequality. Second, inequality which is created by human behaviour, or which is social, that is hierarchical differences based on caste , class etc ,where human beings from birth are considered as unequal such as different abilities, aspirations etc, for example, that of hierarchical difference among Hindus and others in castes in India and similar hierarchical difference among Christians in EUROPE.
According to Rousseau, these physical or natural inequalities (age, health body) have less importance what matters is the social and moral inequalities that of wealth, power and prestige. Differences become inequalities when it has a social character and is social in nature. Rousseau talks about qualities of mind, where he explains the difference between human beings on the basis of intelligence, people are unequal on the basis of intelligence, for which psychologists have organised certain tests to measure intelligence, but all these inequalities vary from one society to another and in various forms.
There are comparative studies to understand inequalities. It is a sociological approach which is also called nature comparative. These comparisons are done systematically and these systematic studies of inequality are done with proper research methods such as that of observation, recording etc. It started from the beginning of the 19th century in the west. Comparative systematic studies were originated from western societies and were only confined to western societies, whereas the non-western societies were studied by anthropologists, ethnographers, historians etc.
Collective representations, a term coined by Durkheim, means that people of the same society share ideas, beliefs and values which are collective that is shared in common. Individual modes of perception, though, differs from one society to another. Collective representations are seen in the abundance of the primitive societies, as they are close to nature, their physical environment which is vested in nature that is trees, plants, animals, stationary things etc, leads to classification and evaluation of things. Whereas according to modern man, his physical environment would involve buildings, industries, monuments etc which less close to nature, and this is graduation is classified and evaluated.
French anthropologist, Levis strauss, has explained the relationship between nature and culture through food and its differences, there are certain ways for the preparation of food, which is according to special certain occasions, space and time. Every society ( primitive, tribal, modern) etc has a different evaluation of food. Apart from food, mode of dress also differed from one society to another. A human being regardless of any society attaches standards of evaluation to the material things in or around one another. There are gradations, ranks in every society, which further means that every society has its own collective representations which differ from one society to another which leads to the evaluation of society and a source of inequality.
Second source of inequality is considered as organisation, which involves force, power and domination. This usually involves power and domination among men, mainly that of superordination and subordination. The more the organised system is , the more will be the chances of inequalities. Political philosophers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Bodin have discussed the role of power domination and distribution of power, which means only a handful of people have power in hands and rest are dominated , this happens chiefly in a organised society. For example , division of labour in industrial societies highly organised resulted in violation of human rights and led to inequalities. Where the working class, young, old. Men, women were dominated because of power domination. To some extent primitive societies are also organised such as neur tribes , describes by Evans Pritchard. There are inequalities in the power of kinship groups and systems.
Hence the two sources of inequality are evaluation and organisation, where one is deeply rooted in the culture and tradition and the other is manifested in power and domination. Power and status also play an important role in the organisation source of inequality.
Beteille, A. 1983. ‘Introduction in Andre Beteille (ed.): Equality and Inequality: Theory and
Practice; Oxford University Press. Delhi. (1-27).
Beteille, A. 1977. ‘Inequality among Men’ Introduction Oxford: Basil Blackwell