Plural society


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For students of CAPE pursuing Sociology or Caribbean studies. This would provide relevant information pertinent to their understanding of Caribbean society and Culture.

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Plural society

  1. 1. Caribbean Social Structure Plural Societies
  2. 2. Introduction According to Burton Benedict (1962) “when one talks about stratification, one is talking about structure. When one talks about plural societies, one is usually talking about ethnic or cultural categories.”
  3. 3. The Concept of the Plural Society  The term “plural society” which is associated with the writings of J.S Furnivall (1944, 1945, 1948) has gained wide currency in the last few years. On the one hand it has been hailed “as essential for comparative sociology” (M.G Smith 1960, 763) and “ as fuel of crucial and strategic importance for sociological theory” (Rex 1959, 114).
  4. 4. On the other hand, it has been criticized as “misleading because it concentrates attention upon differences in race and custom and upon group conflict while at the same time directing attention away from the process making for unity and integration in the society” (R.T Smith 1958).
  5. 5. Neo-Pluralism John F. Manley (1983).  When, in 1967, Dahl published the first edition of his textbook, ‘Pluralist Democracy in the United States,’ he identified multiple centers of power and limited popular sovereignty as the two basic axioms of American pluralism. He claimed, moreover, certain advantages for such a system:
  6. 6.  Power was tamed and coercion minimized.  The consent of all citizens was promoted (in the long run).  The system fostered the peaceful settlement of conflicts to the mutual benefit of most if not all the contending parties. Pluralism was thus offered as a theory of power in America and as justification as well.
  7. 7.  Pluralism has traditionally down played class, but there is a related and equally important difference between pluralism and class analysis. These two theories have historically been caught up in the battle between socialism and capitalism that has raged since the midnineteenth century. Social scientist, however much they may claim value-neutrality in their work, can hardly deny the political implications of a position that denies either the existence or importance of social classes.
  8. 8. The Pluralist Theory of Equality  Historically, pluralism and class analysis have clashed head-on over the issue of equality. Both theories endorse equality and present themselves as ways of attaining it, but this is possible only because they have meant radically different things by the term. Pluralist democracy, furthermore, pits equality as a value against a second great democratic value, liberty, and tends to see the two as tradeoffs.
  9. 9.  Pluralism and class analysis remain split, therefore, over the basic unit of analysis for society. In pluralist theory, classes have merely a nominal existence compared to groups: in class analysis, groups are seen and analyze as fractions or sub-parts of classes.
  10. 10. Ethnic Boundaries and Identity in Plural Society. Jimy M Sanders (2002).  Sanders (2002) gave particular attention to studies that consider how interpersonal networks within ethnic communities influence the degree to which ethnic identity is retained. He claimed that ethnic boundaries are patterns of social interaction that give rise to, and subsequently reinforce, in-group’ self
  11. 11. identification and outsiders’ confirmation of group distinctions. Ethnic boundaries are therefore better understood as social mediums through which association transpires rather than as territorial demarcations.
  12. 12.  Widely acknowledged racial differences can sharpen in-group members’ self-identification and out-group acknowledgement of intergroup distinctions. Similarly, when interaction between groups is limited and otherwise and otherwise conditioned by territorial segregation, intergroup differences gain emphasis. Constraints on cross-group interaction contribute to the respective group ignorances of one another. This, in turn, encourages stereotyping. Race and the segregating tendencies of territorial concentrations are not necessarily components
  13. 13. of ethnic boundaries, but when one or both of these elements of social organization obtain, they can play important roles in the maintenance of ethnic boundaries.
  14. 14. Social Networks and Social Capital  Social networks and the social capital derived from them are central to the study of ethnicity in plural societies. The importance of these social forces is documented by studies of transnational networks that encourage labour migration (Palloni et al. 2001). These networks are shaped by characteristics of the immigration stream and by structural conditions in the host society
  15. 15. (Grieco 1998, Massey and Espinosa 1997). Adaptative social networks that emerge in the host societies exert strong influences on the labour-market experiences of adults and on parental and community efforts to facilitate the success of the next generation in the host society (Waldinger 1996, Zhou And Bankston 1998).
  16. 16.  The importance of the simultaneous scholarly attraction to economic dualism and to the social conditions that fuel the retention of strong ethnic identities was that it motivated scholars to explore how the economic advancement of ethnic groups might be generated in a context of economic segmentation and ethnic awareness. Just how profoundly this emerging way of thinking about the role of
  17. 17. ethic boundaries and identity, in conjunction with the wave of international migrants, was to affect studies of ethnic stratification is ironically conveyed in an early article by Alejandro Portes. After studying 48 Cuba refugee families in Milwaukee, Portes (1969, 516) concluded: “Longer periods of residence in the United States will inevitably weaken old cultural and psychological attachment and offer broader opportunities for socio-economic progress for the majority of refugees in
  18. 18. new environment….Unless there is a major political change, (an overthrow of the Castro regime) the fate of those migrating to the United Sates as a result of the Cuban Revolution seems to be an eventual assimilation, and hence disappearance as a social entity…leaving behind, perhaps some cultural imprints on Miami and a few others U.S cities.
  19. 19. Focusing on the role of ethnic networks in generating economic opportunities, Portes and Bach (1980) and Wilson and Portes (1980) reported on an emerging Cuban enclave economy where businesses were becoming vertically and horizontally integrated. A sense of ethnic solidarity was growing, and social boundaries fostered group identity. But the picture of the economic advantages of participating
  20. 20. in the enclave was initially unclear. Portes and Bach reported that working with fellow Cuban refugees or other minorities negatively affected earnings, while working under a Cuban boss had no effect of earni9ngs. By contrast, Wilson and Portes reported that participation in the enclave gave rise to advantages in occupational prestige, and occupational prestige associated positively with earnings.
  21. 21. Therefore, participating in the enclave, was argued to increase earnings indirectly. The importance of this latter finding was that it countered the ecological hypothesis of assimilation theory, which contends that continued spatial segregation in terms of the labour market, residential patterns, and such limits the upward mobility of ethnic groups.
  22. 22.  Self identity may be fluid, but the extent to which ethnic identity is optional varies by race. Waters (1994) finds that darkskinned West Indian children have severely limited options with regard to ethnic identity. This obtains despite the efforts of many West Indians to resist being identified as African American (Waters 1999, Vickerman 1999) and to maintain distinct residential enclaves (Crowder 1999).
  23. 23. Similarly , middle-class and affluent second-generation Asian Indians with dark skin find it difficult to avoid racial marginality despite efforts to convey alternative identities (Rajagopal 2000). This lack of options contrasts sharply with lighter-skinned groups, particularly biracial children who have one Asian parent (Xie and Gotette 1997) Not only may middle-class standing fail to
  24. 24. Deflect racial labelling, children experiencing the marginality of straddling two or more cultural contexts suffer emotionally, and this fuel intergenerational conflict (Rangaswamy 2000, Rambaut 1994, Zhou and Bankston 1998).
  25. 25. Conclusion  The literature addressing ethnic boundaries and identity in plural societies focuses on social network and the social networks and the social capital derived from them. Social networks that provided scarce resources to a wide spectrum of the ethnic community are highly useful to in-group members. To the extent valuable resources are generated within the group,
  26. 26. relatively closed ethnic boundaries can protect these resources by preserving their use for in-group members. But when ethnic networks appropriate resources, such as access to jobs, from outside the community, ethnic boundaries become more porous because important spheres of life, such as work, necessitate greater involvement with outsiders.
  27. 27. The Utility of Pluralism M.B Leon and W. Leon (1977).  One of the most persistent set of criticism concerns Smith’s contention that the plural society is a separate kind of society that cannot be understood through social stratification theory and can be analyzed in no other terms than those Smith proposes. Such critics as Rubin and others have taken issue with the idea that colonial societies, multicultural societies
  28. 28.  Multiracial societies, plural societies, or any other kind of society requires a unique body of sociological theory. They argue that social stratification applies to all societies (or at least to all complex societies) and is equally relevant with the admittedly complex reality of pluralism.
  29. 29. Political Pluralism  Smith’s preoccupation with pluralism as a political phenomenon, along with his conviction that the section that monopolizes political control will not readily relinquish it, apparently underlies his lack of concern with such alternative routes to modification as acculturation and economic interdependence.
  30. 30. Conclusion  The pivot around which M.G Smith’s writings seem to revolve is that plural societies are first and foremost politically different from non-plural societies. They are maintained in politically different ways, by means of implicit or explicit threat of force or its use, and are therefore characterized by potential or actual internal conflict.
  31. 31.  Short of the unlikely eventuality that the politically dominant and privileged section will agree to modify or abolish its own privileged position, change may be expected to result from violent pressure exerted by less privileged groups.