Mexico Olympics


  • Language and region are not the only features that give a distinct identity to people.
  • People also identify themselves & relate with others on the basis of their physical appearance, class, religion, gender, caste, tribe, etc.
  • Democracy responds to social differences, divisions and inequalities differently.

Mexico Olympics


  • Medal ceremony of 200 metres race; 1968 Olympics, Mexico City.
  • While the American national anthem was played, two US athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, stood with clenched fists upraised and heads bowed. They are African-Americans.
  • They had won the gold and bronze medals respectively.
  • They received their medals wearing black socks and no shoes to represent Black poverty.
  • Intention: Draw international attention to racial discrimination in the US.
  • BLACK POWER: Symbol of black-gloved & raised clenched fists.
  • Silver medallist Peter Norman, an Australian athlete, wore a human rights badge on his shirt to show support.
  • Medals taken back: International Olympic Association held them guilty of violating Olympic spirit by making a political statement.
  • They were subjected to a lot of criticism.
  • Norman was not included in Australian team for next Olympic.

  • Their action succeeded in gaining international attention for the Civil Rights Movement in the US.
  • San Jose State University, of which they were former students, honoured them & installed their statue in the University campus.

  • 2006: Norman died, Smith & Carlos were pallbearers at funeral.

outcomes of social sciences

outcomes of social sciences


  • Yugoslavia: political competition of religious ending ethnic lines led to disintegration of Yugoslavia into 6 independent countries.
  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  2. Croatia,
  3. Macedonia,
  4. Montenegro,
  5. Serbia,
  6. Slovenia.
  • Sometimes it is concluded that politics and social divisions must not be allowed to mix.
    • It would be best if there are no social divisions in any country.
    • If social divisions do exist, they must never be expressed in politics.
  • Every expression of social divisions in politics does not lead to such disasters.
    • Some form of social divisions exists in most countries of the world.
    • Wherever they exist, these divisions reflect in politics.
  • In a democracy, it is natural that political parties would:
    • talk about these divisions,
    • make different promises to different communities,
    • look after due representation of various communities,
    • make policies to redress the grievances of the disadvantaged communities.
  • Social divisions affect voting in most countries.
      • People from one community tend to prefer a party more than others.
      • In many countries there are parties that focus only on one community.
    • All this does not lead to disintegration of the country.

the three determinants

Three factors are crucial in deciding the outcome of politics of social divisions:

  1. The outcome depends on how people perceive their identities.
    • It is difficult to accommodate people if they see themselves in singular and exclusive terms.
      • People in Northern Ireland identified only as Catholic or Protestant:
        • differences were difficult to reconcile.
    • It is easier if people see their identities:
      • have multiple facets;
      • are complementary with the national identity.
    • A majority of Belgians now feel that they are as much Belgian as they are Dutch or German-speaking. This helps to build unity.
    • How Indians see their identity:
      • Indian
      • belonging to a state or a language group or a social or religious community.
  2. The outcome depends on how political leaders raise the demands of any community.
    • It is easier to accommodate demands that are:
      • within the constitutional framework;
      • not at the cost of another community.
    • Sri Lanka: demand for ‘only Sinhala’ at the cost of the interest & identity of the Tamil community.
    • Yugoslavia: leaders of different ethnic communities presented their demands in a way that these could not be accommodated within a single country.
  3. The outcome depends on how the government reacts to demands of different groups.
    • Belgium and Sri Lanka: if rulers are willing to share power and accommodate reasonable demands of the minority, social divisions become less threatening.
    • If they try to suppress a reasonable demand in the name of national unity, the end result is often quite the opposite.
    • Attempts at forced integration often become the cause of disintegration.


  • Social diversities in a country are not a source of danger.
    • Democracy: political expression of social divisions is normal and can be healthy.
    • Disadvantaged & marginal social groups are able to express their grievances and seek redressal.
    • Expression of multiple social divisions in politics often results in their cancelling one another out.
      • It reduces the intensity of the social divisions.
      • This leads to strengthening of a democracy.
  • Positive attitude towards diversity and a willingness to accommodate is not easy to achieve.
    • People who feel marginalized, deprived and discriminated have to fight against the injustices.
    • This often takes a democratic path:
      • voicing their demands in a peaceful and constitutional manner,
      • seeking a fair position through elections.
    • Sometimes social differences take the form of unacceptable level of social inequality & injustice.
    • The struggle against inequalities sometimes takes the path of violence and defiance of state power.
  • History shows that democracy is the best way to fight for recognition and to accommodate diversity.

Social, political of economic differences

Social, political and economic differences

  • The athletes were responding to social divisions and social inequalities.
  • Belgium noted linguistic differences and inequalities.
  • In Sri Lanka, there were linguistic as well as religious differences.
  • Thus social diversity can take different forms in different societies.

Origins of social differences

  • Social differences are mostly based on accident of birth.
  • We don’t usually choose to belong to our community.
  • People are male or female, tall or short, have different complexions, different physical abilities or disabilities.
  • Formation of social groups that are based on our choices.
  1. All the differences are not based on our birth.
  • For example, some people are atheists and don’t believe in God or religion.
  1. Some people choose to follow a religion other than the one in which they were born.
  2. We choose what to study, which occupation to take up & which cultural activities to take part in.
  • Not every social difference leads to social division.
  • Social differences also unite very different people.
  • People of different social groups share differences & similarities cutting across boundaries of their groups.
  1. Carlos & Smith: African-Americans. Norman: white.
  2. Their similarity– athletes standing against racial discrimination.
  • People have different identities in different contexts.
  1. Commonly, people of the same religion feel they do not belong to the same community if their caste or sect is different.
  2. It is possible for people from different religions to have the same caste & feel closer.
  3. Thus, all have more than one identity and can belong to more than one social group.

Overlapping and cross-cutting differences

  • Social division takes place when some social difference overlaps with other differences.
    • Difference between the Blacks & Whites becomes a social division in the US, since Blacks tend to be poor, homeless and discriminated against.
    • In India, Dalits tend to be poor and landless, often facing discrimination and injustice.
  • One kind of social difference becomes more important than the other: people start feeling that they belong to different communities.
    • Overlapping social differences: tough to put one group of people against the other.
    • Common interest of groups on an issue: likely to be in different sides on a different issue.
  • Overlapping social differences: create possibilities of deep social divisions and tensions.
  • Cross-cutting social differences: easier to accommodate.
  • Social divisions of one kind or another exist in most countries. Irrespective of the size of the country.
  • Countries such as Germany and Sweden, that were once highly HOMOGENEOUS, are undergoing rapid change with influx of people from other parts of the world.
  • MIGRANTS bring with them their own culture and tend to form a different social community. In this sense most countries of the world are multi-cultural.

the cases of Northern Ireland and the Netherlands

  • Both are predominantly Christian.
    • Divided between Catholics and Protestants.
  • Northern Ireland: class and religion overlap with each other.
    • Catholic: more likely to be poor; may have suffered a history of discrimination.
  • The Netherlands: class and religion tend to cut across each other.
    • Catholics and Protestants are about equally likely to be poor or rich.
  • Result:
    • Catholics & Protestants have had conflicts in Northern Ireland.
    • This is not the case in the Netherlands.

Different political motive

Different political motives

  • People of Romanian descent live in many countries of Eastern Europe. Bulgaria is one such country.
  • 1913: Bulgaria and Romania have had deep conflicts in the past.
  • Bulgarians believe that Roma people are dirty. They are surrounded by stereotypes and Bulgarians call them:
    • uncivilized
    • aggressive
    • dark-skinned
    • thieves
    • illegal immigrants
    • live at the cost of Bulgarians who pay their taxes
  • Roma people are assumed as criminals by Bulgarians.
  • Romanians are discriminated against and denied their right to basic services like that of a hospital.
  • Social workers and government service providers are also equally ignorant of their condition.
  • Roma people live life of homeless, starving people.
  • This is not a story about Romania and Bulgaria or about the Roma people.
  • Similar stories can be heard about marginalized communities of India as well.