Therefore, caste is a closed group and its status is fixed for ever. The individual has no choice or initiative and hence he has to remain connected with whatever status he is provided by the caste system. In other words, caste system is based upon ‘Karma’ theory which implies that the status of an individual is a matter of his fate and hence it is beyond his control to be changed.
Thus caste system provides no scope to the individual for any type of social mobility. This is the only type of rigid social stratification where social mobility is categorically denied to the individual. However, in the modern age social mobility is getting introduced in the Indian caste system. Certain studies in this respect have verified this fact.
Bailey in his study of an Indian village (Bisipara village) has found that the certain castes which had low status in the past have improved the same by raising their economic statuses. Similarly, some other castes have tried to raise the ritual statuses of their castes through several different means. According to Srinivas, the lower castes are raising their status through the process of Sanskritization. In this way, the caste status in modern India is not absolutely fixed for ever. Inter-caste marriages have been also acting as a means of social mobility. The caste hierarchy in India, especially in the middle range, has been now registering mobility. However, this should not be taken to mean that Indian caste system is heading for unlimited and fast social mobility. Social Mobility in the caste system is not the same as is found in the class system.
In class system, even an individual can move from one status to another. But in the case of caste system only caste as a whole can move from one status to another. Therefore, individual mobility is uncommon in the caste system. Lack of social mobility has been quite useful for the caste system as well as for Indian society. It has introduced stability and stronger organisation in the caste system as well as in the Indian society. Moreover, lack of social mobility introduces contentment in the life of an individual and saves him from frustration, competition, suicide and stress.
However, at the same time lack of systemic social mobility in caste system has produced some stagnation and also kept the rate of progress lower and slower. Modern age, being the age of rationality does not appreciate lack of social mobility in society.
II. Social Mobility in the Class System:
Unlike caste system, class system is involves open groups where the statuses are achieved by him through his own hard work, capabilities and qualifications. Class system is a system of rational groups which is not rigid about restrictions on occupations, marriages, social interactions, inter-class or intra-class circulations and social mobility. The class status of an individual is not fixed for ever and an individual has the freedom and opportunity to move from one status to another.
Persons can rise from rags to riches and from lower statuses to higher statuses. In this way, social mobility is very common in the class system. Martin has studied social mobility with the help of his Reference Group Theory. According to him, an individual in class system has more preference for the higher classes than to the ways of life of his own class. Therefore, his actions are always oriented towards the higher classes.
The fact of the matter is that in the class system every individual in the lower class consistently tries to improve his class position/status. Social mobility in class system has its own value. Class system is quite liberal, democratic and modern. Every individual enjoys equal opportunities for improving his status. Such an exercise introduces competition among the members of various classes and thereby provides an incentive to hard work and progress in society. Class System supports and encourages social mobility, prosperity, progress, advancement and social change.
However, social mobility in the class system can also lead to some instability, disorganisation, frustration, discontentment and stress. At times, it gives rise to some problems due to an over-emphasis on social mobility. The studies made by Durkheim have suggested that the rate of suicide is higher among persons who are members of class societies. As social mobility is natural and necessary for a class-stratified society but it can also act as a source of some problems for the society.
To sum up, it can be said that although social mobility is found both in the caste and class systems yet its nature in both the systems is different. It is also a fact that social mobility is necessarily present in every society irrespective of the fact as to whether it is a caste-stratified society or class-stratified society. Further, that it is a source of both several advantages and some possible disadvantages. When increased social mobility comes to characterize the caste system, it tends to move towards the class system and when social mobility gets very limited or eliminated from the class system, it tends to take the form of a caste system.