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Topic 1.

Identity and Social Formation
Models of Caribbean Society:

The models of Caribbean society:
Plantation Plural Creole
These models are not mutually exclusive.
The plantation model is primarily socioeconomic while the plural and creole models are
While the plantation model is generally accepted as the definitive economic model (at least
up to the end of the 20th century, the sociocultural model remains highly contested.

Plantation Society
Socioeconomic model
a society which exhibits the
rigidly stratified social and
economic relations enforced on
plantations in the Americas.

Lloyd Best, Kari Levitt, George


Sociocultural model R.T.

Smith (building on Goffmans
total institution), Orlando
Patterson, Vera Rubin.

Background to the plantation

society model
Proposed by Lloyd Best as part
of an economic analysis of
Caribbean society. He built on
the work of previous scholars
including economists such as
Herman Merivale and H.J.
Nieboer, historians including
Eric Williams and Lowell
Ragatz and sociologists such as
Erving Goffman, Raymond
Smith, Charles Wagley and
Elena Padilla.

Goffmans total institution a

key concept an institution in
which all aspects of the life of
individuals within the
institution are subordinate to
and controlled by the
authorities within the
The totality of the institution
created similar economic and
social conditions in societies
stretching from north-eastern
Brazil through the Caribbean
to the southern United States.

The plantation economy

Analysis first proposed by Lloyd Best in 1968, building on work of Eric Williams
(1944) in Capitalism and Slavery. Became the foundation for the work of the New
World Movement, centred on the University of the West Indies and including, apart
from Best, George Beckford, Norman Girvan, Edwin Carrington and others.
Bests analysis centred on the historical reality of slavery and the plantation in the
Caribbean which produced an economy based on production for trade. He claimed
that, after emancipation, the mercantilist-based institutions of society continued to
create highly import-intensive patterns of consumption, a corresponding neglect of
the domestic agricultural sector and a continued dependence on the metropole.
Beckford extended Bests analysis to explain the continued under-development of the
region,suggesting that the plantation was, and remains, a total institution dominating
not only the economy but all aspects of Caribbean society as well.

Characteristics of the plantation

economy (Best)

It is inextricably linked to the metropolitan economy

through its monocrop production for export.

The plantation is a total institution with regard to the

economy i.e. it affects the entire economic life of all those
involved in it.
It possesses a level of incalculability because of price
indeterminacy since supply and demand decisions are
made at the metropolitan and not local level.

Characteristics of the plantation

economy (Beckford)

The plantation economy (and society) was part of a

plantation system, essentially coercive and
exploitative, that resulted in persistent poverty and
powerlessness in the dependent economy at the hands of
the metropolitan economy.

New foreign-owned, multinational corporations engaged

in mining and manufacture operate within the
institutional framework of the plantation system and
therefore do not produce the necessary economic
transformation to break the cycle of dependency.

Characteristics of the plantation

economy (Beckford)
The real dynamic for growth in the local economy lies
with the peasant class but the growth of this sector is
stifled by the plantation system.

The totality of the system extends beyond the economy

to the entire society, to the political and socio-cultural
institutions of society.

Characteristics of plantation society

(R.T. Smith, Patterson, Rubin)
Institutionalization of stratification based on race and class
resulting in a brittle or fragile society constantly on the verge of crisis
due to the capital labour antagonism.
A plural society with little mixing between groups except on the
economic level and the consequent development of parallel
institutions and the possibility of fragmentation.
Political power exercised on behalf of the plantocracy although by
black nationalist parties. Power maintained through the expansion of
educational opportunities, the appeal to ethnic solidarity and to
nationalism against the metropole. Power highly centralised
continuing the plantation tradition of weak local communities.

Characteristics of plantation
society (contd)
A concern for lightness of skin and a preference for the foreign. The
orientation of the society is outwards towards the metropole.
The development of hybrid cultural forms through interculturation
although the society remains plural. The dominance of European
values also results in the acculturation of subordinate groups.
Social stratification remains rigid with race as the determining
ascriptive factor. Some variations introduced as a result of
industrialisation, immigration, and a result of the growth of the
tourism, sport, and arts and entertainment sectors.

Criticism of the plantation model

The claim of totality ignores the creative contribution made by

peasant farmers and the changes in the social structure brought about
by their activities including the upward mobility of their descendants.
Although Beckford referred to the emergence of the vertically
integrated corporate plantation enterprise, this ignores the real
differences between the old plantation sector and the new mining,
manufacturing and service sectors of the economy. The latter have
promoted the introduction of modern technology, new patterns of
economic organisation, and new social classes including an urban
industrial working class and a local managerial class.

Criticism of the plantation model

Beckfords analysis of plantation society has little to say
about the workings of the plural society and its
relationship to the plantation. In particular, he is silent on
the dynamics of Caribbean society with regard to ethnic
and cultural differences and how these differences may
result in social change. As a result, his model is believed
to be too simplistic with regard to social reality. It
describes what is but cannot explain how change will

Plural Society

A society in which
different ethnic groups
live parallel to each
other, each with a
similar set of
institutions, meeting
only in the market place
and under the political
domination of the
colonial state.

Apart from plural

societies, it was argued
that there were
homogeneous societies
(e.g. Northern Europe or
Central Asia) or
heterogeneous societies
(e.g. the U.S.).

Background to the plural society

Theory originated with J.
S.Furnivall writing about
colonial societies in
Southeast Asia. Focused
on their differentiated

Adopted by M.G.Smith in
the 1960s to describe
Caribbean society
(specifically Grenada).

For Smith, the cultural

diversity of the groups
was key. He distinguished
between pluralism
which, according to
Lloyd Brathwaite, existed
in most modern societies,
and the plural society
which was rarer and to be
found in the southern
Caribbean especially
Trinidad, Guyana and

Characteristics of the plural

A complex of parallel institutions (family, religion, language, the
arts, education).
Society inherently fragile due to the lack of common values and the
potential for conflict in the competition for cultural space.
Order maintained by the domination of political power by the colonial
power and, later, by one group. Political instability frequent, often
degenerating into violence.

Characteristics of the plural

Dislocations and inequities created by the process of
economic development, particularly the urban/rural
divide, often seen in ethnic terms.

Interculturation, while always present, often resisted

as the first steps towards acculturation. Hybrid
cultural forms not always welcomed.

Criticism of the plural model

All societies, especially in the modern world, are
The cultural differences between groups in societies like
Jamaica and Grenada appear to be based largely on class,
their position in relation to the power structure of the
Carl Stone argued that class was the determinant of the
social structure but Smith suggested that class was
subsumed into the racial and cultural divisions.

Criticism of the plural model

The model takes no account of the processes of
interculturation and hybridization and the implications of
these for the institutions of society.
Any analysis of Caribbean society must acknowledge the
relative lack of racial violence and political instability in
the region despite the pluralism of the society.

Creole Society
A society created by a process of hybridization
based upon the response of individuals and the
White/Black groups in the society to their
environment and to each other.

Background to the creole society model

The term creole is a contested concept. It can be defined as
Anyone or anything born or created in the Caribbean. This is the
original sense in which the word was used by slaves in Brazil to
describe their offspring born in the region rather than in Africa.
A person of European stock born in the Caribbean but with the
implication that they may be of mixed race.
A language which is a hybrid of European and largely African
A person of African descent in the Caribbean (used by whites and
Indians, sometimes in a pejorative sense).

Background to the creole society model

Creole society model first proposed by Kamau
Brathwaite in a study of Jamaican society, building on the
work of Elsa Goveia in her work on the Leeward Islands.
Variations on the Creole model have been developed by
Orlando Patterson, Rex Nettleford and Mervyn Alleyne
among others.
This model has grown in popularity due to the
widespread interest in hybridization in cultural studies as
a result of globalization and the emergence of plural
societies in the developed world.

Characteristics of Creole Society

Created through a deliberate two-way process of
interculturation and accommodation.
Contains hybrid persons, institutions, and cultural
products both material and non-material.
One society is dominant (the European) but two cultural
forms developed and now co-exist: the Euro-Creole with
European forms dominating and the Afro-Creole
retaining African cultural patterns.

Characteristics of Creole Society

With independence, the intelligentsia
adopted some Afro-Creole forms in
resistance to the coloniser but remained
Euro-oriented. Brathwaite calls them AfroSaxons while Patterson calls the process
synthetic creolisation.

Criticisms of the Creole model

The model ignores the conflict inherent in the creolisation process.
Creolisation results not in homogenisation but in further
fragmentation since individuals and groups negotiate different hybrid
Brathwaites description of two cultural groups seems to turn the
model into a version of the plural society with all the implications for
fragility and conflict.
The model ignores the question of class and the hegemony of
European cultural forms. Creolisation may ultimately result in the
disappearance of African retentions in favour of the Western global

Criticisms of the Creole model

The model offers no solution to the plural socities of the southern
Caribbean: Trinidad and Guyana. For East Indians, creolisation is
douglarisation, the destruction of their traditional culture and their
assimilation into Western culture.