Caste, then Class: Redistribution and Representation in the Dravidian Model

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Vignesh Karthik KR
Vishal Vasanthakumar


Dravidian parties believe that changes to the economic structure will not lead to social justice if the upper/dominant castes continue to exclusively possess social capital. To them, and later, to the successive Dravidian party governments, economic justice was not possible without first ensuring social justice. This view was held by the stalwarts of the Dravidian movement such as Periyar E.V. Ramasamy (Periyar henceforth), the subject of this engagement, and actualised by leaders such as C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi, whose electoral politics was a means to empower subaltern groups in Tamil society. We contend that Periyar was the chief aggregator of the ideas put forth by earlier social justice ideologues, and an effective disseminator of the Dravidian political ethos among the masses, making his contribution comprehensive and unique. Through an analysis of the approach of Dravidian party governments towards affirmative action, administrative reform and legislation, and through comparisons of the performance of Tamil Nadu in terms of development indicators with other states, we reveal the profound influence of Periyarist thinking on the Dravidian movement and State praxis. The quest of the Dravidian movement for social justice did not just focus on class inequalities but on caste inequalities, which it saw as a propagator of class inequalities.

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How to Cite
KR, V. K., & Vasanthakumar, V. (2022). Caste, then Class: Redistribution and Representation in the Dravidian Model. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 3(1), 107-122.
Research Articles
Author Biographies

Vignesh Karthik KR, King's College London

Doctoral Researcher at the King’s India Institute, King’s College London.

Vishal Vasanthakumar

Graduate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an independent researcher based in Chennai, India.