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What are the similarities between a class and caste system?

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Both the class and caste systems are institutions of social stratification. They both center around social status, and in both, people are divided into several ranks. People are born into a particular caste or class, and those castes and classes differ widely in influence and material prosperity from top to bottom. Discrimination is common, as is poverty and oppression for those at lower levels.

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A class system and a caste system are both hierarchical, meaning they are organized like a ladder, with a few people on the top rungs, more people on the various middle rungs, and many crowded on the bottom rungs. The main difference between a class and caste system is that a class system has more fluidity: it is possible to move and up and down the ladder. In the caste system, people are cemented to their rung of the ladder.

Both are ideological or constructed systems that are strongly buffered with a narrative that states the system in question reflects a divine plan or order. In the West, the idea of a "great chain of being" envisioned the entire universe organized hierarchically, with God on top and then a descending order ending somewhere with insects or very simple life forms. It was often depicted as ridiculous for women to assert equality with men or lower classes people to want equality with their "betters," argued through drawings that showed a cat or dog ruling humans in a household or children beating their parents; such ideas were framed as inherently ridiculous and unnatural.

In India, the idea of reincarnation buttressed the caste system: it was taught that your place in the current system reflected how you lived in a former life. It would be wrong to interfere as the system worked out the natural justice and karma of the universe. Some argue that the British rule increased caste inequality because the British would only deal with the highest caste.

Class and caste systems benefit those at top at the expense of those at the bottom. Rigid class systems are detrimental to society as a whole, as they prevent talent from rising.

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Let's begin by defining class system and caste system. A class is a group of people who share a similar status within society. This status is partially determined by birth, for people are born into a particular class. But people can also move to a different class by education, occupation, and wealth. They might move up or down. In the US, we think mostly in terms of upper-class people (who tend to be influential and quite well off materially), middle-class people (who are still well off but might lack the influence of the upper class), and lower-class people (who are often lacking in material possessions and influence).

Now let's turn our attention to the caste system. A caste is a group of people who share the same hereditary status in society. People are born into a caste, and they remain in it their entire life. Their caste dictates the kinds of education and occupations open to them, and they must follow these paths despite their individual talents or inclinations. There is often no possibility for movement within the caste system. People in lower castes are almost always extremely poor while people in higher castes tend to be well off.

We can now look at the similarities between these two systems. Both involve social stratification and social status, and people are born into both classes and castes. Both systems include wide ranges of material prosperity, influence, and status with the higher classes and castes receiving many benefits and the lower classes and castes struggling with poverty and oppression. Discrimination is a serious issue in both the class and caste systems, as people of higher classes and castes often feel superior to those at lower levels and sometimes act on those feelings to prevent competition from people seeking to rise up to a higher level. People in lower classes or castes often have to fight hard for their rights and even for the basic necessities of life.

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Both the caste and the class systems are types of social stratification. Social stratification occurs in societies and large groups of people where the individuals are categorized into different groups based on certain demographic factors.

In both the caste and class systems, discrimination based on the categories is evident. In such societies, it is rare to have individuals belonging to different categories interacting closely.

Both types of stratifications may be determined by birth, with the main difference being that upward or downward mobility can occur in a class system—while in a caste system, it cannot. 

In both systems, the upper classes and castes are always looking to protect their positions, while the lower classes and castes continue to agitate for better status and the benefits that come with the status. The situation generally leads to conflict and a need to address the differences.

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The class system is generally based on a person's occupation, education, and wealth, while the caste system (most notably in India) is based on a person's birth. They are both systems in which those at the top receive more prestige, opportunities for education and self-improvement, protection and preferment from the government and legal system, and wealth than those in the middle and at the bottom of the system.

In theory, the class system allows some flexibility or movement between classes (through education, for example), while the caste system is rigid, as one is born into a caste and remains in that caste forever. However, in the United States and other countries, it can be difficult for people to gain the education, wealth, or social status necessary to move up in the class system. In addition, people in a higher-status class often deem those in lower classes as less worthy, a situation that also exists in the caste system. In other words, both the class and caste system involve prejudicial and pejorative attitudes towards those in lower classes or castes. 

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