Globally, on this planet that's been around much longer than Earth has, with people who've been around much longer than humans have, there are four castes -- labor, military/law enforcement, science and creative artistry.

Science is regarded with reverence and deference similar to that of religion in our world. And, historically, the science caste were the rulers. The laborers were very oppressed in the past. It triggered a series of equal rights movements that led to a social change. At the present time, there is a council of representatives of each caste in charge of society.

Question: How to organise a representative government to allow maintaining rigid social castes?

What specific provisions (government-related) are necessary to maintain castes and prevent them from intermixing and/or disappearing in the long run?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This question is too broad and needs a bit more focus. What exactly do you want to know? How to balance castes? How to build a representative government while maintaining castes? Or maybe how to get rid of castes without triggering a bloody revolution? Or maybe something entirely different? Please edit your question to narrow it down. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 17, 2021 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Better, but that's still two quite different questions :). Tell me if I'm wrong, but it looks like you chose these two suggested questions by Otkin because you want to build a governement including each castes evenly but you fear that it might not hold long. Is that right or I missed the point? Also don't hesitate to add in details you currently know about your world and the castes. For instance it's hard for me to relate to the artistry caste, since the most "casty" thing I know were medieval Europe nobles, clergy and commoners, and artists blended in and between the three. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2021 at 16:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena You can check Plato, Confucius, and alike for other approaches to castes. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jun 18, 2021 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin Thanks, I'll get a look at it in the meantime they give theirs in their world :). $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2021 at 20:23

5 Answers 5


The Late Roman Republic was a lot like what you are asking about

Ancient Rome had a rigid caste system, with representative government very much like what you describe. While the Senators were technically elected positions, you had to be of the Senatorial Class to be able to run for or vote for Senate positions. Since the Senatorial Class were just the original 30 family lines that founded Rome, VERY few people in Rome could actually participate in the Senate elections.

Over time, a number of civil wars forced the Senate to grant more and more citizenship rights to its allies; however, since Senate Law held Supremacy and the Senatorial Class class was too small to maintain any authority if outsiders were allowed to participate in the Senate, they created a number of lesser councils based on other social classes. The lower councils were allowed to pass any law that did not contradict Senate law; so, in this way the highest caste actually maintained totalitarian control over the republic in every way that mattered to them, but allowed the lesser councils to rule themselves in every way that they did not care enough about to pass laws.

How your system could similarly work

The Council of Science is made up of scientists elected by scientists. Any law they pass supersedes all other laws in a court of law. In general, the Council of Science is expected to restrict its laws to matters of scientific significance, but since EVERYTHING can be evaluated as being scientifically significant, there is no real limit to their authority.

Below that you have the Council of Security which is made up of soldiers, police, etc and elected by their own. The Council of Security in theory has authority in all things related to maintaining the peace and protecting the nation. Because it is considered so important to protect the nation, they have the authority to overrule the lesser two councils to make sure that individual rights don't put the nation's security in jeopardy, BUT their laws are superseded by the Council of Science because it is assumed that even in matters of the military, scientific exactness is more reliable than a soldier's intuitive experience.

Then you have the Council of Artistry which is made up of entertainers, artists, musicians, etc. The expected role of this council is to make sure that the general happiness of the people is maintained. So, they govern things like sporting leagues, news stations, etc. Since their area of focus is mostly the dissemination of information they would be very powerful except that the higher two councils can overrule them at any turn. So, higher councils are seen as necessary to make sure that all that flow of information is "true" according to the Council of Science and "Safe" according to the Council of Security.

Lastly you have the Council of Labor whose job it is to oversee welfare and workers' rights... but they can only do so in the very narrow confines of what the other 3 councils allow. While "Workers' rights are important *wink*", the upper 3 castes must make sure that labor rights still produce a statistically favorable economy as per the Council of Science, that they do not endanger the the nation as per the Council of Security, and that the needs of the individual do not supersede the needs of the community as per the Council of Artistry. In this respect, they would be very hard pressed to get anything like over-time or universal healthcare or anything that would prevent the upper castes from exploiting the hell out of them, but they could probably make sure that workers at least have basic safety standards similar to OSHA.

As for maintaining a caste system in an advanced society:

This social order is all easily justifiable and easy to indoctrinate into a society as the RIGHT social order as shown above, but in reality, it actually has nothing to do with why anyone should have more authority than the next. It is all designed to make sure the scientists give everyone only as much power as it takes to prevent a successful uprising. By putting the military in second, they give them the least reason out of any lower class to rebel; so, those who have the power to overthrow the scientists generally will not want to. Then the artisans are given just enough power to not wish to speak ill of the government, but not enough raise the people against it. Lastly the laborers are given just enough authority to feel like they can participate in their self-determination too, but few concessions are needed to keep this most vulnerable class in check.

Historically, castes were maintained via parental apprenticeships. Each boy learned the trade of his father making sure that his education would only be appropriate to be the same caste as his father. However, it's hard to have an advanced society without public education. So to solve for this, your civilization will have 4 distinct educational systems. So, if you are of the scientific class, you enroll in an academic school system. If your parents are soldiers, you go to military school. Artisans send their kids to various kinds of trade schools. And lastly, laborers don't need school; so, they go directly into a career path as soon as they are old enough to have jobs.

By doing this, you can make sure that each caste lacks access to the education needed to vertically advance.


Create laws or provisions in the government:

In Europe, there were sumptuary laws, involving rules or regulations that penalized "dressing above one's station" in society: Medieval Sumptuary Laws. These laws could maintain caste fairly effectively if a person's access to certain attire was limited by their class.

If you write that the constitution of the representative government contains provisions that prevent the caste system itself from being rescinded, the government itself cannot revise itself to eliminate caste. Consider United States' Bill of Rights, especially the 2nd Amendment.

If either the constitution or its amendments enshrine your world's idea of caste, and a lengthy (often difficult) procedure exists for ratifying or repealing an amendment such as Proposing an amendment in Congress, or through a constitutional convention, the caste system will last as long as you want it to for plot purposes.


You need several things to help promote the castes. The basic issue with a lot of things is that people like having sex with people of other social groups and intermarrying and like being independent of others in power. You need ways to limit that. There are several ways to do that.

Guilds and perks for people who stay in their station.

You need exams, tax perks, training, and lots of other things to help ensure that people have the proper certification for tasks. If you want a warrior, you want them trained in a particular way. If you want something built, you'll get someone to do it who is trained by a prestigious organization.

The government can sponsor lots of propaganda and cultural things about the terrible consequences of stepping outside your lane so people know not to do it, and because people who have done it all their life will have more training and financial perks they'll find it easier.

Lots of cultural propaganda against mixed caste relationships.

If people date mixed caste, they'll teach their partners their craft, and because skill isn't genetic, their partners will often be exceptional. You need to discourage as much as you can any mixed caste relationships. Lots of propaganda against it, bureaucratic barriers to marriage, and lots of stories about it backfiring.

You can't stop it, but you can discourage it being a common thing.

Big neutrality efforts by the elites to prevent hoarding power.

Each caste (except one) can and will want to get the power of the other castes to enhance their own power.

Every faction will want their own private military to kill their enemies and protect their elites.

Every faction will want masters of technology to control the systems and technology around them.

Every faction will want skilled laborers to carry out their projects for them.

No one will care that much about art. They can just hire artists pretty easily.

You need them to work together to minimize that risk. The labourers need to supply goods to everyone. The scientists need to be neutral and helpful to everyone with technology. The military needs to guard everyone well and not just their friends and family.

For that to work, you need some high up connections and friendships among the elite so they can try to prevent such efforts, along with lots of education and propaganda to encourage that. That way everyone is dependent on each other (except the artists) and won't want to disrupt the system.


There can be taken an example of Lebanon (disclosure: I did not do fact check) where different minister roles are restricted to specific communities' representatives.

Such as, minister of interior is always military, minister of defense is always of science caste, minister of finance is always of labor caste, minister of education always creative artist, etc, etc, with a lot of reasoning on why it is for the best.

With regards of preventing mixing: promote different religions among castes, each with its own set of taboos, idiosyncrasies and different definitions of what constitutes proper life. Then put the children of mixed caste families on less prestigious caste of two, as a rule.


5th caste: representatives.

These are mostly descended from ancestors in the scientist caste. After the reforms, persons interested in representing and advocating for other castes were moved to their own caste because association with the other castes was deemed unsavory. Initially most came voluntarily because of idealism and later some for practical reasons. At the current time there are some persons from the other castes who are also in this group.

It is more of a defacto caste than one with the same long history as the 4 old castes. Many of the representatives in the new caste find the caste system generally distasteful and so do not mind mixing with persons originally in other castes as much as more traditionally minded citizens might. Representatives have a much more practical and pragmatic bent and did not mind leaving behind some of the hygiene rituals and other trappings of their upper caste. Those originally from lower castes are generally the most intelligent and flexible of their peers.

It would seem to be tricky for young people in this small representative caste but they share their parents esprit de corps and a feeling that they are leading their people to something greater.

For the author, writing from the viewpoint of this 5th caste of "enlightened outsiders" will help you put the rest of the society in perspective.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .