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SOCIAL STRATIFICATION AND

SOCIAL MOBILITY IN THE


CARIBBEAN

Presenter Ms. N. Lewis

What is social Stratification?


This

refers to the ranking of social groups

according to one or more criteria deemed


important to society.
The

ranking indicates that some groups have

more and others have less of what society


values- for example, money, power and
prestige.

Types of stratification Systems


There are two types of stratification systems:
1. Closed system of stratification
2. Open system of stratification

Closed System of stratification

A closed system is a rigid system with clearly


demarcated boundaries
Social statuses are strictly defined and determine
access to opportunities
Social position is ascribed at birth
There is no social mobility from level to the another.
An example of a closed system of stratification is the
caste system in India. People are born into a caste
and this determines ones occupation, social
interaction, power and education. No amount of
achievement can change a persons caste.

Open System of social Stratification

An open form of social stratification is based primarily


on economic criteria, particular income.
Social position is achieved through ones efforts
The boundaries between classes are more flexible
than with the closed system.
There is opportunity for social mobility, as individuals
can move up or down the class system and therefore
their status can improve or decline.
The class system in modern industrial society is the
best example of an open stratification system.

Social stratification Under Slavery


Contd
Whites

were never apart of the lower class; only


white indentured servants stained their class
boundaries.
Persons of mixed ancestry and lighter colour skin
were the most fortunate by virtue of their
appearance.
Some were rewarded with lighter domestic duties.
The coloured group acted as a buffer zone
upholding white values and thus did not want to
risk their privilege in society.

Social Stratification Under Slavery


The

Plantation System was a closed system

of stratification based on the ascribed criteria


of race and colour.
Race

and colour was tied to ones occupation

in society.

Social Stratification in the Caribbean


The

social structure of the caribbean has


been greatly influenced by colonialism and
slavery.
Ascriptive factors such as race, class and
colour determined the status and life
chances of Caribbean people.

Race Stratification- M.G. Smith

Smith argued that most societies in the caribbean


are plural where there exist significant diversity and
race antagonism.
Smith argued that the different ethnic or cultural
groups in the Caribbean practiced distinctive forms
of the same institutions in society. For example, in
Trinidad the Hindus have a distinctive marriage
practice of bamboo wedding. Neither whites nor
blacks perform these social institutions along the
similar lines.

For

Smith societies such as Trinidad, Guyana


and Jamaica has a closed system of
stratification that ensured limited social
mobility.

Criticisms of Smith
The main criticisms of Smith are summarized below:
1.

Caribbean societies have evolved into class societies and not


cultural blocks as Smiths model suggests.

2.

Many critics argue that education has been the main


equalizer in society

3.

The rise of the local intelligentsia comprises of member from


both African and Indian.

4.

The extent and degree of conflict that Smith articulated based


on culture and diversity is exaggerated. In fact, in many of the

Social Stratification in Trinidad and


Tobago- Lloyd Braithwaite

He observed that the social structure in Trinidad was


founded on ascriptive- particularistic basis. It was
thus based on the positive evaluation of the white
groups in society and negative evaluation of the
black group.
The other groups- Chinese, Indians who enter
society sought to separate themselves from the
blacks as much as possible. Hence ethnic
identification and ethnic purity

The

ascriptive value system was manifested in


schools, churches, carnival and sporting clubs.
Unlike Smith, Braithwaite believed that society
though racially stratified was a united whole,
with the values and norms of the whites being
adopted by the masses and regarded as
mainstream.
The assimilation of the Anglo-saxon value
system allowed for the functional prerequisites
of the society to be achieved.

SOCIAL MOBILITY
This

describes the process whereby social


groups or individuals move either up or down
the social strata.
Wealth, status and prestige came with
occupying the higher rungs of the social
ladder, but one had to have what it took to
earn wealth, status and prestige.
Being white or light skinned was enough to
gain entry into the highest ranking groups.

SOCIAL MOBILITY contd


Apart

from colour, wealth and prestige social


mobility could be achieved by marrying
someone with money, acquiring enough
educational credentials to securing a well
paying job;
By owning a successful business and
investing wisely;
By inheritance;

Social mobility contd


It

can be attained intergenerationally- that is


a family may move t a higher socioeconomic bracket became of hardwork,
diligence and foresight of older generation.

Social Mobility Contd


The

wealthier and powerful groups continue to


be found exclusively in the higher social
classes.
While the structure of Caribbean societies today
shows that many descendants of African and
Indians are in higher social classes, it also
shows that a large number of these groups have
not been successful in accessing social mobility.