Ideological Support for the Indian Caste System: Social Dominance Orientation, Right-Wing Authoritarianism and Karma


  • Sarah Cotterill
  • James Sidanius
  • Arjun Bhardwaj
  • Vivek Kumar


This paper extends the social dominance perspective to the Indian context by examining the role of belief in Karma (sanchita) in the justification of the Indian caste system. Using social dominance theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) and the dual process model (Duckitt, 2001) as guiding theoretical frameworks, we tested four related hypotheses within a sample of 385 Indian university students. In particular we expected that social dominance orientation (SDO) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) would both make relatively strong and independent contributions to participants’ endorsement of Karma (H1), as well as their support for antiegalitarian social policies and conventions (H2). We also predicted that endorsement of Karma, itself, would be strongly related to support for these policies, net of the influence of SDO, RWA, as well as generalized prejudice (H3). Finally, and consistent with the notion that Karma functions as a legitimizing ideology, we hypothesized that it would at least partially mediate, net of generalized prejudice, the relationships between SDO and RWA, on the one hand, and antiegalitarian and conventional social policies, on the other (H4). Results of latent variable structural equation modeling provided support for all four hypotheses. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.