Myths of meritocracy: caste, karma and the new racism, a comparative study

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Abstract

The discourse of karma (behaviour), confounded with inherent psychic and material substance of the person/group (guna), was at the heart of India’s caste ideology. This systematic and intuitive, albeit convoluted and phantasmic doctrine was critical to bridge the discrepancy between a pantheistic religious imaginary and the reality of exclusion and abjection. Although “karma” evokes an exotic orient, this ideology is near identical with the ideas of “idleness” and “instant gratification” used to make sense of racial inequities in the contemporary United States. In both cases, the idea of behavioural and moral deficiency is used to justify evident abjection and discrimination, within the frame of an encompassing ideology of social equality. Thus, this use of the notions of “work” and “discipline”, extrapolated to the moral quality of the group or individual, is no passing argument of the “new racism”. It is a proven ploy of assigning blame on the victim.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2693-2710
Number of pages18
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Volume41
Issue number15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2018

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Keywords

  • Race
  • caste
  • guna
  • karma
  • meritocracy
  • neo-liberalism

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