Changing Patterns in Social Stratfication in the Caribbean

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Cape Sociology Unit 1

Sharisse Crick/2012

Changing Patterns in Caribbean
Stratification
The patterns of stratification which existed and continues to exist in the Caribbean can be traced to the history of the region. Groups who are similar with respect to ethnicity, race, education and status are more likely to intermarry and associate with themselves than with other groups. The poorer classes tend to comply with this arrangement since they do not have the power to change these patterns. During slavery the planters formed a plantocracy which ensured that they were in control. This was necessary because of the small number of plantation owners (or whites) which lived in the Caribbean. Because they owned the plantations and the slaves; they controlled the institutions, and the laws were made for their benefit, forming the upper class stratum. Below them were the coloureds and free slaves. Their ideologies and values were inspired by and depended on the colour gradations which the system perpetuated, that is, the lighter the skin colour the more privileged the individual. At the bottom of the stratification system was the enslaved blacks.

George Beckford in his theory of the “plantation society” states that the structure of the Caribbean is reflective of the structure of the colonial era. Colonialism instituted” pigmentocracy” in the social stratification system of the Caribbean region. This means that people who are of a fairer skin complexion are given more wealth, prestige and power than others in the society and were therefore at the upper end of the stratification structure. During slavery, the whites would forcibly cohabit with the Amerindians, Africans and Indian women. If the off springs of

Cape Sociology Unit 1

Sharisse Crick/2012

these unions looked more European they were dealt with more mercifully and some were educated. Having these European traits was also an avenue to ‘social betterment’, a black man who had been educated would...
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