The plantation society has been adapted in the Caribbean today. To illustrate this claim, I will be critically analyzing the contribution of the plantation system through the social structures, economic model and lifestyle of the society. There will be a comparison made between the plantation society and the Caribbean society to show the relevance in the Caribbean society today.
Slavery occurred during the 16th to 19th centuries.
During the time of slavery, slaves were imported from Africa to work on the plantations to aid in the cultivation of cash crops which included sugarcane and tobacco. The main aim of the plantation society was to create a profit which aided in the development of Europe. Although the main aim was to make a profit, a social structure was developed which distinguished the slaves from their masters and create a clear line of authority and servitude.
Barrow and Reddock (2001), defined the plantation society as a particular class of society with distinguishing characteristics of social laws of motion governing change and the political organization.
On the plantation, the slaves endured great oppression and depression. Since they were properties, they were generally exploited and found themselves at the bottom of the stratification system. To control the affairs of the plantation, a class system was developed. At the top was the white ruling class (the planter class). They consisted of white plantation owners and persons who associated with them. Under was the mixed (mullattos) together with the poor whites and free people of color. At the bottom was the black and non-white labor class. Within this class there was existence of racial divisions and labor hierarchy. This was the most notable aspect of the plantation society and was maintained by force and control. Each class had a status of their own and there was little movement for mobility especially with the interbreeding of blacks and whites since race was a major factor for stratification. Based on the various classes within the plantation system’s social structure, society was composed of various ethnicities.
According to Mohammed, he defined Social stratification under slavery defines the plantation society,” as a rigidly stratified system of social and economic relations enforced on plantations in the Americas”
Amongst the slave population, there was a pecking order that divided into field slaves, domestic slaves and skilled slaves. The domestic slaves were offered more privileges than the field slave. They normally saw themselves as being superior which created a social division amongst them. This was reflected in the food they ate as well as the clothes they wore.
Also found on the plantation was many unskilled workers. They had access to lands which was used for the sole purpose of production. There was also the exclusion issue. The working class was excluded from certain decision making due to social hierarchy.
Due to the social construct of the past, there came a movement of mobile structure brought about from the social hierarchy which took place presently due to the changes which took place because of emancipation and immigration. The need for uplifting ones’ social standing was no longer an issue with skin color instead, it was the need for education, occupation and economical status. Another change that took place during the post emancipation era was the issue of migration. There was migration between the whites who migrated back to Europe which made space for upward movements for the colored and black persons in both the social and political arena. There was also migration in search for better life and better jobs. Persons saw the need to upgrade their standards of living and social mobility in fast rising countries such as the United States and Canada. By the twentieth century, the middle class controlled most of the leadership positions throughout the Caribbean.
Even though, it was said that there were some changes that occurred politically, as compared to emancipation of today’s society from that of the plantation society, it is still noticeable in most societies that the economic power is still with white ownership. Classes, even after Independence in 1960, colonialism is still intact. There is still working class being excluded from social hierarchy. This can be seen by no upward movement from the social class up the social ladder. The low wages which persons receive as salary monthly reflects to the certain comparisons within the Plantation Society. During that era, women was paid less wages as men, even though they were able to do the same job as men. In the construction industries, women who are skilled, still being offered lower wages and men who are unskilled are paid more. The issue of exploitation is evident. There are situations where the working class exploited for the profit of higher class. They are also allowed through political power in making the rich persons even richer and the poor persons poorer .all of this is what contributes to the economical hierarchy.
Culture displayed through our African customs are still present today in society. We can observe it through our ethnic wear, religious designs, the language we speak and the food we eat. Culture remains one fundamental aspect of the plantation society which plays an important part of our heritage. We have seen women becoming bread winners in households. The movement of upward mobility though small business owned by locals. We have education as an important factor in society and is offered to all.
The issue globalization is one that is still occurring presently. Caribbean countries depend on mother countries to sell their products. Cocoa, nutmeg and banana is still being shipped to Europe in exchange for low foreign currencies so these mother countries buy these products at lower wages from countries and send it back as finished products and sell it back as a higher cost.
The Caribbean today can be seen as a plural society. Their pluralities can be characterized by division of race, ethnicity, religion and cultural differences. The hierarchy that holds the plantation society can be seen today through housing, jobs, lifestyles, wealth, education just to name a few. Housing is an example of class separation, where certain neighborhoods are inclusive to members of certain class.
It can be said from a social structure and economic standpoint that there is still remnant of the plantation society in the Caribbean today. There has also been a change made including social mobility which makes society different in some ways but similar in many ways to that on the plantation.