Caribbean Stratification

Unit 1 Module 3 - Social Stratification & Social Mobility

Caribbean Stratification


The Caribbean stratification system has been influenced by its history of Colonialism, Plantation Slavery and Indentureship. Although, most of these territories are currently politically independent nation-states, the legacy of their history have continued to impact upon their individual social structure.

Caribbean Theories of Stratification

Plantation Society
This theory of Caribbean society, though based on the original plantation model of, can be applied to contemporary Caribbean societies.
•    Upper Class/caste/ruling elites (traditionally white) – own wealth, means of production and political power
•    Intermediate Class/caste (mulatto/browns) – usually educated, own some wealth, (desire but) lack political power
•    Working Class/caste ( blacks) – slaves, uneducated, lack wealth and political power.
Academics contend that the Upper Class on the contemporary Caribbean continues to be whites. These either descents of the old planter class aristocracy (eg. The Beke of Martinique –descents of French planters – own most of the islands supermarkets, hotels, land, transportation, control import prices,) continue to own and control a significant proportion of the territory’s wealth, and as such wield great economic, social and political power. The non-white populations continue to be situated at the lower end of the social strata. They constitute the public servants and unskilled workers in the society.

Plural Society
•    Smith argues that most societies in the Caribbean are plural societies where there exists significant cultural diversity and race antagonism
•    Various ethnic groups have their own socio-economic institutions but not their own political system
•    It is the cultural and race diversity that causes the discord between the cultural groups.
•    Social inequality exists between ethnic groups. These inequalities are transient depending on the social actor. Factors of colour, religion, culture, economic background, education all influence positioning within the social strata.

Creole Society
•    Is described as a hybrid/syncretic/new society.
•    The stratification system is informed by an ascriptive-particularistic value system (Braithwaite)
•    Ryan contends however that the ascriptive-particularistic value system that informed the pre-independence era, gave way to meritocracy in the post-independence era. Some elements of the ascriptive value system continue to exist.

    Closed/quasi caste stratas -----------  Flexible/Open class based stratas

              Colonialism -------------------------  Self-Governance