Plantation Society in the Caribbean today

Topics: Social class, Sociology, Working class Pages: 8 (2051 words) Published: May 6, 2014
Couse Name: Law, Governance, Society and Economy in the Caribbean Course Code: FOUN1301
Date Due: April 8th, 2014
Question: How far is it true to say that the plantation is still with us?

There is still evidence of the plantation society within the modern Caribbean Society. This evidence can be seen from first analyzing various aspects of the plantation system or society, such as the; lifestyle, mentality, social structure and economic model associated with this social system. Then a comparison will be made between the plantation and modern Caribbean societies in relation to these aspects, to show their relevance in the modern Caribbean society.

The era of slavery which occurred in the Caribbean during the 16th to 19th centuries put into place a social and political order which formed the social structure and class related lifestyles of the plantation system. The social structure of the plantation society was static and pyramidal in design. At the top of the social pyramid was the white ruling class or the planter class which consisted of the white plantation owners and those who were closely associated with them. Directly under the white ruling class was the mixed or mullatto population along with the poor whites and free people of colour, who still contributed to social fabric of the society despite not having much political power. At the very bottom of the social pyramid was the Black and non-white labour class and within this class itself existed racial divisions and a labour hierarchy. Therefore, it can be seen from examining the various classes within the plantations system’s social structure that the plantation society was composed of various ethnicities. For the most part a major portion of the labourers were African, but due to the various racial groupings within the plantation societies across the Caribbean, these societies were considered to be culturally plural. This population mix influenced the character of society in many ways such as in the way that certain cultural groups would only be seen together when there was an economic related activity. It was therefore not uncommon to find on a plantation society two or more racial and cultural groups living side by side but also having minimal social or cultural intercourse. Another example of how the character of the society was influenced by the population mix can be seen from the fact that during this time whoever was the owner of the plantation was automatically deemed the super-ordinate group in the wider society and the plantation workers were of the subordinate group. Social and economic power was concentrated with the super-ordinate group, and thus real political and legislative power had only resided with them.

Before examining the political development or lack thereof ,we must first consider the social construct and its relevance to today, during the plantation era the society was made of a majority of unskilled workers, large areas of land devote to production and the working class was excluded from majorly centralized decision making due to the rigid social hierarchy. Today we can still see evidence of the working class being excluded in this way and now to a lesser but still significant extent due to a somewhat rigid social hierarchy, where evidence of this can be seen by the difficulty present to move up the social ladder and relatively minor effort needed to maintain ones social standing. Bearing in mind the description of the social construct of the past, let's consider the changes which ensued leading to the present day model, the social hierarchy moved from a rigid to a forcefully mobile structure which was brought on by the changes caused by emancipation and the mass immigration that followed, the criteria for bettering ones social standing moved from the color of one's skin to a less rigid even though still difficult criteria to include educational, occupational and economic status, another change which allowed for the...

References: Sidney W. Mintz: "Caribbean Society." c. 1968 Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.
David Watts 1987 The West Indies: Patterns of Development...
Beckford, George. The Plantation Model in Christine Barrow and Rhoda Reddock (eds.) Caribbean Sociology: Introductory Readings. Ian Randle Publishers; Kingston Jamaica, 2001.
Best, Lloyd. “The Contribution of George Beckford.” Social and Economic Studies. Vol. 41, No. 3, September 12 ISSN: 0037-7651.
------------- “Models of a Pure Plantation Economy.” Social and Economic Studies. Vol. 17, No. 3, September 168.
Thomas, C. Plantations, Peasants and State, ISER, U.W.I, Mona, 1984.
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