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Department of History, National University of Singapore

The Class Structure of Burma: Continuity and Change Author(s): Moshe Lissak Source: Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Mar., 1970), pp. 60-73 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Department of History, National University of Singapore Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20069847 . Accessed: 18/11/2013 01:02
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The

Class

Structure

of Burma:

Continuity

and Change
MOSHE LISSAK

I
Introduction The in the of purpose stratification a more of this of modern countries of has done these article Burmese class have their been on the is to review since can some the be of the that have taken changes and to what find out and of what about it is a the on conducive place extent

signs

society structure great

thirties, discerned

consists. to common elites within the of the

Developing rapid modernisation be different. has Many to

economy written

in difficulty and society.

conditions creating To this bring obstacles encountered

goal of both civilian and military


Much been of

regimes,
about of

though
the

their style and mode


by are

of action may relatively


going from

these countries
research them. related

in the political,
societies,

ideological

and
social

cultural
stratification is one,

spheres, but
that fairly are

little

processes of which

Burma

pluralistic

ethnic, linguistic and religious point of view and ethnic and religious affiliation is distinctly
status and This concentration. political geographic a high level of national the emergence and integration a modern, of structure at class devoid elements various of open particularistic the hierarchy. stratificational it is not There of the only obstacle. stages Obviously, is the interaction also town and country, between the westernized the traditional elite and ? the vast economic and cultural strata between all problems different sectors, disparity are no less that interrelation of the ethnic than the minorities and their important interferes category, occupational of with the attainment interaction The contains the with vulnerable numerous the dominant spots of ethnic a religious sector. society, revealed and the especially an by economic of one examination differential sectors ethnic that developing, heterogeneous are best ethnic enclaves, structure and tend and

particularistic

of the following
(a) (b) (c)

issues:

in the occupational scope and rate of change between social different strata, of the real potential the population, to what and for social and economic mobility

the aspiration the

the various between

extent in these variables any changes and occupational affiliation ecological led to psychological, normative and structural different as is status groups. far no known, as a modest

to obscure

identity

prestige conditions

?whether categories that stimulate greater

they have interaction

between As these

on has been in Burma conducted comprehensive study we and examined the data material have substitute issues, published at various for different and usually from those we are concerned times, purposes compiled even some with to cast here. this rather material is likely Nevertheless, fragmentary light sketchy as on militarv on the occupational the coud problems structure on and in question. the process mobility and The of material urbanization; and social of referred and to relates to includes further changes some in the rather as well until the

information social of

hierarchy 1962.1

patterns the stratification

status and image the population of

symbols, Burma

i The is a list of books and papers the history, dealing with population, following geography, J.S. Furnivall, The Government Institute of Burma: and religions Burma, economy, of Modern to the 1960. J.S. An Introduction of Pacific New York, Relations, (Second Furnivall, edition) and House, 1957. Political Literature Committee Economy Rangoon, Aye of Burma, People's in Burma Journal "Trends of Economic Growth and Income Distribution 1870-1946", Hlaing, June The Vol. XLVII, Nash, 1964, Part I, pp. 89-148. Society, Manning of the Burma Research to Modernity: in Contemporary and Son, John Wiley 1965. Road Golden Burma, Village Life Yale W. Politics Search Lucian and Nation Burma's Pye, for Identity, Personality Building: 1962. in M.G. Government and Politics Josef Silverstein, Press, University "Burma", Kahin, of and Politics E. Smith, Religion Southeast Donald Asia, Cornell Press, 1959, pp. 75-182. University in Burma, 1965. Hugh Tinker, The Union of Burma, Oxford Princeton Press, University University a Welfare in Burma of Pacific 1961. Frank N. Tr?ger, State Institute 1948-1956, Press, Building

60

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The

Class

Structure

of Burma:
to some were the

Continuity II

and

Change

61

We will be

shall the

refer last for

mainly of decade although these

British

post-independence in Burma. rule changes in so the that

the point but of period, was made distinction No stratification only the order more took important

departure between

sub-periods, the British be mentioned.

period,

marginal,

place during ones need

Let us first present some of the findings of the 1931 census, the last one published under British rule. From the occupational distribution given in Table 1 it is evident
that of ? and agriculture the population, processing was the dominant category forestry occupational comprising 69.6% two some were that the other had categories significance industry ? other of rice and with foodstuffs and trade, with 9.0% 10.7%

mainly

Table

Occupational Structure, 1931 (%)

Occupation

Workers

Agriculture

and Forestry

69-6 0-6 10-7 3-6 90 0-5 0-7 Arts 3-2 01 0-7 0-9 0-4

Exploitation of Minerals Industry


Transportation Trade

Public Force Public administration


Professions Persons Domestic and Liberal on Living Services Income

Insufficiently described
Unproductive

Total
Source: Study. Surider K. Mehta, The Ph.D. Thesis, University Labor Force of Chicago, in Urban Burma 1959, p. 52. and Rangoon,

1000
1953, A Comparative

The agricultural population was divided into three broad categories. 1. Owner cultivators (38% of the principal workers)
2. 3. Tenant Agricultural were and of landless cultivators ? labourers 22% ? 40%

(See Table

2)

In plain
agriculture century most lower would

language this means


continued of

that by

1931 about 62% of all persons


of War. evictions Thus, which not began only did

engaged
in the the over

in
19th

to a long process owing until the Second World

whelming majority
it consisted the Burma, indicate.2 of in

of the labour force


rural percentage urban

live in rural areas and engage


the country, than the

in farming, but
in especially overall figures force, and were trade.

In some of parts proletariat. was of land owners still smaller

Most engaged

the the

processing

as as many population, and of materials supply

75.0% in

of

the

urban

labour

industry,

transportation

About
Relations, Twentieth

12% were classified under administration,


New

public security and the free professions.3


The 1955-1960, Cornell Burma, of Asian Burma Studies, Research

1956. Louis J. Walinsky, in Burma Economie York, Development 1962. A History John F. Cady, Fund, New Century York, of Modern 1958. Press, University 2 or Multiple?", "Southeast Asian The Journal Dual Nash, Society, Manning, Vol. XXIII, No. 1964, p. 419. 3, May 3 R. M. Journal "Urbanization: The Burmese Sundrum, Experience", of Vol. XL, June 1957, Part I, Table XVIII. Society,

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M. 62 Table 2 Rural Agricultural Population 1931 by Type of Farmer

Lissak

Type of Farmer N % Cultivating Owner Tenant Cultivators Agricultural Labourers Total: Principal Workers Working Dependents 38 1,118,000 22 690,000 1,292,000 3,100,000 515,000 TOTAL 3,613,000
from R. M. Sundrum, Adjusted of Economic in Burma, Department 13. In a colonial society, on the Labor Force and the Income Census Data of Rangoon, Statistics and Commerce, University Distribution 1958, Table

40 100

particularly

a multi-ethnic

one,

such

as Burma

became

through

the influx of Indians and Chinese after the British conquest, the occupational structure it being related to the ethnic distribution. of the population alone means little without In 1931 the ethnic composition of the population of Burma was as follows: Burmese 65-7% Other indigenous groups Indian 70%
Indo-Burmese 1 0-2

24-6%
-2 %

Chinese
Europeans

1-3%
%

Total Table
structure of They and the in total are, public

1000% relationship
trade and represented in mining, are

3 clearly
1931. In

shows

the

between
industry, or more

ethnic
the less

origin

and

occupational
of 56% numbers.

agriculture,

Burmese

are figure employment however, under-represented administration. They

transport,

according the public

consisting to their in

surprisingly

over-represented

forces security the professions

and liberal arts, probably because the Buddhist monks were classified in this category.4 The Chinese, on the other hand, consisting of only 15% of the total of persons
employed, in trade. are This over-represented more is even in mining, industry, the marked among transportation non-Burmese-born and still Indians, more whose so

share in the total employment was only 8% but who made up 43-4% of the public security forces; 43-2% of the transportation sector; 36-3% of the mining sector and in the 1930s this applies to other Already 26-6% of the public administration. the Chinese and especially the Indians occupied rather categories as well. Accordingly,
important generally positions as known in most the by-products occupations of and places modernization. offering The exposure on effects to new ideas, social mobility

"An ethnic division and on the stratification hierarchy of the thirties are obvious. of labour placed the Burmese at the bottom of the ladder, concentrating them in the lent by small agricultural and extractive sectors of the economy, tying them to money 5 capitalists, and binding their welfare to the fluctuations of the world market in rice." the in in forties. also not the but situation the describe These figures thirties, only
4 represents the with the 1931 occupational figures given structure in Table in 1 1953-4, is possible, and some no exact although can be inferences

Table

comparison made.

The percentage engaged in agriculture was 62-7% instead of 69.6% in spite of the population growth. The professional category went down from 3-2% in 1931 to
4 R. M. Data Census Sundrum, of Economics, Statistics Department 5 M. op. cit., p. 413. Nash, on the Labor and Commerce, Force and University the Income Distribution of Rangoon, 1958, p. in Burma, 17.

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The
1-2%

Class
in in

Structure
1953-4, relates the

of Burma:

Continuity

and

Change

63

categories group

be it must that of and "one the most remembered important though were to persons in religious who the professional orders included under were omitted but from the classification census, pre-war occupational in was in the in relative later the census",6 administration terms.7 its share sector; since did evidently the number the thirties

as being institutional persons altogether not The increase go up. significant only servants of civil in absolute and grew

Clearly,

Table 3 Labour Force Participants by Race and Occupation,


In In dians dians Born out Indo Euro peans

1931 (%)

Other All
Races

Born in Chi nese Bur ma

Bur
mese

Indige neous Races

side
Bur ma

Burma Races

And Allied Races

Anglo In dian

Other
Races

All
Occupations Farming

Mining Industry
Transport Trade

Public Forces Public Ad


ministration Professional and other

1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 100-0

55-8 56-7 33-5 56-7 40-5 59-2 31-3

321
38-0

1-5 0-5 9-8 2-3 2-6 6-9 0-3 1-3

1-6 1-6 10 11 2-5 1-6 20 2-3

7-9 2-5 36-3 14-7 43-2 15-6 43-4 26-6

0-9 0-7 0-3 0-9 1-5 2-2 0-8 1-9

01 1-4 01 0-6 01 5-8 0-8

01 0-4 01 0-6 01 0-5 1-7 01 01 01

150
24-1 8-3

141
15-9

37-4

25-5

Liberal Arts
Source:

1000
Mehta,

671
op. cit., p.

24-8 399.

0-7

0-8

4-4

0-8

0-5

0-6

01

Table 4
Labour Force Participants, by Occupation, 1953-4

(Estimates)

Occupations

Percentage

Professions Managerial Sales Farming

1-2 1-9 9-6 62-7 0-5 1-8 10-6

Mining
Transport

Crafts
Services Miscellaneous Source: R. S. Sundrum, Ibid, Table IX. 17. increased

111
0-4

6 R. M. Census ..., op. cit., p. data Sundrum, 7 to one source, the number of clerks According See H. Tinker, 1961, op. cit., p. 156. figure.

to 250,000,

three

times

the pre-war

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64
no of significant change and societies. is relevant that aspect sector distribution statistics distinguishes to or an of of the the stratification labour had even occurred of in the structure, occupational as discerned be and compared

M.
salient with may

Lissak
symptoms typical

stagnation industrialized Another is the economic

regression

respect, 1. 2. hired hired Table 1931

Burmese workers workers 5

employment between:

understanding status

force.

hierarchy In this

sector in the private sector in the government that an farmers additional that the are divided distinction almost was own

3. 4.

unpaid

workers self-employed workers land and

shows where it seems

equally made account sector

between between

private tenants

owners,

(36-8%) and hired workers


figures

(32-0%).8

It is difficult

to compare were

these figures with not

the

labourers

(see Table
Nevertheless, mainly persons of the

2), but dependents


Hired

or unpaid
of

family workers
also

listed separately.

stable.

percentage in the labourers in crafts.

workers

in mining and employed ? sector rural farming, more hired labourers significantly

private Hence

and mining "own account" than

considering ? crafts

in agriculture remained of the majority constituted the three occupations only appears When that all there were occupations the 24-2%

it

workers.

are taken
sectors) were

into account,
hired the workers

it is seen that 401%


and 35-7% hired self-employed. labourers

(including

the private

and government among the

Moreover, is still impressive.

considering

of unpaid
self-employed,

family workers,
proportion

many
of

of whom

should probably

be classified

Table 5 Labour Force Participants, by Employment Status, 1953-4

Occupations

Private

Government

Own

Account

Workers

Unpaid Family
Workers

Total Urban Total Rural


Professional

41-7 38-6 25-5

13 3
1-5 42-8 45-4

38-9 35-7 30-9 39-5 24-8 22-3 79-8

61 24-2 0-9

151
Managerial Sales 28-2

470
38-6 01 0-5 01

391
10-5 3-9 Farming 33-6

9-6

841
48-7 36-8 6-6 10-7

120
17-2

320 Mining
Transport 93-4

311
0-2 1-4 3-3 4-9 12-8 0-8 01 0-2

861
47-7 42-9 65-4 49-5 Services Miscellaneous 0-3 Source: 8 The among these R. M. Sundrum, 95-8 96-9

Crafts

101 91 90
5-7 19-4 21

40-8 50-7 20-7

320 40
0-9 1-9 XIV, and p. 17. presumably more or

961 970
Ibid., Table workers

rest were unpaid two categories.

family

were

less

equally

divided

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The
than

Class

Structure
the

of Burma:
situation in the in cities the were

Continuity
was rural quite sector,

and
similar. the

Change
There difference were was only more not

65
employees As big.

In principle, many in private same

self-employed, as 42-8% of

as although the professionals

government

rest were the while firms, the managerial workers. among systematic structure data after

self-employed. on the Trade, are Burma available became

and employees, The proportions other on hand, the was

worked 25-5% were the about concentrated

heavily

in the hands of private merchants


no Unfortunately, ethnic and occupational and was The Indians. In sum, in the fifties, of the hired

to the extent of 79-8% in 1953-54.9


independent. between the relationships It is clear, however,

that radical changes have taken place since mainly


Burmese labourers, absent labour small from force

due to the departure of the Europeans


both and middle in the urban which and and rural civil until sectors servants. the late

composed Burmese

mainly were

traders the

craftsmen class,

conspicuously

fifties consisted of Chinese

and Indians. Ill

Students importance of effects undesirable from at to

of

the the

relationship well known

between desirable for

stratification effect countries example when large are slow on on rate the the

and one

modernization hand and the As hand.

attach far

great undesirable as the

urbanization effects are and short

large scale in the least to what

in developing concerned they rapid urbanization run, such either

other

the or

unskilled

disruptive masses

tendencies

resulting

economically,

socially

examine

extent

Urbanization

in Burma

apprehensions a rather was

as justified and restricted

cannot be integrated, We shall try to politically. far as Burma is concerned.10 process. Moreover, although

it began as early as the beginning of the 19th century, there also seem to have been some trends in the opposite direction. (See Table 6) Thus, the proportion of the urban population went down during the first quarter of the 20th century, and was restored to its former size only in the late forties and early fifties when large numbers moved to the towns; at least 756,000 in 1948-1952, and about 127,000 in 1953.11 The decrease
of from the urban the sector to in the first quarter areas of in the the 20th century was largely decrease due to expansions have been

of the rural sector brought about by the transfer of some of the indigenous population
towns uncultivated provinces. The might

Table 6 Urban and Total Population, 1891-1953

Urban

Population

Total

Population

Percentage

(000)
1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1953 947 991 1,127 1,292 1,520
?

(000)
7,722 10,491 12,115 13,212 14,667
16,824

12-3 9-5 9-3 9-8 10-4


?

2,579

19,045 13-5
Experience", The Journal of Burma

R. M. Source: Sundrum, "Urbanization; Vol. XL, Research June 1957, Part Society, 9 Within also

The Burmese III. 1, Table

1931 from this context the growth of the urban 10-4% to 15-4% since population a as the slight as well in cities with rise in the percentage of living be mentioned in cities of more in the percentage the slight decline of less than 10,000 and population living 1953: A and Rangoon in Urban Burma The Labor Force than 100,000. See Surider K. Mehta, of Chicago, Ph. D. Thesis, 1959, pp. 45-46. Study, Comparative University 10 See for Asian Drama, Urbanization G. Br?ese, Pantheon, 1968, p. 470. example G. Myrdal, in Newly Prentice Countries, 1966, pp. 44-46. Hall, Developing 11 R. M. "Urbanisation: The Burmese Sundrum, op. cit., p. 123. Experience", should

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66
greater "alien The of land was the so still races" trend that had ? was it not Indians reversed when the flow until to absorb and the of the been and when the such political rural for a simultaneous invasion the last of the quarter in the towns of in beginning suffered agriculture into debt and into As by the evicted

M.
Chinese, sank 19th

Lissak
of century.

members

thirties

farmers Second

heavily were consequently cities cities had this was the were, many

economic This least

depression from their movement

sustained

proletariat World War.

the

resumed. at

unprepared administration

a massive apparatus.

immigration,

economically, on the repercussions

to describe the process of urbanization generally without It would be misleading Table 7 shows its rapid growth stressing the prominent role played by Rangoon.
compared with the Burma. other It attracted three should not big cities be the

1891.
population notably

By

1953, Rangoon
of

had 737,000
again only

inhabitants ?
underlined indigenous

(Mandalay,

Moulmein that the cities but

and

Bassein) and towns

ever

since

one quarter of
races, primarily

the total urban


of Burma, and Indians

Rangoon,

Table 8 indicates that in 1931 the indigenous races accounted for only 59% Chinese. of the urban population and not until 1953 did they constitute 84%, more or less
equivalent of of the to their weight of Rangoon. in Burma, in the total population.12 But even as late as 1953 the so

called exogenous
population Urbanization

groups made

up about

30%.

In 1931 these groups constituted

65%

of Rangoon reminiscent the is very growth especially of in other Southeast Asia societies and patterns underdeveloped was in many the same Asian countries. the starting In several countries.13 respects, point core the but the of In both the formed instances cities urbanization, process royal reason is were for main The this its consequences and divergence widely divergent. a The took colonial under in the developing urbanization that countries regime. place urbanization

bland
entire the

assumption
economic metropolis,

that colonial
development these of interests

rule curbed urbanization


the and colonies their was underlying geared

is misguided,
to the were specific

but

since
interests

the
of

alien

ideology

naturally

reflected

in this process as well. A salient example is the liberal policy adopted towards Indian and Chinese immigration which was promoted by the British, because they considered
the Indians and the Chinese to be best suited for administrative, military, and economic functions.

Table 7 Population Growth inRangoon and Other Cities

Rangoon Census Population

Secondary Average

Towns Populations Ratio

(000)
180-3 1891 234-9 1901 293-3 1911 3420 400-4 1931 7371 1953
R. M. Sundrum, Ibid., Table

(000)
1-97 91-5 91-4 2-57 3-57 77-7 406 84-3 86-4 4-63 603 122-2
IX.

1921

Source:

12 Not to concentrate in the tended educated but also the more groups, only minority people and and higher degrees in Rangoon. In the thirties 2/3 of persons with cities, particularly college were law and medicine in engineering, education, living in Rangoon. 3/4 of persons holding degrees of the urban to add that until the fifties It may also be the age-sex composition interesting was because of the large floating in Rangoon, abnormal, mainly highly especially population, in the higher in the post-war is reflected of foreign migrants. The sharp decline period population sex ratio found in the 1953 census. 13 For a countries in Europe and developing of patterns of urbanization analysis comparative 1965. see: Past and Present, The Free Press, The Pre-industrial Gideon City: Sjoberg,

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The
A what over next etc.),

Class
most have the other

Structure
characteristic been called cities

of Burma:
feature of of cities'. a of

Continuity
urbanization The country: city cities exists the in 'primate in size also 'primate

and
Southeast

Change

67

'primate towns and this

True, largest city. to in contrast but

kind

the European

is the emergence Asia of is one which city' predominates as large as the it is many times in Europe (London, Copenhagen, city' was developed by strangers,

and its rate of growth was conditioned to colonial policy rather than by the interests of the colony's hinterland. The impact of the metropolis was felt both in its physical
in the composition of its population. and outlay and between the primate estrangement city and ? was sector far greater than between European The other cities result ? was not that and of the their alienation the rural hinterland. to mention

"primate be as commercial cultural

cities"

Small wonder
for their own financial over, its feet.

then, that these cities "failed


a way transactions such as or

to perform
to even

their natural
centres

function
internal to

(in and
trade, More get on

in countries), centres for internal of foreign

because

dominance,

native

industrial

clearing was enterprise

ground".14 unable

IV A more comprehensive picture of the Burmese class structure may be obtained by

Here it must be borne in mind studying the income distribution and its development. that in the fifties Burma was one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. According to figures quoted by Russett,15 Burma ranked in 1957 as the 113*5th among 122 countries
in terms and of G.N.P. annual per average capita incomes which of was various $57 a year. Table in occupations 9 presents 1953-4. both The the lowest aggregate income

was

(K. 377?$75)16 earned by the service occupation and the highest by administrative The total average employees who earned about 4 times as much (K. 1,420?$284). income was K. 592 ($118).
Compared with the rather unsystematic pre-war should than income a ratio be data, noted.18 in the it seems that since the thirties

real income had decreased.17


urban category sectors, wages (see Table in the 1:2. civil 10), cities

With
two were in the farmers between

regard to the income distribution


higher highest with

in the rural and


occupational ratio being servants and

points

approximately was between The income

Second, servants and

span of

in every First, the rural areas, was between civil

services employees with a ratio of 1:3:5, while


income differentials Table occupations, instructive

in the urban areas the highest differential


1:3. and sexes on the is only urban one income sectors information

aspect of social differentiation.


category.

Another

important aspect

is the relative size of each


distribution

11 provides

Table 8 Urban Population, by Ethnic Composition and Sex Ratio

1931Census
Race Percentage Sex ratio races 59

1953Census Percentage Sex


ratio

Indigenous

Indians & Pakistanis Chinese 5 Other 6


Source: 14 R. M. 15 B. M. R. M. Sundrum,

30

101 27 49 96
XIII.

84 10 6

103 55 83 83

Ibid., Table

"Urbanism ..., op. cit., pp. 111-112. Sundrum, Russett and others, World Handbook and Social Yale University Indicators, of Political and London, Press, New Haven 1964, pp. 155-157. 16 $ i = K5. 17 These See also H. Tinker refer to national averages. op. cit., p. 155. findings 18 For further see L.J. Walinsky, op. cit., p. 37. details,

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68 M. Table 9
Occupational Classification of Personal Incomes, 1953-54

Lissak

Occupations

Total

Income

Average

Income

(inmillions of Kyats) Professions Managerial Sales Farming Mining Transport Crafts Services Miscellaneous TOTAL
Source: R. M.

(Kyats)

131 1,193 277 1,420 514 638 539 1,805 754 32 177 755 567 467 377 332 35 1,311 3,710 592
Sundrum, Census Data ..., op. cit., Table XVII.

sector in 1957.19 It appears that in dollars, two-fifths of the urban working population earned less than $157.50, more than half, less than $210 and more than 85% less than $ 420 per annum (or $35 per month).20 Table 10
Labour Force Participants, Income, by Occupation, - 54

and Average

1953

Occupation

Average Urban

Income

for Census

Year Rural

(Kyats)

Professions Managerial Farming Mining Transport Crafts Services Miscellaneous TOTAL


Source: R. M.

1,789 1,088 2,275 1,269 Sales 1,133 551 713 707 1,020 688 1,136 852 749 311 1,579 1,264 502 1,102
Sundrum, Ibid., Table VII.

508

517

From all this it may be concluded that: (a) Burma in the fifties still ranked at the bottom of the scale in standard of living as measured
by per-capita income. !9 The in 252 centres classified industries and cottage 1957 census gathered data on population to 3-3 million. Data a total population of close with households 708,000 townships, including who had been 11 years or more, taken from a sample of 11 million income were persons aged the year of the census. time during for at least some occupied gainfully 20 For a Welfare State ..., op. cit., p. 73. see in F.N. further information, Building Tr?ger, Asian Vol. and Diplomatic", in Burma: "Problems Josef Silverstein, Survey, Political, Economic, VII, No. 1967, p. 120. 2, February as on

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The

Class

Structure

of Burma:

Continuity Table 11

and

Change

69

Urban Population by Income Groups, 1957

Per Cent Average Annual Income

Persons

above

the

age

of

11

of Total Sample

who did some work the year (thousands)

during

Total Under K 250 K 250-K 499 K 500-K 749 K 750-K 999 K 1,000-K 1,999 K 2,000-K 2,999 K 3,000-K 3,999 K 4,000-K 4,999 K 5,000-K 7,499
K 7,500-and over

1000
8-8 14-9 17-2 12-2 32-9 6-3 3-9 1.2 1.4 1.0

1,108-7 97-2

164-9 190-6 134-4 364-2 700 431


13.3 15.9 11.5

Source:

Walinsky,

Economic

Development

in Burma,

op. cit., Table

3, p. 37.

(b)

In most
the forties,

occupations
and was course, 1:30. occupations in or

the real average


it seems

income had not risen since the beginning


actually the of a gone extreme supreme down.

of

in some

to have and The between income

(c) The

average

income
about much

differential
1 to 4, greater.

between

the highest

and
income judge,

lowest

occupational
span was

categories of was,

the groups for example,

about K.
ratio (d) if) For of all

3,000 ($600) and that of an unskilled worker


the income level in the cities was a

about K.
twice that in

90 per month,
the rural than areas.

(e) Again
Employees employees

the income level of men was

twice that of women.


higher income private

(g) The annual income of more than 62 % of the labour force in the cities was between ? K. 500 and K. to Walinsky, that part of the 1,999 ($100 $400). According as belonging to the middle class (earning more which be defined population might than $2,000 per year), in 1957 consisted of less than 0-5% of the population. Accor
dingly, between Chinese a very from the were small the economic aspect the social and positions the differentiation ethnic in in the fifties was

sectors earned government-public even than persons. self-employed

the same as in the thirties.

practically

The only difference being

in the changed

relationship
Indians but after and only Burma

economic-occupational ousted from their segment of the

population,

The composition. and trade administration, new elite which emerged

achieved

its independence,

reaped

the benefits

of

this change.21

So

far

some for and

basic any

statistical

data

have

been

indispensable the cultural

of stratification, analysis of the manifestations symbolic

presented. one certainly stratificational

Although should order

those

data

are to of

attention pay as well. Some

these manifestations, especially those associated prestige and status will be discussed here.
The governed open to channels by rigid of mobility religious and in norms Burma, nor even were

with mobility
in there in the any the

and

the components

of

pre-British other

were period, moral sanctions and in the

never that spatial Survey,

prescribed a rigid stratified system in terms of the quality and the number of alternatives
individuals groups. "Social place The hierarchical of 21 R.A. "Burmese Holmes, VII, No. 3, March 1967, Domestic Policy: 188-197. pp. Politics Burmanization", Asian

Vol.

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70
sense, was not fixed. There was fluidity, change, intrigue, and the rise and

M.
fall

Lissak
of royal

and individual fortunes."22 This substantial conceptual flexibility conflicted with the cruel rigid reality, especially after the British conquest. De facto, channels of mobility
were into Those for the all practical purposes of modern spheres nevertheless one of a direction officialdom."23 decade or more of independence the small The Also parties, the the and the rise the slight the of few signs a new civilian political chose non-existent. the economy. The They career, one were avenue Burmese were did also not and could in the not move restricted few political openings. ? toward

field by the obstacles


who

the British put in the way of a broadly-based


a political to left with of only

national movement.
career

At most
had only the domain After as before

they could attain cabinet posts


in which

lacking any real responsibilities.


turn, possible

"The ambitious

advance

elite, the principal channels of mobility


the little with coup, scope its for the gained came of peasantry, economic expansion. and when of their diversification. the various own.

seem to have changed but little.


traders, only in active industrial of new

After,
workers mobility

as well
had are

discernible
change a bureaucratic Even

in the bureaucracy,
expansion came about apparatus less information

the traditional

channel of mobility.
political to prior of

Most

opportunities

some measure field, the coup, established the bureaucratic nature

is available than is available of

on on

possible effective occupations

effects class in

of
of bases

the channels
social and

of mobility
and

and social aspiration,


various

the conception
structure. the status

of

the ideal pattern

stratification, symbols" of absence

relative

prestige sanctified and

institutionalized

ascriptive

"status Studying Burmese the society, and variables criteria of

is immediately apparent.
is reflected images and evaluation of One of in some personal

The
of

relative flexibility
the key and

and universalistic

flavours of the status


power-relations

prestige

these of the concepts key relationship, in that is someone has there who Awza. The every group being thing we would of Awza the characteristics include with associate components power: normally ? and a degree influence them wisdom and among prestige respectability, knowledge, a commanding of religiosity, ease and and in handling Awza skill presence, authority. a likeable a touch also sex of modesty, and considerable implies personality, usually important

used in descriptions concepts social position. is Awza. is a function "Awza

in itself may not be absolutely essential, but one must give the appeal. Wealth impression of not being worried about matters of daily living, of being able to live
one's visible means, beyond still living comfortably."24 Nash and contends and to move influence will, this refers that to this only or best of all, of having no visible means of support but

authority. destiny "It even social

two Pon in conjunction with other and Gon concepts the relationship between define power, together properly Pon to carry to bend out plans, "means to one's others power to one's of a man with stems The Awza Pon from advantage. concept all three

his personal
world."25 or of or piety, dimensions

(italics mine)
connotes the

powers,
a of trait

his marked
personal

and conspicuous
character disputes. content."26 of

abilities

to succeed

in

sterling

relations.

in impartiality Gon is the moral

special Pon and

religious learning are Awza power

The interesting thing in these definitions is their particularistic They are far from being as dominant as similar concepts would
of To power-relations a great extent is needed Burmese great in the the traditional qualities for them society to referred be of by India these or in feudal are concepts their authority

and ascriptive element. be in the terminology


societies, personal does not for and instance. although necessarily

authority

to

materialized,

derive
traditional The

from a traditional power


society. which importance

position,
Burmese

despite
attach

the importance
and Gon

of
implies

such position
a great respect

in

to Awza

p.

22 M. Asian "Southeast Nash, 21 L.W. Pye, op. cit., p. 63. 24 L.W. Pye, op. cit., p. 147. 25 M. Nash, "Party Building 147. 26 Ibid.

Society

.. ", op.

cit.,

p. 418.

in Upper

Burma",

Asian

Survey,

Vol.

Ill,

No.

4, April

1963,

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The
for attach power

Class
the

Structure

of Burma:

Continuity

and

Change

71

so. to do are "There that the authority few and cultures exercise of power as a value the Burmese. of to power than Consideration greater importance even so in Burma to become social that life tends status and relationships " permeate

highly politicized.
These and and and The from they Many Gon qualities are very

27

are highly

intensified referred of Burmese

the loosely by as a means of

structured exchange and

character

of

the of

society, power

accumulation to the At result for in

prestige.28 but characteristics are they certainly is traditional is of the not be attributed may society the only social determinants. and the other is a direct of this accumulated merit of Awza images two other least of modernization. the attainment or non-human of

criteria

are present; one traditional criterion

concept in

religious
the

goals.
constant

"The goal
cycle

toward which
rebirth

all Buddishts
or other worlds,

are

struggling
human

is the escape state in the

form.
next human which

The goal of Nirvana,


existence, form. in is balanced

or more

immediately of rebirth in a higher

existence."29

or rebirth or non in a "lower" existence by a fear of hell store bliss is dependent eternal the of Karma toward upon Progress or demerit in this the merit actions turn is dependent earned upon by one's to this criterion The sectors in traditional attached especially importance the to monks, status is not whose social narrow and instrumental meaning popular of of religious religious life which, the and values, vows and according also scriptures, of ideals, based of these and on economic terms, but or Bur is so

the reverential attitude explains in and political pre-eminence on rather their "association morality. mese have In a the monks' living

with

observance example

visible,

precepts to their from in the

concepts ... the view,

full of merit

and as free from

sin as
the

is possible

in this world."30
stems

The high

social

status of the monks, at least in as a literate elite versed role, cultural values to the young.31 The and the modern criterion of for social means is establishment

eyes of in Burmese

believers, Pali

their significant transmission of

education.

Since

the

a modern mobility. social for

avenue promising and virtually only

administration, Since at one and economic

conquest education time

Burma has

by become was

the the

British most best urge the

college

degree many

advancement,

parents

their children to go to college regardless of whether they are qualified and whether their studies prepare them for the more technical jobs that have since become available. High school and university education became so highly regarded that "the university
to try year after year,"32 who their examination student failed continued till they acquired was to which to education The the title conferred not, however, they aspired. prestige as such but only as a means for entering the administration. status The of academicians was not very high esteem and has apparently decreased in post-independent The days.33

in which
of the

education was held was not coupled with

an equally high regard for the skills

specialist. VI

Burma's and flexible.

class Burma

order was

especially

its

social

a certain measure enjoyed The tion. commitment 27 L.W. 28 An

to escape lucky of social mobility of Burma's leaders

hierarchy the Indian and to

is thus basically of caste. blight extremes avoided of and their

structured loosely Its citizens have economic well meant, stratifica though

socialism

Pye, op. cit., p. 146. of the importance of these qualities and of their impact on everyday illuminating example life is given The Golden Road ..., op. cit., Ch. by M. Nash, 3, and Ch. 7, and M. Nash, ...", op. cit. "Party Building 29 David E. Pfanner and J. Ingersoll, "Theravada Buddhism and Village Economic Behavior: A Burmese and Thai Comparison", Journal Vol. Studies, 3, May 21, No. 1962, p. 343, of Asian and Mya Maung, "Cultural Values and Economic Asian Survey, Vol. IV, No. Change", 3, March 1964, p. 759. 30 D.E. Ibid. Pfanner, 3i D.E. op. cit., pp. 344, 349. Pfanner, 32 Josef and Julian Wohl, Silverstein Students in Burma", and Politics "University Pacific Vol. XXXVII, No. 1, Spring 1964, p. 54. Affairs, 33 Joseh Universities in Southeast State University Fischer, Press, Ohio, Asia, Ohio 1964, p. 29.

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72
unsuccessful, attempt of to build a welfare state (Pyidautha), has at least on

M.
the

Lissak
normative

level also helped


channels economic as of mobility. component

to blur potential
of

and real differences

and
to

to legitimate universalistic
belittle and the deprecate to describe Burma are are a legacy founded

was an effort made Moreover, nevertheless status It would social distinct in the status course

a country any lacking totally rule or have colonial emerged

group. of modernization

be wrong Most such while

groups some

on

subjective also

status

images.
made

The
between

legacy of
"Westerness"

colonial
and

rule

is reflected
of to internal between from the be

in the highly
culture in of the

significant

distinction

adherents

traditional concentrated cohesion

which

includes some in between


and occupational and the military, attracted

groups.
economic certainly another the to

The

fact that in colonial


tended the

times the most

highly respected the bureaucracy Westernized group. The and groups the the the

functions reinforced

party bureaucracy traditional groups. were in many In between had fact,

Although closer respects if there was

social group, placed came who politicians the and intelligentsia conflict with class as

the Westernized these intermediate civil servants

higher

they did not necessarily mitigate


difference. clash

the conflict with


any the

the "Westerness"

or help

to bridge
precisely elite internally their and

apparently contradicting frustration tiveness for not The elite. from most and only

and "politicians attained considerable their way of to much rifts culture role other did not status were it was

administration".34 solidarity especially

it was overtones, The administrative a under result British of two rule

internal

developments: as natives whose sense was of alienation it unable was

achievements, to the top this realize less status its

was barred. The distinc power positions was not diminished group by independence, it was old but ousted aspirations gradually and personal act its be as integrated ambitions between sense Below nor do of than and the the administrative political leaders and

positions. elite political profound

key

cohesive by to to can

Incessant

caused able

intensive

and

ideological differences

of opinion.
contribute groups are diffuse a not

Though

as an intermediate group
broker top subjective discerned. and unity the national

in terms of
solidarity. the elite

to Western exposure this the "masses" By that classes include and of large a class politically no

social order

is fairly undifferentiated
structure. or People in more constitute some respects or as the a

and
class

there

is hardly

a stratification
they organize however, group view.

approaching
as separate not does from an before

conscious

non-political

who monks, in and institutional the urban

distinct, from also

though a political Both

This, settings. not homogeneous, point the trade of are of

Already and the

1962 they had gone a long way


with organization as a focus may be proletariat rather served class in Burma's employers,

towards
peasantry. political The heritage. prompted private curbed

independent
tool in the for lack rise

political
hands

organization
unions the political Some between unions, ones to

compared
farmers' elite of than them

of

consolidation. political which

reasons The the

this of

employees services trade

sought and and

complex. confrontation trade

exploited employers'

of militant were the

organizations
unions

in the West,
joint whose government activities

may
and were

also be partly
ventures by law.

responsible;

for
only

in Burma

the public
have strong

VII
Summary The and Preliminary Conclusions facts and evaluations presented characteristics of the Burmese class-structure. its modification various occupational here were Of during to three helped or outline seems four in this some to of be the the The

designed particular the last also

relevance

structure and occupational income distribution among

decades. characteriza

groups

tion. The differentiation together with the setting


the patterns of mobility In this context roles 34 For 48, 77. a detailed

and cooperation between the different elites was described, in which they function, the qualification for admission and
the image the clash standard were between of aspirations with discussed including these two elites, the the see L.W. channels rough Pye, available. after op. status cit., pp.

comparing status and analysis of

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The

Class

Structure
status

of Burma:
and the

Continuity

and

Change
hierarchy in strata in so terms far as of distinct

73
social

components, occupational preferred symbols cohesiveness the internal the of social Finally prestige. are concerned was self-conscious entities examined. The 1. The material population be summed may presented was of Burma into split up as follows:35 two main parts:

small

elite

concentrated

in government on the one hand, and the military administration, party bureaucracy small on the other the peasants, and business and hired labourers In hand. traders, between the two is a very of middle-class skilled workers. small and group people

2. Although
span between

the average
the highest

income
and

level was
lowest

exceedingly
categories the main and as

low, at
was

least until
great.

1962, the

income

rather

3. The modern

elite was

small and
Before administrators, and freedom

though
the coup

the internal differentiation


adversary students. was an no

is slight the

is considerable. antagonism were the underground) enjoyed except bureaucracy. the small little the autonomy

politicians of action the military

groups (excluding The elite groups alternative outlet

there and

government bureaucracy, The weakness the of number of independent

legal economic

party underdeveloped trade and unions, opposition parties it difficult made for organizations

in relatively independent elite to develop and be institutionalized oppositional This had many repercussions on the already limited ability of power positions.
the 4. Despite political the and were and social centre universalistic insignificant restricted the created but de to to cope with generally not the few This recruits, and criteria, facto certain elite to and political problems. in the elite various acceptance such channels for mobility, upward sectors of the political and government for exert much influence from on the pressure unemployed groups chanelling or under were economic

groups, mobility

bureaucracy. of desirable

enabled

ruling

permanent aside,

employed
5. Leaving

high
the

school and university


minorities and There and the the

graduates.
crystallized of class-oriented to Western very This the flux.

ethnic received

rare, and
of town majority education and of

the main

criteria for belonging


amount was rural

to the few that existed were


exposure culture.

the type

dividing

line drawn by
countryside. the urban

these criteria did not


little population.

coincide
in be in

entirely with
this a respect of the as

that between
between extensive institutionalized between gap there would between

difference to

Burma's structure class appears Accordingly, It would the primary that seem, therefore, problem differentiation strata. This would of sub-elite the the the elites elites and "non and the rest of the be more population status groups and

state a more

is to

achieve

bridge particularly facilitate communication of serving population. as

congruent"36 the more

sophisticated,

capable differentiated

intermediaries

35 If minorities are included, this statement has to be modified. Without the effects ignoring of the interaction on the class structure, between ethnic minorities and the Burmese this majority to be related issue seems rather to the vulnerability of the political structure and the problem of national identity. 36 For to questions the relevance of the concept "status of social congruency" integration see for example: and mobility, John Galtung, "Rank and Social A Multidimensional Integration. in Joseph Zelditch, Theories Jr., and Bo Anderson (eds.), Sociological Berger, Morris Approach", in Progress, Mifflin E. Lenski, "Status Gerhard Co., Boston, 1966, Vol. 1, pp. 145-198. Houghton A Non-Vertical of Social Dimension American Vol. Status", Crystallization: Review, Sociological in Israel, Israel Universities Moshe Social Mobility 1954, pp. 405-413. Lissak, 4, August 19, No. 1969. Press,

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