I live in an “advanced, modern” society that supposedly does not organize its citizens along ethnic, familial or occupational lines.
Proudly we profess that there is no caste system here.
At the same time, even in the same breath, we also refer to the socioeconomic classes of our society. These are the lines that we use to “correlate” all other measurements: education, health, occupation, living standards, and so on.
The difference between a caste system and a socioeconomic class system is that in the latter we worship a rhetoric that says individuals can purchase their way into the privileged class. This is our core mythology, the linchpin of the socioeconomic caste system.
As long as we feed the illusion that everyone could “have it all” if they just had the dedication (“Get a job!”), then we at the top of this class system can justify all the self-absorbed hoarding of the wealth we can possibly imagine.
“Classes” are the the “castes” of democracy. Put it this way: democracy is a “wiki-caste” system by which we categorize and define each other collectively in economic, racial and other various terms. The result is a social hierarchy that we can claim is not a caste system because it lacks formal designation or enforcement.
It makes me wonder if the rhetoric of self-empowerment is merely the vestige of capitalism? Capitalism nurtures a virtual caste system wherein the “motivated” are at the top and the “lazy” are at the bottom, and it depends on this existential basis to justify itself… and to define what “motivated” is in the first place. (What one person calls “motivated,” another person calls greed.)