Varna –> Transcapitalism : We cannot Ignore the Reality of Varna

Author: K Sankaran.

The “Caste” system in India is a big in-your-face existential problem. If honestly analyzed (ignoring the political, evangelical,vote-banking, colonial motives etc.), the problem that the “caste” narrative tries to address is larger – one of entitlement orientation. In this case, the entitlement on account of birth. If we realize that the Varna system is simply one of personal disposition, the ugly sense of entitlement disappears and the classification acquires a meaningful sense.  

The caste system then is about the individuals being primarily:  

1. Knowledge Keepers

2. Power Keepers

3. Money Keepers

4. Service Keepers

If we look at the Varna system as a classification of the individual in terms of disposition and temperament we will find the system quite sensible and useful. Any form of entitlement when unidirectional is problematic.

With the new egalitarianism (aided by technology and the new forced transparency) and much greater opportunity for making individual choices, does the classification become even more meaningful? 

A Diversion  

It is interesting to speculate that the four-way classification is co-terminus with the classical ideas of Greek medicine where humans could be classified into four categories: Sanguineus, Phegmaticus, Melancolicus and Cholericus (source https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/the-four-humors ). More about this later!

Capital 

Each of these types of individuals, based on their karmic disposition, provides capital (something of value that has consumption value as well as stock value). On account of the accretion of capital at a social level we have at a societal level: 

Knowledge Capital (intellectual capital, cultural capital, spiritual capital, one aspect of social capital that generates egalitarianism, mutuality and social norms)

Institutional Capital (including the “second” aspect of social capital that generates respect for law, norms maintenance, and constitutionality and also tribal sensibilities; the stock of capital that the internet has provided that is shifting power to cyber-collectives etc.)

Financial Capital (we all know what this is given our schooling in traditional capitalism)

Labor Capital (this too we know from our Marxian economics) 

The binary “capitalism versus communism” debate that consumed 20th century consciousness could only handle the 3rd and the 4th forms: Money and Muscle.

Towards Transcapitalism 

Transcapitalism recognizes the complexity and moves from the binary argumentation. It accords adequate importance to all forms of capital that are required for the society to function. Methodologically it is, of course, extremely difficult to deal with all these forms of capital when our planning spans organizations, regions and nations. But this also points to the utter reductionisms, when we currently do planning: based on only one form of capital.

Then how do we deal with such complexity? As complexity theorists would have it, “Don’t be silly, leave it to emergence, you Control Freaks.”


Professor Sankaran, currently Director of Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management, Nitte, is a B. Tech Honours (IIT, Kharagpur), PGDM (IIM Bangalore) and PhD (Kent State University, USA). He has several years of academic experience in the India, US, UK, Middle East and East Asia. (View More)


1 thought on “Varna –> Transcapitalism : We cannot Ignore the Reality of Varna”

  1. Namste
    Don’t you think marketisation of Bhramins is good?
    Don’t you think Corporatization of universities in modern capitalism leading to multiple Scams. Doctored Data and studies are good for society and don’t you think that is a weakness of Modern Western Capitalism. A system where bhramins can be influenced via money? isn’t that detrimental towards society

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