Following are the important distinction between caste and class.
1. In the first place, while stratification in a caste society is based on birth. It is based on wealth in a class society. The caste of an individual is determined by his birth in particular caste. The class of an individual, on the other hand, is fixed by the amount of wealth he possesses. As the individual has no control over his birth, his caste position is essentially an ascribed one, where as his class position is largely an achieved one, since acquisition of wealth depends mainly on his abilities and hard work.
2. The second distinction between caste and class is that while the structure of Caste System is ‘closed’, it is open in case of class system. Since caste of an individual is based on birth, change from one caste to another is impossible, but mobility from class to class is quite possible because the class of an individual is based on his occupation, power and wealth.
3. Thirdly, there are, under Caste System, fixed occupation for the various castes. The members of each case are required to follow their traditional caste occupation. In other words caste determines the individual’s occupation. In other words caste determines the individual’s occupation. But in a class society no such restrictions are imposed on the choice of occupation. On the contrary, in a class society, it is the individual’s occupation that determines a class.
4. Fourthly, Caste System insists upon the observance of certain rules regarding eating, drinking and social intercourse among the members of different castes. But, such rules are conspicuous by their absence in a class society.
5. Fifthly, caste system is believed to have been ordained by god and is supported by religion. The system based on such religious dogmas like karma, Rebirth etc. Class system, on the other hand, is purely secular. It has nothing to do with religion.
6. In the sixth place, there is, in a caste society, strong caste Panchayat, which maintain the caste structure by punishing those who violate the customs and traditions of the respective castes. But no such organisation is found in a class society.
7. Finally, Caste system acts as an obstacle in the smooth functioning of democracy because it is based on the undemocratic principle of inherited inequality. Class system, on the other hand, poses no such problem, since it does not believe in the principle of inherited inequality.