Milton Singer [1912–1994]
Quand le chef d'entreprise est le chef de famille

Mercredi 14 décembre

Pierre Lachaier et Catherine Clémentin-Ojha (Divines richesses, p.16 et p.75ss.) commentent Milton Singer (1972) qui décrivait les comportements religieux des industriels sur leurs lieux de travail. Mais le texte de Milton Singer qui nous concerne aujourd'hui parce qu'il esquisse une description du patronage au sein de la famille jointe dans les milieux industriels est:

Milton Singer, The Indian joint family in modern industry, in Milton Singer and Bernard S. Cohn, Eds., Structure and Change in Indian Society, Chicago, Aldine Publ. Co., 1968, pp.423–452.

La majeure partie de cet article, appliquant la méthode généalogique à l'étude de quelques familles d'industriels à Madras dans les années 1960, reste en dehors de notre sujet, et je me limite aux quelques pages concernant les comportements et les règles perpétuant le modèle traditionnel du patronage.

La référence aux textes religieux

(426) By arguing that a joint family is more than a matter of household size or composition, of common residence or common property, or of the ratio of nuclear to joint households, etc., these critics have introduced, albeit implicitly, the more abstract concept of the joint family as […] a network of social relations among persons related in specified ways. These social relations are crystallized in a set of mutual obligations within a framework of law or customary usages which defines appropriate norms of behavior for each category of relative. Whether a particular group of persons constitutes a joint family depends on whether […] the individuals within it are disposed to discharge toward one another the set of rights and duties specified in their religious scriptures, legal code, and customary usages.

Le détail important est la référence aux textes religieux. Les pages suivantes sur la méthode généalogique ne nous concernent pas directement. L'argument qui m'intéresse comence p.433 sur le thème d'un industrial leadership.


I have started such a study by collecting the family histories of nineteen outstanding industrial leaders in Madras City. These were selected on the basis of their local reputations as successful industrial leaders and by the capitalization of their companies.

[…] The study is preliminary and incomplete in several respects. It deals primarily with the families of industrial leaders (owners and managers) and not with those of workers and other industrial employees.

C'est donc une étude du patronage inter-familial.

In a complete study, the "traditional" kinship systems of just those families who have moved into industry and urban living would have to be reconstructed as they existed in their native villages and towns. Such a reconstruction would take its point of departure from the genealogies provided by /434/ living members, and one would need to supplement these with local historical studies of these families.

Most of the data were collected from January through March of 1964, when I was in India; some of the background information was collected on two earlier trips in 1954-5 5 and in 1960-61. The industrialists were selected by asking knowledgeable people, including industrialists themselves around Madras City and in other places, to name the leading industrialists of the city, and by identifying the owners or managing directors of companies in the city with a capitalization that would fall into the census definition of "large" or "very large" industry. […]

There are nineteen industrial leaders in the study, representing eighteen different families. Seventeen are heads of industries in the private sector, one is a general manager of a public sector industry, and one is State Minister of Industries. Nine of them are Brahmans, four are Chettiyars, one a Gujarati Hindu, one an Andhra Kamma, one a Mudaliyar, two are Muslims, and one is a Syrian Christian.

The products manufactured by the companies owned or managed by the eighteen industrial leaders include textiles, automobiles, trucks, buses, tires, batteries, bicycles and bicycle parts, railway wagons and coaches, diesel engines, railway wheels and rims, cement and cement-manufacturing machinery, carborundum, chemicals, plastics, chemical fertilizers, insulators and electronic equipment, farm equipment, leather, sugar, liquor, and candy. The total number of employees of these companies in 1964 was 45 ,470, and the total paid-up capital was Rs. 272, 247,380.

Exemple de la famille de L

(437) The growth patterns of most of the family industries show that those who were in trade or banking had opportunities to learn about manufacturing processes, costs, market conditions, new ventures, possible sources of capital, etc. And those leaders who came from government service also shared access to such opportunities through special assignments, wartime experience and training, unusual contacts, etc. Even the new trend toward highly specialized training in science, engineering, and business administration among the sons, nephews, and grandsons of the industrial leaders represents but a new version of the old principle of families specializing in one or several closely related occupational lines. The character of the occupation may be changing but not necessarily the principle of family specialization.

How this transition from the "older modern" to the "newer modern" occupation has been made is illustrated by the example of L's family. Law and government figure in the older generation. L's father and grandfather and his father's five brothers were all in government service and were chiefly employed in railway offices. Five brothers-in-law were also in government service; one brother was a teacher, another brother was a lawyer. The brothers' and sisters' sons and the leaders' own children reflect the newer trend toward a specialized technical profession. His own son has a Ph.D. in chemistry, as has his elder brother's son; a younger brother's son is an electrical engineer. Among his four sisters' sons, four are engineers, one has a Ph.D. in chemistry and is employed by the Indian atomic energy commission, one is a medical officer in the air force, and there are among them as well a university professor, a government administrator, and an army officer. This also illustrates the diversification of government services, which have come to include many different kinds of highly trained technical professions.

Dialectique entre deux évolutions simultanées. D'un côté, une continuité et une persistance du principe ancien de la spécialisation de la famille dans un type particulier de travail salarié (occupation). De l'autre, des changements structuraux conduisant vers une nouvelle modernité. D'un côté la multiplication des familles nucléaires, de l'autre le maintien des obligations de la famille jointe (joint family obligations).

(438) Families living in nuclear households continue to maintain numerous joint family obligations and, for the most part, continue to subscribe to the norms of that system.

Parmi différents processus adaptatifs — compartmentalization, vicarious ritualization, separation of ownership and control, household management in industry, cycles of authority — je retiens essentiellement la ritualisation qui relève le plus directement du patronage intra-familial.


Compartmentalization may reduce the conflicts between the traditional and the modern spheres, but it does not eliminate them altogether. Other processes of adaptation are necessary to cope with the remaining conflicts and instabilities engendered by modernization. If an industrial leader spends twelve to fourteen hours a day in his office or preoccupied with business affairs, he cannot give as many hours as his father or grandfather gave to ritual and ceremonial observances or to scriptural study. Although most of the Hindu industrialists are convinced they are good Hindus, this belief is based not on a personal conformity to ritual observances but on a "vicarious ritualization." They contract their daily ablutions and prayers from four hours to fifteen minutes, done while shaving or washing, but maintain that symbolically "the worship is no less." Similarly, weddings, birth ceremonies, sacred thread ceremonies, and the other life cycle rites have all been contracted, and some have been consolidated. Weddings which took at least a week in the village are now done in a single day with a religious ceremony in the morning and a reception in the evening in a public hall hired for the purpose.

On all these occasions the industrial leader does not assume personal responsibility for carrying out the ritual observances. He delegates that responsibility to professional domestic priests whom he employs for the purpose and to his wife and children, who have the time. He also increases his personal religious merit by making gifts to the priests, to temples and maths, and by supporting charitable endowments of all kinds. Vicarious ritualization is one of the major ways in which the family of an industrial leader has been able to "Sanskritize" its domestic and social life at the same time that the leader has been "modernizing" life at the factory and office.

Enfin, Singer nomme Household management in industry le processus par lequel le chef d'entreprise se comporte délibérément comme le chef de famille et fixe des obligations d'allégeance confondant la famille et l'entreprise:

(441) The "founding father" laid down the following rules for the conduct of all family enterprises:

(1) No member of the family should have property of his own or outside investments.
(2) No member should maintain a separate bank account outside the joint-family account; all of a member's financial transactions should be known to the others.
(3) All profits should be reinvested in the family business.
(4) Shares in the business should be held only by the descendants in the male line.
(5) All the houses and automobiles used by the family should be owned by the company and be made available to family members when they work for the company. In addition, each son's wife could draw a fixed allowance for the expenses of her separate household and for entertainment and travel.

These rules, which are simply an adaptation of traditional joint-family practices to industrial life, were in practice modified in some respects. When the father retired, he sold his holdings in the business, which were equal with those of each son, to his five sons at par value, in equal shares, for about fifteen lakhs of rupees. He then gave the cash to his three daughters. Each son is supposed to provide for a similar division in his will. This procedure is intended to keep the holdings in the family and also to avoid "son-in-law problems."