VOL. 33,Nos. 1 & 2 MARCH JUNE, 1987
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly Forbidden.
1 The Social Psychology of Cultural Pluralism: Updating the Old
20 Structural Transformation and Social inequality in a Plural Society: The Case of
Lima, Costa Rica
44 Pluralism and the Guyanese Intelligentsia
J. G. Laguerre
61 Some Issues in Multiculturalism: The Case of Trinidad & Tobago in the Post-
81 The Pluralism Controversy: Wider Theoretical Considerations
Willie L. Baber
The Sun Parrots are late this Year
98 BOOK REVIEWS
1 13 Notes on Contributors
1 14 Instructions to Authors
Front and hack covers. Revival Kingdom (Wood relief, 1969), reproduced by kind permission of
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
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G. M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
Keith Hunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Cave Hill, Barbados
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, Mona
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Janet Liu Terry, Associate Editor
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University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
How realistic is the wish for national unity in Caribbean states where the racial mix is
substantial? This and other questions are posed by Ramesh Deosaran in his article "The
Social Psychology of Cultural Pluralism: Updating the Old". While much of what he
writes is true of many nations in the Caribbean, especially Guyana and Jamaica, his case
study centres on Indian participation in Trinidad and Tobago in the mid-1980s. He claims
that "things have changed markedly. The rural areas are now occupied with large secon-
dary schools containing a conspicuous mixture of races, diverse business places, racially
mixed courtships and marriages, a very urban-directed population, and life styles which
have become quite "creolised". His claims are buttressed by censuses taken in 1960 and
1980 and indeed a re-assessment of the true situation is timely. He advocates using the
social psychological approach'with the individual (or small groups) as the unit of analysis.
In the second article, "Pluralism and the Guyanese Intelligentsia", John LaGuerre
addresses the role played by intellectuals in Guyana in the 1930s in shaping the philo-
sophy for the nation in its fight for the right to exist. The context in which this role was
deployed required that the intellectuals "transcend the limitations of tribe [race], caste
[class] and region [sectarianism] ". However, the ideal was never quite achieved because in
"plural societies" such as Guyana "there was always an element of ideology concealing
group interest". In the final analysis the ideology of the intelligentsia must be seen as an
expression of that group interest.
Willie L. Baber in "The Pluralism Controversy: Wider Theoretical Consideration"
takes another look as "cultural pluralism as theory. He argues that, as theory, it is an
"oversimplification of social reality". He accuses the theory of lack of methodological
vigour and circular reasoning. The work and theory of major pluralistss" are examined.
Among these are M.G. Smith, and his critics in the structural-functionalists group.
Frederick Barth's model of social process is also examined. It is this critical look at plural-
ism which prompts the title "Pluralism Revisited". From the theoretical to the empirical is
the journey taken by Trevor Purcell who looks at a situation in Central America in
"Structural Transformation and Social Inequality in a Plural Society: The Case of Limon,
Costa Rica". The importation of Jamaican, Chinese and Italians into the Atlantic jungle
of Costa Rica and its consequences in the late 1880s are examined: "each non-white
group pursued its own life-style". Purcell, in his study of racial differentiation,takes into
account the active pressures of the production system. This essay relates production to
its supporting ideology which creates and maintains social, cultural and political cleavages
in a plural society whilst bolstering the power structure designed by the ruling hierarchy.
The plural society in the contemporary era is the focus of "Some Issues of Multi-
culturalism: The Case of Trinidad and Tobago in the Post-Colonial Era" by Ramesh
Deosaran who posits the psychological implications with two hypotheses: The further
removed a cultural group is from the source of socio-economic rewards, (1) the greater
the stress factors in the group's attempt to complete and gain access to such rewards and
(2) the greater the pressures for the deculturalisation and the greater the likelihood that
negative stereotyping would be used to justify that group's exclusion from social and
economic rewards. These are tested in the post-independence era of Trinidad and Tobago.
Two poems by Guyanese lan MacDonald, "Last Voyage" and "The Sun Parrots"
are late this year and three book reviews end the issue.
THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF CULTURAL
PLURALISM: UPDATING THE OLD
This paper explores some possibilities for social-psychological analysis of race relations
in Trinidad and Tobago specifically and in the Caribbean generally.' Dealing with the
issue of "national identity and racial attitudes" in Jamaica, Rex Nettleford (1970) wrote:
There is need for a social psychology of West Indian
race relations ... If one assumes that the Jamaican
identity must entail a measure of national unity,
though not uniformity, among all the differentiated
sectors of the society. then one can pose the question
of whether the phenomenon of racial consciousness
or non-consciousness is an obstacle to national unity.
This need is equally, if not more, urgent for Trinidad and Tobago, given its substantial
racial mix.2 The need arises from a series of questions: how does a person sustain natural
ethnic sentiments yet merge effectively inlo the stream of national unity? Or is this a
contradiction in practice? What are the psychological obstacles to social integration?
What are the particular social forces which invoke positive or negative reactions from
persons in one racial group against others in another racial group? To what extent does a
person from one racial group see himself in the way those from another racial group see
him? What are the implications, given the fact that different racial groups compete for the
same resources? This paper recognizes these as some of the questions now needing social
psychological analysis in the contemporary era.3
Recognizing the "fatal simplifications" in highly descriptive treatments, Arthur
Lewis commented: "That we should be different seems to me a good proposition, and yet
one which is easily nonsensical or trivial, unless one defines rather carefully what it is we
are to differ in."4 A distinct "West Indianism" is a fickle concept, Lewis argued, and one
which is further complicated by the presence of racial groups other than Africans. Before
that, Braithwaite (1954) had written !i' Trinidad and Tobago: "The island society faces
the problem of integrating the minority sub-cultures of the Hindus and the Muslims. But
this can be considered a special case. Even when we neglect the Indian minority, we find a
lower-class subculture which makes the problem of integration seem more difficult and
interesting" (p 83). William Demas (1971) called for a "New Caribbean Man", meaning a
West Indian with a range of "positive" values, from self-reliance to fuller self-awareness.5
The important point at this stage is that gross messages of integration and nationalism do
not have strong empirical roots. The issue of nationalism as raised in the Trinidad and
Tobago context is a specific and more complicated case. It is more complicated because
of the substantial racial mix.
Population trends by Race from 1960 to 1980
(Trinidad and Tobago)6
Year Race Total*
Negro East Syrian/
(Blacks) Indian Mixed Chinese White Lebanese
1960 358,588 301,946 134,749 8,361 15,718 1,590 827,957
1970 398,765 373,538 131,904 7,962 11,383 993 931.071
1980 430,864 431,345 172,285 5,562 9,946 951 1,055,763
*Total includes "Others" and "Not Stated".
Table 1 shows, for 1980, the similar proportion of Blacks and East Indians (40.8 and 40.9
per cent respectively) in Trinidad and Tobago. The "Mixed" category accounts for over
16 per cent. Chinese. Whites, Syrian and Lebanese account for less than two per cent of
the Trinidad and Tobago population. Between 1960 and 1980. while the entire popula-
tion increased by 27 per cent, Blacks and East Indians increased by 20 per cent and 43
per cent respectively. The "Mixed" category increased by 28 per cent between 1960 and
1980. The population difference between Blacks and East Indians in Trinidad alone is
more pronounced when the Tobago population is subtracted. Of the 39,524 persons
counted in Tobago in 1980, 36,968 were Blacks.
There has been a relatively large body of sociological studies on race relations in
Trinidad.7 Generally these have contributed to a broad understanding of social relations
in village life,8 political behaviour,9 academic attainment,t1 and to a smaller extent,
social mobility" among the different racial groups. But quite often the inferences and
statements made from such studies are too gross to accommodate significant intra-group
differences. Then there is the issue of racial categorization itself. While the Trinidad and
Tobago Government (Central Statistical Office) uses six categories, researchers them-
selves are not uniform in their categories.12 The very strategy of using racial categories
exclusively to analyse social relations may not always be the most effective method.
Fundamental material interests and values may say more about group behaviour than
their physical appearance (Hyman 1960: Bochner 1982: Ford 1973). In fact, this is one
of the issues dealt with later in this paper. Another issue is the very age of the bulk of
anthropological and sociological research undertaken.
Further analyses should use more specific, well-defined social situations so as to
understand some of the current social and psychological factors which facilitate or
obstruct social integration (Tajfel 1970). For example, Morton Klass, twenty-six years
ago, wrote: "Among rural East Indians the Creolised individual is rare to the point of
nonexistence: traits and values deriving from India take precedence over those deriving
from the non-Indian environment .. Skin colour plays almost no part in the East Indian
group as internal stratification. The primary determinant of status among rural Hindus is
caste membership .. An examination of the caste affiliations of Hindu members of the
Legislative Council reveals that almost all are of the two highest castes."13
Today, things have changed markedly. The rural areas are now occupied with large
secondary schools containing a conspicuous mixture of races. diverse business places,
racially mixed courtships and marriages, a very urban-directed population, and life styles
which have become quite "creolized". The composition of the Indians in Parliament is
very far from being dominated by the "two highest castes". Klass (1960) himself stated:
"It is well known among Trinidadian East Indians that within twenty years they will form
the largest single ethnic group on the island. What will happen then if there is at that time
no change in either the East Indian desire for a separate and equal status within the Trini-
dad society, or in the West Indian desire for complete integration?"
It is a fact that East Indians now comprise the single largest group in Trinidad
(Indians 42 per cent between 1960 and 1980). Today, Indians are much more observable in
the public service, in urban business, and in politics. How significant is this against com-
mentaries and studies which claimed deprivation on the part of the Indians? 4 Maybe the
rate of participation of Indians in national institutions is not as rapid as these writers
expected. Generally. however, such studies are relatively old.1s Alongside these concerns
and the need for revising them, the ruling People's National Movement (PNM) has con-
sistently stressed its policy of "multiracialism" and "equality for all races".16
Further, the government gave the country a national anthem in 1962 which carries
the words "Where every creed and race find an equal place". Of course, no less was
expected of a national party in a multicultural environment. But it is important to exam-
ine these pledges and legitimising of cultural diversity in terms of the expectations they
established in the minds of the different racial groups who saw themselves occupying
different positions in the political continuum: their perceptions of government's policies
and actions: their sense of distributive justice; and their related political and cultural
responses. These are indeed some of the issues which need fresh analysis.
In 1959 Crowley wrote: "The East Indian community has never seriously attemp-
ted self-segregation from the Creole world around it, and most East Indians interact daily
with their Creole neighbours. There are East Indians in all social classes. Those at the top
are culturally indistinguishable from white, coloured, or black urban locals of the same
class, except where Hinduism or Islam requires some variations in dietary patterns"
(p. 852). At that time Crowley provided no strong data foi such conclusions of "non-
segregation". Neither did he provide any substantial details about the immersion of
racial identity in social class relationships. A more specific analysis would have showed us
the early germination of class interests over racial identity and in what particular contexts.
This, however, it is necessary to do now. Further, today's dietary patterns within the
Hindu and Moslem communities have undergone drastic changes and even many Africans
have adopted "vegetarian" patterns.17 Braithwaite's (1953) account of stratification, in
Trinidad was also highly descriptive though quite seminal in its time. Dealing with inter-
class resentments, he wrote: "Just as whiteness tended to put the individual automatically
at tile top of the social class scale, so blackness of skin colour automatically put the indi-
vidual at the bottom" (p. 43). That was written in 1953.
In 1970, the country was significantly awakened by "Black Power" protests and a
revised set of official policies which saw intensive nationalization programmes and the
involvement of blacks in such programmes. In announcing one such programme, the then
Prime Minister, Eric Williams, said: "The history of the West Indies ... is a history of
deliberate and conscious discrimination against people because of the colour of their skin
and notwithstanding their educational qualifications . Our public service at all levels is
staffed today almost entirely by nationals, mainly black."'" At that time, debates flour-
ished over the concept and application of black identity in the national life of Trinidad
and Tobago. Attempts were made to decolonizee" skin colour. The situation was filled
with painful contradictions. The black power protests demonstrated that significant
sections of the black community were hostile to the black-dominated PNM. At the same
time. the Indians who felt that they were being discriminated against by the PNM were
not attracted to the black power protests. LaGuerre (1985) wrote: "The movement
towards Afro-Indian solidarity accordingly collapsed largely because of the mutual
ignorance between East Indians and the African-descended population" (p. xvii). Quite
sarcastically. Naipaul (1970) wrote: "In the islands, it [Black Power] fits the old, apo-
calyptic mood of the black masses. Anything more concrete, anything like a program,
might become simple local politics and be reduced to the black power that is already
possessed (p. 32). The 1970 events demonstrated that Indians and Africans do not
necessarily share the same psychological framework in interpreting political events. It
must be noted. however, that large sections of the African population also did not
support the black power protest. Further, the PNM was returned to power in the very
next general election."1 There is much needed to search out the psychological frames of
reference through which the different racial groups perceive such events. This need was
implicitly raised by Rubin (1962) when she wrote: "The East Indian tends to think in
terms of the community because it is an East Indian community, the Negro in terms of
the nation, because he conceives of it as a Negro nation."20 The phenomenon of per-
ception as a function of racial or class position is vital for a fuller understanding of
political actions in a multicultural society. It is quite possible in all this that some be-
haviours which are now attributable to race are more likely linked to class-based atti-
tudes.21 This hypothesis would remain suspended until there is more systematic experi-
mental research beyond the sociological and anthropological. Without this, self-fulfilling
prophecies may be unwittingly established whereby rhetorical exaggerations of either
racial or class explanations would shroud the interaction of both in actual behaviour, or
the relative strengths of each factor.
In 1974, a government-appointed Constitution Commission reported: "Race is
perhaps one of the most significant determinants of political behaviour in Trinidad and
Tobago . All the evidence indicates that the pattern of voting tends basically, though
not invariably to follow the racial, with those of African descent supporting the PNM and
those of Indian descent supporting the DLP (p. 9). How are such racial sentiments acti-
vated and practised especially when voters themselves disclaim that they are "racial"?
Is it a matter of "reciprocal anticipations" whereby, for example, the Indian anticipates
that the African would vote "racially", therefore he as Indian is justified in voting
"racially" also? And vice versa? It would also be interesting to study those Indians and
Africans who respectively vote for parties in non-stereotyped ways. Such micro-studies are
now necessary to clarify shifts in voting behaviour and to measure social integration in
terms of value orientations. Such studies of "reciprocal anticipations" would go beyond
the traditional "attitude survey" studies. The variable of reciprocall anticipations" is
relatively easy to manipulate in experimental work.
The need to analyse value orientations across racial groups as a means of distinguish-
ing class-based attitudes would be helped by social psychological analysis. The perception
of "national identity" across different racial groups and the kinds of social and political
responses emerging from such differential perceptions are also social psychological issues.
Social psychological techniques could also be useful in pursuing the hypothesis of
"reciprocal anticipations" and their respective political consequences. These issues are all
social-psychological because what we have to examine are: how the individual's (or
group's) psychological characteristics were shaped by his (or its) social conditions; the
specific situation under study: how these psychological characteristics are behaviourally
related to this situation, and where possible: and what kinds of responses such behaviours
elicit from others in the same situation.
The researcher's emphasis on any one of these stages would depend on how social,
or how psychological the researcher wants to make his study.22 Distinguishing social
psychology from both psychology, and sociology. Secord and Beckman (1974) wrote:
"The social psychologist studies the behaviour of individuals in social contexts. Thus, his
business differs from that of the general psychologist who often isolates the individual
from his social environment: and it differs from that of the sociologist who often studies
the patterns of social interactions separately from the acting individuals" (p. 1).
The studies described earlier in this paper were incomplete in just this respect. They
generally failed to take into account the "acting individuals", and further, they failed to
recognize that the motives of such individuals or groups may very well be different from
those attributed to race alone. It is undesirable to persist with the "racial explanation"
of Trinidad voting behaviour until such behaviour is effectively analysed within the
context that the voter has defined. It is undesirable, for example, to say that the PNM
would naturally appeal to all Africans just as it is undesirable to say that all Africans
would vote PNM. Between the African and the PNM exists a multitude of values and
interests, some competing with one another, but which are eventually adjusted when
political action is taken. For a fuller understanding, one would need to get closer to the
"psychological environment" of the voter himself. A social psychological analysis of indi-
vidual behaviour in the multicultural context would specify that the "behaviour" is a
convergence of two separate forces, the individual's psychological characteristics and the
specific social situation which operates as a stimulus condition.23
Frantz Fanon (1967) steered close to this dynamic relationship when he wrote:
"The problem of colonialism includes not only the interrelations of objective historical
conditions but also human attitudes toward these conditions (p. 84). The post-colonial
society requires its inhabitants to be fuller activists in its development. Any method
which seeks to understand how exactly this activity fosters or obstructs the decoloniza-
tion of habits and institutions would be welcome. R. J. Fisher conveys this method when
he wrote (1982): "Social psychology is the scientific study of how the behaviour of an
individual is influenced by and in turn influences the actions of others in the social
environment" (p. 6). Apart from the notion of "reciprocal anticipations", it is interesting
to note that the literature on race relations in Trinidad and Tobago bears little that
analyses how the East Indian presence has influenced the Africans, or the society as a
whole. In constructing a "dominant-submissive" paradigm, the analyses have generally
seen the influence as coming from the African or from some other source, but not from
the Indian. How valid is this unidirectional influence? How much of a researcher's bias is
there in formulating the direction of influence? To what extent do Indian demands for
"cultural rights" instigate anti-Indian sentiments from other groups, especially when no
other racial group in the country has as many "culturally-oriented" broadcasts as
Indians?24 Is part of the misunderstanding due to the Indian's belief that all other "non-
Indian" broadcasts are naturally "African", not knowing as well that the Africans see
themselves as having no "African" shows in the media? Part of the confusion apparently
rests on the Indian's assumption that what is "western" is also "African" as far as
Trinidad is concerned. Such "frames of reference" should be analysed to help explain the
basis for perpetual cultural conflicts.
These questions are also quite pertinent to the concept of "life space" as proposed
by Lewin (1951) where he recommended that researchers take time to construct the
"psychological environment" of the individual before his behaviour could be properly
understood.25 Allport (1968) filled some of the psychological elements into this view
when he wrote: "Social psychology is an attempt to understand how the thought, feeling,
and behaviour of the individual are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied pre-
sence of others" (p. 3). The issue of "reciprocal anticipations" through racial stereotyping
is a very relevant one for such social psychological analysis. There is need for a line of
research which would show that far from being a gross "Indian vs African" phenomenon,
there is within each racial group a range of other social and psychological variables which
mediate behaviour but which remain outside the social perception of the observing group.
Further, the conflicts within both Indian and African groups are usually ignored in
the gross "Indian" and "African" stereotypes.26 The retreat into such gross stereotyping.
however, is instigated by the relative insecurities experienced by each group. This view
rests on substantial social psychological research which established that the more ambigu-
ous or threatening a situation is, the more likely would a connected individual fall back
on his stereotypes to "make meaning" of the situation and, further, to seek shelter under
his ethnic identity.27
Indeed, the political leader of the ruling PNM had put forward this premise for
racial harmony when he said (1969): "What is needed in Trinidad and Tobago is a climate
in which each racial or religious group will feel relatively secure, and, on the basis of that
security, can proceed to make that contribution to the general well being and community
progress which each and every group can make" (p. 135). The decolonization process,
therefore, rests very much on the degree of security experienced by the different racial
groups in the country. In this view, it is important to recognize not only the total
resources available in the country, but, more particularly. how these resources are distri-
buted across the different racial groups, and also, what are the racial perceptions accom-
panying such distribution.28
A recent study on income disparities in Trinidad and Tobago (Harewood and Henry
1985) noted that "the traditional view has been that the Indians have been the ethnic
group with the lowest incomes, in part due to their being most predominantly rural and
agricultural" (p. 64). In its recent analysis of 1975/76 census figures, however, this study
found that Indians shared a slightly higher monthly income ($454) than the African
($412). The authors argued that both racial groups would be satisfied with the ruling
PNM but for somewhat different reasons, and further, that social tensions would be
diminished when "there is a genuine redistribution such that income and assets position
can scarcely be related to ethnicity" (p. 80). This plausible hypothesis that economic
manipulation easily leads to social integration is one which requires social psychological
analysis in the Trinidad and Tobago environment. Such an analysis would be an extension
of the "contact hypothesis" which argues that "equal status contacts between members
of different racial groups" tend to lower prejudice.29 Have "equal status" contacts in
places of work between different races helped to reduce prejudice? Or do such contacts
instigate new forms of competition which sustain feelings of prejudice? How does the
reduction of prejudice in one individual from a racial group get accommodated in the rest
of that same group? These are the kinds of questions that await research answers in multi-
The distribution of income or state resources is tied in with effort exerted by indi-
viduals and their "just demands". Hence, it is possible that some members of a racial
group may have what appears to be abundant to others bul in their own eyes is duly
deserved, or even insufficient. Political patronage complicates the pattern of distribution.
This again is an instance where the "objective" is reconciled with the "subjective" in ways
that could possibly differ from one racial group to another. In this psychological sense,
racial stereotypes get reinforced and obstruct genuine class formation and the evolution
of superordinate goals.
This analysis is related to "the looking glass self' described by Cooley (1956) and
the "object-subject" transformation proposed by Mead (1934). Post-colonial multicul-
tural societies still have significant residues of metropolitan-linked values. Class formation
also bears many of these values, one result being a hierarchy of status-values possessed
differentially by the different racial groups. A continuum of acceptable images and
life styles is established. This psychological process helps construct some racial groups,
at least sections of them, as "brokers" for metropolitan culture. This has been seen
in Trinidad and Tobago with the "more creolized" or "modern" sections gaining greater
"respect".30 Self-images within racial groups would therefore be formed along this
continuum, given the pleasure of having oneself "approved" by others from the "modern"
sector. Indeed, Cooley (1956) had argued that our self-concept and related behaviour
emerge from social interaction, eventually becoming a reflection of "how we believe
others perceive us". Cooley outlined three main elements in this social construction of
self: how we think we appear to another person; how we think the other person judges
that appearance: and how we react with pleasure or shame to what we think that
Mead (1934) further argued that our self-concept gets meaning only when "we
become aware that we are the object of other people's perceptions". This awareness solid-
ifies to the extent that we learn to anticipate how others will react to our actions, and
how well we can take on the role of others, that is, to see ourselves as "the other" sees us.
The construction of "self" in the multicultural setting, wherein power and privilege are
substantially distributed along racial lines, would be accordingly affected. The question
for further psychological research in Trinidad and Tobago is to what extent such pheno-
menon exists, given the conspicuous fractures made by expanding economic and educa-
tional opportunities across racial groups in the post-colonial era.
The Individual in Psychological Focus
There are two important reasons for research on individual (or small group) be-
haviour in social contexts. One legal consequence of constitutional democracy and de-
colonization is the emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. In Trinidad and Tobago,
such rights and freedoms occupy a significant place in the country's Republican constitu-
tion.31 This constitutional emphasis on the individual has become a strong ethic in the
society and must theref-ore encourage research with such a unit of analysis. For example
Section 4 of the constitution states: It is hereby recognized and declared that in Trinidad
and Tobago there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by
reason of race. origin. colour, religion or sex, the following fundamental rights and free-
dolns, namely: -
(i) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoy-
inent of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due
process of law:
(ii) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of
(iii) the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life;
(iv) the right of the individual to equality of treatment from any public authority
in the exercise of any functions:
(v) the right to join political parties and to express political views:
(vi) the right of a parent or guardian to provide a school of his own choice for the
education of his child or ward;
(vii) freedom of movement;
(viii) freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance;
(ix) freedom of thought and expression;
(x) freedom of association and assembly;
(xi) freedom of the press.
These constitutional guarantees insist that individuals be treated as individuals and
not discriminated against on the basis of group membership or racial stereotypes. In fact,
recently several constitutional cases have been heard over these individual guarantees. In
one such case, the charge was made that "calypso-singing" from a nearby restaurant
obstructed the prayer sessions held in a Hindu temple, and. as such, the rights to religious
freedom were violated by the restaurant-owner.32 A national controversy erupted when
the Appeal Court ruled against the Pundit who bought the motion to court. The presiding
I feel compelled from the evidence to describe
[Pundit] Sharma as a fanatical puritan and his
devotees as abject hypocrites: . But the matter
does not end there at all. A question of paramount
constitutional importance is involved here and it is
necessary that I deal with it here and now ... There
must be non-discrimination among other things of
racial origins but also there is guaranteed the right to
liberty, and freedom of thought and expression ...
Calypso is a form of art and as is well known has its
origin in the culture which had been practised by the
inhabitants of African descent. Today it is now
regarded as part of the national culture ... Just as
[Pundit] Sharma and his devotees are entitled to
indulge in their culture so too are other inhabitants
entitled to do likewise . It is a matter of regret also
that people like Sharma and some of his witnesses
fail to appreciate that in a community comprised as
ours is, it is so necessary, if not well-nigh imperative
that all of us must "live and let live".
This judgement raised three essential issues in multicultural Trinidad and Tobago.
First, the individual rights and freedoms so guaranteed in the constitution apply to
"public law and not private law". That is, instances of discrimination, real or perceived,
must occur at the hands of public authorities, rather than private individuals, before the
constitution could be effectively relied upon for redress. Secondly, the court upholds the
norm for cultural diversity. Thirdly, the individual rights guaranteed in the constitution
could be in conflict with one another. In this case "freedom of expression" was upheld
The national controversy which resulted from this judgement aptly demonstrated
the hypothesis earlier enunciated, that is, Indians and Africans tend to perceive one and
the same cultural stimulus in entirely different ways. Indian spokesmen felt the court was
"unfair and out of bounds". African spokesmen felt the court was "nationalistic and fear-
The other justification for using the individual as the unit of social science research
is reflected in Ralph Linton's (1968) view:
The individual, his needs and potentialities, lies at the
foundation of all social and cultural phenomena.
Societies are organised groups of individuals, and
cultures are, in the last analysis, nothing more than
the organised repetitive responses of a society's
members. For this reason, the individual is the logical
starting point for any investigation of the larger con-
figuration (p. 4).
Social psychologists, at least in the Caribbean context, see this "logic" being dictated by
the larger system of racial relations. In other words, it is not a matter of evaluating either
the individual or the social system as the unit of intrinsic priority. Rather, it is the need
to give each equivalent or complementary treatment and recognizing the dynamic rela-
tionship between both. Linton (1968) himself seemed to recognize this when he said:
It is now becoming apparent that the integration
between the individual, society and culture is so close
that the investigator who tries to work with any one
of them without reference to the other soon comes to
a dead end (p. 3).
For the past 30 years, anthropological and sociological studies have shed much light on
the large contours of racial behaviour in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean generally.
During that time and now, however, new features of social, economic and political life have
entered the society. Many inroads have been made within racial groups, and many fresh
transactions exist between racial groups. These contemporary forces must be more fully
recognized, described, and put into theoretical context. This work, it is hoped, would
help reduce some of the stereotypes and misunderstandings which apparently exist among
the various racial groups. As a method of inquiry, social psychology, by emphasizing the
dynamic relationship between the individual (or small group) and his (its) specific situa-
tion, could contribute towards this clarification and theory construction.
From Rhetoric to Research
Varying degrees of social and political rhetoric have captured the Caribbean imagi-
nation over the years. As useful as such broad pronouncements were, the time has come
when attempts should be made to put some of these to empirical test where possible.
Dealing with the psychological subjugation of the black man, for example. Fanon (1967)
For the black man, there is one destiny. And it is
white ... It is apparent to me that the effective dis-
alienation of the black man entails an immediate
recognition of social and economic realities. If there
is an inferiority complex, it is the outcome of a
double process: primarily, economic; subsequently,
the internalisation . of this inferiority (p. I 1).
Here, the black man's alienation is seen as a social psychological process in that it
stems from economic inequity, is internalized, then manifested in self-hate and subju-
gated behaviour. But then Fanon went on to admit that not all blacks nor whites fit his
inferiority vs superiority mould. We are therefore left to ask how would we recognize
those that fit from those that do not if whiteness and blackness are not complete indi-
cators? This is not to undermine the seriousness of Fanon's hypothesis. Instead, it is an
attempt to bring down such a grand hypothesis to empirical soil. It would also help to
answer the question "Why not?" of those blacks, or whites who do not fit his categories.
Under conditions of racial conflict, it is important to recognize the groups, no matter how
small, who have resolved the conflict, socially or psychologically, in their specific situa-
tions. These groups provide beacons of guidance in multicultural societies which are
The theme of alienation is important for Caribbean societies, given the slave and
indentured past of their masses and the dependency links with the metropole. As popular
as Fanon's work has been in the Caribbean, little or no systematic research has been done
on it to see the extent to which this "black skin-white mask" hypothesis is valid or being
washed away by the new torces of decolonization. Fanon's hypothesis is essentially now a
question of Caribbean aspiration forged from previous colonization. The study of aspira-
tion is a central theme in social psychological research. The psychological phenomena of
internalisation and identification, long discussed by Sigmund Freud (1920), have been
developed into a social psychological model of learning (Bandura 1977). Colonization has
been replaced in the Caribbean by political independence. However, large currents of
cultural imperialism still rear their heads over Caribbean societies. And so, Bandura's
social learning model could be a useful tool to see the extent and in what particular ways
Caribbean people cherish metropolitan images which sustain their own alienation.
Bandura's model allows for learning to occur through "model patterning", "identi-
fication with power-figures" and the "internalization of values" projected by dominant
classes. This line of social psychological inquiry could also help construct a hierarchy of
psychological vulnerability within different racial groups. This would also be a measure of
cultural alienation, and would be a specific response to Nettleford's (1970) call for "a
social psychology of West Indian race relations" (p. 21). Fanon's hypothesis is a more
fiery expression of Nettleford's view that "the question of cultural identity [in the Carib-
bean] logically gains high priority alongside political independence and economic self-
suffering in the awesome process of decolonisation or .. in the arduous struggle against
external domination" (p. xv).
Paulo Freire (1974) raised one of the serious implications when he wrote:
The oppressed, having internalised the image of the
oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of
freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this
image and replace it with autonomy and responsi-
bility (p. 31).
Whatever the rhetorical generalizations might be about the effects of colonialism
and even dependency linkages, it is still necessary for Caribbean researchers to examine
the extent and the specific ways (e.g., television, technology, consumerism, literature,
physical features, etc.) whereby Freire's (1974) "dual consciousness" (p. 32) or Fanon's
(1967) "White destiny" (p. 10) persists among Caribbean people. In fact, while the pheno-
menon identified by Freire and Fanen may exist, it is still possible that claims for its exis-
tence may be exaggerated and, indeed, self-fulfilling. Research must now catch up with
rhetoric. Carl Stone (1973) seemed to understood this quite well when he wrote: "Politi-
cal analysis in the Caribbean has yet to develop an empirical tradition that allows for
more than impressionistic descriptions, constitutional histories and sophisticated journal-
ism. The need for rigorous data collection and the testing of hypothesis through data
analysis are central to the growth of explanatory thesis" (pp 5 6).
Stone's (1973) study in Jamaica of the "social and psychological bases of voter
participation" is one of the relatively few studies which have brought down generalized
notions of political behaviour in the Caribbean to systematic analysis. The study, how-
ever, generally remained at the level of attitude measurement and without any experi-
mental test of how different individuals or groups interacted with others in controlled
situations.33 This lack of experimentation has been noticeable within Caribbean research.
It is hoped that social psychological techniques of laboratory and field experimentation
will help fill the gap.
It is this concern which draws the social psychologist toC.L.R. James. For example,
in 1962 James wrote: "What they [West Indians] lack, and they lack plenty, is not due
to any inherent West Indian deficiency . The blunders and deficiencies of which they
are guilty are historically caused and therefore can be historically corrected" (p. 130).
James, too, was speaking about the alienation and metropolitan pretentiousness of Carib-
bean people. While his revolutionary solution may yet be possible, in practical terms, he
seems to be committing the fallacy which the early behaviourists committed in their
mechanistic view of man, a view which assumes that a response is predetermined by an
external stimulus and that alone.
Individuals usually process incoming stimuli and even behave differently when
faced with the same "objective" stimulus. This well-researched human quality has given
much prominence to cognitive psychology which, when integrated with behaviourism, has
led to social learning theory (Bandura 1971). Experiences just do not come and go, leav-
ing the individual as "blank" as he was before. Fresh events, such as new historical condi-
tions, are met by cognitive structures which have been created by preceding experiences.
In fact, social change is mediated by such residual psychological factors and for better or
worse they would interfere with James' postulations. James made his ideological stance
clear: "I shall keep as far away from individuals as I can and stick to class" (p. 130). It is,
however, held in this paper that in dealing with "class-related issues" in the Caribbean,
racial identity could very well be part of the cognitive structure through which such issues
are interpreted. Or vice versa. In the multicultural society, we admit the interaction of
both. We exclude neither in the social psychological approach. We do need a social
psychology of race relations. We also need a social psychology of class relations. Both are
necessary for a clearer understanding of social conflict and alienation in the multicultural
This is apparent from George Beckford's conclusion to his book, Persistent Poverty
That black people in the New World generally regard
theif own people . as ugly, lazy, and irresponsible is
only one example of the phenomenon ... Change
must begin in the minds of people, relating to the
concept they have of themselves . .We need further
to recognize that ainong the people of plantation
society the most colonised minds are to be found
within the higher ranks of the social order ... We
find by and large the intellectual classes have the
most colonised minds and the least colonised minds
are to be found among the lowest ranks of the social
order. (pp 233-5)
Therein lies the greatest potential for a revolutionary
break with the existing system. And that is why the
political leadership for decolonisation must come
from "below". (p. 235)
This may be inspiring rhetoric. But like the prescriptions of James (1972). Fanon (1967)
and Freire (1974), most if not all of them lack empirical roots. Too often the assump-
tions made in such generalizations are the very issues that need to be examined first of all.
The prognosis, it would appear, too often precedes a proper diagnosis. The issue of value
orientation, as raised by Beckford (1972) and as plausible as it appears, is a fertile area for
further psychological research. In fact, one may well ask: Isn't the intellectual class in the
Caribbean, endowed with anti-imperialistic ideas and relatively free of property interests,
well-positioned to help inspire the thrust for decolonization? What really in today's
Caribbean is a "colonized mind" Is Fanon's (1967) concept enough? To what extent are
the qualities of the "colonized mind" also found in "the minds" of other lower class
groups in industrialized countries? Such questions could originate from a social psycholo-
gical method and are pertinent in seeking to discover degrees of difference, groups of
differences, and the grounded generality of the phenomenon so eloquently propounded
by the writers cited above.
This paper sought to provide a brief overview of the traditional anthropological and
sociological research on race relations in Trinidad and Tobago, and, in some instances, the
Commonwealth Caribbean as a whole. The main argument is that in the face of new post-
colonial forces, a fresh research approach must be taken in order to uncover the new
dynamic features of social interaction in the multicultural society. This approach should
now supplement the usefulness of previous research.
The approach recommended is social psychological in that the unit of analysis
should be the individual (or small groups); measures should be taken of the relevant cog-
nitive structure which has been shaped by an individual's social history: the way percep-
tions of specific social situations then vary according to these cognitive structures: and
the kinds of responses which such perceptions and their accompanying behaviour elicit
from those in other racial groups. It is further argued that experimental analysis would
help uncover the role of other contemporary factors (e.g. social class and political alle-
giancies) in social interaction. This would help construct a multi-faceted basis of explana-
tion, in that social motivation would likely vary from situation to situation. In this way,
it is hoped that much of the racial stereotyping emanating from traditional descriptive
research would be diminished by more specific and empirically-grounded explanations.
1. This need is consistent with the more general relevance of social psychology to developmental
issues in Third World countries. See. for example, Frank Blackler (ed.). Social Psychology and
Developing Countries (1983) and "Social Psychological Research in Developing Countries",
in Journal of Social Issues (1968). 24, (2).
As this paper suggests, while there have been some relevant studies using "psychological"
variables, the research has remained at the survey level without any systematic social psycho-
logical theorizing on the kind of measures adopted. Further, this suggestion for social psycho-
logical analysis does not underestimate the usefulness of traditional research: it is accepted that
those earlier studies opened the way for what is now recommended. The social psychological
models developed for Trinidad and Tobago would have relatively easy application in other
Caribbean states, given the similar historical and political conditions. Therefore, while Trinidad
is used as the focal point, the method of analysis recommended is fit for wider use in the Carib-
2. This concept of a "racial mix" has traditionally occupied the centre of debate as to how "plu-
rally" or "socially" integrated the society is. See, for example, the relevant debates in V.
Rubin (ed.), Social and Cultural Pluralism in the Caribbean, (1960). The general position taken
in this paper is that as far as religious and racial grouping goes (See Government Central Statis-
tical Report, Population and Housing Census, 1980, Vol. II.. Trinidad and Tobago). there is a
substantial mix. But as far as value consensus or conflict is concerned, the picture is not quite
clear. This matter of value integration or conflict is a vital one for any conclusion on cultural
pluralism. The proposal in this paper is that a social psychological approach is useful to clarify
the contemporary status of this historicalmix (See Table 1 for racial mix). See also D. Lowenthal,
West Indian Societies  (pp 77-143) for a West Indian picture of cultural diversity. For
an understanding of some of the conflicts in politics and race-relations in Trinidad and Tobago,
see S. Ryan, Race and Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago [19741 and R. Ueosaran, Issues in
Multiculturalism: The Trinidad and Tobago Case .
3. See A. Lewis (1971): East Indians in the Caribbean (Three conferences on July 1975. Septem-
ber 1979, September 1984 respectively), University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Also, Calcutta
to Caroni (1985, ed. J. LaGuerre).
4. Taken from graduation speech, Cave Hill Campus, University of the West Indies (1970).
5. These nationalistic prescriptions, as laudable as they appear, are difficult to administer if only
because they are contained by both psychological and economic forces. Social psychology
offers a method to understand the ways in which external forces imprint themselves upon the
individual and the possible ways in which the individual could "break loose" Irmn such influ-
ence (See, for example, studies in attitude change, psychology of communication, etc.).
6. Population and Housing Census, op. cit. This census report uses the category "Negro". However,
in this paper, the term "African" or "Black" will be used instead except when "Negro" is used
in quotes taken from other texts.
7. See, for example, series entitled "West Indian Perspectives," (cd. by L. Comitas and
D. Lowenthal), Anchor Books. New York: Social and Cultural Pluralism in the Caribbean. (ed.
V. Rubin, 1960); Conferences on East Inians in the ('Caribbean. op cit. Y. Malik (1971) East
Indians in Trinidad; Wood (1968).
8. E.g., D. Crowley, Cultural Assimilation in a Multicultural Society (1960); M. Klass, East and
West Indian: Cultural Complexity in Trinidad (1960); K. llaraksingh (ed.) Indians (1976);
J. LaGuerre (ed.) Race and Colour (1974).
9. E.g., K. Bahadoorsing (1968); S. Ryan (1974); Y. Malik (1971).
10. E.g.. M. Cross and A. Schwarizbaum (1966)
11. See W. Dookeran (1974); R. Henry (1975); A. Camejo (1971); A. Ahiram (1966): J. Harewood
(1971); J. Harewood and R. Henry (1985). These studies generally deal with income inequality
Camejo's study contains some data on occupational mobility.
12. This is becoming a troublesome issue in Caribbean research, especially when the researcher sees
one "racial group" but finds that different persons within this same racial group give themselves
different ethnic classifications. For example,what is the more acceptable term, Black, Negro or
African? Authors vary in their usage. M. Klass looked at this issue as far back as 1960 (See
Social and Cultural Pluralism in the Caribbean, 1960, Vol. 83. pp 855 56).
13. Klass (1975) op cit.
14. E.g., Henry (1975); Dookeran (1974). These studies showed the average income of East Indians
to be less than that of Blacks. The issue of assets and "hidden income" remains a troublesome
one, especially in studies using government-supplied data or self-disclosures. The politicization
of this income discrepancy issue has been affected by the widespread perception that "Indians
have economic power" vs "Blacks have political power". There is also the argument that neither
stereotype is true, given for instance the role of expanding conglomerates owned by a group
commonly known as "French Creoles" who are neither Indians nor Blacks. There are, however,
very wealthy Indian and Black businessmen, and further, many directors in these conglomerates
who are Indian or Black. It is in this fluid context that fresh analyses are required to monitor
the inroads and ruptures made into the social stereotypes prevailing in the country.
In urban districts, a range of situations also suggests some increased "traffic" between the
different racial groups, e.g., in public service employment, community groups, cocktail cliques,
business directorates, etc. The research question on such- movements is, however, to what
extent are physical contact and value integration related? Until this is answered, our judgments
on race relations (at least in those contexts) would likely remain locked by myths and mislead-
ing perceptions. For an example of race as a psychological frame of reference, see R. Deosaran,
Caribbean Man: A Study in the Psychology of Perception and the Media, Caribbean Quarterly
(1981, 27 (2/3)).
15. There is a recent study (Harewood and Henry, 1985) which concluded:
"The traditional view has been that the Indians have been the
ethnic group with the lowest incomes in part due to their
being most predominantly rural and agricultural. Next lowest
are assumed to be the Africans, while the 'Other' (e.g. White
and Off-White) would have the highest incomes ... These
views appear to be borne out by the data for 1971/72 ...
By 1975/76, the average income of Indians ($454) was slight-
ly higher than that of Africans ($412) and that of the resi-
dual group (e.g. White and Off-White) remained appreciably
higher ($630) ... The differences between the incomes of
Africans and Indians are not large enough to be treated as
significant." (pp 64-5).
16. See Manifesto of People's National Movement (1956); also speeches by PNM Political Leader,
Dr. Eric Williams, in Inward Hunger (1969, pp 150-160).
17. There are conspicuous numbers of Africans who now practise Moslem dietary habits. Many
Hindus and Moslems (of East Indian descent) are now seen eating hot-dogs, hamburgers, steak
sandwiches, and even lining up at street-side vendors to buy pudding and souse, something
which was traditionally frowned upon even in the urban areas.
18. See Williams' speeches on 23 March, 1970; 3 May, 1970; 30 June, 1970. These three speeches
were major responses to the Black Power protests and to the cries of black deprivation
(Williams. 1981). See also The Place of the Indian Community in NJAC's Philosophy of Black
Power" by Keith Jackson (1975). Paper delivered at First Conference of East Indians in the
Caribbean, op. cit.
19. Major opposition parties boycotted this election. The PNM won all 36 seats in Parliament. It
has since gone on to win two more general elections (1976, 1981) in the face of opposition
participation. The PNM has been in power since 1956.
20. "Culture, Politics and Race Relations", Social and Economic Studies, (1962, Vol 11)
21. See, for example, C. Stone (1974) Class, Race and Political Behaviour in Jamaica; also E. Green
(1974) Race vs Politics in Guyana. Such studies were survey-type ones, without experimental
controls, and therefore without any basis for showing the relative strengths of race or class con-
sciousness in explaining voting behaviour. They do suggest. however, an interaction of both.
22. This decision would dictate the choice of variables and the amount of experimental control
necessary. Tightly controlled experimental research enables a researcher to make "cause-effect"
conclusions but with little generality. Field research allows for more generality but presents
difficulties in making causal conclusions. The strategy adopted in this paper is that the research-
er should use a more sociological approach at first then move into more psychological research,
then back again. One must complement the other. This research track would be able to accom-
modate and transform current research on race relations in the Caribbean. A useful discussion
on how sociological or how psychological a social psychological study should be is found in a
very recent work. Stephan and Stephan (eds.) Two Social Psychologies (1985). The level of
analysis is discussed in Secord and Beckman (1974) Social Psychology. In both texts, problems
of measurement are also raised. The mixture of quantitative and qualitative data is important
for a fuller understanding of authentic behaviour in the multicultural setting. It also helps to
keep a dynamic balance between generalisation and reductionism.
23. This interactionist approach is thus able to combine a person's social history with his present
situation in that the personality traits forged by his social existence become a variable in the
way he deals with the fresh demands of his environment. This view has led to Lewin's (1951)
equation. B=f (P,E), i.e. Behaviour is a function of both the Person and the Environment. Given
the colonial history of the Caribbean on one hand, and the fresh demands of nationhood and
political independence on the other, such a research strategy holds promise.
24. In this sense the conflict is first perceptual then manifested in social and political conflict.
Whenever controversies arise over "cultural time" in the media, these perceptions become
obvious. The problem is compounded when there is no clear understanding of what "Indian
culture" is, or what "African culture" is, as far as Trinidad or the Caribbean is concerned.
Further, the desirability of forging a "Trinidadian" or "Caribbean" culture (e.g. Demas. 1971)
is used to diffuse the controversy. The issue is politicized when government sponsors "Better
Village" cultural shows which carry a preponderance of African participants. The Indian
response has usually been to perceive these shows as "African", not "Trinidadian". And, again,
the whole issue of what is "Trinidadian" usually erupts. Fisher's definition (1982) of reciprocal
influence is useful to analyse this kind of perceptual problem. One of the essential points here
is that stereotyping and prejudice are perpetuated when the cultural situation is ambiguous.
25. For an elaborate discussion of this view, see Lindzey and Aronson (eds.) Handbook of Social
Psychology (1968), especially Chapters One (G. Allport), Five (R. Zajonc). and Six (M. Deutsch).
See G. Senum and A. Manstead (1979) "Social Psychology: Social or Psychological". British
Journal of Society and Clinical Psychology. See other articles in this issue. (i.e. 1979 18 (2))
26. For example, there are obviously a lot ot "rich" Indians, a lot of Africans who do not vote for
the PNM. a lot of Indians who discriminate within their own racial group on the basis of caste
and colour, a lot of Africans who discriminate within their own racial group on the basis of
colour of hair, its texture etc. The point is to conduct research to see exactly in what specific
situations and what psychological processes are relevant to such intra-group phenomena. At the
same time, it is useful to understand the situations in which both Indians and Africans resort to
the gross racial stereotypes.
27. See, for example, Sarnoffand Zimbardo (1961) Anxiety, Fear and Social Affiliation. This is also
pertinent to the phenomena of contrast and assimilation described by Jean Piaget (1960). Social
psychological research has also shown that ideas or beliefs which are close to a person's own
cognitive structure are assimilated to appear closer than they really are, and vice versa for ideas
or beliefs which are far from the person's cognitive structure. This theme has been drawn into a
model forjury behaviour as well, see R. Deosaran (1985) Trial by Jury: Social and Psychological
28. These concerns fit in quite well to social psychological theories of social exchange, distributive
justice, and the norm of reciprocity. See, for example, Homans (1974); Gouldner (1960);
Adams (1965). A recent study in Trinidad (Harewood and Henry, 1985) made this point: that
the perception of income and privilege distribution rests on concepts of fairness in the society
(pp 78- 81).
29 See, for example, Robinson and Preston (1976); also Ford (1973). Would closer equal-status
contacts among the different racial groups help social integration in the fundamental psycho-
logical sense? This is plausible, given the fact that the groups would then enjoy a measure of
security. Would such contacts, however, generate new rivalries and criteria of competition? This
is a subject for research. The multicultural community is filled with racial stereotypes, e.g., "In-
dians have plenty money", "Negroes like to fete", Indians like to study", "Negroes lazy". etc.
For example, 26 years ago,Crowley gave this description of Trinidad life: "Indians are said to be
willing to save and plan and work toward a distant goat, while Creoles are supposed to spend
their money in constant 'fete' and not to give a thought to the morrow . Profligate, rum-
drinking Indians, or thrifty abstemious Creoles are definitely not unknown in any Trinidad
community but, since they do not serve the stereotype, they tend to be dismissed as "atypical."
(1960, p. 853). The stereotype resists the reality.
30. This point is well made in Klass (1960): Braithwaite (1960); LaGuerre (1985); James (1962).
Cultural emasculation through "westernization" or modernization is a rather widespread pheno-
menon which has deep implications for multicultural societies in which different groups "get
ahead" on the basis of becoming "more westernized" before other groups. Accompanying this
trend is the degree of psychological stress endured by different groups within the same society
(see Black. 1975). P. Watson (ed.) Psychology and Race (1973) offers some guidance for such
research in schools. Also useful here is Allport's (1958) analysis of the role of psychological
categorization as a basis for stereotyping, and eventually prejudice. This analysis allows for a
treatment of the interaction of socio-economic forces and psychological process in the multi-
cultural conctxt. It is also necessary to take degrees of discrimination into account if only
because they affect actual social relations differently. We need to know as well where discrimi-
nation apparently exists but without prejudice or vice versa.
31. Trinidad and Tobago Constitution (Act No. 4 of 1976).
32. Sharma and Frederick vs Heeraj, Appeal No. 47 of 1983, Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal.
33. Racial stereotyping is perpetrated in "political opinion polls" which produce survey results on
the basis of racial groupings. Such results, limited as they are in focus and method, help invoke
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STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION AND SOCIAL INEQUALITY IN A
PLURAL SOCIETY: THE CASE OF LIMON, COSTA RICA
Much debate has been generated over the question of whether social stratification in
plural societies1 displays distinctive features which are theoretically significant. The issues
raised seem to derive partly from the fact, as Caucian (1976) observed, that there is no
generally accepted paradigm in which anthropologists studying stratification may work
(1976: 227-28), and partly from the way in which plural societies have been defined and
studied. On the one hand, the tendency in the study of stratification in general has been
to view systems of inequality in terms of the ascribed-achieved dichotomy in status
allocation. Further distinctions are made as to the relative weight of objective determin-
ants, as in stratification in the United States, versus ideological or subjective determinants,
as in the caste system. In the final analysis, the crucial questions turn on whether conflict
or consensus characterizes the particular system in question. The study of stratification in
plural societies, on the other hand, by the very nature of these societies, generates its own,
though altogether different, sets of questions: are societies held together by force in the
face of conflict, or are they held together by consensus? Are individuals and groups
ranked on the basis of colour because of colour and other cultural features, or are other
factors determinate while colour and culture become a mystified and mystifying excuse?
These and similar perplexing questions have stimulated various conceptualizations and
interpretations of social process in the plural society (cf. Kuper, 1971: 596-98). How-
ever, for the purpose of this paper it will suffice to mention only the most controversial
and persistent view: that put forward by M.G. Smith.
Elaborating on Furnivall's (1948) concept of pluralism developed to describe the
sociocultural disunity encountered in Burma and Netherlands India under colonial rule,
Smith detached the concept from its capitalist colonial matrix in an effort to give it a
more universal relevance. He defines the plural society as that characterized by the prac-
tice of different and incompatible forms of cultural institutions by different (racial or
ethnic) sections of the total population, resulting in diversity in their internal social organi-
zation (1965: 14). In a later work he refers to these plural sections as social corporations
and makes the distinction between cultural, social and structural pluralism (1969a: 31;
1969b: 435-45). For him, plural societies are units only in a political sense; they have a
single government. In addition, in such societies it is structurally imperative for one
cultural group to be superordinate in order to maintain the social order. And further,
since the ruling group will utilize all political and social means to maintain power, change
in a plural society can occur only through violent means(1969;55). Those who agree with
the proponents of the plural theory would argue that in the light of these very questions
such societies are not amenable to analysis employing paradigms developed for non-
plural societies (cf. Cox 1948: Rex 1959: van den Berghe 1964). Others disagree heartily,
noting that while plural societies are distinctive in many ways they do not require new
and different paradigms (cf. Benedict 1970: Leons and Leons 1977: Berreman 1972;
Tuden and Plotnicov 1970; R.T. Smith 1970; Braithwaite 1960).2
It is incontrovertible that plural societies do present their peculiar problems, yet
when stratification studies based on the plural theory are examined it becomes clear that
the arguments for distinctiveness derive from theoretical preference rather than from the
empirical nature of these societies. The basic premise implied rather than explicit is
that stratification in these societies is based on cultural criteria and not on the political
economy (cf. Benedict 1970). Part of the problem stems from the well-known fact that
while racially plural societies are characterized by both racial and economic cleavages, the
boundaries do not precisely coincide (Kuper 1971: 599). Plural society theory, then,
chooses to stress the structure and the mode of differential incorporation over and above
the economic structure and their historical and processual relatedness. The power derived
through political and economic institutions is crucial in shaping the relations among racial
groups at all historical points.
The argument in favour of distinctive characteristics is also related to the objective -
subjective theoretical polarization so often encountered in studies of social stratifica-
tion. Ideology and values, viewed as subjective, are given primacy, and this leads to the
supposition that the normative principles (ideology and values) reflect the objective. This
is clearly not the case: "Ideology . is an inverted, truncated, distortion of reality", but
it . has a starting point and foothold in reality (in praxis). or rather to the extent [it
does it is] not altogether false" (Lefebvre, 1977: 256-60). In its generality, this theore-
tical stance taken with respect to plural society is analogous to that taken by scholars like
Fallers (1973) and Dumont (1974) wherein the primacy accorded ideology has led to
arguments (in the case of Dumont) that caste is not comparable to class, and (in the case
of Fallers) that social stratification in the inter-lascustrine region of Africa is empirically
distinct and therefore cannot be viewed in terms of "stratum" or "class". This is not the
place, however, for an ample critique of these points of view. These are old questions and
the relevant critical literature is available (cf. Berreman 1960, 1962 and 1972; Dunning
1972, Runciman 1972; Bourdieu 1978). The point is that the problems encountered in
the study of differentiation in plural societies are not only brought about by what seem
to be faulty conceptualizations of social process in such societies but have their roots also
in an approach to social stratification which is inclined to overlook the relations of pro-
Social stratification should be viewed as a relationship, not as things or categories
(Allen and Smith 1974). The relationship is one of power3 (Dunning 1972: 420), esteem
(or prestige) and reward. Stratification, then, has to be defined structurally and not by
cultural criteria. As such, it is essential that any explanation gives due consideration to
the relation among political, social and economic differentiation in the process of develop-
ment and reproduction of particular systems. It is also essential to be able to move back
and forth from analytical separation and synthesis of variables in order to see how each
functions in the overall process. Each case may in some sense be unique: however, what
we are after in the last instance are generalizations about the relation of process to
The essential cultural nature of the phenotypical aspect of "race" makes it one of
the many sets of symbols employed in fitting individuals in differential structural posi-
tions. "Race" is only one of the many criteria used, and vastly different symbols are at
times used in surprisingly similar ways. Thus George Orwell, in The Road to Wigan Pier,
said that he and his fellow schoolboys, before the First World War, all learned to think
that the working class had a biological propensity to stink. He later referred to this
"class stigma" as comparable to race stigma. The point is that criteria of classification are
at times substitutable; they are distinct, but often overlap, depending on context. This is
not to deny the weight and unique character of visible race in the capitalist economic
systems. I am simply saying that racial differentiation can and should be studied as an
aspect of economic differentiation. To assume, as I do in this paper, that racial pluralism
can be studied under social stratification without special accommodation (Vincent 1974:
376; Runciman 1972: 506) is not to assume that race and class are identical phenomena.
They are coexisting but clearly distinct, and the interaction between them is complex.
The suggestion is, however, that the process of social stratification, while different in its
particularities (i.e., depending on the code of classification employed), is similar in its
generalities. To focus, therefore, on symbolic system, culture, deterministic ideology,
etc., is to lose sight of the concrete institutions which support these symbolic systems.
It is the purpose of this paper to present a historical analysis of stratification in
a plural setting (Hispanics, Blacks, and Anglo-Americans) in Limon, Costa Rica. Initially
all three groups were drawn to this area for the purpose of railroad construction and
later the operation of industrial-scale plantation, the dictates of which effected a particu-
lar form of ranking. Subsequent changes in the plantation system brought with them
changes in the social hierarchy amounting to reshaping of the prestige structure. In
examining the relation between race and social hierarchy, I have focused primarily on
the organization and transformation of the productive system as the specific context
which conditions and gives meaning to the human ranking within it. Inter-racial relations,
perceptions and interpretation of social hierarchy are treated as inseparable from the
concrete relations of production in which they are evaluated.
The argument is advanced that, (1) given the nature of the transformation of
relations between Hispanics and Blacks, and the form that these relations assumed in the
social consciousness under differing conditions, the meaning of "race" as a criterion of social
stratification amounts to no more than one among other such symbols4 directly condi-
tioned by people's position within the productive system; and (2) the relevance of this
case to a critique of the plural theory approach to racial differentiation lies in the fact,
demonstrated here, that race relations and institutional forms do change in relation to
social stratification: a point which counters Smith's (1965: 83) statement that cultural
forms and social stratification vary independently. It is further suggested that in order
to understand how and why particular symbolic complexes are utilized, and what they
mean politically, socially and economically, nothing shot of a study of these symbols
within their concrete historical context will suffice. The argument for a historical
approach is not a new one (cf. Mintz and Price 1976; Plotnicov and Tuden 1970). How-
ever, the particular ethnographic case discussed here forcefully illustrates, once more,
that need. Such an approach may, by throwing some light on factors which condition
the direction of change in social hierarchy, lead in the direction of an emphasis on the
relation of process to structure and away from invidious particularistic distinctions
and theoretical polarizations which tend to portray whole systems as different in kind
when they are different only in degree.
The colonization of the Atlantic Coast
Extending the entire length of the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, the Province of
Limon, though one of the last parts of the country to become populated, is one of its
most important economic regions. It produces 66 per cent of Costa Rica's banana and
83 per cent of its cacao, both of which constitute the principal agricultural export.
The country's main commercial port is located in this area, and handles twice the ton-
nage of both the Puntarenas and Golfito ports on the Pacific coast. The economic main-
stay of the region is agriculture and transportation, though a petroleum processing
plant is located there also. The entire province has suffered in the past 30 years from
one of the country's most momentous problems, unequal regional development. By
comparison with the other provinces, it is still sparsely populated, having approximately
122,400 people comprising Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Chinese. According
to a 1973 estimate, the racial proportions are: 57 per cent Hispanics, 39 per cent Blacks,
3 per cent Native Americans and 2 per cent Chinese, with the proportion of Hispanics
to the rest of the population rising at a rapid rate. The population of the urban centre
and municipal capital, Puerto Limon, is approximately 41,000. The completion of a
highway from San Jos6, the national capital, to Limon in 1975, plus recent government
attention to the development of the area, has spurred renewed economic interest in the
region. As a consequence of the renewed interest there has been a large influx of Hispanics
from the Meseta Central (central plateau) to the region in search of jobs, land and other
Harsh climatic conditions, combined with pirate and Zambo Mosquito5 activities
along the eastern seaboard, delayed the colonization of the coast until the mid-eighteenth
century when the cultivation of cacao was initiated in the Matina Valey. The relatively
small plantations were manned by a few slaves6 while their owners resided in the Meseta
Central where the climate is more hospitable. Around the mid-1860s Limon was decreed
the principal port of the nation. The intention was that it would handle the exportation
of coffee, Costa Rica's main export product. Coffee had been shipped via the Pacific
coast since its entrance on the foreign market Brazil and later Britain in the early
1930s. It was a clumsy and inefficient operation since coffee was grown in the central
highlands and there were no serviceable roads or motorized transportation to facilitate
its journey to the Atlantic.
The rationale for an Atlantic port was a sound one but its plan had to include
provision for an efficient and reliable means of transportation from the coffee-producing
region to the port of exit. After lengthy reflection it was decided that a railroad system
should be constructed. An American, Henry Meiggs, was awarded the contract in 1871.
The execution of the contract fell to Minor C Keith, his nephew, who was later to be
the architect of the United Fruit Company. Following dire financial and logistical diffi-
culties in the first decade of construction, negotiations between Keith and the national
government led to the signing, in 1884, of the famous Soto-Keith contract through
which Keith was granted a 99-year lease on the railroad, some 800,000 acres of land
and other concessions (Stewart 1964: 53-55; Jones 1935: 86-87). The award of this
contract set the basic conditions for the establishment of a colony on the Atlantic sea-
board. However, Keith was faced with the problem of labour supply for railroad construc-
Initially. Costa Ricans from the central highlands attempted to brave the disease-
ridden Atlantic jungle through which the railroad had to be constructed, but, for the
uninitiated, this amounted to suicide. Scores succumbed. The Gaceta Oficial of 11
December 1872 gave notice that all Costa Ricans peones should be withdrawn for health
reasons. Keith was then forced to look elsewhere for labour and this resulted in the im-
portation of West Indians mainly Jamaicans, Chinese and, for a brief period, Italians.
The Italians rebelled against the inhumane working conditions after only a belief period
and some 800 of a total of about 1,500 were repatriated in the late 1880s (Stewart
1964: 67). Many West Indians and Chinese survived, but not without considerable hard-
ships; estimates of lives claimed by the construction of the first 20 miles of railroad
out of Limon run as high as 5,000. With the completion of the railroad in 1889 the
Chinese went into commercial activities while West Indians were to constitute the main
labour force on banana plantations which were established when it was discovered that
coffee alone could not keep the railway profitable.
Costa Ricans who are derogatively referred to by Black as Pcha ventured into
the area for the second time only when health conditions had been greatly improved
and when the plantation was approaching its peak, around 1912. It was not until the
1920s, however, that this group featured significantly in the region, their influx triggered
by, among other things, the drop in the price of coffee and the growing scarcity of land
in the highlands: coffee export had triggered a process whereby peasant farmers were
squeezed out of their holdings (Stone 1976: 90-96; Biesanz 1945: passim). That many
blacks were shifting by this time from wage labour to peasant farming may have con-
tributed to the influx of Hispanics by creating openings in the plantation sector.
The Productive System: Industrial-Scale Plantation
Gray (1941) has defined a large-scale plantation of the antebellum American
South as ". .a capitalistic type of agricultural organization in which a considerable
number of unfree laborers are employed under unified direction and control in the
production of a staple crop" (1941: 444). This type of plantation obviously is the
colonial type. Mintz (1959) has modified this definition to achieve applicability to the
modern large-scale plantation found in Latin America and the Caribbean. He makes
the following qualifications: (1) labour is not unfree, and (2) the modern agro-social
form (as the United Fruit Company was) is of a much magnified scale and intensity of
capitalistic development. This magnification includes a vast increase in capital investment;
the growth of corporate control; the evolution of indirect political influence on a national
and international scale; the freeing of capital from investment in owning labour; and
other related changes (1959: 43-44). The nature of the plantation depends on the type
and scale of the productive forces and the manner by which they are combined within
a particular ecological setting. In this instance, land, labour and capital were the principal
productive forces. Land was granted by the state, and the importation of labour was
made possible through the relaxation of restrictions on the importation of non-whites
(Melendez and Duncan 1977: 87). The historical relationship of the West Indies to the
metropolitan centres was also a significant factor in the movement of labour then, as it is
today. At the time that labour was being recruited for the middle-American plantations
and railroad construction, the West Indian territories in question, and particularly Jamaica,
were already experiencing the dismal after-effects of the slave plantation economies
created by Britain. There was excess labour ready and willing to explore greener fields
abroad (cf. Bryce-Laporte 1962: Chap. 1). In addition, many ex-slaves and their des-
cendants had developed cultural and nationalistic ties with their colonizer, Britain, and
this fact was grasped and used by labour recruiters. American labour recruiters operating
in Jamaica at the time visited churches and spoke from pulpits explaining to prospective
workers that if they went to work for the United Fruit Company they would be serving
Her Majesty's cause. The necessary capital for establishing the plantation was provided
by foreign interests: the company was incorporated in 1899 with capital stock of $20
million (Kepner 1936: 22). Like industrial-scale plantations in other areas of the Carib-
bean (Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico) and Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras, Guate-
mala and Panama most owned by the United Fruit Company) the enterprise produced
a mono-crop destined for the markets of the developed world. Other products such as
cacao, hemp and lumber were later introduced but only as a mere stopgap when banana
production began to decline.
The Social Organization of the Plantation
In considering the social organization of the plantation there are three factors of
immediate importance to the central theme of inequality and structural transformation.
The first is the organization of the productive forces; the second is the relations among
racial groups, viewed as a function of the organization of labour; and the third is the
role of distinctive cultural symbols in the interaction or non-interaction of racial groups
within the context of the plantation, and the type of social hierarchy which developed.
It will be seen that cultural distinctions were consciously manipulated by the owners of
the means of production to the benefit of the enterprise and to the disadvantage of
labour. The plantation, being a capitalistic and labour-intensive enterprise, sought to
maximize its surplus through, among other things, "divisive" organization of labour.
The utilization of foreign labour, then, though at first an ecological necessity, turned out
to be one of the major contradictions in the development of the plantation system and
its ultimate decline.
By the turn of the present century, banana plantation spread throughout most of
the province. Its marketing required efficient transportation and so a network of rail
arteries and secondary tram lines was installed to service the various plantation sections
and individual fields. The specific distribution of centres of population corresponded
to the layout of the plantation and the transportation system. All routes converged on
Puerto Lim6n, the administrative centre. Distribution of personnel was so organized
that those concerned with the day-to-day activities on particular sections lived within
close proximity in what were referred to as "camps". From the standpoint of the daily
production process each camp was semi-autonomous; though receiving directives from
the administrative centre, labour, equipment and supervisory personnel were always
at hand at each section
An Anglo-Saxon (usually American) supervisor headed each camp. His dwelling
was easily distinguished from all others by size, quality of structure, general surroundings
and appearance. Next in order were the foremen or foreman-timekeeper usually, though
not always, Jamaican Coloured.7 Their dwellings, though much better than those of the
average worker, were not of the size, comfort and appearance of those of the supervisor
or overseer. At the bottom of the scale were the labourers. They were housed in "long
camps", large structures with bare undifferentiated rooms or compartments, shared by
several men at a time. Toilet facilities were rudimentary (at times non-existent), over-
crowding was common and health care not easily accessible. In the latter stage of plant-
ation, however, dwellings for labourers were improved, in some cases to facilitate family
Hispanic labourers were effectively separated from Blacks, in dwelling as well as in
working arrangements. At times, these dwellings were located within earshot of each
other, yet their close proximity did not seem to contribute to social mingling, not to
mention mixing. Occupational separation was ensured by an arrangement in which
Spanish workers were employed directly by another Hispanic who was in turn contracted
to the company on a piecework basis. They were, for the most part, confined to brute
labour such as digging drains and opening up new rail lines and new roads.
The hierarchical model which describes the organization of individual sections of
the plantation settlement may be viewed as a microcosm of the organization of settle-
ments in the province as a whole. In the administrative centre, Puerto Lim6n, the or-
ganization of space was an excellent marker of the socioeconomic status and prestige
of its inhabitants. Administrative offices were located on the southeast side of town;
whites resided in an exclusive well-delineated area bordering the northeast coastline,
called "the zone", still a choice residential area today, though few Americans reside
there. Non-whites were forbidden to enter the area unless on special errand, or unless
they were domestic hands. Other groups, such as Germans, Italians and coloured Ja-
maicans most involved in various commercial activities occupied areas toward the
centre of town.
Most West Indians who lived in the town occupied barrios (geographically deli-
neated urban communities) which displayed some amount of national separation; Ja-
maicans were separate from those immigrants from the French Creole-speaking island of
St Lucia. Each non-white group pursued its own life style with minimal mixing with the
others and virtually no mixing with Whites, whether Hispanophone or Anglophone.
Although no figures exist, the elderly agree that the ratio of Whites to Blacks in the
town was far greater than on any individual section of the plantation settlements.
Besides playing one West Indian national group off against another (cf. Kepner
1936: 157-73), maintaining separate dwelling arrangements for Blacks and Hispanics,
having both groups perform separate and different tasks and making no effort to include
Spanish as a second operating language (Kepner), the company seemed to have developed
the practice of using one group to spy on another. J L Williams, an overseer in eastern
Guatemala, observed that ". .. whites could bank on the support of the American Neg-
roes . [who] forewarned the whites of any Jamaican plot" (Kepner 1936: 170). There
is no specific evidence of this practice in Costa Rica but the frequent threats of work
stoppage no doubt made this practice a necessary tool. More importantly, however:
"It was the company's policy to avoid as much as possible putting [Costa Rican] nationals
in high positions because of their divided allegiance in disputes with the national govern-
ment" (1936: 177).
Housing arrangements were by no means simply a matter of convenient accom-
modation. The "house" was a symbol of power, of one's position within the "empire",
to use Kepner's (1935) term. The dynamics of promotions reflect this: an assistant
superintendent of agriculture, for example, once promoted to superintendent, had to
change residence so as to maintain intact the residential hierarchy. It was part of the
incentive and, at the same time, a confirmation of the existing distribution of power.
Social closure was important, and by no means was it confined to residential
arrangement. Leisure activities also ensured this, though on occasions there was racial
mingling, though not mixing, at the frequent baseball games. Yet the fact that middle-
level Coloured employees and dependents established their own club called variously
the Black-White Club or Brownman's Club and their separate tennis court, suggests
that mingling was confined primarily to one sport, baseball. This type of marked racial
interaction seems comparable to similar instances in the United States where athletic
events become the occasion for a type of mixing which is not carried over beyond that
Within the central administrative structure, the colour gradations of employees
reflected the hierarchy. Positions such as accountants, clerks and telegraph operators,
foremen, and timekeepers were held by Coloured Jamaicans, though not exclusively.
But plantation foremen, after the 1930s, were increasingly drawn from among dark-
skinned Jamaicans. The increase in the number of dark-skinned foremen appears to
have been instrumental; it was attributed to the early decline of production, due partly
to the reverberations of the Great Depression. The year 1930 saw severe retrenchment
in spite of the promises of the company to expand, contingent on the negotiation of a
favourable contract with the government granting it added concessions. A favourable
contract was obtained, yet Ezequiel Guitierrez, the treasurer of the municipality of
Limon, observed in a complaint about the deteriorating conditions in the province:
The United Fruit Company is taking in its sails.
Already it has laid off many employees and it is now
announcing that effective November 1st 
many overseers will be laid off and their work handled
by Negro foremen . .(Kepner and Soothill 1935:
Below the white owners, however, the structure was clearly gradational, a fact
which in itself conditions relationships in such a manner as to render the inherent contra-
dictions of the plantation system less transparent than would be the case with a strictly
dichotomous structure. Workers at the lower levels found some hope in the visibility
of men of their own colour or race in higher positions. They no doubt felt that with
appropriate preparation their children, if not they themselves, could achieve such heights.
It affirmed, at least in their own minds, the possibility of mobility. Workers could, on
the surface, develop personalized relationships with immediate supervisors they being
of the same racial stock and probably engage in social intercourse outside of the
occupational structure. Some personalized relationships involved deals between foremen
and workers designed to earn extra cash through various arrangements: padding work
time; not recording absences; recording more work than was actually accomplished; etc.
All such relationships stopped short of including white individuals; and only in rare
instances was there mention' of personalized relations involving special favours from
whites to their black immediate 'inferiors'.
The structure of the system may be conceptualized, at one level, as a two-tiered
class hierarchy consisting of White owners and Black and Hispanic workers. At yet
another level of conceptualization we have the worker sector displaying a nonclass hier-
archy; Hispanics shared a lower-level objective structural position with Blacks, but were
collectively evaluated by Blacks as being culturally and racially inferior. Blacks were
differentiated too, primarily on the basis of colour gradations and occupational ranking.
Light-skinned individuals formed a buffer between Whites and the large mass of dark-
skinned workers. The various levels, however, were not as monolithic as they may seem
at first glance. There were instances of dark-skinned individuals in positions normally
held by Coloureds. It should be pointed out that Coloureds did not fill the positions
they did merely because of their light skin. These positions were filled mainly on the
basis of educational requirements. As it happened, however, most Jamaicans with the
necessary educational skills to fill middle-level positions were, by reason of the particular
history of the emergence of class-colour relations in their home society, those of lighter
skin colour (cf. Braithwaite 1971; Henriques 1953; R T Smith 1970). Nor was the lower-
level dark-skinned sector monolithic outside of the occupational structure; there were
those who, in spite of their low position on the job, enjoyed a respectable and influential
standing in social as well as religious endeavours.
Perception and Evaluation of the Social Hierarchy
In spite of the low socioeconomic position of West Indians vis-a-vis Anglo-Americans
and other whites, and in spite of the structural equality between them and Hispanics,
they, in very explicit terms, regarded themselves as superior to Hispanics. Four sets of
factors are of significance in explaining the superior position in which West Indians placed
( i) Being largely of Jamaican provenance, most Blacks accepted the British
ideology of cultural and national superiority. Their self-definition relied
heavily on assimilated British values, and therefore anyone who did not
share this identity in any form was inferior.
(ii) The primitive level of socioeconomic development of the Atlantic coast was
used as the measure by which Costa Rican development was judged. Most
had no objective knowledge of life in other areas of the country; from their
standpoint the only reference was Jamaica.
(iii) Costa Ricans working in the plantation zone were drawn from the growing
group of proletarians and recently disfranchised peasantry. They therefore
represented the lowest socioeconomic stratum of Costa Rican society. West
Indians, uninformed as they were about the rest of Costa Rica, perceived this
stratum as representative of the whole.
(iv) West Indians, unlike Costa Ricans, spoke a common language with their em-
ployers. Moreover, as a group, they had seniority on the plantation; it was
they, not the Hispanics, who had braved the elements to colonize the area
"when the Hispanics were dying like flies".
Taking the question of language, it has been observed that Costa Ricans were at
the bottom of the social hierarchy primarily because they could not speak the language
of their employers. There is some truth in this. However, it is noteworthy that many
Blacks such as drain diggers and unskilled field hands were in identical occupational
positions. Also, in the later stage of the plantation history Hispanics assumed positions
alongside Blacks at all levels, in some cases even above Blacks, so that while their ob-
jective structural position was similar their subjective position was perceived as markedly
dissimilar. Language was, nevertheless, probably the single most important factor in the
hierarchization, as in the perception, of the structure by Blacks. The importance of
English as a criterion of evaluation is illustrated by the way in which an old friend greeted
me on my second visit to Limon. He said:
Lord, Mr. T, I can't tell you how glad I am to see you
man. You know, it is always a God-given pleasure
to see someone you can speak the Queen's language
This elderly man had worked for the United Fruit Company for over forty years. To him,
and others like him, English was more than just an instrument of communication; it was
among the foremost cultural attributes bestowing prestige. In a word, it was the most
telling symbol of British culture in a country where nationals spoke only the contemptible
"bird language", as they condescendingly referred to Spanish.
The perceived superiority of English, and hence those who mastered it, was inti-
mately tied to their self-image as British subjects. Quince Duncan, a Costa Rican writer
of Jamaican descent, characterized it thus:
To belong to the British empire means not only to be
a member of a multinational and "superdeveloped"
state . but that the idea of the imperial is in itself a
type of religion that developed in the individual
such a concept of loyalty toward the crown, toward
English values, that he becomes incapable of identify-
ing with any other culture. (Melendez and Duncan
But superiority was not expressed only in the attitude toward language and citizenship.
Things such as body odour, and cultural practices such as eating patterns, personal and
domestic hygiene and attire were all brought into play. Blacks built their houses on
stilts, dyed their floors and shined them with brushes of coconut husk, and ate with
knife and fork seated at a table. They claimed that, in contrast, Hispanics allowed their
domestic animals to enter their houses, spat on the floors, and ate wherever and how-
ever they thought convenient. From the point of view of Blacks, the separation was in
terms of strict opposites: civilized versus uncivilized, literate versus illiterate. Mrs. Lewin,
a field hand who began working for the company as early as 1910, spoke of the Spanish
in these terms:
Dey looks to me laik dey wur barberians, laik dey
wud kill and iit piiple datz di wey dey looks . .
Deze piiple wur iliteret and ignorant8 an we wuz
always afreid av dem. If yu goin along de strict an uy
si dem yu waak on di odder said. Dey always kiari
dier kutlas wid dem ...
Blacks prevented their children from associating with those of the Paida consequently
today many of those who were then children complain that if it were not for the pre-
judice of their parents they would have learned to speak Spanish. The separation was
not difficult to maintain since, as mentioned before, the company supported it in the
organization of dwelling facilities.
The clear hierarchization of life on the plantation was cognitively congruent to the
colonial conception of society so familiar to Blacks. There was, nevertheless, one signi-
ficant difference between ranking within the colonial plantation and within the modern capi-
talist plantation society: minimal penetration of the upper hierarchical boundaries was
possible in the latter. But this had both positive and negative effects: it was a distinct
advantage for those individuals few and far between who managed to achieve such
penetration while at the same time it served to hinder full awareness of the relations of
exploitation. The company must have been aware of the fraility of the colonial mind,
for it played one group off against the other with great success, as was evident in the
1934 strike which got almost no support from Blacks. At times, too, Blacks were paid
higher than the Hispanics for similar tasks. The extent of aggressiveness with which such
a separatist policy was pursued by the company is not known. However, it is worthwhile
pointing out that it has been used in instances other than plantation society as a most
effective means of subjugating forced labour (cf. Terray 1975: 94-95).
Occupational and spatial separation and questions of citizenship and national
status merely heightened the sociocultural biases of each group. Objective distinctions,
when seen from a distance, lend themselves, within a competitive milieu, to rather flex-
ible subjective interpretations. Cultural symbols are inherently ambiguous and, therefore,
amenable to manipulation in spite of their objectivity. On special occasions Jamaicans
dressed in their "Sunday best" for males this meant a suit, tie and felt hat; for females
it meant wearing a specially tailored dress, hat and gloves. The fact that the Hispanics
paid no such attention to their attire was testimony to their uncivility. Concerning
drinking habits: it is noted that Blacks got drunk and danced while Hispanics got drunk
and shouted. To Blacks, what the Hispanics did was a wild custom. To the Hispanics,
however, Blacks were not as civilized as they would like others to think. Carlos Fallas
(1975) gives us some indication of what Hispanics thought about this:
They [the blacks] would argue at each other horrify-
ingly, gesticulating like devils; you would think that
they were trying to kill each other . On payday
they would get drunk and make merry with rum ...
They sang wild and monotonous songs, formed in a
circle, clapping their hands and rhythmically stomp-
ing their feet . The fiesta would end with them
like trunks on the ground, a mountain of sweaty
flesh snoring noisily (1975: 134).
Referring to themselves he said: "We also became intoxicated once in a while, and almost
always we were inclined to be sentimental and romantic with rum . ." (1975: 136).
To Hispanics, Blacks were obstreperous, pungnacious and carefree. To Blacks, Hispanics
were wild, savage, ignorant, dangerous and unclean.
The manner in which Blacks viewed Hispanics was in stark contrast to the way
Anglo-Americans were perceived. Culturally, their relationship to Anglo-Americans
was seen as continuous in contrast to the discontinuous relationship with Creoles. Cul-
turally and socioeconomically, Americans were representative of the British, though
not equal to them. The upward path from the common labourer to the White supervisor
was one that Blacks felt they could traverse culturally, if not economically, in the next
generation i.e., their offspring if not in the present.9 Coloureds who held middle
level positions were living symbols of Black hope; and the emulation of Anglo-American
values was a statement of ambition, a recognition of possibilities. Sending one's children
to be educated in Jamaica was the next and crucial step toward achieving those possibili-
ties. The deference paid to Coloureds and Whites was very marked and there is some
indication that there was a display of what has been interpreted as "passive cooperation"
and "identifying with the company" (Melendez and Duncan 1977: 66; cf. also Bryce
Laporte 1962; Kepner 1936; and Olien 1967 for comments on this theme). There seems
no question that there was some degree of loyalty on the part of Blacks, although it is
said of Jamaicans in other parts of Central America that they were so "cocky being
British" that they didn't care for the Americans (Kepner 1936: 169-71). According
to the accounts of informants, this seems not to have been the case in Costa Rica. It is
fair to say, then, that both Coloureds in high positions and Anglo-Americans constituted
the prestige reference group. Blacks saw themselves as having an ever-present obligation
to approximate the values of this group in an effort to improve their own life- chances.
Structural Transformation of the Productive System
At the end of the first decade of this century when the plantation was approaching
its peak, only a few Hispanics were to be found on the Atlantic coast. By the late 1930s,
however, they were present in greatly increased numbers and already occupying middle
level positions. Their influx occurred at a time when an undetermined number of Blacks
were gradually moving to independent farming. This was encouraged by the fact that the
company, on noticing that the production of banana was declining as the cost of pro-
duction increased, thought it best to lease its farms (or sections thereof) to independent
cultivators. The cost of production was to be carried by the primary producer while the
company dictated the method of production. This policy opened opportunities for
Hispanics from the Meseta Central. They could lease and run farms independently.
Moreover, by this time, there were bilingual, clerical company employees who facili-
tated communication. By 1927, Hispanics numbered over 13,000 strong, constituting
approximately 36 per cent of the total population. The early 1930s saw the national
government insisting that Costa Rican nationals be given more employment and in
higher positions (Kepner 1936: 176-78). By 1942, when the last shipment of banana
left the Atlantic coast, Hispanics were prominent in independent farming, plantation, law
enforcement, transportation and, of course, they ran though they may not have con-
trolled the local government. Their heaviest representation was in railway activities
where they constituted 45 per cent of the workforce (Koch 1977: 10). The economy,
however, continued to be controlled by Anglo-Americans; they still owned farms, and
they ran the railroad and an hemp processing plant which together constituted the main
source of employment. Banana cultivation and shipping were gradually transferred to
the Pacific coast, and a few years later the railway company was nationalized.
As transformation proceeded, nationals gained more and more ground in the re-
gion. They filled positions vacated by Americans in shipping, railway, health care and, to
a limited extent, commerce. Blacks were not permitted to accept employment in the
new banana plantations on the Pacific; they were forbidden to migrate outside of the
Atlantic zone. Many left the country in search of employment. The region was becoming
increasingly inhospitable to them for nationals had been strongly protesting, since the
early 1930s, the competition they represented. They were respected for their role in
making the region habitable, but were disliked for, among other things, the advantageous
position they once occupied.
The period 1942 to 1953 may be considered a watershed in the transformation
of the region. The decline and ultimate demise of the plantation meant, for Blacks, a
period of severe hardship between the last shipment of bananas in 1942 and the first op-
portunity for political participation in 1953. Political control of the region by Hispanics
began to crystallize after 1948, the year in which Jose Figueres seized power. In keeping
with certain social reforms designed by his predecessor, Figueres granted Blacks juris-
dictional nationality, a move which was calculated to (and which did) secure Black
support for his party over a long period beginning in 1953. The move was toward in-
strumental incorporation, and it meant, in the long run, no more than token participation
on the part of. Blacks (cf. Sawyers Royal 1974: 187-89). They came fully under Hispanic
control with increasing economic disfranchisement and displacement (cf. Bryce-Laporte
and Purcell, n.d.). Unfamiliarity with the laws of the land coupled with increasing need
for scarce cash caused scores to lose the land that they had cultivated for years to in-
Departure of the prestige reference group meant that all services it previously
owned or controlled now came under the control of Hispanics. The education system,
for example, which Blacks had established on the basis of the Jamaican model, was
replaced over time by the state educational system; Spanish replaced English as the
The transformation of the productive system may be summarised into two basic
( i) Transference of the ownership of the means of production from foreign
enterprise to the state. This was accompanied by increased small-scale pro-
duction by Blacks as well as Hispanics.
(ii) Transference of de facto political control of the region from foreign enter-
prise to the state.
The process was accompanied by significant demographic changes and, in effect, Limon
which was a "closed community"10 under the plantation system became incorporated into
the wider society.
Reaping the benefits of citizenship meant at least partial cultural incorporation.
It became compulsory for Blacks to attend state schools, something they had actively
resisted in the past. The government had long been complaining that the reluctance of
Blacks to allow their children to attend Spanish schools prevented the state from impart-
ing to them Costa Rican sentiments. We are reminded in this regard of Bourdieu's obser-
vation that ". . the symbolic power to impose the principles of the construction of
reality in particular social reality is a major dimension of political power" (1977:
165). In this instance, the system of education intervened between the West Indian and
his world as the principal transmitter of the Hispanic way of life, ultimately a form of
political control. This is not to suggest that acculturation was complete; first-generation
and some second-generation Blacks resisted. From the point of view of the young and
mobile, however, resistance is nothing but a haunting vestige of the "days of superiority".
It creates an unnecessary obstacle to incorporation.
Incorporation, as it is manifested culturally, and as it defines the present position
of one racial group vis-a-vis the other, may be categorized under the rubrics of language,
nationality, marriage pattern and colour, and ideological incorporation.
English, though previously the main symbol of prestige, now has negative prestige
value. This is understandable in the sense that the ability to function within the frame-
work of Costa Rican society requires that the national language be spoken. While the
advantages of bilingualism are recognized in some quarters, it was not until very recently
that it was encouraged in school. As recently as 1976 there were cases of Black teachers
charging students small, unofficial fines for speaking English in school. At times, in lieu
of the fines, students were pinched on the arm as a reminder that English should not
be spoken and as a punishment. It is therefore not uncommon today to find young Afro-
Costa Ricans who are reluctant to speak English. Probably more significant is the fact
that the influence of Spanish is profoundly conditioning the form and content of the
English creole, once identical to that spoken in Jamaica. Today one does not ask, for
example, "How old are you?" but "How much years you have?" a creole translation
of the Spanish? Cuantos anos tiene? Or take the ten-year-old pupil asking the English
teacher, "Do we have to copy the date?" The child asks. Tiicha, wiaf tu koppiar difecha?
The relexification of the English creole is probably one of the best indicators (at this
historical moment) of the acculturative process.
Problematic as the question of Afro-Costa Rican identity might be, as evidenced by
the fact that it was one of the main themes in a 1978 conference on the situation of
Blacks in Costa Rica, the narrower but related question of national identity seems to have
reached a facile resolution at least in the minds of some. In a conversation with a
Black male of about 35 years on my first visit to Limon the question of Jamaican heri-
tage was raised. 1 expressed my understanding that most Afro-Costa Ricans were des-
cendants of Jamaicans. He promptly declared: "I am a Costa Rican." I was to become
very familiar with such arguments for the rest of my stay in the country. Responses to
questions of Jamaican heritage vary from mild hostility and accommodation to nostal-
gia. There are those who, after 50 to 60 years living in Costa Rica, still dream of at least
visiting Jamaica. On the contrary, there are those who have nothing but contempt for a
country their parents once held in such high esteem. For this dissenting group allegiance
to Jamaica can only be an obstacle to being Costa Rican.
There is no question as to where loyalties lie today, and while tales about Jamaica
may have left a warm and lingering curiosity in the minds of many, defence of their
Costa Rican nationality comes easily. During my stay in a small village 1 had to witness a
heated debate between a Jamaican visitor and three Afro-Costa Rican males regarding
the relative merits of identifying with Costa Rica against Jamaica. With the aid of a few
beers, the debate soon turned into a vigorous disputation during which the Jamaican let
slip a few derisive remarks about Costa Rica. The result was a prolonged and bitter
fight ultimately involving other Afro-Costa Ricans who had not been a part of the debate.
Observers, and even the Black policeman who later attempted to settle the matter, agreed
that the Jamaican had it coming to him for mouthing off as often as he had about their
country. Obviously, not all Afro-Costa Ricans would physically defend the country
against an opinionated Jamaican; however, "This is our country," they say, and "it is the
freest country in the world."
Marriage Pattern and Colour
Separation of Blacks and Hispanics in terms of the civility-uncivility dichotomy
prevented social interaction as it certainly did prevent open inter-racial unions. There has
now been a partial reversal of this tendency. Of 217 households sampled. 6.5 per cent of
all unions were racially mixed, and 45.2 per cent of all respondents expressed a positive
predisposition regarding inter-racial alliances. Some Black women expressed the opinion
that "Spanish" men are more helpful economically, and more loving, although one woman
when asked about her "Spanish" husband said: "Lord he is loving you see, but his nose is
cold." Black males favourably disposed to such unions portray "Spanish" females as more
understanding and tolerant, and more encouraging. It is noteworthy that the majority of
such unions involving Black males occur among the more mobile males, though by no
means exclusively so.
Fair skin and European features, traditionally symbols of prestige and status, have
now adopted as their immediate referents the Hispanic image. Fair skin is not only beau-
tiful, it is an asset in upward mobility. A few young women even expressed the desire to
establish unions with "Spanish" males so that their children will have piel claro (clear
skin). Young children, too, have learned to value colour and race. The following comment
by a young Black woman about her 9-year-old daughter is not unique:
She don't like Blacks and I don't know where she get
that idea from. She always asking me in the streets
why is it that Negroes so feo (ugly). The other day
she told me that she wanted a new father (parents are
separated) but not a Negro this time ...
Profound acceptance of Hispanic values does not characterize the entire Black commu-
nity. Recently there has been talk about taking active measures to stem the process of
assimilation, while emphasizing integration as the goal. Yet the advocates of such a move
are for the most part those referred to commonly as the elite Negroes, who find it dif-
ficult to get support at grassroots levels for issues defined in racial and cultural terms.
Ideologically, Costa Rica is a social democratic polity. As such it is an exponent of
the ideology of total incorporation irrespective of racial background through equal
opportunity for all. This ideological stance is predicated on the policlasista concept intro-
duced by Figueres after the 1948 civil war (Ameringer 1978: 102). The idea is that there
should be no separation of the polity other than by class (Bryce-Laporte and Purcell:
n.d.). It is therefore difficult to have a Costa Rican admit that there is racial discrimination
in spite of overwhelming evidence that there is. Many Afro-Costa Ricans subscribe to this
ideology, supporting also the notion that there is equal opportunity at least in employ-
ment and education for all. A successful Black farmer aptly sums it up this way:
If you carry yourself like a decent person and respect
the Spanish you can reach anywhere in this country.
We don't have racial discrimination here, what we have
is social discrimination. I can't mix with a man who
carry himself indecent and don't show any ambition.
The Spanishman feel the same way.
The point of view is borne out by the fact that 69 per cent of the questionnaire
respondents, while agreeing that there is social and colour discrimination against Blacks,
say there is nevertheless equal opportunity at least in education and employment for
those who want to take advantage of it. There is much evidence to support the fact that
this ideology, like all other ideologies, is a distortion of the objective situation, a refrac-
tion rather than a reflection. Yet its supporters readily point to the fact that there is no
racial segregation in residential arrangements, nor is there discrimination against those few
Blacks who have attained "high-level" positions such as director of a local high school.
Many of the more mobile and aspiring Blacks with whom I spoke showed signs of accep-
tance of the dominant idea; they felt that there was always room at the top for the
ambitious. To support this idea they frequently pointed with obvious pride to themselves
and others who have "made it". Acceptance of the ideology bears some similarity to
what Srinivas (1952) has referred to as the strengths of the caste system, i.e., that it co-
opts the dissident group into using the rhetoric of the system in its demands for mobility,
yielding rank to those who support the intricacies of the rank system (Quoted in Caucian
There is much to suggest that acceptance corresponds to an "outside" model of
behaviour in contrast to an "inside" model which is critical of the system. Yet there is no
ignoring such comments from Blacks as: "I have only Spanish friends" or referring to tra-
ditional Blacks cuisine, "that is poor people food" or referring to the attitude of first-
generation and second-generation migrants: "those old people were stupid". Or take the
Black migrant to San Jose who, when in the company of his Hispanic friends, will turn his
head to avoid greeting an old friend from Limon.
Limited possibilities of penetrating the opportunity structure have in recent years
moved a few Blacks into skilled and white-collar positions. In conjunction with such
individuals, most of those who are permanently employed in transportation, port activities
and petroleum processing, etc. in manual labour do regard themselves as middle-class.
Class alliances, then, have begun to emerge and seem, so far, to take precedence over
ethnic alliances. The fact that 82 per cent of Blacks surveyed believe that there is strong
discrimination among Blacks themselves is an indication of the absence of ethnic cohesion
in the face of intra-group class differentiation.
Much more could be said about the social transformation of the society in the face
of the new economic arrangements, but it should be clear already that the changes in the
production system have set in motion a process whereby perception of the socio-racial
structure characterizing the plantation system has been rearranged in the post-plantation
A strict synchronic analysis emphasizing dichotomous categories such as ascribed-
achieved or subjective-objective or a positivist concern with normative structures, while
producing useful insights, has the tendency to grant race per se centrality while slighting
the historical relationship between symbolic evaluation and the organization and relations
of production. The fact that relations between Whites and Blacks on the Atlantic coast
today seem analogous to the White-Black superordinate-subordinate structure found
throughout the New World would, without the historical dimension, lead one to con-
clude that it has always been that way. The present structure of racial cleavages does not,
in itself, suggest that there has been a radical rearrangement. I have argued that this re-
arrangement is based on the changes in the productive system. I would like to clarify and
elaborate on this point.
Had the plantation remained the economic mainstay of the region, the demographic
composition of the workforce and the province in general would, in all likelihood, have
continued to change, resulting, as a consequence of government pressure, in a reversal of
the relative status position of Blacks and Hispanics similar to what occurred as a result of
the relocation. The process would, however, have been much slower. The transformation
of the economy can be attributed to four major factors: over exploitation of soil resources;
expansion beyond technological capability, i.e., fields stretching increasingly far from the
reach of the transportation network; the spread of disease; and the utilization of migrant
versus national labour while at the same time depending on the goodwill of the state.
The last factor seems the most important in explaining the present situation. Local pro-
test against the favoured position granted West Indians prompted the state to pressure the
United Fruit Company into granting more and better positions to Hispanics. A local
newspaper, La Tribuna, of 3 September 1930 carried the following statement-
In its Costa Rica concession of 1930 the United
Fruit Company promises, in filling any position of
office worker, operator, or labourer, to employ a
Costa Rican when in its judgement he possesses
equal ability and capacity with one of another
nationality (Kepner 1936: 178, emphasis in original).
A growing nationalism in the country, beginning around the latter part of the depression,
gave background support to protests directed against United Fruit control of such vast
quantities of national resources, as well as their discriminatory hiring practices favouring
West Indians. Had United Fruit remained on the Atlantic coast the pressure would have
built up, forcing it to pay attention to the demands of national labour at the expense of
foreign labour. In effect, the end result would have been similar to what we find today.
With respect to changes in the social fibre of the area, the reasonable conclusion seems to
be that it was less the ecological and technological factors that were responsible than it
was the contradiction of using foreign labour where local labour might have been used.
Other factors seem to have been mere precipitators.
That it was plantation activity that conditioned racial group relations and social
hierarchy, rather than the other way round, seems quite clear. Yet the role of the prior
historical attitudes of all parties concerned cannot be ignored. The stage was set not in
the post-emancipation plantation system but in the slave plantations. We can therefore
appreciate, in this regard, Engel's statement that materialism opened the way to explain
man's consciousness by his being rather than the other way round (1976; 33). The co-
lonial experience of Blacks as well as Hispanics had established codes of evaluation and
classification of colour, rank and prestige which were only later to be re-enacted within
the modern capitalist plantation system. The perception of race and other cultural fea-
tures in terms of a hierarchy of values was primarily a function of one's position within
the plantation structure. When Blacks were favoured by the owners of the means of pro-
duction they viewed Hispanics as ignorant and uncivilized, too unclean to merit social
intercourse with a superior people. The skin colour of Hispanics being "white" was insuf-
ficient to prevent such an evaluation, a large percentage of Blacks being in structurally
similar position notwithstanding.
As soon as Blacks lost their position of superiority a re-evaluation of Hispanics
followed. Race and other symbols, then, were no more than tools of classification deriving
their meanings from the particular contexts in which they were enacted.
The process by which individuals pursue their material and ideal interests involves
evaluation, formation of strategies and constant modification, allowing for emphasis and
de-emphasis of different aspects of culture or ideology contingent on the individual's
position in relation to the locus of power. Barnett's (1977) analysis of "identity choice
and caste ideology in contemporary South India" provides an excellent example of such
creative strategies. In discussing mobility strategies of an upper non-Brahmin caste he
notes that what is involved is a struggle to be excluded or included in various spheres of
symbolic dominance, emphasizing sub-ideologies while making use of indeterminacy in
defining one's position in or out of particular groups. If Blacks now emphasize aspects
of the dominant ideology through the manipulation of symbols which they formerly
despised, it is because their evaluation of the situation suggests its usefulness.
It is through the analysis of the development and reproduction of whole systems in
time, however, that we can begin to grasp the practical logic of these processes. As it
stands, the relation between ideology and economy still remains mystical. In so far as
ideology remains subjective, economy is conceived as an objective process, and the two
are not made to communicate in the total historical existence. By examining systems
through time we may be able to better understand the relation between the two.
The study of racial differentiation, like the study of social stratification, must take
into account the active pressures of the productive system of which it is a part. It is the
relation of production and the supporting ideology which permit (or constrain) to a
greater or lesser extent the use of particular criteria or symbols, and the way in which
they are employed, in the process of creating and maintaining cleavages. The tendency
to separate class stratification from racial stratification as distinct areas of study can only
prove to be misleading in the short run and counterproductive in the long run. Smith
(1960b) himself noted that racial difference has no intrinsic social significance except
that elaborated in systems of differential political incorporation, economic stratification
and racial segregation (1960b: 774-5; cf. also Kupner 1971: passim). In plural societies,
class and racial stratification are mutually influenced. It can be assumed, then, that the
manner and context in which racial and cultural denotations are used by each group will
be affected by their respective socio-economic strata. In addition since, as this paper
suggests, race relations and institutional forms change in relation to social stratification,
we may find that the degree of change in cultural institutions and race relations is a
function of the rate and distance of social mobility. Further, instead of violent change
characterizing plural systems it may be that the very desire of the ruling group to main-
tain power will force it to bring about peaceful change through incorporation, thereby
pacifying dissident cultural groups while keeping its own position of power and the over-
all structure intact.
1. By "plural society" 1 mean simply a society constituted by distinct racial groups. The use of
the term should not be taken to be an acceptance of the definition offered by M.G. Smith.
Throughout the paper 1 use the phrase "racial group", recognizing the important distinction
made between, on the one hand, race and ethnicity, and on the other hand, ethnic group and
minority group. For an explication of these distinctions see Vincent (1974), and for critiques
of the plural society theory, see Leon and Leon (1977), Braithwaite (1960). Bryce-Laporte
(1967), Despres. (1968). van den Berghe (1973), R T Smith (1970), Berreman (1972), Tuden and
2. For some works which give explicit support to the argument that racial ranking or ethnic stra-
tification cannot or should not be studied under the rubric of stratification in general, see M.G.
Smith (1965a & b: 1969): Cox (1948); Dumont (1974); Fallers (1973). For some works which
argue that racial and ethnic ranking can be properly studied as social stratification see Berreman
(1960, 1962, 1972); Vincent (1974); Dunning (1972) and Runciman (1972).
3. The concept of power employed is opposed to the static institutional concept employed by
functionalists and elaborated and explained by Parsons (1963). Parsons views power as a thing,
"a circulating medium, analogous to money within what is called the political system .. "
(236). It is the "generalized capacity to secure performance of binding obligations by units in
the system of collective organization when the obligations are legitimized . ." (237). With
Parsons, as with other functionalists (Fried 1967: M G Smith 1960a and others, deriving their
notion of power from Max Weber), power rests on legitimacy. These writers do not discuss
power in relational terms, i.e., as a function of position within social and economic hierarchy,
and taking into consideration the dynamics of power acquisition and maintenance by utiliza-
tion of indeterminacy and ambiguity within ideology, itself an essential element of legitimation.
The point is that in my view power is not static and institutional and does not rest on legiti-
4. Cohen (1976) has discussed in some detail the use of symbols in the structure of power rela-
tions. Symbols, he argues, tend to be grouped together with dynamic ideologies that are deve-
loped and carried by specific groupings. They objectify relations and roles and give form and
content to a constantly changing social life. As Berger and Luckman (1967) observed:
. societies are constructions in this face of chaos. The
constant possibility of anomic terror is actualized whenever
the legitimations that obscure the precariousness are threat-
ened ... (121).
Probably one of the most vivid examples of the role of symbols in the classification of social
life is given by Godelier (1975), where he shows the homologous relationship between the kin-
ship classification and principle in the function of symbols for the classification of human
groups is similar to the function of symbols in the demarcation of strata. Sets of symbols
objectify, identify and legitimize the differential strata. Levi-Strauss notes that totemic symbols
are, like all ritual symbols, the points of ideological reference that each individual uses as a
guide (1971: 111).The use of symbols in stratification conform to the same general principles;
they separate and classify, objectifying cleavages that might otherwise be difficult or impossi-
ble to perceive collectively.
5. The Zambo Mosquitos are a group consisting of interbred Amerindians and escaped slaves who
occupied the Atlantic coast of Central America during the colonial period. For further informa-
tion on this group see Floyd (1967).
6. It has been said that there may have never been more than about 200 slaves in Costa Rica at
any one time. Following on the emancipation decree promulgated into law in 1824, only 89
persons were freed. The reason for the small number of slaves lies in the fact that Costa Rica
lacked mines and large scale agriculture during the colonial period. It was only in the later part
of the 17th century that slaves for other than personal chores were used. They were employed
in cacao plantations in Matina. Another reason is that slaves frequently escaped to join the
Zambo Mosquitos who occupied the Atlantic coast (cf. Bryce-Laporte (1967); Melendez and
Duncan (1977); Floyd (1967); and Melendez, (1977); M. Olien (1967).
7. The colour categorizations employed in Jamaica in classifying individuals and in the allocation
of honour and prestige were transplanted in Costa Rica during the plantation epoch. The term
"Coloured" as used here refers to fair-skinned Jamaicans variously called "brown-man", "red-
man", "high coloured", or even "red niega". For more on this and its role in stratification,
see Edward Braithwaite (1971); Henriques (1953); M G Smith (1965a).
8. The terms "illiterate" and "ignorant", as used by Jamaicans in Costa Rica, require explanation.
The meaning of "illiterate" is not confined to the dictionary definition, i.e. ignorant; uneduca-
ted; unable to write. The term's denotative meaning corresponds to the dictionary definition,
but the connotative meaning takes us wide afield. The connotation of illiteracy is to be "uncul-
tured", uncouth and even lacking certain moral qualities, such as honesty and human decency.
There is a logical fit between the importance given education and the meaning of illiteracy.
Education is highly valued and besides being perceived as the main means of social mobility,
it is also that which renders the individual a complete social and moral being. The person who
publicly violates social decorum may be brushed off with "you no see him illiterate" meaning,
he knows no better. This is quite besides whether the individual is able to read or not. An un-
friendly person may be regarded as "illiterate" or "uncivilized". The term "ignorant" carried all
the above connotation; however, its specific difference lies in its use to refer to someone who
is boisterous, does not control his temper and is publicly disrespectful. In psychological terms,
the ignorant loses superego control to opt for immediate gratification of unrestrained urges; he
behaves "like an animal". Full human qualities, then, depends on being literate and knowledge-
able. As one prominent elderly man said, "I have to agree with Shakespeare; ignorance is a curse
of God. Knowledge is the wings on which we fly to heaven."
9. Although most blacks felt that through education they (or rather their children) could achieve
positions similar to those held by Coloureds or Whites, there were those who felt that certain
positions were a given for Whites and not for Blacks. A Black conductor on the train realizing
that the young man with whom he was speaking was a student at a seminary said, "Boy a weh
yaa faam, a weh yaa play, a pries' yu waan tun? Pries' no fe yu bway pries' a fe white man."
One is reminded of the maidservant in the film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? saying to
John's newly found white girlfriend (whom she has served all her life), "I jus' doun' like to see
nobody belonging to my face getting above demself".
10. 1 use the phrase "closed community" to refer to the plantation primarily for two fundamental
reasons: First, the opportunity structure permitted limited movement and was constituted only
on plantation activities, i.e., there was no alternative to the plantation. Further, all amenities
and services such as utilities, transportation, health care, etc., were controlled by the plantation
owners; Secondly, Blacks were prohibited from travelling to or seeking employment in other
areas of the country. The term as used is therefore not in keeping specifically with the popular
distinction drawn between "open" and "closed" communities by Wolf (1957) which holds that
closed communities are the product of the dualization of society into a dominant entrepreneurial
sector and a dominated sector of native peasants (P.B.).
Allen, Shelia and Christopher Smith 1974 "Race and Ethnicity in Class Formation: A Comparison of
Asian and West Indian Workers", in Frank Parkin, (ed.) The Social Analysis of Class Structure
London: Tavistock Publications.
Ameringer, Charles D. 1978 Don Pepe: A Political Biography of Jose Figueres of Costa Rica, Albu-
querque: University of New Mexico Press.
Barnett, Steve 1977 "Identity Choice and Caste Ideology in Contemporary South India", in Janet L.
Dolgin, David S. Kumnitzer and David M. Schneider, (eds.) Symbolic Anthropology: A Reader
in the Study of Symbols and Meanings, New York: Columbia University Press.
Berger, Peter and Thomas Luckman 1967 The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Socio-
logy of Knowledge, New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
Berreman, Gerald D. 1960 "Caste in India and the United States", The American Journal of Sociology
1962 "Caste, racism and 'Stratification' ", Contribution to Indian Sociology, VI (Dec:
1972 "Race, Caste, and Other Invidious Distinctions in Social Stratification", Race
13:4, pp. 385-414.
Biesanz, John and Mavis 1945 Costa Rican Life, New York: Columbia University Press.
Braithwaite, Edward 1971 The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica: 1770-1820, Oxford:
Braithwaite, Lloyd 1960 "Social Stratification and Cultural Pluralism", in Vera Rubin (ed.) Social and
Cultural Pluralism in the Caribbean. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 83, pp.
Bryce-Laporte, Roy S. 1962 Social Relations and Cultural Persistence (or change) Among Jamaicans in
A Rural Area of Costa Rica. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Ange-
1967 "M.G. Smith's Version of Pluralism The Questions it Raises", Comparative Studies
in Society and History 10, pp. 114-20.
and Trevor Purcell n.d. "A Lesser Known Chapter of African Diaspora: West Indians in
Costa Rica, Central America", Ms.
Caucian, Frank 1976 "Social Stratification", Annual Review of Anthropology 5, pp. 227-248.
Cohen, Abner 1976 Two Dimensional Man: An Essay on the Anthropology of Power and Symbolism
in Complex Society, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Cox, Oliver C. 1948 Caste, Class and Race, New York: Doubleday.
Depres, Leo A 1968 "Anthropological Theory, Cultural Pluralism, and the Study of Complex Socie-
ties", Current Anthropology 9, 3-24.
Dumont, Lewis 1974 Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications, Chicago: University
of Chicago Press.
Dunning, Eric 1972 "Dynamics of Racial Stratification: Some Preliminary Observations", Race 13, 4,
Engels, Frederick 1976 Anti-Duhring Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science), Peking: Foreign
Fallas, Carlos Luis 1975 Mamita Yunai, San Jos6, Costa Rica, Lehman S.A.
Fallers, Lloyd 1973 Inequality: Social Stratification Reconsidered, Chicago: University of Chicago
Floyd, Troy S. 1967 The Anglo-Spanish Struggle for Mosquito, New Mexico: University of New
Fried, Morton 1967 The Evolution of Political Society: An Essay in Political Anthropology, New
York: Random House.
Iurnival, J.S. 1948 Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands
India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gazeta Oficial (11 December 1872). San Jose, Costa Rica.
Godelier, Maurice 1975 "Modes of Production, Kinship and Demographic Structures", in Maurice
Bloch (ed.) Marxist Analysis and Social Anthropology, London: Malaky Press.
Jones, Chester Lloyd 1935 Costa Rica and Civilization in the Caribbean, Madison: University of
Kepner, Charles D. 1936 Social Aspects of the Banana Empire, New York: Columbia University Press.
and Jay Henry Soothill 1935 The Banana Empire: A case Study in Economic Imperialism,
New York: Vanguard Press, Inc.
Koch, Charles W. n.d. "Jamaican Blacks and Their Descendants in Costa Rica", Ms.
Kroeber, Alfred 1930 "Caste", Encylopedia of Social Sciences, III, pp. 254-257a.
Kuper, Leo 1971 "Political Change in Plural Societies", International Social Science Journal, 4,
Lefebvre, Henri 1977 "Ideology and the Sociology of Knowledge", in Janet L. Dolgin, David S. Kem-
nitzer, and David M. Schneider (eds.) Symbolic Anthropology: A reader in the Study of Symbols
and Meanings, New York: Columbia University Press.
Le6n, Madeline Barbara and William Le6n 1977 "The Utility of Pluralism: M.G. Smith and Plural
Theory", American Ethnologist, 4, pp. 559-575.
Levi-Strauss, Claude 1971 El Totemismo en la Actualidad, Breviarios del Fondo de Cultura Econo-
Melendez, Carlos 1977 Costa Rica: Tiera y Poblamiento en la Colonia, San Jose: Editorial Costa Rica,
and Quince Duncan 1977 El Negro en Costa Rica San Jose: Editorial Costa Rica.
Mintz, Sidney W. 1959 "The Plantation as a Socio-Cultural Type", in Plantation Systems of the New
World, Pan American Union, pp. 42-53.
Olien, Michael 1967 The Negro in Costa Rica: The Ethnohistory of an Ethnic Minority in a Complex
Society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Microfilms.
Parsons, Talcott 1963 "On the Concept of Political Power", Proceedings of the American Philosophi-
cal Society, 107, 3, pp. 232-62.
Plotnicov, Leonard and Tuden, Arthur (eds.), Comparative Social Stratification, Pittsburgh: University
of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 43-76.
Runciman, W.G. 1972 "Race and Social Stratification", Race 13, 4, pp. 479-510.
Sawyers Royal, Kathleen 1977 "Participacidn Politica del Negro Limonense: Un Esbozo Historico",
in Carlos Melendez and Quince Duncan. (El Negro en Costa Rica, San Jose: Editorial Costa
Rica, pp. 218-28.
Smith, M.G. 1960a Government in Zazzau, 1800-1950, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
1960b "Social and Cultural Pluralism", Annals of the New York Academy of Science 83,
S1965 The Plural Society in the British West Indies, Berkeley: University of California
1969a "Institutional and Political Conditions of Pluralism", in Leo Kuper and M.G. Smith
(eds.). Pluralism in Africa, Berkeley abd Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 27-65.
1969b "Some Developments on the Analytical Iramework of Pluralism", in Pluralism in
Africa, pp. 415 458.
Smith, Raymond T. 1970 "Social Stratification in the Caribbean". in L. Plotnicov and A. Tuden,
(eds.), Comparative Social Stratification,Pittburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 43-76.
Stewart, Watt 1964 Keith and Costa Rica: A Biographical Study of Minor C. Keith New Mexico:
University of New Mexico Press.
Stone, Samuel 1976 La dinastia de los Conquistadores: La Crisis del poder in la Costa Rica Contem-
poranea Editorial Universitaria Centro Americana (I-DUCA).
Terray, Lmmanuel 1975
Tuden, Arthur and Leonard Plotnicov 1970"Introduction". In Social Stratification in Africa, Leonard
Plotnicov and Arthur Tuden. (eds.) New York: Free Press, pp. 1 -29.
van den Berghe, Pierre L. 1973 "Pluralism". in John Honigman,(ed.), Handbook of Social and Cultural
Anthropology Chicago: Rand McNally. pp. 957 972,
Vincent, Joan 1974 "The Structure ol Ethnicity". Human Organization. 33, 4. pp. 375 -79.
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Journal of Anthropology 13. 1, pp. 1 -18.
and Sidney W. Mintz 1957 "Haciendas and Plantations in Middle America and the Antilles",
Social and Economic Studies, 6, pp. 380-412.
PLURALISM AND THE GUYANESE INTELLIGENTSIA
J. G. LAGUERRE
"The gestation, birth and continuing life of the new
states of Asia and Africa through all their vicissi-
tudes, are in large measure the work of intellectuals.
In no state formations in all of human history have
intellectuals played such a role as they have in those
events of the present century".1
While this generalization by Edward Shils is undoubtedly exaggerated since it discounts
the role of labour organizations the anti-colonial struggle, it is nevertheless a fair assess-
ment of one phase in the anti-imperialist movement since Pan Africanism and the termi-
nal phases of anti-colonial agitation were periods dominated by the colonial intelligentsia.
Of course, a natural responsibility devolved on the intelligentsia in the contest of colonial
Almost alone in the colonial society the intelligentsia still cherished revolutionary
perspectives. No indigenous military class existed and few of the existing groups had
either the independence or the inclination to embark on a concerted struggle against the
colonial power. But, most importantly, it was the intelligentsia which, because of its
command of the culture, language and philosophy of the colonial power, was to challenge
colonial rule on its own premises. It is the recognition of factors such as these which
has led Shils to assert that the new states are largely the achievement of the colonial
intelligentsia. "It was the intellectuals," he proclaims. "on whom in the first instance,
devolved the task of contending for their nation's right to exist, even to the extent of
promulgating the very idea of the nation. The erosion of the conscience and self-confi-
dence of the colonial powers was in considerable measure the product of agitational
movements under intellectual leadership. The impregnation of their fellow countrymen
with some incipient sense of nationality and of national self-esteem was to a large extent
the achievement of intellectuals, both secular and religious. The intellectuals have created
the political life of the underdeveloped countries; they have been its instigators, its
leaders and its executants."2 Thus, for Shils, the colonial intelligentsia made its major
contribution to the definition and sustenance of the idea of the nation-state. Because of
training, an assimilated culture and lack of vocational opportunities, he argues, the in-
telligentsia was able to transcend the limitations of tribe, caste and region; and even
when seduced by tribal attachments the intelligentsia sought refuge in a nationalism
embracing the nation-state.
Implied in this view of the intelligentsia is the idea that in some ways it was a group
apart from the society, almost, one might say, hovering above it;and from this presumably
neutral position, analysing and prescribing for the societies above which they stood. In
some societies the nationalism of the intelligentsia as the champions of the nation-state
was obvious. In others, what passed for nationalism was on closer inspection effectively
the interests of a group or tribe. This explains the spectacle of so many disparate groups
claiming to be "nationalist". Indeed, in what may be termed 'plural societies' there was
always an element of ideology concealing group interest in the movement known as
nationalism. This analyses of nationalist movements in countries of the Caribbean, and
particularly in Guyana or Trinidad and Tobago, must relate to the nature of the social
structure and the groups associated with it. For plural societies are those which are at
best a collection of disparate groupings held together by a metropolitan power or some
other dominant minority. The groups or sections which make up the plural society do
practise separate institutions although the forces of development do impose with time
some common ones. Yet, in the main, groups are so limited in and restricted by their
social structure that nationalism becomes a game: a scramble by various groups for
social and political power but invoking the name of society or nation in its pursuit.
Even the intelligentsia in such societies finds it difficult to resist the force of gravity of
ethnicity. For this reason, a pluralist approach to ideology in plural societies offers the
best hope of coming to terms with reality. The aim of this article is to demonstrate that
even at a critical juncture the disturbances of the 1930s and the visit of the Moyne
Commission the ideology of the intelligentsia must be seen as an expression of group
The term "intelligentsia" in the context of a colonial society requires a certain de-
gree of modification. In societies with a longer and more settled tradition of higher educa-
tion, the intelligentsia was the product of universities or equivalent institutions. In coloni-
al societies without universities or institutions of higher learning what came to be regarded
as the intelligentsia was often a social category which included the occasional university
graduate, the merely literate, the letter-writers, the occasional orator or the newly re-
turned visitor to the metropolis. In the context of colonial society the intelligentsia is
best defined in functional terms. As intellectual will accordingly be identified by a con-
cern for the criticism, transmission and evaluation of the principles on which a society
is to be governed.3
The Moyne Commission did raise some of the more fundamental questions relating
to colonial rule. It posed, even if it did not elaborate, a near philosophy of British colo-
nialism. It enquired into race relations within the British empire, raised questions which
struck at the heart of doctrines of trusteeship, looked at the justice of further consti-
tutional advance and offered far-reaching recommendations. For this reason it drew an
important response from those who may justly be regarded as the colonial intelligentsia.
The intelligentsia, of course, in a situation of "backwardness" such as existed in colonial
society represented a minority. Yet they constituted an elite; and as an intellectual elite
their memoranda to the Moyne Commission articulated the aspirations and sentiments
of major sections in the society. In relatively homogeneous societies the intelligentsia
speak of national interests and articulate national aspirations. In plural societies the
intelligentsia is confined to an original cultural habitat even when they employ a
nationalist vocabulary. This is because national standards are absent, "broker" institu-
tions are deficient and the pressures on the intelligentsia to act as spokesmen of groups
from which they have sprung particularly strong.
M. G. Smith was right to warn that in any assessment of ideologies and nationalist
movements one must take note that:
Those structural conditions of the social context
which generate the movement also govern the re-
cruitment of its leaders and the character and com-
position of its supporters and its opposition, the
strategies, or organisation and ideology of the con-
traposed groups, their divergent orientations and
relative positions in subsequent affairs.4
Discussions of pluralism in the Caribbean have in the main been about the nature
of Caribbean society, its principles of integration and the directions in which changes
were to be expected. Accordingly, disputes have centred on questions such as the pri-
macy of culture, the importance of institutions, racial differences and the triumph
or failures of assimilationist policies.5 Yet, whatever the individual emphases may have
been, pluralism was a "theory" or "framework" for a society as a whole. It is the purpose
of this article to focus instead on a group the intelligentsia as they reacted to a
critical phase in the history of a plural society. It will emerge that the Guyanese intel-
ligentsia on the more basic issues were trapped by their several cultural milieus and were
therefore unable to come up with a truly national programme. What was offered as a
national programme was in fact the ideology of one group or the other.
Early studies of the society and politics of Guyana were almost exclusively under-
taken by researchers attached to the Institute of Social and Economic Research of what
was the University College of the West Indies. Most of the early analysts were expatriate
scholars who brought with them the tools, assumptions, prejudices and, at times, the
hopes of the societies from which they came. A typical analysis in this respect is no
doubt R. T. Smith's pioneering study, British Guiana, (London, 1962). This work is
undoubtedly an attempt to apply Marxist analysis to a colonial society. Yet Smith was
forced to observe that:
". .. a very elaborate system of perception of ethnic
differences does exist in Guyanese society and what
makes it particularly complex is the way in which
criteria other than physical appearance enter into
the process of social identification".6
Smith, writing of the election of 1961, points to the capture of 2,932 votes by John
Fernandes against Burnham's 3,570 in Central Georgetown as "yet another indication
of the fact that race is not the only consideration in Guianese politics".7 Smith argues
that the East Indians are more identifiable because of their recent absorption into the
society. Of the Negro Smith writes:
There has been so much intermixture of Negroes
with other races that the ethnic boundaries are
often difficult to define and such African culture
as survives is very marginal to the everyday life of
Smith was nevertheless aware that Negroes strove towards "whiteness" in word and
deed and tended to look down on East Indians.9 For him East Indian emphasis on "our
Indian culture" was really an expression of a desire to be treated on equal terms. Yet,
as Smith himself concedes, in connection with the "Back to Africa" fraud:
It is easy enough to condemn the leaders of a new
church for obtaining money under false pretences,
and there was never any real possibility that the
return to Africa would materialize, but the fact that
such a movement could spread so rapidly and mobi-
lize so much zeal among quite sober and respectable
people shows the extent of the latent forces waiting
to be released.1
Smith concludes his study on an optimistic note:
There is no problem of 'tribalism' in British Guiana;
although each ethnic group tends to preserve a
residue of cultural peculiarities and to exaggerate
their importance, the whole society shares in a com-
mon cultural equipment which can serve as the basis
for unity, as the foundation for creativity and future
According to Smith, then, Guyanese society possessed a "common cultural equip-
ment". Yet this evidence for such a comforting assumption is slender. Thus, while Smith
is aware of what he describes as "a residue of cultural peculiarities", he is confident
that the combined forces of colonial rule, capitalism and assimilation would produce
a society stratified on "class" lines.
Writing several years later on the occasion of Guyana's accession to independence,
Smith was still confident that a slightly modified conception of "class" was the decisive
factor in the analysis of places like Guyana.12 On the one hand there is a mass of un-
employed and semi-employed. On the other lay a middle class, a "high income sector",
which, while divided into ethnic groups, clubs and cliques was, writes Smith, ". . all
very much alike; they can and do visit each other's homes and know how to behave;
they talk about very much the same things and think in much the same way".13. Thus,
for Smith, economic development was producing common classes with common interests.
It seems therefore that real conflicts within these
societies are going to arise over class interests on the
one hand and over competition for power on the
other and are likely to involve alignment with outside
forces. While ethnicity may be invoked and even
perceived as the major cleavage, it might be an
expression of different bases of conflict.14
What is at issue here is the old distinction between "true" and "false" consciousness,
between "objective" interests and "subjective" ones so familiar in Marxist discussions. In
the context of what seems a perennial debate one can do no more than point out that
the crucial question is how interests are perceived. For it is on the basis of their per-
ception that policies will be proposed and executed.
Warning against interpretations of Guyanese politics in terms of "race", Smith
cites the Marxist credo:
To interpret what happened in the past as an ex-
pression of a fundamental social division between
'African' and 'Indian' sections is to ignore the con-
flicts of interest over economic questions and the
effect of alignment with outside forces and interests.
It also ignores the role played by other elements
in the society which are interested in maintaining
some of the basic structural features of creole society.
The fact that political party loyalties have been allow-
ed and even encouraged to cystallize along racial lines
represents a regression to the normative order of colo-
nial creole society . .5
Thus, for Smith, economic interests, external forces and local elements are the
villains of the Guyanese tragedy. How these interests can override, distract and triumph
over Marxist dicta are questions hardly posed, let alone answered.
In his study of social conflict on two communities on a Guyanese plantation the
Ceylonese anthropologist. Jayawardena, though Marxist in his approach, found that
ethnic differentiation was a major line of cleavage. He noted:
As Indians, the group is concerned with maintaining
Indian culture and resisting wholesale creolization.
The recognition of cultural differences creates stereo-
types about the nature and actions of the "coolie"
and the "blackman". Ethnic conflict occurs in
terms of criticism, ridicule and invidious com-
parison of these stereotypes.16
Yet the passage of Guyana to independence was marked by widespread arson, violence
and deaths, and the subsequent establishment of a Ministry of Education and Race Re-
Jayawardena was, however, confident that technical and economic developments
were rapidly changing the internal structures of groups and altering race relations in
the society as a whole. He observed that among East Indians:
A tendency to depreciate the traditional culture is
becoming common among the plantation Indians
themselves, chiefly among upwardly mobile elements.
It is to be expected, therefore, that the traditional
culture will be found mainly among those of low
status, i.e. the labourers. High-status Indians are more
creolized: many are Christians, and very few partici-
pate in traditional ceremonies and rituals. Neverthe-
less, high-status Indians maintain their affiliation
with the Indian group to a point.'
In his analysis of Guyana following the 1962 disturbances, Newman ascribes a
major role to the legacy of the plantation in creating a "creole bourgeoisie" dedicated
to the status quo. He notes the break-up of the East Indian and Negro working-class
opposition to colonial rule. In its place, he writes, has emerged, ".. the mean alliance
of the urbanized negro proletariat with the urban multiracial bourgeoisie, and on the
other the greater cohesion between East Indian estate workers and rice farmers".
In his conclusion Newman laments:
The coming together of the two sections of the
creole society on the one hand, and of the East
Indian society on the other, has increasingly produced
a clear split down the middle of Guyanese life,
polarising a society which was otherwise slowly
moving towards integration.
For Newman, then, the "creole bourgeoisie" had driven a wedge between the East
Indian and Negro working class and so prevented their subsequent integration around
national issues and interests.
Thus, for the Marxist-oriented analysts, Guyanese society had already been inte-
grated to the point where classes and class interests were in existence and where a "com-
mon cultural equipment" had emerged. Such outbursts of ethnic rivalries as occurred
were attributed either to the machination of external influences or to the tactics of
"divide and rule" by the "creole bourgeoisie" dedicated to the status quo.
Writers of a pluralist persuasion contend, however, that analyses such as these
assume too much consensus and exaggerate out of all proportion instances of co-operation
between the various segments of Guyanese society.19 For the pluralists, the institutions
of Guyanese society were the crucial factors in the relations between and among the
various cultural segments. For Despres, for instance, cultural differences provide the
framework. Yet one cannot a priori take either consensus or conflict as a point of de-
parture. It is in the practice of institutions and policies that the clue to social and political
behaviour must be sought. Despres writes:
S. there can be little doubt that cultural pluralism
provides fertile soil for the growth of particularistic
forces. It is also evident that such forces can become
serious obstacles to the achievement of politico-
cultural integration in new nations where colonial
powers have been removed from governmental
structures. However, the relative degree of integration
present in the plural society is not something that
can be assumed or defined apart from empirical
considerations. Nor can it be assumed that maximal
cultural sections, because of their different values,
are incompatible and conflict-producing in terms of
the transactions that occur between their respective
In short, practice and the necessities it imposes are the standards by which we must
judge the Guyanese experience. This was in essence the body of theoretical knowledge
which by the 1960s attempted to give an explanation for the dynamics of Guyanese
This literature was principally concerned to explain the tragedies which preceded
the passage of Guyana to independence, yet its relevance to other crisis periods in
Guyanese history is unquestionable. The 1930s, like the 1960s, had shaken the society
at its very foundations. In both cases, they were to lead to reappraisal, articulation of
grievances and prescriptions. In both, the intelligentsia analysed and prescribed. For
these reasons it is the contention of this paper that the submissions of the intelligentsia
to the Moyne Commission are best understood by reference to the two competing
"schools", namely the assimilationistt" represented by the Marxist and liberal models
on the one hand, and the "pluralist" represented by writers such as Despres.
The Manpower Citizens Association in its memorandum of evidence to the Moyne
Commissioners felt that it was near impossible to preclude discussions of political matters
since in their opinion the source of their social and economic problems lay in the in-
stitution of Crown Colony Government. The dominant leadership of the Association
was understandably Indian. 21 This was because, as a result of indentureship, the work-
force on the sugar plantations was largely East Indian; and, as with so many segments of
a plural society, leadership and base tended to coincide in racial composition. Thus, in
plural societies, organizations and political parties tended to be led by leaders of a culture
and "race" corresponding to that of the rank and file. In the opinion of the Association
the overseers in Guyana were "the unhappiest lot of Brain workers in the world", and
illiteracy was the chief obstacle to the development of trade unionism. Since communi-
cation was crucial to organisation, according to the Association, it was impossible for
workers to elect their own representatives and therefore they had to depend on the
charity of the state or the bourgeois representatives to plead their grievances. To the
Commission they therefore recommended adult suffrage, an elected majority in the
legislature, abolition of the financial qualification for representatives and proposed that
representatives be paid "as in the United Kingdom".22 The driving force behind Man-
power Citizens Association (MPCA) and its major theoretician was undoubtedly Ayube
Edun. He was editor of the Guiana Review, of quasi-Marxist leanings and dedicated to
the welfare of the workers. In this sense he must be viewed as a major precursor to
Jagan and Burnham. Yet Edun hardly went beyond a declamation against the "bourgeois
elements" in the Legislative Council. His major preoccupation was the lot of the workers
on the sugar plantations.
The limitations of Edun were not only ideological. There were rather the limitations
of a plural society. In a plural society people looked no doubt at national issues but they
did so from the perspective of their own groups. Where groups were relatively insulated
from one other one's "national" experience was in fact essentially a group experience.
For this reason sugar became the major preoccupation of East Indian leadership. Sugar
was their point of reference.
Perspectives such as these were no doubt structured by the economic arrangements
of the society which limited East Indians to the production of sugar. Yet cultural per-
ceptions of their place and way of life had a great deal to do with the responses of the
East Indian leadership to the malaise of the 1930s. In its memorandum to the Moyne
Commission the "East Indian Intelligentsia" gave its support to East Indian Immigration
into Guyana on the grounds that it would maintain contact with the "culture" and argued
that it would provide employment for Indians and contribute to the overall development
of what was then British Guiana; yet they insisted on their right to maintain a separate
culture and viewed with alarm the disintegrating creolizing tendencies. They lamented:
We claim to be the leaders of thought and public
opinion within our community, and are in a position
to claim that our findings are in complete harmony
with the general viewpoint of the majority of the
East Indian inhabitants of British Guiana . we
view with grave alarm and anxiety, that. cut off
from India for want of direct communication, East
Indians of the younger generation are fast losing
their best natural traits and characteristics, and
are adopting the not very best customs of West
Indians cum Americanism, which disintegrate their
morals and manners.23
They dreaded severance from India and the "not distant possibility when East Indian
girls and boys will mate themselves with boys and girls of the Negro and other races ."24
The "East Indian Intelligentsia" wished particularly to avoid the fate of the Afro-
Guyanese. They wrote:
Above all we certainly desire to avoid the tragic
fate of the Negro Community of the Americas,
which, having been cut off from their homeland
and language, have lost their entity as a race -
thus resolving itself into a serious race problem which
confronts a progressive nation like the United States
of America to attempt to solve.25
The "East Indian Intelligentsia" accordingly was convinced that East Indian in-
terests lay in resistance to the assimilationist tendencies of creole culture. In short,
they viewed their salvation as lying outside the "common cultural equipment" of which
R.T. Smith speaks. True, their reactions suggested that they were resisting fairly evident
trends, but it is also clear what their norms and values represented.
Like the "East Indian Intelligentsia", the Afro-American Association and League
for Coloured Races claimed to speak on behalf of the "Afro-American race."26 They
argued that they had rejected the term "negro" since it was "a mere geographical ex-
pression". The new term "Afro-American" applied to "all people from the barely white
to the nearly black" who formed "the new aboriginals of the modern world", and who
constituted the "rightful owners of the western world". They, however, pleaded that the
Afro-American was no anarchist but claimed "Africa is for the Africans home and abroad.
The Western world for the Afro-American or Coloured people home and abroad".27
They proposed a confederation of the "British West Indies and British Guiana" under
a federal and democratic government. The Association called for promotion by merit,
an end to the colour bar, one man one vote and a common Civil Service Examination.
It is obvious that the demands and grievances of the Association and the League
represented the felt experiences of the groups they represented. The feeling of Diaspora
fed on the common conditions and disabilities of African-descended people in both the
New and Old World. A common Civil Service Examination and the principle of "one man
one vote"were proposals from those for whom the "colour bar" represented real ob-
stacles to social and economic mobility. In this sense the programme of the Association
and the League represented the ideology of the emerging urban but largely African-
descended middle class; It should, however, be noted that it was first and foremost the
cry of a group,28 whatever might have been its relevance to other segments of Guyanese
The Negro Progress Convention also claimed to speak on behalf of the African-
descended peoples of Guyana. Founded in 1922 by Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, it
claimed to be . .a non-political organisation which aims at inculcating in the minds
of members of its particular group the virtue of self-help and thrift and the great bene-
fits to be derived from fields of economic and industrial endeavour".29 The Convention
programme was heavily influenced by the philosophy of Booker T. Washington. President
of the Convention was Theophilus Nicholls with S.P. Morrison as Secretary. They pro-
posed the establishment of a school in Demerara along the lines of the Tuskegee Institute
in the US and solicited a donation from the government. They also claimed that branches
of the Convention has been formed throughout the country to preach the doctrines of
self-help and thrift among its people.
Thus the Negro Progress Convention spoke for a group not a class. To speak for
the lower class it would have had to incorporate indeed integrate the demands of
workers on the sugar estates and the towns. But geography, history and culture divided
them. The Negro working class was mainly urban whereas the East Indian was rural
and clustered around the estates. What further complicated these divisions was of course
the centre of ideological gravity. For the African-descended population of the Caribbean
as a whole Africa, Haiti, Ethopia and the heroes of the Black American struggle were
constant points of reference and sources of inspiration. For East Indians the struggles
for Indian independence and the common disabilities of Indians overseas were powerful
factors making for group cohesion. These were the factors that would make difficult
the emergence of a national viewpoint before the Moyne Commission.
The impact of group perception is most forcibly brought out in the various pro-
posals for the development and "colonization" of Guyana. The submissions of the
East Indian intelligentsia reveal the extent to which cultural differences determined their
programme.30 They argued that Negroes found agriculture "degrading" and were des-
perately drifting towards "the tinsel and glamour of western civilization" and education.
Such an education, they argued, had filled them with "intellectual pride which makes
them feel superior to the rustic, and which accounts for the Negro's aversion to the
land".31 Indeed the tragedy of the Negro so far as economic development was concerned,
they reasoned, was due to their shedding of African culture.
S. the throwing olf his customs and religion at an
early date after his liberation until today we have a
being who has no pride in his antecedents, in fact
shirks discussion on the subject; who has no cultural
or historical background and without a language.
Handicapped as he was, it affords no surprise to see
him grasp eagerly British customs and institutions.32
Yet the "East Indian Intelligentsia" could not recognize the extent to which they were
ensnared by their own culture. They conceded that the Negro had outstripped the East
Indian in governmental activities and that the Negro's "position in the community" was
"the better and the more desirable one". In what amounted almost to a boast they
declared that "Indians are pre-eminently suited to the practice of tropical agriculture,
which is a form of endeavour that does not really appeal to others the conditions
being hard and uncongenial".33 Yet they lamented the control of newspapers by Negroes
and the lack of political influence among East Indians. The East Indian, they pointed out,
". .. exists to provide a higher standard of living for others including those of his own
kind. That has been his lot in this country, and it is no wonder that the is beloved by
This was to be a recurring dilemma for the East Indian intelligentsia, not only in
Guyana but in the Caribbean as a whole. They were anxious to retain what they con-
sidered to be their "culture" since it was deemed superior to what they found around
them. But they were awakening slowly, but surely, to the advantages of "creolization".
Creolization brought access to and influence over the means of communication, entry
into the civil service, and some exposure at least to the levers of political power. True,
to this extent there was some sharing of common values. But a sharing of common
values did not necessarily lead to a sharing of institutions. As Despres discovered in his
later study of Guyana, there were institutions that integrated individuals at localized
levels and others that did so at more national levels.35
Of course the question of persistence of culture is one that prevades, directly or
indirectly, the social sciences in the Caribbean as a whole. It was M.G. Smith who chal-
lenged the comforting these of structural-functionalism on the nature and prospects of
Caribbean societies. Smith had argued that Caribbean societies were "plural" societies
since for him they were little more than collections of cultural units held together by the
force of a dominant minority. It was what he conceived to be the "persistence" of Afri-
can culture that led him to embrace the theory of incompatible institutions. The validity
of his theory thus rested on the truth of persistence. That there has been some persistence
of "African" and "East Indian" culture can hardly be doubted. What needs to be investi-
gated is its relevance to the social and political order. In the case of Guyana. "African"
culture derived from the common experience of slavery, and the influence of internal
organizations. East Indian culture likewise throve on the peculiar features of indenture-
ship. The ending of slavery and later of indentureship did not automatically dissolve these
relations. As competitive politics and the struggle for scarce resources developed, cultural
differences were seized upon, articulated and sometimes invented to promote the inte-
rests of one group over another. In this way, culture became linked with politics and
The "African" view of colonization found expression in the submissions of the
colonial Co-operative Society to the Moyne Commission.36 The Co-operative Society
argued that three types of settlers were necessary Europeans, Africans and East Indians
- and proposed that Europeans make their homes on the elevated savannah lands of the
plateau, the Africans on the slopes and the East Indians on the level land of the sea coast.
They felt that, as the Dutch demonstrated, Europeans could live and thrive by manual
labour in the tropics. In similar fashion the organisation known as the United Aid for
Peoples of African Descent Inc. held that the development of British Guiana had to take
account of the interests of African-descended peoples since the country was being held
in trust for the people.37 The notion of "the people" and the idea tha colonies were
being administered on behalf of "these people" was of course a major ingredient in the
doctrine of "trusteeship". Yet the doctrines of trusteeship, as Robinson was to point out,
were riddled with contradictions and dilemmas.38 It should be noted that in the thinking
of the United Aid for Peoples of African Descent Inc., "African-descended peoples" and
"the people" were one and the same. Thus, the expression "the people" was in fact the
proposal of a group, albeit a substantial group, among the population of what was then
British Guiana. As happens so often in the context of a plural society, programmes pro-
claimed as "national" or based on "the people" turn out, on closer inspection, to be the
unconscious articulation of group interests.
By far the most significant submission from the point of view of British Guiana
was that put forward by the British Guiana Sugar Producers' Association.39 Since sugar
was the major export, it was to be expected that its role in the economy and in politics
would be crucial. The Association drew attention to the deficiencies of the medical
services, but was particularly critical of what it considered to be the shortcomings of the
labour movement. It complained of a lack of proper organisation and of what it con-
sidered to be sane leadership. "The estates," it maintained, "would welcome a well
organised labour union properly led by men who could command the confidence and
respect of the employers and employed, and who, while adequately safeguarding the in-
terests of the workers, could be depended upon to take a sane view of disputes as they
arise and use their best endeavours in bringing about a settlement fair and equitable
to both sides."40 The British Guiana Labour Union, on the other hand, represented the
interests of African-descended workers in Georgetown, although its founder, H.N.
Critchlow, did attempt to bridge the racial barriers. Indeed, outside of the sugar industry,
industrial unions were largely "African" at the base and leadership levels. For this reason
statements about the "working class" were virtually verdicts on a "race". This was the
factor which prompted the complaint by the BGLU that the statements of the Sugar Pro-
ducers' Association tended to ". . make for strong inter-racial illwill, and tend to mar the
harmonious relationship which exists between the racial groups of British Guiana's
cosmopolitan population and that of the West Indies".41 More than any other, this
position dramatizes the basic contradiction of a plural society. That the interests around
sugar were representative of the dominant group in British Guiana could hardly be
doubted; and likewise indeed that the British Guiana Labour Union represented the in-
terests of the urban working class. Both groups claimed to speak for the national in-
terest and yet in fact they were both prisoners of the interests they represented. Even
if a national interest were identifiable, groups would approach it from their own stand-
points. In this way, economic interests became tied up with "racial" interests. It was
Despres who introduced into the discussions of pluralism the notions of "minimal" and
"maximal" cultural sections. A minimal cultural section for him is one where "institu-
tional activities serve to maintain cultural differentiation between groups primarily at
local levels"; a maximal section is one that "differentiates them from other cultural
groups at the national level".42 A plural society, then, is "one that contains maximal or
national cultural sections". Corresponding to these distinctions are institutions defined
as either "local" or "broker". Broker institutions are those which "link local activities
to the wider spheres of societal activity"." There is a near unanimous agreement that the
colonial intelligentsia was the vanguard of the nationalist movement; that alone of all
other groups in colonial society they were able to take "national" views of problems
since by training and perception, it was assumed they would rise above tribe, caste or
ethnic grouping.44 As we have seen, in a plural society such as was British Guiana even
the intelligentsia could not escape the constraints of the cultural environment.
It has often been asserted that the colonial intelligentsia played a crucial role in the
political development of the new states. Such a role was possible, it has been suggested,
because as a class they possessed a common "culture", had been emancipated from their
ethnic alignments, and accordingly belonged to a universal community. This was the
position that gave them a moral mandate to speak for the entire society, to analyse it
and to have their prescriptions heeded. But, as we have observed, new states are those in
which there are few shared institutions and norms. Communal sentiment and pulls are
only too evident. Ideological predilections may tempt researchers into ascribing too much
significance to appearances and into translating wish into fact.
A great deal of the analysis of Guyanese society has thus fallen into either of two
categories. On one side are those who take their inspiration from Marxist positions.
Whether as economists, anthropologists or sociologists, the tendency has been to argue
that Guyana was a "plantation" society; that the "plantation" experience in Guyana as
elsewhere led in the course of development to a proletariat with common aspirations
and therefore with common perceptions. Sometimes the existence of cultural pulls
was conceded, but these, it was argued or argued away were doomed to be swept
aside before the triumphal march of economic forces.
On the other side have been writers of varying degrees of "pluralist" persuasion.
Far from merely conceding the existence of subcultures, these writers
have taken cultural differences and incompatibilities as their point of departure. For
them the root cause of Guyana's tortuous history is the fact of "race". Others. like
Despres, point to some of the intervening variables such as organization, leadership and
party strategy. But while individual emphases may differ, they all envisage and sub-
scribe to theories of chronic political instability. It is often assumed that as a class the
intelligentsia is exempt from the operation of the tendencies associated with pluralism.
Nowhere, for instance, do discussions of pluralism examine the role of the intelligentsia.
Nationalism and welfare policies have at times been suggested as the way out of the
pluralist impasse. It is nevertheless implied that the intelligentsia was the only group
capable of breaking out of the vicious circle. But, as we saw, even they the hoped-for
saviours of society needed to be saved, for they too were victims of the plural society.
They too invoked images of nationalism but these proved to be slogans concealing the
interest of one group or the other.
Even when analyses do succeed in escaping the limitations of ethnic alignment by
seeking refuge in Marxist categories, they run into similar difficulties. Rodney, for in-
stance, has argued that the stereotypes of the "African" held by Indians were partly
disseminated by the planters, partly by the attitudes they brought to Guyana and partly
by the consequences of colonial policy towards the "African". He argues as well that it
was the indentured labour of Indian and Portuguese origin that brought down the African
in his struggle with the planters.45 He writes:
Indian and Portuguese indentured labour formed
a captive labour force which defeated the effort
of free African workers. From that point onwards,
the African sector of the working class never
wavered in its hostility towards indentured immi-
gration identifying it always with unemploy-
ment and reduced wages.46
Rodney does not enquire whether this economic rivalry was merely one of a series of
sources of conflict. He does stress the role of white capitalists in sowing divisions and
putting one race against another. His main contention, however, is "that the conflict
between Africans and Indians in British Guiana arose primarily out of the manner in
which the latter were inserted into the colonial economy as labour designed to break
the bargaining power of the free African labourers".47 Thus, for Rodney, the defining
relations between Indians and Africans were economic. On this reasoning, economic
forces were responsible for driving a wedge between the communities. Thus, factors
such as culture, history, ideology and religion had little effect. But we are entitled to
ask why economic forces did not lead, at a later stage, to unified demands or a common
programme before the Moyne Commission. If economic factors are to be given a decisive
role in Afro-Indian relations, then they should apply throughout Guyanese history. To
assert that racial strife was manipulated "by the stratum which sought to maintain its
socio-economic hegemony" is to flee the responsibility to analyse the reasons why
that stratum could so easily do the manipulation. Political leaders may manipulate but
they do not do so in a world of their own choosing. They are limited by the structures
they inherit, by the images (however misconceived) their people have of one another and
the interests economic, religious and political involved.
It is not the case that Rodney is hostile to cultural analyses of Afro-Indian relations
in Guyana. Indeed, he holds that there were actually two working classes in Guyana. He
The realities of racial and cultural segmentation
were such that the fundamental class antagonism
realized itself in the form of two semi-autonomous
class struggles that of Indian workers and that of
African workers, each group striving against the
same plantation capitalists. The efforts of Indian
peasants and African peasants were also attached
to the respective racial blocks in the class struggle.4"
Rodney believed that the framework of pluralism was relevant since it "might
adequately handle class functions when the race or culture group in question is virtually
a class in itself'. In other words, a Marxist framework based on class would serve the
same purpose as one based on the "pluralism" of M.G. Smith. But, as Smith pointed out
years ago, the concept of class just would not do since it implies a degree of horizontal
mobility that squares neither with the experience of blacks in the various European
capitals nor with that of the working class in places like Guyana and Trinidad. In speaking
of two semi-autonomous working classes, Rodney has taken the bottom out of his
own case since it identifies a path of separate development for both peoples. Rodney
does not deny that race consciousness has "gained a firm hold within the ranks of the
of the working people". The villain for him was the "hand-me-down from the white
capitalists which was retailored to petty bourgeois specifications". Had he probed more
deeply he would have seen that the influence of the "white capitalists" was one among
many. Creolization, understood as the emergence of metropolitan norms, was a process
largely confined to the towns. Structure, geography and culture were the decisive factors.
This is why so often in recent Guyanese history proposals for "partition" or
"separate development" are heard. Such calls have not merely been made to manipulate
populations in the struggle for political power, although its prospects cannot be ruled out;
they have been issued on the assumption that there would be receptive audiences. Plura-
list theory would lead us to assume that the colonial intelligentsia was a "broken" institu-
tion welding fragmented units together into a viable national platform. But, as we saw,
the intelligentsia was itself fragmented: it was also trapped by the forces of gravity of
It is sometimes assumed that a universal ideology such as socialism might serve
to straddle the ethnic groups. But even under such an umbrella group interests can be
involved. In contemporary Guyana, both major parties claim to be socialist. Both claim
to be be based on the "working class"; both are led by ethnic leaderships. As Rodney
recognized, there are two working classes in Guyana competing to fulfil the Marxist
vision. Thus even a universal ideology must square with differences in culture or succumb
to it. The intelligentsia in a plural society sometimes unconsciously may thus find
themselves reduced to the role of spokesmen of group interests. It may very well be that
the articulation of group interests is one phase in the development of a plural society.
It may be that before a national programme or perspective can be attained groups must
first assert their identity. If this analysis is correct then the response of the Guyanese in-
telligentsia during the 1930s must be read as a phase in the transition from a classic model
of a plural society towards an increasing level of socio-cultural integration.
1. Edward Shils, 'The Intellectuals in the Political Development of the New States', in John H
Kautsky (ed.) Political Change in Underdeveloped Countries, New York: John Wiley, 1962.
3. George B. de Huszar (ed.) The Intellectuals: A Controversial Portrait, The Free Press of Glencoe,
Illinois, 1960 contains a fair sample of the various issues involved in a discussion of the intelli-
4. M.G. Smith, Ioreword to Leo A. Despres, Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British
Guiana, Chicago, 1967.
5. See Smith, Rubin, Cross, McKenzie. A more recent view holds that pluralism was the "ideolo-
gy" of a disenchanted nationalist. See Robotham, "Pluralism as Ideology" Social and Economic
Studies, Vol. 29, No. 1. March 1980, pp. 69 -89.
6. R.T. Smith. British Guiana, London, 1962.
7. Ibid., p. 103.
8. Ibid., p. 105.
9. Ibid.. p. 107.
10. Ibid., p. 119.
11. Ibid., p. 198.
12. New World, Guyana Independence Issue, 'People and Change', pp. 49-54.
16. Chandra Jayarwadena, Conflict and Solidarity in a Guianese Plantation London, 1963, p. 54.
17. Ibid., p. 25.
18. Peter Newman, British Guiana, London, 1964, p. 78.
19. Leo Despres, Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana, New York: Rand
McNally. 1967. See also M.G. Smith's Foreword to Despres.
20. Ibid., p. 27.
21. The President of the Association was Ayube M. Edun, Editor of the Guiana Review, Vice-Presi-
dent was Edward Pile (ex-planter), Harri Barron, General Secretary and the Hon. Charles R.
Jacob (M.L.C.). Treasurer.
22. Manpower Citizen's Association. Memo of Evidence, Public Record Office, Kew, England, CO
950/7675 BG 5057.
23. See their memo to the Moyne Commission, CO 950/7676. BG 5058.
26. The Afro-American Association and League for Coloured Races in CO 950/701.
28. President of the Association was Simon Moore; Vice-President, Richard J. Humes; Secretary,
G.A. Graham. Its address was given as 108 Thomas Street, Kitty, E.C., British Guiana.
29. See Memo by Negro Progress Convention CO 950/667, BG 5048.
30. See Appendix A to CO 950/676, BG 5058.
32. Memo by East Indian Intelligentsia, CO 950/7676, BG 5058, Appendix A.
35. See Despres, Cultural Pluralism, pp. 21-29, for a discussion of his model of integration.
36. See their Memorandum to the Moyne Commission in CO 950/699, BG 5081.
37. Their memorandum was in fact submitted on their behalf by the colonial Co-operative Society.
38. Kenneth Robinson, The Dilemmas of Trusteeship, London: Oxford University Press. 1965.
39. See their memo in CO 950/649.
40. Memo in CO 950/649.
42. Despres, Cultural Pluralism, p. 22.
43. Ibid., p. 23.
44. The writings by Shils and Kautsky are typical in this respect.
45. I am informed by K.O. Lawrence that Portuguese indentured labour in Guyana was insignifi-
46. Walter Rodney, 'Immigration and Racial Attitudes in Guyanese History'. Unpublished paper,
Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.
48. Walter Rodney, 'Subject Races and Class Contradictions in Guyanese History'. Unpublished
paper Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.
SOME ISSUES IN MULTICULTURALISM: THE CASE OF
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO IN THE POST-COLONIAL ERA
Here ev'ry Creed and Race
Find an equal place.
National Anthem of Trinidad & Tobago
Many Caribbean researchers have agreed that the colonial history and subsequent cultural
diversity of Trinidad & Tobago (henceforth called Trinidad) provide a very appropriate
setting for studies in multicultural relations (Braithwaite 1975: Lowenthal and Comitas
1973; Lowenthal 1972; Rubin and Zavalloni 1969). This paper examines some of the
social and political implications of cultural pluralism in Trinidad by drawing on the avail-
able (though sparse) socio-economic and political data. One of the first tasks is to clarify
the meaning in which "race" is increasingly being used in the Caribbean context.
Greene (1973) emphasized "the social conception of race" in the Caribbean in that
it went beyond strict biological criteria. In Trinidad, moreover, the official census has
"allowed" respondents to categorize themselves into "White, East Indian, Negro, Mixed,
Syrian, Lebanese, or Chinese" for racial classification. Stone's study of racial voting in
Jamaica (1973) also used similar self-identification measures. In his Guyana study of
politics and race (1973) Greene explained: "We are not concerned with what anthropolo-
gists mean by race, but only with what people in Guyana think the word means when
they encounter it in their daily lives" (p. 1). Greene argued that "race" in this sense refers
to "a group of people who are felt to be similar in their essential nature". This social
psychological measurement of race has been used by other researchers (e.g. Camejo 1971;
Rubin and Zavalloni 1969).
The historical circumstances of slavery and indentureship have provided a multi-
culture. The post-colonial era (i.e. after 1962) has witnessed a weakening of these
relationships. However. rising expectations and nationalism just before and after
independence in 1962 have lent some persistence to the historical tensions along
and after independence in 1962 -have lent some persistence to the historical tensions
along cultural lines.
The concept of a plural society was advocated by Furnivall (1948) as a unit of
disparate parts which owes its existence to external factors and lacks a common will (pp.
303 -12). Smith (1965). developing the context for Caribbean relevance, added:
Pluralism explicitly enjoins a holistic view of socie-
ties and their cultures as units having historical con-
tinuity. Too often these historical and cultural dimen-
sions are overlooked by writers who simply assume
that all social systems must be integrated by norm-
ative consensus, and thereafter discuss only those
sociological aspects of the present system which
support their initial assumption (p. xvi).
He further added that "no peaceful change in the social system is possible because the
sections have nothing in common except involvement in economic and political relation-
ships which are essentially antagonistic". There is some evidence (as would be seen later)
in Trinidad to indicate that there is an "essentially antagonistic" involvement in econo-
mics and politics between the "historically different cultural groups" in Trinidad. Even
so, within Smith's perspective lies the widespread social issue as to what extent are certain
values (be they cultural or political) shared and others not shared.'
Leo Despres (1967) is less pessimistic than Smith, emphasizing cultural similarities
along a "continuum of socio-cultural integration". Notwithstanding these theoretical
distinctions (which really appear as matters of degree), the important social-psychological
issue is the there exist in Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean a number of groups
identified as being different culturally and racially, and they continue to relate to one
another on the basis of these perceived differences.
Another model of Trinidad and Caribbean societies generally is the plantation
model (Beckford 1972: Best 1968; Singham 1968). This essentially involves a plantation
community with a social structure and pattern of inter-personal relationships largely
reflecting the authority patterns which evolve from economic organization. However,
whether the society is viewed as a system of cultural groups with varying degrees of
contact, or a plantation model with entrenched dominant-submissive patterns of inter-
personal relationships, the central issue here is that a social-psychological approach
remains salient for a further understanding of social interaction. Beckford's argument that
"psychological dependency" is a product of the plantation system. as well as an obstacle
"to change and transformation", enhances the validity of the psychological approach. It
must also be noted that the plantation model does accommodate the concept of cultural
pluralism (Beckford 1972. p. 79).
Overall, though, the shifts between social interaction and isolation within Trinidad
societies produce a variant involving both the functionalist model of social stratification
(Parsons 1951, 1964: Davis and Moore 1945) and the pluralist model (Smith 1965).
Patterson (1975), in his study on ethnic allegiance in Jamaica and Guyana. emphasized
the functionalist theme which is also applicable to Trinidad:
Ethnicity can only be understood in terms of a
dynamic and contextual view of group allegiance:
that which is critical about an ethnic group is not
the particular set of symbolic objects which dis-
tinguishes it, but the social uses of these objects;
and that ethnic loyalties reflect, and are maintained
by the underlying socio-economic interests of group
members (p. 305).
While it may be true, as Patterson (1975) argues, that "socio-economic self-interest"
(Parsons calls it self-gratification) affects ethnic allegiance or cultural identification, one
cannot lose sight of the antagonistic relationship at any one point in time between the
sources of socio-economic rewards and the value position of one's cultural identification.
This is important in multicultural societies like Trinidad where cultural positions have
historically varied with access to sources of socio-economic rewards from group to group.
The psychological implications can be thus stated as two hypotheses:
(i) The further removed a cultural group is from the source of socio-economic
rewards, the greater the stress factors in that froup's attempt to compete and gain
access to such rewards.
(ii) The further removed a cultural group is from the source of socio-economic
rewards, the greater the pressures for deculturalization and the greater the likeli-
hood that negative stereotyping would be used to justify that froup's exclusion
from social and economic rewards.
The first hypothesis indicates the inherent injustice in a political system framed along
functionalist notions of political bargaining. Rawls (1972) touched on this point: "In a
just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by
justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests." The
second hypothesis draws on William Ryan's (1972) text Blaming the Victim. Both hypo-
theses indicate how a functionalist mould of social stratification exploits multiculturalism
to perpetuate the status quo. And this is one of the most enduring legacies of colonialism
for Trinidad and the Caribbean as a whole. Hence. it is useful to look at some relation-
ships between race, colour, and socio-economic status within the Trinidad society.
Race, Colour and Socio-Economic Status
Relationships between race, colour, class and social and economic mobility in
Trinidad have been well documented (see e.g. Ahiram 1971; Cross and Schwartzbaum
1969; Dookeran 1974; Harewood 1971, Henry 1975; Ramesar 1976).
By 1973, Trinidad had a population of 1,061,850, including 543,500 males and
578;350 females (C.S.O. Report, 1974). Population growth by race between 1946, 1960,
and 1970 is shown in Table 1).
Trinidad's cultural diversity was mainly provided by the ownership and operations
of sugar cane plantations. After the Act of Emancipation in 1832, the planters in Trini-
dad were pressed to solve the labour shortage caused by emancipation of slaves. A system
of indentured labour a primitive form of contractual labour was invoked with the
result that between 1845, and 1917, when the indentureship system ended, approximately
143,000 Indians were brought into the country. Between 1783 and 1831, over 155.000
slaves were brought into Trinidad. In 1921, Indians accounted for 33.18 per cent of the
Population changes within Trinidad and Tobago between 1946. 1960, and 1970*
Year Negro East Indian Others** Total***
1946 261,485 195,747 100,588 557,970
1960 358,588 301,946 167.132 827,957
1970 398,765 373,538 157,383 931,071
from 1946 to 1960 +37.1 +59.4 +66.1 +48.0
from 1960 to 1970 +11.20 +23.71 -5.83 12.45
* Tabulated from Central Statistical Office. Annual Statistical Digest 1955, 1973/74. (Port-of-
Spain: Government Printing Office).
** "Others" include: Whites. Mixed. Chinese. Syrians, Lebanese, etc.
*** Includes individuals for whom race is not stated: 1946 = 150, 1960 = 291, 1970 = 1,385.
total population. Apart trom social identification,2 religious affiliation in Trinidad is
widely recognized as playing a significant role in group relations (Malik 1971;Jha 1974;
Rubin and Zavalloni 1969: Samaroo 1975: Williams 1962). By 1970, the Indian popula-
tion exceeded the African population in Trinidad (excluding Tobago) by almost 11.000.
Christians accounted for 25 per cent and 6.3% per cent respectively. Around 70 per cent
of the Indian population belong to the Hindu and Muslim faiths. There have been very few
studies showing income distribution among the major racial groups. From a random
sample of 2,744 Trinidad households (Henry 1975), 43.6 per cent and 32.1 per cent of
Indians and Africans respectively were living below the poverty line, as opposed to 8
per cent Whites. In 1972, 8 per cent of the population earned less than S24 (TT) per
month with 27 per cent earning less than $100 a month. At this same time 4 per cent
earned more than $100 a month (p. 3).
In 1958, the lower 20 per cent of the population were getting 4 per cent of the
national income while the upper 20 per cent were getting 49 per cent of the National
income. When compared to the corresponding figures for 1972, it was found that the
gap between "the rich and the poor" widened by 8 percentage points. However, another
study (C.S.O. Household Budgetary Survey 1975/76) revealed that the average monthly
household income in Trinidad increased from $291 in 1971/72 to $458 in 1975/76: an
increase of 57.4 per cent. Of the 2,493 households covered in this survey, 43.2 per cent
had incomes of less than $300 a month while 3.2 per cent had monthly incomes exceed-
Harewood (1971), using 1960 census figures, showed following median income-
race relationships: White = over $500, Mixed = $112.85, African = $104.03, Indian =
$76.98. That same study revealed marked differences among racial categories and educa-
tional attainment. In terms of "university and completed secondary school", the propor-
tion for each of the following groups was: White = 53 per cent, Mixed = 10 per cent,
Indian and African = 4 per cent. The following statements are made on the basis of avail-
(i) Unemployment was generally highest in rural as against urban areas (Hare-
(ii) Wages were much lower in rural as against urban areas (Ahiram 1966; Henry
(iii) High-status occupations were generally more available in urban as against
rural areas (Harewood 1971).
(iv) Seventy-one per cent of the Indians lived in rural areas as opposed to 44 per
cent Africans in 1960. This difference is greater for 1970. (C.S.O. Annual
Statistical Digest 1960. 1970).
A study on racial discrimination in the private sector (Camejo 1971) in Trinidad
found substantial relationships between race, colour and elite status within private busi-
ness organizations. For instance, it was found that of those with advanced education who
were hired into top positions for their first job, 60 per cent were White and off-White, 20
per cent were Chinese and Mixed, 10 per cent were Negroes. and none was Indian
(p. 302). Camejo also commented: "The evidence suggests clearly that the 'whiter' the
person the less formal qualifications were demanded of him in being hired into top or
middle positions in private business organizations" (p. 304).
Apart from numerous complaints by politicians in Parliament and letters to news-
paper editors about racial discrimination in the public and private sectors, three events in
the early 1970s could be described to indicate the salience of race and colour in Trinidad.
First, in 1970, one newspaper forcefully led protests against a prestigious private social
club for prohibiting entry to some black Americans. The club subsequently made visible
efforts to free itself from the criticism of discrimination. Secondly, and in connection
with the same event, the Government appointed a Commission of Enquiry into Racial
and Colour Discrimination in the Private Sector.The Commission found that the lighter
an applicant's skin colour, the better his/her chances of gaining employment in a bank in
Trinidad. It also concluded: "In the case of the Central Bank. although colour discrimi-
nation did not seem to exist, there appeared to be a considerable racial imbalance as
between Indians and non-Indians. with the Indians considerably under-represented in
comparison with their proportion in the general population" (p. 28). The Commission
(1) Legislation "to make discrimination in employment on the grounds of race
and colour an offence".
(2) The establishment of a Race Relations Board and an intensive research and
educational programme to promote better race relations and help avert discrimi-
Neither recommendation has been accepted by Government.
The third event has to do with the Black Power uprising in 1970 having some roots
in Canada through the reputed Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) "compu-
ter riot" of 1969 in which a number of Trinidadians were involved. The issue was alleged
to be one of racial discrimination in Canada against Trinidad students. This awareness
spread to the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies. As the movement
gained momentum, the concept of blackness, through protests and newspaper comment-
ary, took on an invigorated meaning. Colour lines were sharply drawn. The following
points are noteworthy in our context:
(1) The leaders of the Black Power movement were predominantly African.
(2) Attempts were made to gain Indian support in a move for Afro-Indian solid-
(3) The movement attacked issues of unemployment, multinational corporations,
and capitalism. Attacks were also made on business houses.
However, the apprehensions raised by the Black Power movement did more for
segregation than for integration. One view (LaGuerre 1974) was:
The 'Black Power' movement, of course, failed to
integrate the East Indians notwithstanding the belief
that the march on Caroni was a vindication of the
class struggle. It failed because its advocates were
prisoners of an imported ideology and its correspond-
ing strategies. Its early phase had been characterized
by much negritude and when the attempt was made
to incorporate the East Indian into its analyses it was
too late. A state of emergency and the reassertion of
the traditional forces within the East Indian commu-
nity brought a close to the first conscious and deliber-
ate attempt at Afro-Indian solidarity. Thereafter the
East Indians came to regard the upheavals of 1970 as
a family quarrel among the Negroes . Negritude, in
short, was the spark that re-ignited East Indian racial
consciousness (pp. 102 103).
Politics and Race
Some relationships between race and the political development of Trinidad over the
last 25 years will now be looked at. The present political era has become known as "The
Williams era", mainly because since the advent of Dr Eric Williams and his political party,
the People's National Movement (PNM), in 1956, no other party has been able to capture
political power through elections.
As indicated earlier. Trinidad politics has had always to maintain a steady focus on
race. During the visit of a British-appointed commission under Major Wood in 1921, one
Indian group, the East Indian National Congress, urged representation on the basis of
"communal representation". Another Indian Group, the East Indian National Association,
preferred a nominated system, since the low level of literacy among Indians would have
denied them effective involvement in an advanced system of voting. A third, less influen-
tial group, the Young Indian Party, argued against the positions taken by the other two.
This group advocated political participation on the basis of economic interests.
At that time, the inter-group tensions were made salient by the opposite thrust for
representative government by both African and French-Creole groups. Wood (1922) then
viewed Trinidad as "socially divided into all kinds of groups which have few relations
with each other" (p. 25). It was clear that the political solutions envisioned by the British
power brokers did not readily fit a culturally plural society. The British model of repre-
sentative government could not effectively accommodate the prevailing diversity. Pres-
sures for "a homogeneous society" and "cultural integration" were built up. Hence Wood
(1922) wrote in opposition to the Indian demand for proportional representation: "It
would be a retrograde step from the point of view of the future development of the
colony to accentuate and perpetuate differences which, in order to produce a homo-
geneous community, it should be the object of statesmanship to remove" (p. 27).
The persistence of such tensions also reflected the historical antagonisms between
the two racial groups in Trinidad. As the Africans were becoming conscious of their
freedom from slavery in Trinidad. the indentured labour system was put into force, and
immediately it earned criticisms for its possible effects on wage labour (Brereton 1974).
Furthermore a proliferation of negative racial stereotypes circumscribed relationships
between Indians and Africans (Brereton 1974; Samaroo 1974).
The conduct of elections in Trinidad also sheds some light on the tensions surround-
ing multiculturalism in the country. The first election under adult suffrage in Trinidad
was held in 1946. Aided by political alliances. Indians won four of the nine seats in 1946.
This result is interesting because the Indians wonr 44 per cent of the seats in a mixed
nominated-elected system while they formed only 35 per cent of the population.4
Apart from the controversial issue of proportional representation, the proposal of
an English Language test for screening voters met with heavy resistance from two Indians
on the Franchise Committee responsible for reform (Craig 1951). They argued that since
the cultural background of Indians did not allow them to be versatile in spoken English,
the language test would operate to keep out Indians even further from the political
system. Both the Franchise Committee and the Legislative Council refused to remove the
language requirement and it was left to the Secretary of State for the Colonies to reject it
in the face of mounting island-wide protests.
This episode raised two serious issues. First, the Indians felt further ostracised
locally by both the Franchise Committee and the Legislative Council and developed
instead some confidence in the Colonial Office to look after their interests in Trinidad.
Hence one might understand why "the bulk of the Indian population, working-class or
otherwise, did not identify with the nationalist movement" led by Africans (Ryan 1974,
p. 39). The second issue is linked to the importance of language as a powerful expression
of cultural identification and has been for quite a long time a major factor in creating
distance between the earlier Indians and the British-dominated political system in Trini-
In 1950. 51 candidates from five political groups and 90 Independents battled for
18 seats. Indians gained seven seats, that is 39 per cent of the total elected seats. By 1956,
politicians were pressed to organize themselves into political parties. Party politics was
born largely because of the new constitutional problems for representative government
and by the advent of Eric Williams and his organization of the People's National Move-
ment (PNM). Attempts were made then to organize parties on a multiracial basis so as to
maximise electoral support. However. race and appeals to historical prejudices dominated
every quarter of political campaigning (Malik 1971; Oxaal 1968). The convergence of
colonialism, multiculturalism and the pressures for electoral support exploded into racial
antagonism. Hence Oxaal (1968) wrote of Williams: "On the one hand, he would always
denounce racial prejudices and affirm the multi-racial convictions of the PNM but on at
least a few occasions at University he insinuated a racial undertone into his oratory"
Williams did attempt to integrate different sections of the electorate, hut the fact
that his main thrust was based on the emergence of "Negro pride" found him in seeming
opposition to other racial groups. It was indeed difficult to lead a political movement and
not talk of race. The thrust for decolonization had deep racial implications. The exuber-
ance of Williams in this respect could be understood by his strong feelings against the
colonial order. lie wrote (1969):
The opportunities for a successful professional man of
colour returning to Trinidad in 191 1 were extremely
limited. Not being white, he could not aspire to the
positions in the civil service which were held by local
whites English or French creoles whom the
British, up to a point, associated with them ill the
administration of the island (p. 25).
The political confrontation was further noted (Ryan 1974): "Politically conservative
Hindus, white settlers and businessmen, the Catholic Church, the old-line trade unions,
and political leaders all feared its [PNM] powerful hold over the Negro masses and did
their utmost to undermine its influence" (p. 103). However, there was wide agreement
that the PNM's attempt at nationalism had failed. One researcher (Malik 1971) advanced
the following reason: "The PNM tried to present a multi-racial slate of candidates and
based its appeal on West Indian nationalism which to many East Indians was another
name for Negro nationalism" 9p. 92).
During the 1956 campaign, the second strongest of the four otler parties was the
Indian-dominated and supported People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Bhadase Maraj,
also leader of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, a Ilindu religious organization. The PDP
formed alliances with outgoing candidates but failed to attract many Muslim and Presby-
terian Indians. Of the 24 seats in the 1956 elections, the PNM won 13, PDP five, with the
remaining seven divided among other parties and one independent. Malik (1971) summa-
rized the voting trend:
The PNM won mainly in the urban areas where the
Negro populaiton formed the majority. In the East
Indian majority areas, especially in the sugar belts.
the PDP swept the polls. In areas where the racial
population was evenly divided, the PNM won by a
narrow margin (p. 94).
Apart from the political heckling and mutual abuse, some perception of the rela-
tionship between race and prevailing institutions could be seen Ifrom newspaper reports
(Guardian 21, 22 September 1956) which stated that both the DLP and POPPG leaders,
Bhadase Maraj and Albert Gomes, accused the "predominantly Negro police of being pro-
PNM and of failing to provide protection for those opposed to the PNM".
These tensions also pervaded the 1961 elections when new political alignments
were made among the forces opposed to the PNM. These alignments resulted in the
Democratic Labour Party (DLP). However. Malik (1971) noted: "In spite of the multi-
racial line-up of candidates from the two parties (PNM and DLP) and their avowed object-
ive of racial integration, both parties used ethnicity as their major support" (p. 116).
Politics again could not be separated from race.
As in 1956. the 1961 elections witnessed continued complaints by opposition
forces that the "Pro-PNM" police were not providing adequate protection at their meet-
ings. However, the most serious electoral issue raised by DLP was against the voting
machines which were introduced by the PNM lor the first time. Suspicions over the
voting machines grew rampant as the PNM had failed to gain a majority by the ballot box
during the elections of the West Indian Federation in 1958. The PNM lost 6-4 to the
Indian-supported DLP. The PNM leader. Dr Williams, branded the Indians as "recalci-
trant" and "reactionary". This provoked a long-standing racial controversy and once
more the tight link between politics and race in Trinidad became sharply evident.
The result of the 1961 general elections showed PNM winning 20 seats and DLP 10
seats out of a total of 36. At that time Africans and Indians represented 43 per cent and
36 per cent respectively of the population. A further indication of the problems facing
multicultural representation lies in the ministerial appointments by the PNM. One
researcher (Ryan 1974) wrote:
In staffing the ministries and the Senate, the PNM
tried as far as possible to give expression to its multi-
racial philosophy. Of the twelve cabinet places, two
went to Moslems, two to persons of European stock.
and eight to Negroes including one female. There
were no Hindus among the PNM legislative team, and
for the second time the Hindus remained unrepre-
sented in the government (p. 290).
At that time Hindus and Muslims comprised 25 per cent and 6 per cent respectively of
theTrinidad population. But it was well known that the Muslim elite openly supported
Of the Senatorial appointments, it was further noted (Ryan 1974): "Given that
together they [Indians] constituted roughly 37 per cent of the population, they felt they
deserved far more than the token two places they received. This they claimed was a shock-
ing denial of the vaunted multi-culturalism of the PNM regime" (p. 291).
Burdened with racial antagonisms and scattered outbursts of racial violence, the
1961 elections were described as "the roughest in the history of the island (Malik 1971,
p. 114). One of the other disturbing changes was that the Minister in charge of elections,
Dr. Patrick Solomon, "screened" the selection of election agents. One study (Malik 1971)
found that of 72 election officials, the number of Indians and Non-Indians was 10 and
62 respectively (p. 15). Similar tensions continued through the subsequent elections in
1966 and 1976.
Notwithstanding the fact that Trinidad achieved Independence in 1962 and then
Republican status in 1976. a number of studies noted the continued connection between
race, culture, and politics in Trinidad (Bahadoorsingh 1968: Rubin 1969: Ryan 1974).
The 1976 elections stand out mainly because at that time a concentrated attempt was
made by opposition forces to mount a "working class" front (United Labour Front Mani-
festo. 1976, pp. 2-8) largely inspired by the leadership of three unions representing oil,
sugar, and transport workers respectively. This resulted in the launching of a new political
party the United Labour Front (ULF) in February 1975. But while it argued for a
working-class platform, the ULF itself was compelled by its recognition of prevailing
circumstances to respond to the multiracial dimensions of the country. One of the most
conspicuous responses was to select a "leadership quartet' to reflect both union and
racial representation. The ULF placed two Indians and two Africans in this quartet, their
further argument being that there was "democratization" at the top as a move away from
"leadership by personality".
Eight parties contested the 1976 general elections. Only three won seats. the PNM
won 24. ULF 10 and the African-dominated Democratic Action Congress (DAC) two,
both in the sister Island of Tobago. Partly as an attempt to broaden the urban-African
base of the ULF, attempts were made for a pre-election alliance with the DAC. This.
however, failed and the electoral victories of each political party, as in previous years,
seemed well based on racial rather than class support. The two DAC winners were
Africans. PNM had 20 Africans and four Indians, only one of whom was Hindu. The
ULF, with its heavy Indian base in Central Trinidad. provided eight Indians and two
Africans. Notwithstanding claims by each party to the contrary, this racial distribution
helped reinforce widespread feelings that "Trinidad politics was racial".
The preceding overview presented relationships between race, colour, and class on the
one hand, and social, economic, and political status on the other hand. The interactions
(e.g. marriage preferences, business partnership, political alliances etc.) have been noted
if only to indicate that changes are occurring and that the racial, colour, or class catego-
ries are less than perfectly insulated. The reviewed relationships. however, do demonstrate
general trends. And the consistency and historical circumstances surrounding them do
produce fairly rigid perceptual categories kept alive by affective responses in the competi-
tive spheres of daily life in multicultural Trinidad.
Some Responses to Cultural Diversity in Trinidad
Any consideration of Trinidad multiculturalism has to stem from the feasibility of
a fruitful linkage between Trinidad's Westminster political system and cultural diversity,
and the psychological implications of cultural change; that is, the "security" of one's indi-
genous culture as against the "marginality" that is faced at a certain point in the change.
One commentator (Deosaran 1978) noted:
Cultural integration implies the interaction of differ-
ent cultural groups in such a way that over time
certain cultural characteristics from each of the
different groups are retained while others are lost. In
this sense, cultural integration is like Social Darwin-
isim survival of the fittest characteristics. This is
where the politics begin. It has to do with (1) Integra-
tion in what direction? (2) How are those 'retained
cultural characteristics' selected? (3) How are feelings
of inferiority or superiority allocated in the integra-
tion process? Cultural assimilation, especially when
demanded by a more prestigious or politically power-
ful group, becomes an inhumane political strategy of
This perspective takes account of the psychological experience of inferiority by
subordinate groups in being co-opted by a cultural "melting pot". Greenbaum (1974).
noting the decline of such an ethic in American society and arguing for a rise of cultural
pluralism, wrote: "Most important is the fact that the main fuel for the American melting
pot was shame" (p. 431).
Miller (1969) and Nettleford (1965) also described this experience of shame in the
black Jamaican's search for cultural identity. It is this aspect of cultural change and the
psychology of deculturalization that has been so far largely ignored in Caribbean research.
This is important since a major response to the problems posed for the system by cultural
diversity has been an appeal for cultural assimilation (Braithwaite 1974: Demas 1971;
Lewis 1968; Maurice 1959). In other words, rather than attempting to restructure exist-
ing political and social institutions to accommodate diversity, the strategy was to demand
assimilation, so as to weaken racial and cultural boundaries.
Under the Westminster system, the PNM in Trinidad found it timely in its early
existence to mount a nationalist platform. However, as was earlier explained, the break-
down of nationalism in Trinidad is a widely shared view (Malik 1971; Ryan 1974;
LaGuerre 1974) in spite of earlier expectations that the PNM would have promoted it
Pressing hard against current political institutions during this uneasy period were
well-supported Black Power slogans like "power to the people", "popular participation".
and "mass politics". Whatever the political appearance of the Black Power uprising in
Trinidad, it contained an underlying racial and cultural content which has since been
made more manifest (Jackson 1975; NJAC 1971).
The Indians in Trinidad generally stood aside from the movement as it mounted an
unrelenting attack on the business community and the PNM government. In fact one of
the chief antagonists to the Black Power movement was Hindu Leader Bhadase Maraj.
This Indian reaction was similar to what Moore (1973) wrote of the Guyana experience:
To apply these [Black Power] doctrines to a society
like Guyana where more than half the population is
of Indian origin caused even greater tremors of appre-
hension and tended to stiffen the Indian resolve to
consider themselves as a separate people with a
separate identity. To them Black Power meant only
one thing perpetual Black domination and that by
a group which they regarded as more fanatical in their
racism than the present Black holders of power
because they feed more avidly on his historical resent-
ment (p. 13).
In this particular regard, then, there appeared a temporary alliance between the
African-dominated government in Trinidad and the subdued Indians, the middle class
especially. The PNM government saw its power threatened. the Indian, mixed, and white
elite saw their commercial interests threatened. The Indian masses withdrew under their
racial apprehensions, and a few Indian politicians saw an opportunity to exploit a strate-
gic alliance with the PNM. The government finally declared a State of Emergency in 1970,
and, as another response in April 1971. appointed a Commission for Constitution Reform
(called the Wooding Commission after its Head, former Chief Justice. Sir H.O.B.
Island-wide discussions were held by the Wooding Commission between 1971 and
1973. In its Report the Commission noted the link between the political institutions,
race, and culture:
The survival of constitutional, parliamentary politics
is being challenged as never before in Trinidad and
Tobago . Race is perhaps one of the most signifi-
cant determinants of political behaviour in Trinidad
and Tobago .. The fact is that, while the major
party support has come from the respective races as
shown, religion and class have blurred the lines of
party affiliation somewhat . Another manifesta-
tion of race is the disillusionment with conventional
politics exhibited by so many of our black youth ...
Their demand is for black dignity, black conscious-
ness and black economic control (pp. 1- 10).
The pressures for further representation were reflected in the fact that many
political groups (Tapia, DAC, DLP) pressed the Commission for one form of pro-
portional representation or another.5 This was an interesting development in another
respect. In the pre-1956 era, the numerous appeals for more representation through pro-
portional representation largely came from Indian-dominated organizations (Craig 1951;
Wood Report 1922). It was then rather easy to link the demand for proportional repre-
sentation to allegations of racial chauvinism. However, the fact that in 1973 so many
other "Non-Indian" groups made the same demand for proportional representation sug-
gests that there is an inherent defect in the existing political institutions as far as effective
representation is concerned.
It is also interesting to recall the position taken by one African-dominated political
group, Tapia. Its spokesman told the Constitution Commission on 3 April. 1973:
I believe ... that the Indian community has been left
out of the political system for the entire fifteen years.
and 1 believe that much of the drive, if we are honest,
behind this proportional representation, is a drive to
let them in for what is their right (p. 141).
The Constitution Commission further noted that 27 of the first 33 submissions on
proportional representation were in favour of it. Though the demands for some form of
proportional representation were now based on a renewed understanding of democratic
representation, the underlying argument was that one particular ethnic group had been
continually left out of political power. More recently, the President of Trinidad and
Tobago, Ellis Clarke, in reviewing the relevance of the current political system, declared:
What worries me is what seems to be an attitude of
disenchantment with the political processes, some-
thing that could easily degenerate into a feeling of
hopelessness, or helplessness (Guardian, 27 August
To accommodate the growing demand for fuller representation, largely motivated
by existing cultural diversity, the Commission recommended a compromise for "an elec-
toral system in which the principle of proportional representation and the first-past-the-
post system are mixed" (p. 51). This was hence called "a mixed system of voting". The
Commission recommended a National Assembly of 72 members (as against the existing
two-chamber system) with half of that number elected by first-past-the-post and the other
half allocated on the basis of proportional representation.6
However, the leader of the ruling PNM party, Dr Eric Williams, speaking as Prime
Minister in Parliament in December 1974, spent the greater part of his marathon speech
using arguments to reject outright both proportional representation and the recommend-
ed mixed system of voting. At one point in his address, he exclaimed: "We [the PNM]
have done better than anybody else, it is because nobody else can do what we have done
.. that they are coming now to break this up ... break up the party" (p. 87). Williams
provided the view to his predominantly African supporters that the Commission's report
was anti-PNM, and so helped to solidify the racial boundaries which the Commission was
attempting to reconcile with the political system. The commission's thrust for con-
stitutional accommodations to a plural society was rejected. It must be noted, however,
that four of the ten Commissioners either had reservations about or rejected the proposal
for a mixed system of voting. There was another political response to fuller representa-
tion in public offices. With respect to the office of Ombudsman, the Commission wrote:
Basically the argument in Trinidad & Tobago was that
a multiracial society needs a multiracial institution if
that institution is to succeed . It is, for example,
quite sensible to seek to achieve a reasonable balance
in the overall distribution of offices in the state so
that no racial group can legitimately complain of
discrimination (p. 90).
However, the Commission also noted the dilemma, as it added:
It is quite a different matter to structure an institu-
tion on the explicit assumption that no citizen of
Trinidad & Tobago can exclude race as a factor in the
decision-making process (p. 90).
However, against the request by the legal profession and one dissenting commis-
sioner for a triumvirate of officers for the post, the Commission recommended that one
person hold the post of Ombudsman. Those recommending more than one person to hold
the post felt that such plurality would help reduce racial suspicions. This view was well
expressed by the dissenting Commissioner who recommended three persons. He explained
(Commission Report 1974): "Race is the central part of our political culture ... For the
most part we whisper our fears and grievances rather than shout them from the rooftops"
Apart from its recommendation for a mixed system of voting, based on a considera-
tion of cultural diversity, the Wooding Commission stressed political decentralization as
another strategy for fuller representation (e.g., Parliamentary Committees).
Some Psychological Implications
The psychology of multiculturalism in Trinidad emanates from the tensions ensuing
from different cultural groups largely possessing differential status and privileges and the
consequences for self-esteem and inner conflict generated by the antagonistic perceptions
harboured by those different groups.
This does not deny that cultural change is and should be necessary within a multi-
cultural society. LaGuerre (1974) noted that "Economic development and the re-alloca-
tion of economic resources between and among groups sill erode the traditional relation-
ships" (p. 106). But Dookeran (1974) added:
An economic system that creates the need for a trade-
off between cultural persistence and economic better-
ment accepts implicitly a strategy for the absorption
of the sub-culture into the dominant culture (p. 80).
However, we must note two issues. The first one, as Rubin (1967) pointed out, is
that the "dominant culture" in Trinidad largely reflects an unwieldly mixture of African
and American influence so that even in its response to Indian culture. Africans are gradu-
ally becoming cultural brokers for American culture in Trinidad. Another researcher
(Deosaran 1976) added:
We ought to explore more faithfully the possibility of
retaining social diversity against the levelling demands
that appear so inherently as part of modernisation.
This, in the final analysis could very well be our last
bulwark against cultural imperialism from North
America which penetrates these developing areas as
an integral part of modernisation (p. 82).
The second issue is that while the literature on cultural relations acknowledges,
even with approval, the trade-off between cultural persistence and economic betterment,
little or no attention has been given to the "trailing effect"; that is, even when cultural
persistence is abandoned by the more removed group, economic and social rewards continue
to lag behind those gained by other groups traditionally closer to the power structure.
Moreover, the pragmatism inherent in the culture-economic exchange process has largely
ignored the psychological consequences for distant groups as they strive to gravitate
towards the power centres.
Conceptions of physical appearance, status, and mobility arose from the planto-
cracy and to the extent to which the freed slaves "resembled" their former masters, so too
did self-respect develop. There has since been a sharp reaction to this phenomenon
especially by calypsonians and black cultural movements.
One Black spokesman (Lamine 1975) wrote:
This vision has prompted an entry into the cultural
history of Black profile in the effort to rediscover our
essences, our real selves. That search has resulted in the
important realisation that these principles which
inform traditional black societies need to be reaffirmed
because of their essential humanistic character. Such
re-affirmation we consider vital to the resolution of
the spiritual crisis that bedevils black subjugated
peoples p. 2.)
This search by blacks for "their roots" on the one hand, and the pleas for fuller parti-
cipation and cultural identification by Indians on the other hand have helped complicate
the search for multiracial harmony. Both racial groups, in one way or another, feel
deprived, yet exist within a state of underlying tension as far as their relationships with
each other are concerned.Thiswas evidenced in 1970, when black nationalist and cultural
movements articulated their cultural search and embarked on militant organisation, the
East Indians recoiled into a type of cultural revivalism of its own (Samaroo 1974).
Stereotyping has been a widespread mechanism of psychological control and "keep-
ing groups in their place". Apart from the collision between European and African
culture during slavery, with the advent of the Indian indentured system. Brereton (1974)
noted: "An entire alien, racial, religious and cultural sector was introduced into a West
Indian island where an European minority was attempting to impose its culture on a
subordinate African majority" (p. 15).
Around 1870 the newly freed slaves and the mulatto groups attacked the policy of
indentureship for reasons ranging from "cheap labour", favouritismm", "keeping Africans
down", to "a drain on the public purse". While it was initially against the sugar interests,
this trust soon incorporated the indentured Indians themselves as targets for criticism and
division (Brereton 1974. p. 15: LaGuerre 1974. p. 52).
Soon enough, Indians became stereotyped as "stingy, murderous, dirty"; Africans
became stereotyped as "slow, lazy. ugly" and so on (Brereton 1974). Such stereotypes
(racial attitudes) persist in varying degrees today and no doubt help rationalize the divi-
sions in the distribution of political and economic privileges, especially when note is
taken of the relationship between stereotyping, the self-fulfilling prophecy, and learned
helplessness (Rosenthal and Jacobson 1968; Seligman 1975; Lippman 1972).
The appeal for social, economic and political reform for harmony within multicul-
turalism finds a basis in "the contact hypothesis" (Ford 1973: Simpson and Yinger.
1974). This hypothesis bears some evidence in maintaining that prejudice is lessened
when different racial groups interact on the basis of equal status. While there have been
some modifications to the central thesis, the overall argument stands that if socio-eco-
nomic and political privileges are equitably distributed among racial groups within a
community, negative stereotyping and racial prejudice are lessened (Robinson et al, 1976;
Tavkashima et al. 1976). It is further argued that that should not be necessarily done by
ravaging cultural values (Turner et al, 1978).
While the criticism against the materialism of modernization (Froman, 1965) has
already been made on humanistic grounds, the fact that the official policy of Trinidad is
now one for rapid industrialization justifies urgent attention to possible social and psy-
chological disruptions emerging from that policy.
Describing "the agonies of modernisation", Black (1975) wrote:
Modernisation must be thought of then, as a process
that is simultaneously creative and destructive, pro-
viding new opportunities and prospects at a high price
in human dislocation and suffering . Nationalism, a
modernizing free in societies struggling for unity and
independence, easily becomes a force for conserva-
tism and oppression once nationhood is achieved.
Few political leaders have had the vision to place the
human needs of their peoples above national aims.
Too often the means for achieving modernisation with
a fanaticism and ruthlessness that risk the sacrifice of
these ends (pp. 27-28).
The problem is doubled for a multicultural society where inequitable distribution
of political and socio-economic status among different cultural groups causes the groups
to direct their attention to either maintaining or challenging such inequitable distribution
rather than attending to the major overall effects of modernization on the national com-
munity. Hence, it becomes doubly important that formulations for equitable distribution
of the fruits of modernization (however reluctantly it is accepted) be developed as the
country moves on. Modernization has to appear rational in the face of multiculturalism
and the philosophy of equal treatment for every cultural group (Black 1975).
Recently, through visits by representatives from "liberation groups" from abroad
(e.g., Africa), and the stress on the international economic and social order as determin-
ants of black oppression, many Trinidad blacks are increasingly moving towards a "uni-
versal brotherhood of blacks". There is thus a budding sense of enlarged destiny in this,
and obviously an issue like multiculturalism for democratic living in Trinidad would take
a subordinate place to what is considered by those blacks to be a "higher mission" at the
international level. Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton (1967) reflected this view:
"Black Power means that black people see themselves as par: of a new force, sometimes
called the 'Third World'; that we see our struggle closely related to liberation struggles
around the world. We must look up with these struggles" (p. xi). NJAC (1971) added:
"Ours is a regional struggle, part of the entire Third World Struggle ... This is a black
man's struggle. We have our humanity to fight for" (p. 240).
It therefore remains the task of proponents of multiculturalism in Trinidad to show
that the objectives are the same except that the emphasis is at different levels, with multi-
culturalism first securing the understanding and consolidation of forces for a more con-
certed attack against universal forms of oppression. Simply put, the argument is that
"charity must begin at home". This obviously is one of the newer topics for further dis-
cussion. especially for the reason that multiculturalism must be an aim shared by all.
The pervasive fact that racial tensions in Trinidad affect daily lives and national
development in varying degrees is enough for a renewed look at multiculturalism. Strate-
gies for reconstruction will also have to apply psychological principles to understand atti-
tudes formation and change, stereotyping and racial prejudice and the self-fulfilling pro-
Villeiain (1976) raised the moral imperative of multiculturalism:
The problem is not then to avoid influencing the ex-
perience. actions and feelings of other cultures for we
can not escape so doing. The task is to make these
influences the finest we can call forth. This in turn
means clarity about justification for the moral plat-
form from which we take initiative towards others
and from whence we receive their actions. And, hope-
fully, as we re-evaluate the value judgements we
employ directly relating ourselves to culturally differ
ent groups, they will do the same in return (p. 41).
This is thus a moral basis for multiculturalism. The challenge for Trinidad now is
how to promote a democratic society inspired by multiculturalism. This paper attempted
to provide some of the political and psychological implications that are involved in multi-
culturalism. At the same time some of the classic delemmas in promoting multiculturalism
were presented if only to show that an acceptance of multiculturalism has to be based on a
wider philosophic basis of democracy and socio-economic reforms. We also need a further
specification of cultural diversity (e.g. religious differences) without a reduction into
absurdity, for there must be a core of both institutions and values that could keep groups
together. The argument in this paper, however, is that such a core should be moved some
distance away from its current absorbing tendencies and closer to a more plural repre-
sentation. It is this movement that would require a loosening of vested interests and a
more democratic approach to cultural development. In other words, a more determined
effort to promote multiculturalism would also provide us an opportunity to review our
existing model of democracy.
1. See Wan Sang Men's attempt to reconcile the issue with respect to 'social class' values. Ameri-
can Sociological Review. 1969. 34 (5). pp. 679-90.
2. See Lowenthal's (1972) discussion on the different ways in which "race" and "ethnicity" are
used by West Indians (p. 144).
3. An oil-producing country. Trinidad now has a per capital income of almost $7.000 with a 1980
national budget of over $5 billion, foreign reserves exceeding $5 billion, and an unemployment
problem ranging between 12 and 15 per cent.
4. For more details, see Craig 1951.
5. See Commission's Working Papers. 1973 for variants of proportional Representation System.
6. See commission n Report. pp. 47 60 for details.
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Institute of Race Relations.
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Sociology (4th ed) New York: T.Y. Cromwell.
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posium on East Indians in the Caribbean University of the West Indies. St. Augustine.
Leiris, M. 1958 Race and Culture Oaris: Unesco. UNFSCO.
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New York: Anchor Books.
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1969 Inward Hunger London: Andre'Deutsch.
THE PLURALISM CONTROVERSY:
WIDER THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS
WILLIE L. BABER
Malcolm Cross offers the following evaluation of cultural Pluralism theory:
Despite their apparent concurrence with the facts of
multiethnic societies, theories of cultural pluralism
represent a gross oversimplification of social reality.
Further, this representation of reality is not merely
partial, but is derived from a theoretical framework
which is conceptually and methodologically weak.1
Cross' appraisal of pluralism, as M. G. Smith and Leo Depres have articulated it, sum-
marizes the problems associated with pluralism. Cultural pluralism, as theory, avoids a
diachronic frame of reference and oversimplification of social reality develops easily
whenever anyone depends on a strictly synchronic view of it. Pluralism theory also
encourages circular reasoning which violates methodological rigour. However, further
theoretical implications, substantive ones, flow from the issues raised in the pluralism
controversy. Without directing attention to (1) structural functionalism and (2) social
stratification, the theoretical implications under consideration in this paper may escape
In focusing on the pluralism controversy, I will demonstrate several points. (1)
The theoretical orientations of pluralism and structural functionalism motivate static
modes of analysis, and both perspectives invite careless thinking. (2) The greater theo-
retical insights gleaned through the incorporation of "change" into the structural-
functionalist orientation assist in developing the notion of ethnic stratification: in this
case Cultural pluralism emerges as one of the consequences of the ethnic stratification.
Barth develops this view of pluralism in Ethnic Groups and Boundaries.2 Furthermore,
Depres, an adherent of pluralism, abandoned the orthodox pluralist position in favour
of furthering Barth's view.3 Indeed, in comparison to other contributors to the pluralism
concept, Barth's perspective takes a rather fruitful direction. Nonetheless (3) some
inadequacies emerge in Barth's model if one considers employing the model as an
analytical framework for understanding social stratification. Finally, (4) a good under-
standing of both cultural pluralism and social stratification converge; their convergence
requires drawing on nomothetic propositions and hypotheses put forth in exchanges
among stratification theorists, namely Orans, Sahlins and Lenski.4
M. G. Smith and Pluralism
Theoretical orientations never come to exist in a vacuum. As most pluralism critics
point out, pluralism developed as an antithesis to the functionalist consensus model of
social systems. Functionalism's methodological dictum encourages one to explore the
systemic features of society, i.e., investigate the manner in which institutions, culture,
and other components of social structure form interconnections as an interdependent
and stable system. The idea of functional prerequisites is closely associated with the
stability of social structure. Functional prerequisites include such features as com-
munication, role differentiation, shared cognitive orientations, a shared set of goals,
normative regulation of behaviour, and the control of deviant behaviour (Aberle).5 M.G.
Smith claims that functionalism, given its conservative bias, is conceptually inadequate in
analyzing the multi-cultural and ethnic millieu which characterizes Caribbean societies.6
Furnivall (1939) first breathed life into the pluralism concept in reaction to the
ethnic divisions he observed in colonial Southeast Asia.
In Burma as in Java, probably the first thing that
strikes the visitor is the medley of peoples -
Europeans, Chinese, Indian, and Native. It is in the
strictest sense a medley, for they mix but do not
combine. Each group holds by its own religion,
its own culture and language, its own ideas and ways.
As individuals they meet, but only in the market
place, in buying and selling. There is a plural society:
with different sections of the community living
side by side, but separately, within the same political
unit. Even in the economic sphere, there is a division
along racial lines.9
Furnivall suggested that in such situations there are no common social bonds based
on commonly held beliefs and values which guide or check social action among such a
medley of peoples. He further claims that such societies as these can be held together
only by the use, or potential use, of political force exercised by one dominant group.
Two ideas seem to attract M. G. Smith to Furnivall's concept of plural society;
(1) a society lacking in social consensus and (2) force binds such societies together.
M. G. Smith expands this concept, however, suggesting that social pluralism varies with
cultural pluralism. In order to develop correlations between social and cultural pluralism,
Smith finds it necessary to reconsider the relationship between society and culture.
Society defined in terms of the network of social relations appears adequate, yet there
remains the problem of distinguishing between societies. Radcliffe-Brown's response to
this problem simply evades the issue: 'If we take any convenient locality of a suitable
size, we can study the structural system as it appears in the region, i.e., the network of
relations connecting the inhabitants amongst themselves and with the people of other
region.'8 However, the problem of delimiting the boundary of "society" or "group"
becomes crucial in analyzing multi-cultural situations; social boundaries can never be
simply a matter of convenience!
How does Smith view the relationship between culture and society? Firth defines
culture as the ideational fabric of meaning which guides human behaviour, and social
structure (i.e., the network of social relations between people) is the form that behaviour
takes.9 Smith claims that "this view . obstructs the recognition and analysis of cul-
turally heterogeneous (i.e., multicultural) units".1 What concerns Smith here is, given
these definitions, how does one draw boundaries between societies and subgroups within
societies, such as multi-cultural and ethnic social situations created by colonialism?
Patterns of social relations exist in the Caribbean area; however, more than "one
culture" or more than one fabric of meaning "guides" human behaviour. According to
Smith, this multi-cultural situation indicates that "plural societies are only units in a
political sense".' In other words, since there is not, as Firth's definition seems to
require, a neat correspondence between culture as the ideational fabric of meaning which
guides human behaviour and the form (social structure) that behaviour takes, M. G. Smith
concludes that some Caribbean societies have pluralistic tendencies and therefore lack
common values and beliefs.
M. G. Smith finds it necessary to delimit the boundary of society at two different
levels of abstraction. At one level, he concurs with Nadel's definition of society as an
administrative political unit. But as a higher level of abstraction, M. G. Smith defines
society as a 'moral' and consistent cultural patterning of mutually supporting social
relations. The latter definition apparently requires a unilateral relationship between
culture and society; a definition of culture, at this level, must allow one to differentiate
between societies in terms of a 'moral' system. Hence, the boundary of 'society', at this
higher level of abstraction, depends on its cultural matrix, that is, '. .. the core of a
culture is its institutional system. . [and] the institutions of a people's culture form
the matrix of their social structure'.' 2 An institution, in turn, is one of the fundamental
units of the social system and comprises forms of activity, groupings, rules, ideas, and
values. Institutions tend to assemble into a 'core' which embraces kinship, religion,
property and economy and so on.
All of these formulations flow from the older Malinowskian view of society and
culture, i.e., an integrating whole, a moral system, fusing values institutions, and mutually
supporting social relations. This unilateral view of society and culture does considerable
damage to the bilateral view of 'culture' recognized by most contemporary anthropolo-
gists. In the bilateral view of culture, stress is placed on distinguishing between empirical
behaviour (society) and the ideational or symbolic levels of interaction. Given this per-
spective, a much more dynamic view of social interaction is possible.
Based on the notion of institutional core, three different types of socio-political
units appear in M. G. Smith's earlier work; homogeneous, and plural.13 These socio-
political units differ from each other by the existence or non-existence of a common
basic core of institutions. (1) A socio-political unit with a single core of basic institutions
tends towards structural and cultural homogeneity. (2) However, other socio-political
units, 'the members of which share a common system of basic . institutions but prac-
tice "alternative" and "exclusive" institutions are socially and culturally heterogeneous.14
Finally (3) the co-existence of different core institutional subsystems defines heteroge-
neous socio-political units as plural societies.
Where cultural plurality obtains, different sections of
the total population practice different forms of these
common institutions, and, because institutions in-
volve patterned activities, social relations, and ideal
systems, in a condition of cultural plurality, the
culturally differentiated sections will differ in their
institutional activities, and their system of belief and
values. Where this condition of cultural plurality is
found, the societies (i.e., socio-political units) are
plural societies.) 5
The circular reasoning represented here has not escaped criticism.
Structural-Functionalism and the Critics
Raymond Smith, Benedict, and Braithwaite all argue against cultural pluralism
based on a basic structural-functionalist theoretical orientation. 16 Raymond Smith states
that the concept of 'Cultural pluralism' has little value other than summarizing in two
words some very complex problems.17 R. Smith objects to M. G. Smith's view that
functional integration of subsystems or sections in Caribbean societies seldom occurs.
Rather, he suggests that all societies require a minimum of shared values which allow
them to function and persist. Moreover, he adheres to the principles that the unit of
study should be the social structure, that is, the actual existing system of relations.
Given this functionalist orientation, the differentiation of cultural sections in
Caribbean societies appears as a structural problem, resulting from the hierarchically
arranged colour/class divisions, social statuses, differential access to political power, and
different social functions. Cultural sections are structually and functionally integrated
into a total and interdependent social system, based on a minimum of shared values.
Benedict and Braithwaite construct similar functional arguments for the adequacy of
'structure' as one's master concept, while pointing to the inadequacies of pluralism
theory and the ambiguity of culture as one's master concept.
McKenzie, in reviewing the contribution of pluralism theory by Despres, observes
the tautological reasoning which has been closely associated with pluralism:
The trouble is that we have no independent evidence
that these societies are indeed plural societies. It is
not open to M. G. Smith to argue that the occurrence
of violence shows that they were not integrated
around common values. For then he would be using
the occurrence of violence as one of the criteria of
pluralism and claiming at the same time that this
confirms the correctness of holding that plural
societies are not integrated with respect to values.
The circularity of such an argument is obvious
(McKenzie 1966: 58).' 8
The postulation of there being some correspondence between cultural pluralism and
violence or 'core' institutions, and social relations for that matter, tells one nothing at
all about process or why pluralism exists. The same problem involving process or social
change is revealed in the other widely held criticism of M. G. Smith's cultural pluralism
theory. How do we recognize the point at which variation within one institutional sub-
system becomes great enough to warrant our identification of two separate subsystems?' 9
In the final analysis, cultural pluralism theory is synchronic and methodologically tauto-
However, it is well accepted by many contemporary scholars that functionalism,
the theoretical framework employed by R. Smith and others cited above, also has dif-
ficulty when it comes to the crucial aspect of process or social change. For example,
Dahrendorf correctly states that there can be no satisfactory functional explanation of
the origin of inequality'.20 Functionalism may have a place in the explanation of socio-
cultural phenomena; however, the temptation to use functionalism to account for the
existence of socio-cultural phenomena has forced many users of this framework into the
tautological tightrope of postulating the relations between parts of a social system as if
this accounts for the existence of the system itself. Such a procedure is invalid unless
one is willing to accept the similar circular reasoning that McKenzie noted in M. G. Smith's
formulations. Heuristically speaking, structural-functionalism and pluralism theory have
A conflict versus consensus dichotomy is really the crux of the cultural pluralism
controversy. This hardly comes as a surprise since the original concepts of cultural/
social pluralism were developed in reaction to the wide use of functionalism as a theoreti-
cal framework applicable to the analysis of Caribbean societies and similar colonial con-
texts. In this connections, another contributor to the pluralism controversy errs consi-
derably when he states:
On the ideological level the pluralist perspective is
sober and realistic. As Kuper keenly observes, it
appears rather pessimistic against the back drop
of the great optimism of the competing function-
alist and marxist schools that believe in the trans-
itional nature of ethnic divisions, intercommunal
solidarity and equality, and progressive universalism.
Since no such vision does inform the pluralist per-
spective, it renders itself open to various ideological
While void of any attempt at a class analysis, an apparently paradoxical point which
informs Magubane's scathing marxist critique of pluralism, 'conflict' was nevertheless
an important element in Fumivall's and M.G. Smith's early formulations.22 Present
attempts by Smooha and Kuper to purge pluralism of "conflict determinism" should not
be confused with the consensus/conflict issue, which has spun the almost impenetrable
web of controversy.23
Barth and Social Process
Morris and Cross agree that the early structural-functionalist orientation and
cultural pluralism theory have deficiencies: both theorists suggest developing a model of
social organization or process which will resolve the issues involved in the cultural plural-
ism controversy.24 Morris. and later Depres, employ Fredrick Barth's model of social
process in an attempt to redress some of the difficulties with cultural pluralism.25
Brath, defines social structure as the network of relations between people, and a
relationship refers to an adjustment of individuals' respective interests. Barth develops
this idea further by observing that such interests are values, and individuals always seek
to maximize value through transaction (exchange). Social structure consists in the
network of relations ranked statuses which require appropriate roles, i.e., ideational
and behavioral expectations. Status and role maximization (positions in social structure)
varies according to the value preferences of the individual. An adjustment of values
requires reciprocity in transaction so that each party may be satisfied with the bargain. In
groups, the maximizing of interests does not apply to individual shareholders but is re-
directed toward the sum of the group's assets. And assets are shared values whose proper
handling is felt by the members of the group to be obligatory. Though Morris does not
mention it, the physcial environment is included in Barth's model, to which all societies
must adapt themselves. Finally, social change is incorporated into the model by focusing
on individuals whose interactions and transactions form groups which, in turn, determine
social structure: and it is individuals who change social structure.
Ethnic Group and Boundaries: Cultural Pluralism Revisited
Two themes should be noted at this juncture: (1) how Barth himself uses his
model in Ethnic Groups and Boundaries and (2) what the implications are with respect
to the pluralism controversy.26
Barth can be considered to have made a significant analytical observation through
his argument that the sharing of a common culture be considered an implication or result
of ethnicity and not as a primary or definitional characteristic of ethnic group organiza-
tion.27 In Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Barth points out that ethnic categories take
culture into account but one cannot assume a one-to-one relationship between ethnic
units and culture phenomena. 'The features that are taken into account are not the sum
of "objective" differences, but only those which the actors themselves regard as signifi-
cant.' In other words, 'ethnic categories provide an organizational vessel that may be
given varying amounts and forms of content in different socio-cultural systems'. Seen
in this perspective, says Barth, the critical focus becomes the ethnic boundaries that
define the group and not the cultural repertoire in between the boundaries.
Somewhat a corollary to the preceding point, Barth also suggests that 'ethnic
distinctions do not depend on an absence of mobility, contact and information, but
do entail social processes of exclusion and incorporation whereby discrete categories
are maintained despite changing participation and membership . '.2 This idea is sig-
nificant because one popular argument against cultural pluralism, on an empirical level,
comes out of the American acculturation school in anthropology. Crowley states that,
due to plural and differential acculturation, the 'basic agreements in such vital areas as
language, folk belief, magic practice, mating and family structure, festivals, and music
provide the common ground which makes it possible for Trinidad to function as a
society'.29 However, the upshot of Barth's suggestions are that (1) the maintenance of
ethnic boundaries do not depend on the total cultural repertoire of the groups involved
but rather on key cultural signals or signs, and these may vary through time. And (2)
although individuals' behaviour may cross ethnic boundaires, this process can actually
work to maintain ethnic boundaries as long as there is a consistent set of sanctions that
govern situations of contact and prevent inter-ethnic interaction in other key sectors.
By focusing on the maintenance of ethnic boundaries, process (or change) becomes
essential to Barth's model. Ethnic identity implies a series of constraints on (1) the kinds
of roles an individual may be allowed to play and (2) the other persons one may choose
for different kinds of transactions. Furthermore, regarded as a status, ethnic identity
supersedes other statuses, and limits the permissible constellations of statuses which an
individual with a particular ethnic identity assumes.30 For example, though blacks in
America may want to maximize statuses, through appropriate transactions, the roles
accompanying the status 'black American' may provide constraints, based on an
American social structure and culture, which would limit transactional possibilities and
thereby preclude or make less likely certain constellations of statuses. Finally, as Barth
puts it, 'what can be referred to as articulation and separation on the macro-level cor-
responds to systematic sets of role constraints on the micro-level'.3
Barth arrives at the conclusion that stable inter-ethnic relations presuppose a
structuring of social interaction. Moreover, where such structuring exists, insulation of
cultures can occur and a plural society can develop. Barth himself states that 'this of
course is what Furnivall so clearly depicted in his analysis of plural society: a poly-
ethnic society integrated in the marketplace, under the control of a state system domi-
nated by one of the groups, but leaving large areas of cultural diversity in the religion
and domestic sector of activity'.32 Hence, we now see Barth, who works out of a revised
and improved structural-functionalist paradigm, putting forth the essential properties
of M. G. Smith's idea of cultural pluralism.
There are distinct differences between M. G. Smith's and Barth's formulations.
For example, according to Barth 'it is . inadequate to regard overt institutional forms
as constituting the cultural features which at any time distinguish an ethnic group'.33
This statement stands antithetical to M. G. Smith's master concept of core institutions.
Also where M.G. Smith eschews ethnicity as being too ambiguous analytically to be
useful in developing cultural pluralism, Barth successfully sharpens the concept.34 Further-
more, Barth argues that ethnic stratification is made possible 'where groups are character-
ized by differential control of assets that are valued by all groups in the system', while
M. G. Smith's 'institutional core' presupposes different values for each subgroup within
a social formation with the implication that "force" by one dominant group is the agent
providing an orderly social life.3 Quite clearly, Brath's formulations are an improvement
over M. G. Smith's attempts at a cultural pluralism theory; however, the same is no less
true for the earlier structural-functionalist theoretical orientation. Whatever may be the
case theoretically, the end result is the same, for the essential points in Furnivall's des-
cription (via M. G. Smith) of plural societies can be maintained through the use of Barth's
Social Stratification and Barth's Model of Process
The cultural pluralism controversy, as its critics have consistently maintained,
directly confronts the subject of social stratification. Morris uses Barth's model in con-
junction with a typology of social stratification.36 He identifies (1) stratified societies
(2) open as opposed to closed stratification systems, and (3) types of closed systems
from one another. In addition, Morris states that 'an adequate theory of groups for the
study of social structures is a prerequisite, whether the societies are plural or not'.37
Barth's theoretical framework appears to fill this void.
Problems arise, however, when one takes a closer look at social stratification in
terms of Barth's model of process. Morris states that
a system of stratification emerges . if every mem-
ber of society concerned is forced into relationships
of incorporation with some members of the society,
and into relationships of transaction that are also
relationships of superiority and inferiority with
all other members of the society in respect of jointly
and sectionally held assets (or values). This holds
true for all types of stratification.3 8
An important problem with this definition, which is based on Brath's model, is that it
appears to take consensus on values among strata as necessary. This position is not
acceptable, a priori, anymore than M. G. Smith's position that force holds the sections
of a plural society together. Consensus or force, or more accurately the relationship
between them, should remain problematical.
The major analytical problem with Barth's model lies embedded in the concept of
transaction, a concept borrowed from economics. The problem with social process as
articulated through this notion alone is that process (or social dynamics) is limited to
economizing or maximizing type of behaviour. As a result, a very restricted role is left
for time or history, reducing considerably one's scope with respect to the dynamic in-
volved in human behaviour. Knowledge of process, then, is based on an equilibrium type
of analysis where one attempts to gain information about what happens when some
'value' is chosen or allocated and maximized in one direction, rather than in some other
direction. However, understanding social stratification (and therefore pluralism) would
seem to require a historical view as well as some curiosity about why or how inequality
develops in society.
Cultural Pluralism and Social Stratification
An alternative theoretical point of view may be required in order to address the
substantive issues involved in the cultural pluralism debate. First, how did the systems of
stratification (colour/class, status, ethnicity) come to exist in Caribbean and other multi-
cultural societies and how are they maintained and manipulated? Obviously, answers
to these questions should be related and therefore should not necessarily require com-
peting theoretical points of view.
In order to answer these questions, it may help to view social stratification from an
historical or evolutionary perspective. This will provide some information concerning the
causes of social stratification, or at least correlations of social stratification with other im-
portant variables such as population, which has been suggested by Orans, or economic
productivity, as hypothesized by both Sahlins and Lenski.39 With varying degrees of
success and with considerable disagreement on a number of related issues, these three
theorists have suggested that there is a correlation between increasing social stratification
and surplus production (or in the case of Orans, increasing population).
With respect to the pluralism controversy, a general hypothesis correlating surplus
production/population and social stratification would be incisive especially in terms of
how theory related to this relationship may find relevant and powerful data in the well-
documented history of the Caribbean area. For example, slave systems in the Caribbean
area became large and very highly stratified along the dimensions of race, skin colour
and type of work activity performed on the plantation. The productivity of slavery is an
issue on which there is much dispute.40 Nevertheless, the variations of productivity and
slavery with regional variations in (1) fertile subtropical environments, (2) lucrative sugar
markets, (3) sugar technology and (4) merchant capitalists in Europe are very important
variables to consider in terms of a general surplus/stratification proposition. Furthermore,
there was a general consensus among European 'core' nations that profitable colonization
of the Caribbean periphery required rapid increases in population and population control,
whether of freemen, slaves or indentured servants. Population increases were required
if mercantilism was to be a successful development strategy. This particular theme is
heavily documented in Williams' Capitalism and Slavery, which argues that the labour
needs of a developing capitalist system created slavery in the Caribbean only to later
destroy slavery as a response to further shifts in economic production relationships be-
tween core and peripheral areas of the system.
The general historical perspective suggested in these brief statements may direct
attention away from the nagging question of 'values' and whether consensus with regard
to them is a necessary condition in systems of stratification a moot issue at best.
Values, political organization, and other ideological manifestation may appear more
meaningful if these processes are mapped onto the correlations between degrees of
stratification and productivity of economic systems. Quite naturally, individuals and
groups will draw on existing ideational systems within society (and create new ones)
as competition for resources increases, or if new profitable production possibilities re-
quire new forms of labour organization and labour control.
In addition to an historical perspective, the view I propose would necessarily re-
tain Barth's analytical distinction between culture and society, rather than collapsing
culture 'into' society as stressed in M. G. Smith's earlier work or ignoring culture as some
of the stratification theorists have proposed. The culture/society distinction is very
important in explaining how the symbolic level of interaction can allow one group of
groups to control the social level of interaction of other individuals and groups within
different dimensions of a particular stratification system, and without using force per se.
Consensus and conflict around particular values, as well as variation in ethnicity or
religion, are means by which individuals and groups attempt to maintain or reorder social
systems; values would not appear as the basis of the system itself, as suggested by Morris
How are stratification systems created? This question requires analysis from an
institutional level; however, while Barth's model improves on the definition of ethnicity
and the analysis of social process, it still fails to address this question. Lenski's evolutionary
theory of stratification does suggest a relationship between increasing stratification as
surplus (defined as goods and services over and above the minimum required to keep
producers alive) increases. But at this point, exactly how simple hunting and gathering
societies move into higher levels of social organization becomes an important issue.
Lenski's attempt to address this issue is revealed through his description of tradi-
tional hunting and gathering societies as living close to the subsistence level, with the
implication that they are not able to maximize food production with any degree of
regularity or consistency due to a harsh environment. However, Sahlins has presented
evidence that, while living in a harsh environment, hunters and gatherers produce suf-
ficient food and a great deal of leisure time. Assuming that time can be considered
valuable and something worth maximizing, then based on Lenski's theory one might ask
why haven't elites emerged to appropriate leisure time for their own purposes? Because
insatiable values (maximization), a basic assumption in Barth's model as well as in Lenski's
evolutionary view, is not totally sufficient to explain the creation of surplus or, in the
case of Barth, the emergence of ethnic boundaries.
On the one hand, note that the 'origins' problem which an evolutionary orientation
invites is easily avoided through the use of a maximization postulate. No doubt this
accounts somewhat for the popularity of Barth's approach among current pluralism/
stratification theorists. On the other hand, since insatiable economic values (maximi-
zation) is not necessarily a valid assumption as illustrated throughout the contributions of
Sahlins and Lenski, one may not wish to overlook this point especially where it con-
cerns economic production.4
Where the maximization of value postulate is concerned, it is possible to assume
just the reverse that, in the absence of a political or social reason to produce more,
increase in productivity will be just as likely to decrease work activity as to increase it.
This proposition is as empiricist as Barth's maximization postulate. perhaps even more
so.42 Orans frames the problem in this manner:
The [Adam] Smith argument makes it appear that
increased production and a superfluous surplus: the
superfluous surplus is in turn thought to be the suffi-
cient cause of an increased division of labor. The
adoption of this apparently beguiling argument by
numerous authors have tended to divert investigation
away from the institutional conditions which are cru-
cial to the transformation of potential into actual
production and from the various uses that might be
made of such production. Why should the food pro-
ducers who have increased their efficiency produce
more rather than work less? Does such a transforma-
tion require the development of a coercive institu-
tion? A hierarchy that they wish to contribute to for
ideological reasons? Given an increase in production,
what are the institutional determinants of its use?
Will it be employed to increase the proportion of
non-food producing specialist of the kind Smith envi-
sages who minister to the alleged insatiable material
appetities of man, or rather to increase the propor-
tion of non-food producing chiefs or priests? Perhaps
it will be consumed by non-food producers engaged
in the production of monumental architecture dedi-
cated to the chiefs or priests or it may be traded
abroad for innumerable purposes (...) neither the
transformation of potential production into actual
production or the uses it is put to are intelligible
apart from an institutional analysis.43
It is clear from Orans' remarks that an institutional analysis should not refer to maximiza-
tion of value, nor functional necessity, but rather purposeful decision-making as deter-
mined through those who control productive resources.
Given the inadequacies of both pluralism theory and early functionalism, and
similarities with respect to the inadequacies, it is difficult to understand the intensity
of the pluralism controversy. Another polemical problem may be underlying the issues:
to what extent does an institutional analysis, as suggested by Orans, contribute to the
understanding of social stability, social change, and social stratification? While avoiding
the line of thought suggested by Orans, numerous claims and counter-claims regarding
conflict/consensus and pluralism/functionalism have been produced when, apparently,
either perspective can be supported by the other! This has been illustrated in Barth's
very convincing effort of mapping 'pluralism' onto his (revised) structural-functionalist
model of process.
The significance of Barth's model lies in its clarity; the nomothetic basis of it
reveals the importance of the 'institutional question' aptly raised by Orans. However,
this critical question must be shifted from an ideational level (as implicit in maximi-
zation of an individual's values) to a material and social level. Then cultural pluralism
can be understood not only in terms of the manipulation of cultural/symbolic levels of
interaction: It can also be understood in terms of the evolution of economic systems,
and their associated social systems of stratification.
1. Malcolm Cross, "Cultural Pluralism and Sociological Theory: A Critique and Re-evaluation",
Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 17, No. 4, 1986, pp. 381-397.
2. F. Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1969. pp. 1 -38.
3. Leo Depres, Ethnicity and Resource Competition in Plural Societies, Paris: Mouton, 1975.
4. M. Orans, "Surplus", Human Organization, Vol, 25, 1966 pp. 24-32: M. Sahlins, Stone Age
Economics, Chicago: Aldine, 1972; G. Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Strati-
fication, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
5. David Aberle et al., "The functional Prerequisites of a Society", Ethics, Vol. 60. 1950, pp.
6. M. G. Smith, The Plural Society in the British West Indies, Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1965. The number of definitions, typologies and general variations of pluralism are
sufficient, such that unravelling the various tangents would require time and effort better
spent otherwise. Therefore, 1 shall limit my criticisms to M.G. Smith's earlier work. The purpose
of this paper can be achieved without adding to what Heribert Adam has characterized as 'a
reified vocabulary which has survived because of irrefutable ambiguity rather than established
theoretical utility' (quoted in Smooha, (see Note xx).
7. Ibid., p. 75.
8. Ibid., p. 79.
9. Ibid., p. 78.
10. Ibid., p. 78.
11. Ibid., p. 14.
12. Ibid., p. 80.
13. Trinidad would be an example of a pluralistic society as compared to the United States where
there exist plural tendencies within a heterogeneous situation. See M. G. Smith, 1965.
14. M. G. Smith, 1965, p. 81.
15. Ibid., Ibid., p. 14.
16. Raymond T. Smith, "Review of Social and Cultural Pluralism in the Caribbean" American
Anthropologist, Vol. 63, Vol. 63, No. 1, pp. 155-157 and "Social Stratification in the Carib-
bean," in Essays in Comparative Social Stratification, eds., Plotnicov and Tuden, University
of Pittsburgh Press, 1970; B. Benedict, "Stratification in Plural Societies", American Anthro-
pologist, Vol. 64, pp. 1235-1246 and "Pluralism and Stratification", in Essays in Comparative
Social Stratification, eds., Plotnicov and Tudens, University of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 29-41;
Lloyd Braithwaite, "Social Stratification in Trinidad: A Preliminary Analysis", Social and
Economic Studies, Vol. 2, Nos 2 & 3, pp. 5-175.
17. Op. cit., R. Smith, 1963, p. 55.
18. H. T. McKenzie "The Plural Society Debates: Some Comments on a Recent Contribution",
Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1. 1966, pp. 53-59.
19. This particular problem is not as serious as it may seem. The issue of identifying sub-cultural/
institutional systems is a measurement problem. As with other socio-cultural phenomena,
determining boundaries is an empirical and somewhat subjective matter, and it reduces to
measuring greater and lesser amounts of the phenomena in question. See R. Smith, 1963;
and H.S. Morris, "Social Aspects on the Concept of Plural Society," Man, Vol. 2, No. 2 1967,
pp. 169-184; L. Gordon, The Growth of the Modern West Indies, New York: Monthly Review
Press, 1968, pp. 35-45.
20. R. Dahrendorf, "On the Origin of Inequality Among Men" in Social Inequality, ed., Andre
Beteille, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969, pp. 16-44.
21. Sammy Smooha, Israel: Pluralism and Conflict, Berkeley: University of California Press,
1978, p. 19.
22. B. Magubane, "Pluralism and Conflict Situations in Africa: A New Look", African Social
Research, Vol. 7, 1969, Vol. pp. 529-554.
23. See Smooha, 1978 and Leo Kuper, Race, Class and Power, London: Duckworth, 1974.
24. See Morris (1967) and Cross (1968).
25. Frederick Barth, Models of Social Organization, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great
Britain and Ireland, 1966.
26. Barth, Ethnic Groups ...
27. Ibid.. p. 11.
28. Ibid., p. 10.
29. Daniel Crowley, "Plural and Differential Acculturation in Trinidad", American Anthropologist,
Vol. 59, 1957 pp. 817-824.
30. Barth, Ethnic Groups ... p. 17.
31. Ibid., p. 17.
32. Ibid., p. 16.
33. Ibid., p. 13.
34. M.G. Smith sees ethnicity as necessarily overlapping with race, language and culture; hence,
it is analytically ambiguous. Barth defines ethnicity in the terms of self ascription.
35. Barth, Ethnic Groups... p. 27.
36. See Morris, "Social Aspects on the Concept of Plural Society".
37. Ibid., p. 182.
38. Ibid., p. 178.
39. M. Orans, "Surplus", Human Organization, Vol. 25, pp. 24-32. Orans presents several hypo-
theses which one might consider. Of particular interest is Orans' fifth hypothesis which would
be applicable to the Caribbean area. Hypothesis: There are instances of societies in which
population growth accomplished by political conquest was then followed by increased stratifi-
cation and then by increased division of labour and these instances were not accompanied by
increased efficiency of food production.'
M. Sahlins, Social Stratification in Polynesia, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1958.
G. Lenski, Power and Privilege .
40. Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, Time on the Cross: The Economics of Slavery, Boston:
Little, Brown & Co., 1974. Fogel and Engerman have provided evidence which suggests that
Ante-bellum Southern agriculture was 35 per cent more efficient than the family farms of the
North. In doing so Time on the Cross . contains views of slavery which are opposed to current
ones expressed by contemporary historians. No doubt there was a strong economic and causal
factor in the origin of Negro slavery (cf. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1944). Later. however, slavery did become an expensive
and very 'inefficient' system. Thus, one must consider what 'efficiency' means. Fogel and
Engreman defined efficiency as a measure of market value output relative to inputs of land,
labour and capital. On the one hand. this measure is very sensitive to market supply and de-
mand. and does not necessarily correspond directly with maximization of food production.
While Orans, on the other hand, defines efficiency in terms of total net yields relative to inputs.
Hence, based on Orans definition, slavery did become very inefficient, primarily because of
soil depletion, and therefore reduced yields. But this does not necessarily suggest that slavery
was not 'profitable'.
41. Sec Sahlins and Lenski.
42. For example, F. J. Berg. "Backward-Sloping Labour Supply Functions in Dual Economics".
in Social 'Change: The Colonial Situation, ed. Immanuel Wallerstein. 1966. has argued that
'wage earners in newly developing countries are alleged to have relatively low want schedule
or high preference for leisure as against income, so that they work less at higher wage rates
and more at lower ones'.
Heaved up by the daily tidal push
Battered by storm-water and heavy wind,
The hulk has tilted on the beach of mud
Her rusted keel burns orange amid the green mangrove.
River-waves sprawl along the dead and gloomy flanks:
Sucking, vicious nosies. her dead dissatisfied.
The slanting deck has rotted black and grey,
Mushrooms of fungus, white bird-droppings, stain the funnels.
Whatever din of passing traffic-sounds,
Or song of birds from the deep forest flying,
A heavy silence surrounds old wrecked ships,
A cone of lass and long-abandoned hopes:
Gulls hover, shrieking, as if above a death
Or rotting food, their screech is ominous.
Each time I pass I cannot help but think
How once she shone at sea and came up river.
Full of daring, to ply a precious trade
Or seek some gold adventure far from ordinary coasts:
The mind's eye conjures up her spring time -
Ambitious captains in starched and braided uniforms
And sheep-skinned jackets turned up to the ears,
Sailors with fat bellies, sun-stained to mahogany,
Cleaning the caked salt, caulking with aromatic tar,
The wind swaying, tumbling, the mass of midnight stars.
Her end grows nearer by infinitesimally slow disgrace:
Every month she sinks a little in the crab-holed mud
She goes to her grave bitterly, pieces disappear,
Mangrove wraps her closer in a stinking green embrace.
But last time I passed something had come over her:
Urchins ran up and down her crazy hull
And swung on yellow ropes, they'd brought and hung,
Saluting, firing guns, and raising steam
Reckless, fierce, as sailors surely are,
Somehow she seemed sprightly in a tilted way
As if she might even right her herself again
Come midnight glide out towards the Spanish Main
And, unfurling festivals of maiden flags once more,
Sail one last voyage to one last triumphant shore.
THE SUN PARROTS ARE LATE THIS YEAR
(for Chico Mendez, murdered Brazilian Environmentalist)
The great forests of the world are burning down,
Far away in Amazon they burn,
Far beyond our eyes the trees are cut
And cleared and heaped and fired:
Ashes fill the rivers for miles and miles,
The rivers are stained with the blood of mighty trees.
Great rivers are brothers of great forests
And immense clouds shadowing the rose-lit waters
Are cousins of this tribe of the earth-gods
Under the ancient watch, of the stars:
All should be secure and beautiful forever,
Dwarfing man generation after generation after generation,
Inspiring man, feeding him with dreams and strength.
But over there it is not so; man is giant
And the forest dwindles; it will soon be nothing,
Shrubs sprouting untidily in scorched black earth.
The sun will burn the earth, before now shadowed
For a hundred thousand years, dark and dripping,
Hiding jewelled insects and thick-veined plants,
Blue-black orchids with white hearts, red macaws,
The green lace of ferns, gold butterflies, opal snakes.
Everything shrivels and dust begins to blow:
It is as if acid was poured on the silken land.
It is far from here now, but it is coming nearer,
Those who love forests also are cut down.
This month, this year, we may not suffer:
The brutal way things are, it will come.
Already the cloud patterns are different each year,
The winds blow from new directions,
The rain comes earlier, beats down harder,
Or it is dry when the pastures thirst.
In this dark, over-arching Essequibo forest
I walk near the shining river in the green paths
Cool and green as melons laid in running streams.
I cannot imagine all the forests going down.
The great black hogs not snouting for the pulp of fruit,
All this beauty and power and shining life gone.
But in far, once emerald Amazon the forest dies
By fire, fiercer than bright axes.
The roar of the wind in trees is sweet,
Reassuring, the heavens stretch far and bright
Above the loneliness of mist-shrouded forest trails,