Social Science Baha
Official

Subject Citizen Identity and Class: Contesting Dimensions of Social Inequality and the Implication of Affirmative Action for Change

Tulsi Ram Pandey

It is an obvious fact of society that people in all contexts are characterized by a number of differences. Some of these differences are natural and are marked by the feature of one’s race, sex, age and such others. Some others are constructed and structural, and are marked by differences of culture as well as that of control over or access to power, property and other productive resources. Still others represent the differences of individual capability of people based on variations at the level of their exposure, achieved skills and related ability.

All these three categories of inequalities and differences have their own specific social importance. However, they are mutually related to each other. Each of them is used as a factor for shaping the features and modality of inequality generated by another. The social categories formed under natural type of inequality are used in many contexts as a proxy to impose constructed type of structural differences and inequalities. Similarly, the social injustice felt under a given framework of structural inequality by the human agency of a social collectivity has motivated its members to engage in collective action for change to transform that structure of inequality.

Social inequality in a given society is therefore a dynamic phenomenon. It changes through the process of interaction between its structure and the perceptions as well as activities of people who establish the framework of or face problems from that inequality. It is through this interactive process that human population in many contexts at different phases of their history has been able to transform its status from subject to citizen, raise voices on separate identity of its group and question the justice of its position in a specific type of class. Current demands for affirmative active in Nepal are also the ones to produce some sort of such a social transformation.

In this paper, I argue that the changes that may happen through the fulfillment of these demands are useful to promote the environment for enhancing justice and equality in society and hence for institutionalizing its endeavor towards practice of democracy. However, I also argue that these demands are posed to address the problems of a specific structure of social inequality. The social transformation that may happen through the satisfaction of these demands still leaves room for the operation of other social process directed to question the justice of inequality faced by people as rooted in terms of their position of a class.