Caste – bred to the bone!

Kushal Mehra and I had a discussion on the Brown Pundits podcast about caste. I will post for Patrons today and push it live tomorrow. I want to review a few things from my perspective on this issue related to what we talked about.

– The paper The promise of disease gene discovery in South Asia highlights a fact: jati has a very strong genetic reality. The stylized fact is that caste endogamy has been strong across southern Asia for 1,500 years. Genetically you can have two castes in the same village in Andhra Pradesh who are as distinct as people from Finland and Sicily.

Additionally, jati is not arbitrary. Brahmins across India may not be closely related, but they tend to have more “Ancestral North Indian” than their non-Brahmin neighbors, on average (true everywhere except for the Northwest of the subcontinent).

– Kushal asked if jati varna was an ESS. I have suggested that caste fragmentation made it harder for non-Indians to take over and assimilate Indian society. But, it is not the only ESS.

– The main contrast I give is to China. People who can read classical Chinese (which was the norm in the early 20th century) can still read oracle bones from the Shang dynasty 3,400 years ago. This is a civilization with continuity and integrity.

The Chinese are a population that has managed to absorb other groups and do it without caste endogamy. Rather, like Europeans, Chinese genetic variation is a function of geography, not class/caste. In fact, the Chinese never developed a blood nobility like Europe. The basis of Chinese civilization has unapologetically been the peasantry.

– In The WEIRDest People in the World Harvard’s Joe Henrich makes the argument that the Western Christian Church’s destruction of extended family networks led to the rise of the West. I won’t recapitulate the argument which I’ve outlined elsewhere. But the idea is rather persuasive.

It seems that the hostility and skepticism toward caste from some on the “Hindu Right” really has to do with Indian nationalism. Jati varna was a reasonable institution in a pre-modern context, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that national cohesion is reduced when people view themselves as members of a “community” first and foremost, and not a nation-state.

From the traditionalist side, the idea that jati varna is a great functional system is really not the point. Let’s be frank: people are invested in their particular traditions and their purity. The rest is commentary.

80 thoughts on “Caste – bred to the bone!”

  1. Looking forward to listening to the podcast.

    The perfect marriage of evolutionary tribalism ( present in most communities) and religious insistence and intellectual justification ( with extreme emphasis on purity especially in Brahmins) may have led Varna-Jati to become as strong as they are.
    The purity part is also important as the castes perceived as the lowest of the lower always are the ones whose traditional function was something considered impure. But the Karma-Reincarnation is also an important part in continued justification of caste especially in Religious Brahmins who know their traditions.

    The inbreeding part is particularly worrying for me as potentially all my ancestors for generations appear to be from the same brahmin subcaste.

  2. There is an equivalent system in China that performs all the functions of the Indian jati/varna construction namely – control of occupational diversity within a geographical unit, sustaining the social status-quo to the extent changes are highly controlled/limited and very importantly the inheritance from mother to offspring. It is the hukou system.

    I got interested in this when an online commenter (Indian) remarked that a primary reason for China’s progress vis-a-vis India in the 20th century – India dismantled the centuries old legal sanction for caste in 1951 while China solidified and restructured the hukou. This created a huge pliable pool of manpower in the rural areas who could never migrate to the urban areas. Jason Young confirms the economic impact of hukou – it functions as a division of labor (exactly the origins of jati/varna)

    Most recently (last week), I heard a retired Indian brigadier comment that Chinese conscripts on the LAC were peasants looking for a urban hukou. The payoff was great – 4 years continuous stint on the LAC fetches them a hukou to the nearest Tier 3 prefecture (still the lowest level of cities). But thatś a great leap for them – it overturns centuries of rural existence and enable them to marry an urban woman. Inter-hukou marriage is frowned upon!! Exactly like inter-caste marriages.

    Paper analyzing emergence of urban-rural endogamy in modern China.

  3. ugra, the analogy is very stupid. hindu jati is a 1,500 year old (at least) system that incredibly low endogamy rates. there is no evidence that this happened in china in the tens of thousands chinese samples i looked at.

    the traditional chinese saying is “3 generations up and 3 generations down”,* alluding to massive social mobility.

    i don’t know if you are just plain stupid, or mendacious. but i’m rather amazed at the gall at making an analogy between these old registration systems and jati.

    * greg clark has found strong evidence of long-term heritability of social status, but it’s not genetically stratified

    1. Well, if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck……

      I am not saying hukou IS caste, but there is quite a bit of emerging consensus on the exactness of the outcomes – social stratification, artificial depression of wages, the lack of access to welfare schemes on the basis of parental inheritance, spatial hierarchies, artificial barriers to modern jobs like IT, universities, national politics, media and so on….

      Many Chinese scholars and commenters draw a direct comparison to caste and this is already going on since the late 90s.

      1. all post-hunter-gatherer societies have levels of class-based endogamy (and regional). this is qualitatively different from ethnoreligious endogamy. the appropriate analogy btwn indian caste is with ashkenazi jews, who for thousands of years lived around gentiles, but remain genetically and culturally very distinct.

        you don’t know chinese history. and the chinese don’t know the history of caste. what is the relevance for what they think?

        until the genetic data came in the last ten years there were still scholars arguing caste/jati solidity emerged in the last few centuries. that is simply not creditable because the genetic data would be impossible in that case.

        your attempt to make the analogy is muddling the issue. there’s no huge discussion in china about the controversy btwn urban-rural marriages. yes, there is tension and awkwardness. but there’s no riots over it. that’s the difference.

        the riots occur when culture, class, and language, get mixed together. the hong kong cantonese for example do have attitudes toward mainlanders colored by conventional racism.

        1. For me, the hukou system provides a social equivalent of the Miller-Urey experiment to understand the origins of caste, kind of like a recreated exercise. When the caste system became formalised –

          1. There must have existed centralised administration in India and book-keeping at the village (grama) level. (just like China)

          2. The Manu-smriti is way too specific, like prescribing punishments to Brahmins who own land that is not gifted or provided for or indulge in petty business. It is not possible to enforce automatic fines for speeding, unless there exist sufficiently advanced speed traps.

          3. Lack of philosophical diversity, implying an universal system for enforcing values – via pedagogy.

          4. Sufficient acceptance from citizens in lieu for some other thing – social stability or economic integration?? (just like China). It also indicates there was a sufficient practical knowledge among the adherents.

          So which period was it, when caste got formalised…..Guptas? Mauryas? Or earlier?

          1. So which period was it, when caste got formalised…..Guptas? Mauryas? Or earlier?

            the standard *genetic* answer is 1,500 years ago. so gupta. but this is too simple and not really true

            1) some areas probably had it earlier, some later

            2) some areas may never have had it (e.g., eastern bengal)

  4. it functions as a division of labor (exactly the origins of jati/varna)

    anyone know knows ppl from the mainland (i do), knows of plenty of people who grew up in rural areas, did well in school, and became professionals.

    i know a geophysicist with a tenured position in the USA who grew up the son of the illiterate farmers in anhui. he learned to read by inspecting propaganda posters in his village. he explains this is with no great shame.

  5. Great post. Lots to think about.

    I think the other issue for people is that even if the jati-varna system was within the realm of reasonableness in the pre modern period, and perhaps somewhat analogous to other systems in other pre modern period, it is bound up with Hinduism.

    The contemporary sentiment that originated in the West and is influential (or at least to be contended with) throughout the world is one of equality.

    While Christianity and Islam existed for most of their histories in highly stratified societies and even may have sanctified it through fatwas and the like, both religions more easily lend themselves to a modern reinterpretation based on contemporary notions of equality than Hinduism.

    The association between caste and Hinduism is murky and mixed (you can find Shruti scripture condemning caste) and other religious communities in the subcontinent follow caste as well… but it is something for the Hindu right has to contend with more so than conservative Muslims or Christians, for example.

    Especially now that the success of the Hindu right has largely come from being able to stop being a UC movement and one that consolidates the Hindu vote across caste lines.

    1. Hoju is completely wrong about the Christian and Islamic West being more “equal” than Hindu and other Eastern societies. For one, the slave trade was started by Islamic Arabs who not only traded African slaves, but European and Asian slaves as well. The repercussions of this trade can be seen in the indelible impact it had on their autosomal DNA, which contains anywhere from 5% to 20% SSA admixture (some cases more) in addition to Asian admixture.

      Secondly, Arabs have always had a caste system of their own, both the “Syed” lineage traced back to Prophet Muhammad, and who can forget the fact that they treat all non-Arabs as untermensch, treating fellow Muslims like Persians and others as essentially inferior people, particularly when it comes to marital relations, but in other ways as well. Thirdly, there is a large Sunni/Shia divide among Muslims as well, with Sunnis clearly having the upper hand in Muslim society. Furthermore, they have a caste system even within Arab society; the first and most major division is that between Qahtani and Adnani Arabs, with one group claiming superiority over the other. The second division tracks ancestry from foreign sources as varied as Turkey and South Asia and Europe, and their surnames often reflect this — “Al-Hind” for instance refers to ancestry from the subcontinent. They treat people with different ancestries with either prejudice or respect, depending on their own biases.

      I wont speak much about the Jews, (who also played a role in the slave trade) for their treatment of non-Jews as “Gentiles” and their self-opinion of themselves as the “chosen people”, in addition to plenty of instances of bigotry against fellow Jews of different backgrounds (read: Ethiopian Jews, Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and Arabs of all backgrounds) who made/tried making “Aliyah” to the homeland speaks volumes about their notions of equality. Furthermore, Orthodox Jews and subgroups within them that espouse the notions of Zionism are modern-day (attenuated) versions of the KKK. Finally, who care forget the current-day ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the many human rights offense committed against the Palestinans by the government of Israel/the IDF? They are literally taking over large tracts of the West Bank as they see fit without a second thought. I will say though that Jews are the last people I had expected to see participate in bigotry, for obvious historical reasons, but then again, human beings continue to surprise me in all kinds of ways.
      Lastly, the Christian West is hardly the utopia they portray themselves as, and historically has been far from a paragon of equality. The West has a litany of human rights abuses, genocides, massacres, rapes, and iconoclastic “crusades” to its name — whether it was the Cagots or the Romani, the Jews or the Moors, the Muslims or the Inquisitions against non-Catholics, or the casta system set up in Latin America by conquistadores after they engaged in rapine pillaging and looting and murders/massacres and wholesale shipped off the wealth they stole back to Europe. What about the constant tension and prejudice/discrimination meted out to Protestants by Catholics and vice versa? We often forget that one of the prinicipal motives for colonists to move to North America on the Mayflower (and every other ship thereafter) was the religious intolerance that was commonplace in Europe and the UK at the time. The Quakers and people that accompanied them sought self-government and a more equal society where they and others would be treated with respect that they didnt receive in Europe. Ironically, after emigrating to the Americas, these persecuted people eventually proceeded to inflict all kinds of crimes and atrocities upon the Native Americans, bought enslaved Africans to work on their plantations and treated them like chattel, all the while Christian Europeans were buying huge amounts of slaves from West Africa and using them to turn a profit on their plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas, among other places. What about Colonialism and the White man’s burden?

      One could write many books on the atrocities of Colonialism, an almost exclusively Christian Western Enterprise in the time period being discussed. From causing famines that killed millions, to treating Africans like subhumans, from atrocities perpetrated by Leopold in the Congo, to the infamous legacy of Europeans in North and other parts of Africa, from colonial empires in South Asia and SE Asia, where they pit one people against another, and stole vast amounts of wealth, resources, technology while devastating the economy and infrastructure of the region, to using the indentured and slave labor to literally build the Americas while perpetuating civil rights abuses upon the minority populations that resided with them, the West has hardly been an example to follow. The Industrial revolution was predicated on the suffering, wealth and technology of the Bengal Subah and the greater enterprise of colonialism. This resulted in the West reaping the benefits while most of the East, with the exception of Japan was left to toil in the darkness, left behind like the foster child that no one loves. Ironically, it was said that Hitler himself was inspired by American Jim Crow laws, policies on racial segregation, their genocide of the Native Americans, and their separate-but-equal ideologies. America has a bad habit of inspiring and giving rise to its own biggest nemesis. Osama anyone? The civil war was fought on the basis of slavery, and yet America was far from an equal society after the victory of the Union. It was all mostly for show, for true equality was far from achieved.

      If anything, it was the Gandhian ideals of non-violence and equality, in addition to the Asian influence on prominent thinkers of the day (Transcendentalism etc) combined with the resilience and indomitable will of the African Americans and allied minority groups that sparked a revolution that wrested the notions of equality from the leaders that refused to give it to them. Even somewhat before them, universal suffrage and women’s rights was only attained after a hard-fought battle. That’s right, until the 1960s, the bastion of the West, AKA the USA, was piss-poor in things as crucial as equality of the races and women were more or less inferior to men not long before that. Equality had to be snatched from the clenched fist of White supremacy in America. Europe has its own turbulent history with regard to race, and while it attained “equality” or a semblance of it earlier than the Americas, it was far from self-evident or omnipresent up until the 19th century, with “scientists” exhibiting Hottentots and Africans in “Human Zoos” as the “missing link between chimp and human” — as far as I know, nothing of the sort was ever done in South Asia/Hindu society. In conclusion, the West has certainly not been the bastion of equality that some people say it has been. Were it not for colonialism, slavery and the resulting improvement in quality of life for mainland Europeans, followed by the Industrial revolution (also predicated in large part on colonialism, slavery and Asian technology, etc) Europe would still be a largely backwater, monarchic society, with the vast majority of its population living as serfs or peasants with little in the way of human rights and equality.

  6. hoju, i want to emphasize this again as i did on the podcast: chinese society has traditionally been more egalitarian in its ideal that the western christian and islamic models. the contrast doesn’t always need to happen with yavannas. two of the dynasties (han and ming) were founded by peasants. elite lineages existed and maintained themselves, but over time they always fell from grace and were replaced by arrivistes that came from the peasantry ultimately.

    1. @Razib – I do not buy your argument. How do you square the circle then? Why does modern China, in spite of its traditional egalitarianism, continue to tolerate a sustained form of political oligarchy? Or will it break soon?

      1. Why does modern China, in spite of its traditional egalitarianism, continue to tolerate a sustained form of political oligarchy?

        please read China: A History, it will give you a flavor for the social philospohy of china, which is very different from india, and the west (ancient and modern).

        i don’t think you’ll ever be able to “buy” my argument because you are totally lacking “currency” of knowledge on the topic with which to purchase insight.

    2. Razib, I have a feeling that certain people (who shall not be named) will be quick to denigrate China and other East Asian societies as places that were always anything but egalitarian, and will claim that the communist government in China is but a continuation of this farcical “trend” which is why, according to them, “China will never surpass the West” — just LMAO. Not only is the whole situation laced with irony (seeing how historically the Chinese have been far more meritocratic than the West, and considering their current political model is largely co-opted from ideas that were birthed by Western “Intellectuals”) but also based on a false premise. If China fails, they will say “I told you so” and by doing so, will only prove that a poor “Western” ideology like Communism is well, horrible. But if China succeeds, they will find a way to give Communism credit in a roundabout way, contradicting their earlier position. I sometimes wish China hadn’t adopted the current model of government. I would hate for Marx et. al to get “credit” for the future (inevitable) success of China. Then again, we can perhaps say that China will succeed *despite* Communism, and attribute their success to a continued focus on merit and certain values unique to Chinese society that were not found in the USSR, a failed Communist experiment. Last I read, the upper echelons of Chinese government were full of technocrats and engineers. So China will succeed because… its CHINA. Communism is simply an apparatus of government they lazily borrowed from the West, who now despise the very ideology they gave birth to. Remeber liberals, you can’t walk back your position when China surpasses the U.S.

  7. Paper analyzing emergence of urban-rural endogamy in modern China.

    the intermarriage rates in that paper (low) are 10-20x greater than what seems to be inferrable from jati genetics.

  8. I was going to make an argument with comparison with chinese. They even solved the problem of meritocracy with examination system. Which essentially is a pseudo argument that keeps getting made in the name of jati-varna. And now as the arguments crumble away, they resort to a kind of eugenics argument based on genetics which is racist. It is a modern idea that one does not find much in the past and its borrowings seem to be from actual racists,nazis from the west online. One wonders then as to why they do they object to comparisons with Nazis.


    “From the traditionalist side, the idea that jati varna is a great functional system is really not the point. Let’s be frank: people are invested in their particular traditions and their purity. The rest is commentary.

    Probably the most Insightful & clear idea on this issue that can save a lot of BS arguments and time.

  9. Razib.
    This has been a spectacular podcast.
    From an Indian POV my respect for Kushal has gone up many notches – as I have not always agreed with him in the past.

    I believe a believing Hindu might have slightly difference pov than an irreligious hindu like Kushal. After a point it becomes like asking a religious Muslim to accept something unislamic. For the religious folks accepting their ancestors weren’t all knowing Einstein and Nelson Mandela fused together for the Ancient world is tough to digest

    1. I think “religious folks accepting their ancestors weren’t all knowing …” part is a bit overblown.

      Yes its all fun and games when we have to push watsapp theory on how we flew on chariots in 2000000 BC or whatever. But when ur near and dear ones are afflicted with life threatening disease not even the most religious minded Hindu tried to find remedies of cancer in Ayurveda, but runs to the nearest doctor. The religious Hindu is not an unthinking Hindu.

      1. Saurav,
        I wasn’t implying that religious Hindus are unthinking.

        I think “religious folks accepting their ancestors weren’t all knowing …” part is a bit overblown
        I am basing this on anecdotes. Naturally I haven’t done a pole or seen poles of trad Hindus on this. But as it happens by virtue of my birth I am surrounded by lot of traditional Hindus. While most of them reject Jati system intellectually as mere tribalism and wanting to sustain maintain rituals / culture / food. Varna is something a lot of them still defend. And Religion plays a very significant role in defending it. The eugenics argument of corruption of blood is often made. The assumption that people writing dharmashatras were not just brilliant but scientifically more literal than we are – is not an fringe argument in UC Hindus.

        And to make it clear people don’t have copies of Manusmiriti and Arthashastra which they follow. Those books wouldn’t even matter. But a very plausible reading of Geeta gives you Defense of Varna. The Defense of Varna Vyavastha for Purities sake has been an Obsession of Hindus for millennia. And when Trads read those scriptures or hear that reasoning – they have it difficult to refute. That’s what leads to ppl like Ashish Dhar to defend Varna.

        This defense is different that the average defense of Jati and practice of caste by average Hindu – which is attribute more to family and community pressure (tribalism in other words)

        1. Perhaps, i just have a very low opinion of trads. Its because i have hardly met them IRL. They are all trads in their safe confines of twitter and all. While in the real world they hardly matter. Scratch the surface and 90 percent of them are Hindu right with temple destruction, Mughals etc and stuff.

          Feel mostly its UC folks from the non hindu/ less hindu regions where to make up for lost political power they double down on traditional/ritualistic Hinduism so that they dont seem to come up short against Hindu right.

          1. Possibly true;

            its also true for spiritually hungry UCs who follow Gita and other spiritual thought of ancient Hindus –
            If the person teaching that spiritualism supports the position of someone like – Gandhi before 1930s or Rajendra Prasad or even someone seen a truly a liberal Hindu philosopher like Vivekananda – who is followed by millions as a spiritual leader.
            If the mindset is to project Vivekanand as a product of his times – who was slighly ahead of his times and brilliant in many ways it doesnt become a problem. But the Bhakti cult associated with these leaders inevitably leads to people taking their own words and building their world views around it.

            Thats the case with all dogmatists – from islam/ christianity to marxism or especially the Woke crowds these days. Thankfully the somewhat inherent plural nature of hinduism means that these dogmas get easily challenged and if not caste apologists but their future generations will definately see the light i my opinion.
            On the whole i dont feel as pessimistic about it as i do with even liberal followers of monotheisms as i find especially on this blog 😛

    2. “I believe a believing Hindu might have slightly difference pov than an irreligious hindu like Kushal. After a point it becomes like asking a religious Muslim to accept something unislamic.”

      I don’t think it’s primarily about ancestors. It’s the nature of conservatism to stick with what you have. People can invent all sorts of reasons including about ancestors, divinity and what not.

      It’s more acausal. Like ‘Lindy’ that Taleb talks about.

      People assume that what has worked till now will work in the future and are hesitant to change to risk of unintended consequences.

      1. Hey Prats,
        See my reply to Saurav.
        I am not saying it’s religious in nature in most cases.
        But in case of ppl who r religious and typically UC – I have heard that exact argument I stated heard over a dozen times.

        1. “I am not saying it’s religious in nature in most cases.”

          I am not talking about religion. I am talking about conservatism.

          Religious conservatives might rely upon scripture or ancestor worship or notions of purity. Non-religious ones might use scientific sounding reasons like dysgeny. Or some amorphous combination of these and hundreds of other such concepts. But these reasons are immaterial.

          At the base, what they want is extremely slow change. Because they are afraid that change can have harmful consequences that may or may not be foreseen.

          The raita Hindutva of Savarkar and ilk is a progressive movement in that regard.

  10. as i made clear in the pod with kushal i think the persistence of caste is due to marriage, and marriage is hard enough as it is that lots of ppl just go with the flow. it’s not some grand conspiracy. just once the social system is set up you do what’s normative and easiest

    1. Razib you should really have Ashish Dhar on your podcast. He was doing a really good job defending traditional Hindu views on caste from Raita wing people a couple of days ago and I think he’d have a lot to offer in general in terms of views for your Brown Pundits Brown cast. By the way, people like Kushal need to stop trying to get rid of caste from Hinduism since it has been there forever and should always be there.

    2. I agree with that reasoning for Defense and Persistence of Jati system.

      The Defense of Varna in Hindu society – is undoubtedly Religious in nature. Again I am speaking from Anecdotes. But in over the years I have met dozens of people who hold exactly similar views and defend the Varna system by the same argument. You will hardly find religious defense of Jati coz frankly that doesn’t exist in scriptures and traditions. But Varna is a whole different things.
      Defense of Varna was a very important part of traditional Brahminism as seen from.all the Shastras. In terms of its view on Varna the Arthashastra is no different from the much despised Manusmriti. And respect and admire Arthashashtra unlike Manusmiriti.

      My experience with this may be meaningless in a statistical sense but it’s repitition pts toward it being salient in lot of brahminical thought

  11. In absence of belief in objective morality,reason people might defend anyting for sure for there isnt any real standard to match against except selfmade ones. And one should pay attention to this bit to understand what this is about.

    “. By the way, people like Kushal need to stop trying to get rid of caste from Hinduism since it has been there forever and should always be there.”
    Which simply corroborates this insight by razib.

    “From the traditionalist side, the idea that jati varna is a great functional system is really not the point. Let’s be frank: people are invested in their particular traditions and their purity. The rest is commentary.”

    And if one is going to give time to ashish, might as well give time to kushal to duke with him as well either at the same time or after some time that is if Razib himself chooses not to hold his feet to fire. Because the implication for wanting to hold it on forever comes with many unethical problems.

  12. @Razib,.

    Different Indian caste in the same region are not as different as Finns and Sicilians.

    It depends on how you measure genetic distance. The fst stat does not measure degree of shared ancestry. It measures degree of drift in populations. Which are two different concepts.

    “Inbred” populations come out in fst stats as more distinctive.

    Indian caste can be very “inbred” hence are more differentiated in fst stats than other human populations who are less inbred. This includes extreme levels of diffetention from other Indian populations.

    Two Indian castes from the same village share more common ancestry in the last 5,000 years thanks for Finns and Sicilians.

    So are they really more differentiated from each other than Finns and Sicilians? I say no, because degree of common ancestry is how I think it should be measured. In this case indo-aryan speaking pops are related in the same way poles, Scottish, swedish are related to each. Pretty close relationship.

  13. SIA, inbreeding corrected Fst is lower and without is higher. yeah. the main issue is dalits, who are highly bottlenecked and so drift inflated. the reason they are bottlenecked though is extreme endogamy and small marriage networks, which illustrates the highly structured nature of s asian mating.

    1. Once corrected for inbreeding, are the differences between caste populations from one region still approximately as vast as that of Finns vs Sicilians? Or is it then like Sicilians vs the French? What about differences between populations from opposite ends of the cline, say Irula vs Rors — would the genetic distance between them be akin to that between Finns vs Persians? I would expect the number to be insanely high owing to not just endogamy, but vast differences in ancestral admixture as well.

  14. I thought Jordan Peterson’s old lectures on personality traits on conservatism, purity and disease load in societies made a lot of sense for Indian vs. Chinese context. (Hitler bathing a lot comes up in one of them)

    Location of highest population density in China has way less infectious and communicable disease load than India. (I am basing this on maps of pop density distribution and endemic infectious diseases like typhoid, malaria etc). Also, pork love vs. Prohibition seem to follow high to low latitudes.

    Given the Indian location and pop density I don’t think functional utility of purity notions is any less in the modern times.
    Also, assortative mating isn’t going away from the modern society either. It would be silly to think caste (either Jati or Varna) will go away while rest of the world constantly seem to flow towards that division as soon as the conditions of economic inequality and highly infectious diseases show up.

    More practical question, which families did you “double bubble” with during COVID-19 (in places without govt. lockdown )? That reveals the answer to purity notions. If COVID continues for years without a vaccine, wouldn’t people separate themselves to The soap using mask-wearers vs. Oops I forgot people? Top that with COVID resulting in long term brain fog…

    1. Also, assortative mating isn’t going away from the modern society either.

      assortative mating is not endogamy.

      caste is an extreme degree of endogamy. it’s obviously going to go away, because the outmarriage rate is already an order of magnitude greater than in the past. you don’t need 50% outmarriage per generation. 10% is sufficient.

      1. The rate of cross Jati mating is increasing slowly but surely. It might still be very low but has increased Tenfold in couple of generations.

        1. the rate is low in a normal sense.

          but it is HUGE in a jati/caste endogamy sense. there is no way jati/caste can maintain itself with 10% intermarriage rates.

          people keep not understanding this. jati endogamy in India is VERY EXTREME. not just assortatiive mating

          1. Yeah I have read your previous work on it. I totally agree with it. Even from looking around I know the % of Cross Jati marriage is extremely low – what I mean is it has increased significantly in last २ generations around us in cities. It’s starting to show up even in some villages.

            It’s still nor significant or even close near १०%.
            Hypothetically tenfold increase over 0.05% is still less than 1% I agree.
            But trajectory appears to be upward not downward was what I meant.

            These r just numbers I don’t know what the exact % are I guess they must be in low single digits in 21st century India

          2. I think the modern Indian politics makes a mistake of blaming caste system on Brahmin , caste system itself is Brahministic, which is the political bogeyman of assorted political parties in India, leftists, Dravidian movement, etc. True, brahminical literature took caste system as given and justified it. OTOH, brahmins themslevs were part of the system and not creators of it
            By shifting the blame onto brahmins and not taking responsibility , many castes are able to maintain their vested interest as before

          3. Inter caste marriage is extremely low in India, notwithstanding the gains in past few decades. Many which passes/registered in India as inter caste or “mixed marriage” in various surveys are, Tam brahm marrying a punjabi brahmin (cross culture) , or a Thakur marrying a Khatri (similar caste). The most i have seen is upper OBCs (yadavs) marrying into UCs. Or lower OBCs with dalits. But overall not more than 5 percent. Razib can shed light on how much this type of inter-marriages can reduce endogamy.

      2. I agree that assortative mating isn’t endogamy but given a disease load, wouldn’t assortative mating and endogamy converge due to either genetic or traditional responses to decrease that disease load?

        I am thinking of a conditional variance.

        1. I agree that assortative mating isn’t endogamy but given a disease load, wouldn’t assortative mating and endogamy converge due to either genetic or traditional responses to decrease that disease load?

          there’s a semantic issue here. the terms differ. assortative mating means mating on traits where there is a positive correlation between individuals. so for example ppl who are taller tend to mate assortatively. this does have some of the same genetic impacts of endogamy by reducing population size of the mating pool, but normally we don’t say this is “height endogamy.”

          the same with assortative mating for education.

          second, endogamy can be MUCH stricter than assortative mating. the correlation on traits like height and intelligence is ~0.50 (these are quantitative traits so you can compute the correl). in contrast, for india, we’re talking endogamy rates within defined groups of 99% or greater. you’d have to do a logistic correlation but it’s obviously pretty much 1.00.

          does this make more sense?

          assortative mating exists in all societies. the level of endogamy in india is exceptional in both it’s magnitude and it’s length. though now that it is closer to 95% that will result in huge changes, because small amounts of gene flow between populations quickly homogenize it…

          1. Yeah, the degree of endogamy being so strict implies reasons other than disease load or mate preference on other dimensions. Yeah, that makes sense.

            There wouldn’t be a reason for two Dalit castes to maintain strict endogamy either by disease load or by assortative mating or by upper caste hegemony. It must be something else then that they are invested in it themselves.

  15. Hey Razib, how comparable is the level of endogamy of the various Indian castes to a group like Yazidis?

    Yazidis also require strict levels of endogamy in that both parents must be Yazidis in order for a child to be considered Yazidi. There was an issue where Yazidi elders did not allow children that were born to Yazidi women that were raped by ISIS because it would taint the Yazidi bloodline.

    Plus, Yazidis seem to have their own version of caste (Sheikhs, Pirs, Murids), and they’re required to marry within their own caste, although the majority of Yezidis are Murids. How does Yezidi and their caste endogamy compare to Indian Hindu endogamy?

  16. i don’t have genotypes for yazidis. but some middle eastern groups, like the druze, are similar to indians. this is due to the very special conditions of being ghulat sects (druze, alawites), dhimmis (assyrians), or ‘heretics’ like yazidis and yarsan

    the mandaeans too have small population sizes

    the difference in India is that majoritarian groups habitually do this. normally endogamy is what small minorities do to protect themselves. in India everyone is a ‘minority’

  17. Frankly Kushal and Harsh etc are being unnecessary defensive (or perhaps too civil) on all this. The future belongs to Hindutva and not these nincompoop trads and all. They are fighting the good fight sometimes against their own, for a bigger cause. And i applaud them for that.

    1. because they’ve assumed for some time that on the same “Team” – no trolling no sarcasm just pure engagement,

    2. @saurav
      It is not unnecessary, it is more relevant than ever. It is a moral argument and that in a democracy one can see this turn into political strategy. For one thing 50% of Indian population is obc+sc/st. There is much attempt from evangelists to convert them precisely on this argument that their humiliation was due to this traditional view. And so do the left do the same as well. There is also the case of dignity that members of this community seek, there is also the case of some of them who would want vengeance for the past as well. That politics has been played out in the south and in case of TN and Kerala , BJP is in hopeless position there and many of the said brahmins should learn from that. The same is happening in andhra pradesh with evangelism as well. How proudly these people feel at home and who offers them pride in their own skin , own view and how they feel connected to the society will determine the future. It is not enough to be on the right side of history, one should be the leaders towards that side as well. And the demographic change that happens among this people shall have repercussions on national security as well. So on this issue, now that I have heard the podcast, Razib is wrong. There is not even a micro strategy advantage at all on this either. It is just lose-lose. Also, historically Islam was a hammer, they didnt exploit this issue, but you can bet christianity and the left have and will exploit this issue to the hilt. So there is no benefit out of this at all. These people who cant win an election on their own are spreading much moral disgust towards the rightwing. I have personally felt visceral amount of moral disgust to a degree as to consider that perhaps christianity is better and be more sympathetic with the left. They exploit moral disgust. And I am not from lower strata of society . If anything, I see people on the rw not do enough on this issue at all.

      1. Please read again. I said they are being unnecessary civil, not the issue being unnecessary . BECAUSE the issue is relevant, they can be much more combative.

        “ That politics has been played out in the south and in case of TN and Kerala , BJP is in hopeless position there and many of the said brahmins should learn from that. The same is happening in andhra pradesh with evangelism as well…… These people who cant win an election on their own are spreading much moral disgust towards the rightwing.“

        Non/less hindu regions and the “trads” of those regions.

      2. @Phyecon1

        You are in for a surprise when you are going to stumble across caste data for converts to Christianity in Kerala, AP and TN. A very common characteristic among new converts are that they are all economic aspirants in one or the other – migrants, small business owners and either a linguistic or a workplace minority. They are looking for congregations where practical advice and mentors are able to provide them advice without a prerequisite need for familiarity. Jesus is the side attraction. Some of them start going back to their roots when they make it worthwhile – reason, their community is still Hindu and they need to integrate. A lot of them, I underestimate this all the time, are fluid. They seek it wherever it is made available.

        BTW, the fastest growing sect in Kerala, AP and TN is Shirdi Sai. I already witness several growing battles between traditionalists and the followers of these sects. And they are attracting new Christians in droves. Sai Baba is just the Indian Jesus with none of the unintelligible theology and holding a secret attraction for personality followers.

        1. @ugra
          Do you understand that your very method of thinking is non trad?. As to the data, sure that is important and one must be skillful in addressing it. But that very way of thinking is non trad.
          as to the more arrogant trads, shoo, go away, dont pollute yourselves with the thinking of carvakas and other non believers and non trads, to even listen to us will dwindle your ranks over time. Because thats what happens.Much worse, the moral disgust pits people not just against you, but infact against Hindutva itself. This world of ours is a world of proselytism, with each faction pointing to others as being uniquely evil, uniquely unrepentent of the evils done before. Of being dinosaurs in the post catastrophe age where the nimble footed humble mammals took over. The greatest horror to Hindutva would be when in any debate bjp would be asked about their positions on caste, tradition etc. The fact congress/left accuse the bjp of being so rather than cleverly to elicit this divide out of them is thanks to their stupidity and perhaps their jati parampara system that gave likes to incompetent leaders amongst them.

    3. This is patently false Saurav. You Hindutva clowns better watch yourself we trads are not old the odd old blokes you seem to think we are. Hind trads are majority under 30, male, upper caste, good looking, well educated, and womanizers. You Raitas on the other hand are over thirty, female, ugly, poorly educated, and not good with women. It’s easy to figure out who will win the battle.

      Spoiler Alert: It’s us.

  18. I have seen khatria guju vania, N I brahmin vania, lohana vania, and sindhi vania enough. Vanias are a good bit more AASI compared to these heavy steppe shifted peoples

  19. Most of the arguments i wanted to write as an article have been discussed, about comparison with islam on moral relativism, comparison with china and even eugenics arguments etc. However, there are few more cards left.

  20. The future of Hindutva lies in demolishing the caste based division. If for nothing else then for self preservation. The future is about giving over the reins of the movement to vast non UC population. It has already started but there is still a long way to go. MH brahmins could get some atonement for being part of the founder group as posted in link about RSS-Deoras by NM

    At the same time absolutely agree with VijayVan
    Quote /By shifting the blame onto brahmins and not taking responsibility , many castes are able to maintain their vested interest as before/
    If one would want to speed up the process, they would need to make sure vast majority non-UC intermarry and get mainstreamed. What a small crazy minority thinks doesnt matter.

    As a extreme example anyone hardly bothers Parsis even if they dont intermarry with other groups. People are only curious and maybe a bit sorry for their present condition with dwindling numbers on account of their practices. There can a museum in future for both these groups.

    1. IamVY writes – “The future of Hindutva lies in demolishing the caste based division. If for nothing else then for self preservation. The future is about giving over the reins of the movement to vast non UC population. It has already started but there is still a long way to go. MH brahmins could get some atonement for being part of the founder group as posted in link about RSS-Deoras by NM”.

      I have often wondered why the RSS founders were mostly MH Brahmins from Central India. Was this simply because Hedgewar was from Nagpur? How much of this can be traced to the advent of Maratha (proto) nationalism and its ascent to power for a brief moment in South Asia? Why did the RSS not take root in Pune or Mumbai or Kolkata for that matter?

      1. the standard explanation is that MH brahmins were riding high under marathas. in contrast, bengal brahmins flourished under east india company and the bengal renaissance. the victory of the latter over former marginalized MH vs. other groups like bengal brahmins. the marginalization drove them to reactionary world-views

        1. So Razib, your contention is that there is a dotted line from the Maratha empire to RSS and the Hindutva movement.

          Despite the fact that the family of Balaji Vishwanath became the hereditary Prime Ministers and rulers of the Marathas, they never had unbridled power after the demise of Baji Rao I. Yes, Brahmins dominated the heart of Maratha power in Pune, and were the backbone of the administrative structures under other Maratha rulers. But it was not the Brahmins who were the sword arm of the Maratha empire. It was not the Brahmins who rallied the Maratha peasantry to rebel against Bijapur and Mughal rule in the Deccan. It was not the Brahmins who came up with “Hindavi Swarajya”.

          So why didn’t the RSS not sprout in Pune where the Marathi speaking Brahmins were dominant? There was no Marathi renaissance underway in Pune.

          1. Marathi Renaissance did not come through Peshwas for sure. But some Brahmins who had gained power in Marathi politics and administration were the first to gain promptly from the Brits. British education and thought percolated earliest in the Brahmins of Pune who carried the legacy of the Peshwa.

            When these Brahmins started challenging British and Brahminical narratives (Ranade, Gokhale, Agarkar, Tilak even Savarkar) they had look at modernity while being connected to the perceived glories of the Maratha Empire. There liberalism or attack on conservatism was less detached from native history and traditions when compared to the Bengali in my view.

            These reformers were absolutely critical in all political spheres. From Constitutional moderate opposition of Gokhale/Ranade to Tilaks Swarajya carried ahead by Gandhi to Savarkar’s Hindutva.

            All of these thinkers are shaped by the Maratha Empire from Ch Shivaji to the last real Peshwa (Madhavrao) – who was also a reformist

          2. In addition to the answers by Razib and Gaurav I would add (my perspective) that the line from Peshwa to RSS is strictly dotted and not natural progression. Due to the reformist thoughts espoused by many personalities mentioned by Gaurav they would not have been immediate heros for many traditionalists. Even today lot of RW fans of Sawarkar would have beef with his views on beef / superstitious practices in Hinduism.
            The earlier prominence would have surely provided them with opportunity to quickly gain new knowledge.

            On question about why Nagpur, it could well be coincidence. But also could have been a way to keep away from other power centers. Especially when their views did make many adversaries. Nagpur seems neutral yet at center. Also it was under Maratha Bhonsles so maybe not totally unexpected.

          3. Hindu right sprouted in different areas in the 19th and 20th century, Its just that the marathi version just outlived all the others consolidating and gradually subsuming the other splinter Hindu right groups. In almost all regions it was also the brahmins who were at the forefront of the Hindu movements, so not a surprise there as well.

            If u were a betting man , u would actually put ur money on the North based Hindu Mahasabha rather than the Marathis RSS actually being the pre eminent Hindu party, considering the situation around partition. The RSS is the last “Hindu” party, so it learnt fro the struggles and mistakes of its predecessor.

  21. Regarding Joe Henrichs theory, don’t you think that in fact it is the other way round..the Christian Church destroyed the extended biological family but also created a huge powerful alternative family, complete with Papa, brothers sisters and elders, with the lay members completely under its thrall. This was a real high powered ‘kinship intensive’ thing going on, whose Papa issued bulls that sanctioned colonization and plunder of wealth and knowlege from foreign lands. The power of the gun and the zeal with which non Christians were identified as lesser beings was what mainly contributed to the rise of the west. This aspect seems to have been missed by Henrich.

    1. .the Christian Church destroyed the extended biological family but also created a huge powerful alternative family, complete with Papa, brothers sisters and elders, with the lay members completely under its thrall.

      the alternative family exists elsewhere. the buddhist sangha was crushed by the tang and oda nobunaga because of its power (in the chinese case it’s antifamilial aspect was a major rationale as presented by han yu’s memorial). in islam sufi orders do the same thing. monasticism actually came out of the east in christianity (egyptian church fathers).

      the emergence of meta-ethnic nonkin relations is a major aspect of the axial age.

      the difference is the destruction of kindred’s in the west.

      This was a real high powered ‘kinship intensive’ thing going on, whose Papa issued bulls that sanctioned colonization and plunder of wealth and knowlege from foreign lands. The power of the gun and the zeal with which non Christians were identified as lesser beings was what mainly contributed to the rise of the west. This aspect seems to have been missed by Henrich.

      the otherization of outsiders is universal, not specific to western christianity. in islam they call this the ‘darl-a-harb.’ for the chinese the barbarian lands are there to civilization and receive tribute.

      since hinduism is a uniquely peaceful religion i guess you wouldn’t know about this 😉 (perhaps more honest is the fact that after 1000 AD indian civilization was on the defensive so it *seems* peaceful, just like the jews after the crushing of the second rebellion gave up on getting themselves killed throwing themselves at rome).

      more concretely i don’t see the point about the gun. the issue isn’t weapons, but that by 1500 western europeans were warlike, and uniquely well organized as proto-national entities with nonkin institutions. the european advantage really didn’t kick in massively until 1800 though. even into the 1700s the omanis ejected portuguese out of the east africa, and the chinese famously dismissed the british as late as 1790 as beneath notice.

      your comment seems historically uniformed.

      1. ‘Historically uninformed’ what in my comment instigated this?.My limited point is that Joe credits destroyed kinships for the prosperity of the west. But in fact, kinship itself was never destroyed. The destroyed, smaller, lesser powerful kinships gave way to a huge and powerful kinship which cooperated within the group to clobber others and garner wealth and privileges, be it from the gold from Africa or the slaves and drugs from all over the world. You don’t have to be actual kin to display kinship behaviour..Muslims in india are genetically related to Hindus, but many feel more kinship with the Arabs and turks. Regarding groups perceiving other groups as the other, yes Hindu kinships or castes do it too, with regard to other castes and other religions, but not on the premise that the other is Satanic because his beliefs are the othering is at an attenuated level, more manifested as snobbishness and superiority feelings than hatred. Europe progressed visibly around 1800 because of the cumulative effect of wealth from colonized lands, knowledge in different fields from over the world, post Roman numeral mathematics from India and Egypt and the Renaissance. And yes I am a Hindu and i state this as a statement of conflict of interest! I hope Joseph Henrich, who went to Peru for a study in a missionary plane, has included a conflict of interest statement in all the studies that he has quoted.

    2. \The power of the gun and the zeal with which non Christians were identified as lesser beings was what mainly contributed to the rise of the west. \
      You imply abject religious prejudices and racism makes one tick somehow and made the west superior. I don’t think so. Many countries like pakistan or saudi arabia and many others have these qualities in abundance , yet bottom of the pile. West came on top due to world exploration, technology and organization to take advantage of it, industry and science. Obviously racism and prejudices also existed side by side.

  22. Excellent podcast episode. Didn’t know much about Kushal, but gained a lot of respect for him. Razib is insightful as always.

  23. Pretty good overviews above, apart from the big hole, similar to the Tom Holland’s book where East Christianity does not exist. Actually, it was mentioned marginally behind the West Christianity’s ‘massacres and genocides’ which include millions of East (Christian) European victims. There are also pretty good overviews of Hinduism.

    However, almost all pundits are lacking a holistic view. If the most of them acknowledged the arrival of Aryans they should also make connections between them and the caste system, Manusmriti and other things. All features of Hinduism perceived as advantages in comparisons with Abrahamic religions are linked to Aryans and this mental barrier should be recognised an overcome.

    I already wrote about Serbian ancient rank system which was brought to SA. I don’t know if some kind of a caste system already existed there. I also wrote that Serbs never had slaves in several thousands of years of their history. Even, their prisoners of wars were free to move around in a general population. The most of them remained there and got assimilated. Because, their enemies knew in advance that they should not fight fiercely and not risk losing their lives; instead, they should only remain alive and become war prisoners.

    We can think hypothetically what the situation in India would be now if, for example, so-called ‘ancient Greeks’ were Aryans (although they did not exist at that time). At their peak they had 100 thousand of slaves in Athens alone, i.e. more than free people while, for example, the Macedonian kingdom, to which they were vassals, did not have slaves. Or, what would be the situation in India if Columbo took the usual way to India instead of trying a new, American route. Would be a destiny of Indians similar to the destiny of American ‘Indians’?

    The situation in India after the arrivals of Aryans was not much of my focus so far. Some pundits can present their knowledge of dynasties after the arrival of Aryans and their mutual connections. SA people should not only revere their ancestors and their cultural heritage. They should also know who they were because they were not aliens, they were real people. Their descendants are all around us, some even write comments here.

    1. Aryan invasion has been ruled out. Currently an Aryan migration scenario is being propagated, specifically by looking past the researchers who have produced research and arguments to the contrary. The major component of all South asian genetic ancestry is a very deep one originating from Africa. Lesser, varying percentages of genes related to Europe are present in different regions and castes. The differences in percentages are not due to any Aryan elite dominance but are due to the geographical gradient and the two thousand year old endogamy. Elite dominance would actually be very improbable in a heavily populated area like India. Genetic studies show that the addition of Europe related genes happened either much before the date speculated for Aryan migration (1500bc)or they happened later than 1500bc at the time of Greek invasion. There is no archeological or textual evidence of any Aryan migration. There is no evidence of Sanskrit spoken anywhere outside the Aryavart area (which extended between Afghanistan and the northern parts India). There is no hint of any memory in the Rigveda of arrival of the vedic people from an outside land. There is evidence that Mittanni kings at 1500bc had Sanskrit names and prayed to vedic gods, but their names were related to the culture of the new books of the Rigveda, indicating that they had infact migrated to the Hittite area after the new books of the Rigveda were written, so this means that the Rigveda must be a much older literature than generally propagated. (All this from Talageri’s book). It stands to reason that it must have been written in a settled time of stability and not when cities were being abandoned due to climate change, as happened in the Indus valley civilization between 1500bc and 1800bc.
      Caste probably happened because india, being settled for a very very long time, gave rise to large extended families each of which formed a tribal kinship, when these tribes settled in any place they found a niche in the social hierarchy according to the work that they did, and these kinships and hierarchies became cemented into different jatis.

  24. By the way, people like Kushal need to stop trying to get rid of caste from Hinduism since it has been there forever and Should Always be there.

    Is this a joke?

    Combined with the comical China has Castes like India takes, this comment section is worse than even Twitter.

    The Hukou nonsense is farcical given that Hukou territory is not permanent and changes constantly over decades/across-regimes. Its a political administrative organization, India Caste system is a whole another monster, from political to cultural and everything in between.

    If India was China the Govt would have setup extreme incentive-programs for Inter-Caste unions with Reservation quotes disproportionately tailoring to children of such unions.

    The slow 5-10% rate that Razib talks about above now would have sped up and Relative homogenization would have happened quicker, rather than the current situation where it will take like 10+ generation and around 150-200 years from date of Independence. And even this provided some of the crazies(some apparently visible on this comment section) don’t hijack the process.

    This is how the Chinese of old did. Massive cross geographic migration and mixing, esp. North to South. And this is what PRC under Mao would have done IF China still had a Indian like caste system. It would have been utterly brutal, possibly many would have died but within a single generation there would not have been a single Chinese born alive on the mainland which had both parents from the same caste.

    Indian Reservation & Quota system is too slow, its bypassing generations and creating/sustaining new caste fault-lines while the rest of the world group (countries) passes India by. What a shit-show.

  25. One point for extreme endogamy inferred from genetics, that there was no sexual exploitation despite whatever type of “hegemony” being considered.

    If exploitation was true, then the higher and lower castes shouldn’t be so autosomally distant. If they are, then at least the caste protocols weren’t like house slave system, where being a slave was no detriment for being a concubine.

    1. The point of caste system was that it left families and network of families intact. This is unlike slave system which ripped apart families. Absence of father or father figure is still bedevilling American blacks.

      1. Violet says “that there was no sexual exploitation”.

        I really wonder if this is true. Historically, sexual exploitation of backward and lower castes was apparently not uncommon on the part of the landowners and higher castes. The victims were the landless and virtually powerless. This is reported in the press to this day.

        Power corrupts, absolute power……

        1. I agree too that we hear about how powerless are exploited, but if there is such an absolute endogamy historically, then the outcomes for offspring would be infanticide?

          I find that hard to believe if it’s a son. Or, the most common outcome for females would be suicide. But I doubt if we have such high suicide rates.(then caste population stability won’t happen if child-bearing females keep dying in addition to disease and child birth).

          So, we are left with wondering if exploitation and power differential was more recent than historical.

  26. One point for extreme endogamy inferred from genetics, that there was no sexual exploitation despite whatever type of “hegemony” being considered.

    this is one of the inferences yes. pretty shocking

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