The term refers to different t ethnic traditions based on race, language, religion, customs and family practices found in one society or region (Mohammed 2007). The vast differences in the characteristics and attributes of social groups in the Caribbean stem from the traditions and activities of the different European powers that colonized the region.
During the era of slavery Caribbean society was a closed system of stratification based on race and colour. The society was termed as a ‘plantation society’.
A plantation society was a rigidly stratified system of social and economic relations enforced on plantations in the Americas (Mohammed, 2007).
Economic characteristics – very large agricultural land holdings which demanded a huge labour force for manual work. The owners and managers were Europeans who had access to capital.
Social Relationships – the large plantation encouraged the formation of a miniature social system with little contact with the outside. The ‘total institution’ of the plantation demanded that everyone observed the superiority of European culture. Different races contributed to cultural diversity but the way in which the plantation was organized discouraged easy interaction and mixing of the races
Effects of Social Stratification on Contemporary Caribbean
Certain social groups continue to dominate society. These groups may be direct descendents of Europeans whether white or coloured.
There is still a strong resemblance to the colonial economy where raw materials are exported and there is a minimum of manufacturing or significant investment of local persons in the economy and abroad. Very little has changed in terms of developing viable alternatives which could lead to economic diversification.
Cultural pluralism is still evident. Certain ethnic groups may be found in specific geographical locations, in certain occupations and in certain clubs and associations. Cultural pluralism describes a situation where different cultural or racial groups in a society mix only to a certain extent, with limited social and cultural integration (Trinidad and Guyana).
There is a preference for or a privileging of the ideology of European superiority ( more recently it has become a wholesale acceptance of US cultural values evident in fashion, consumer goods, images of physical beauty, appreciation of lifestyles and values.
Society and culture today are not as stratified as plantation society largely due to the social mobility brought about through education.
Political power today largely resides in the hands of people who are descendents of slaves and indentured labourers.
There are groups today in the society who espouse African customs, ethnic wear, religions, designs and interaction with the African continent in an effort to learn more about their ancestral roots and at the same time supplant European ideologies of superiority.
Social mobility is the movement of persons from one status position to another.
Social mobility may be inter-generational i.e. a person attains a higher class position than that of his/her parents; or intra-generational i.e. a change within a person’s class position within his/her lifetime.