CARIBBEAN STUDIES Impact of societal institutions on caribbean people
Impact of Societal Institutions on Caribbean People - Family
Functionalist Perspective on Family
Functionalist say that the fammily should carry out several functionsfor order,
stability and harmony in society. Suc functions include:
2) Economic function
3) Provision of love and a sense of belongingness
These functionalist ideas and values provide a basis for the common interpretation of
the institution of the family across the region.The family is seen as the basic unit of
society. If these functions are carried out in an optimal manner and if everyone plays a
role, then families would be happy and society would not be threatened by an
breakdown of social order.
The Family from a Conflict/Marxist Perspective.
For the conflict theorist, familiesare associated with exploitation,oppression and
domination. Nuclear families in particular are seen as products of capitalism where
labour has to move where employment is located leaving behind the extended family.
Conflict theorists also argue that the values attributed to nuclear family units are a
result of the values imposed by the rich and powerful in the society.
The nuclear family form also fits into the capitalist plans in that there is a sexual
division of labour where the man works outside, and the woman stays at home and
carries out the roles of wife, mother and homemaker.
Conflict theorists believe that the “assigning of roles” in a family has contributed to
family oppression, abuse and violence.This is because what resultsis an unequal
distribution of power that jeopardizes gender relations and even produces generational
Even childrenare affected by this assignment of roles as they are expected to be
obedient and subservient and many of them are powerless because their voices are
Summary and Analysis
Early sociologistsmainly from North America and Europe tended to promote the
nuclear family as a universal family type because this family type was dominant in
their world. Today this family type and the values associated with it is still a dominant
aspiration amongst Caribbean people even in the midst of cultural and ethnic
diversities. If we are to see the Caribbean as one melting pot of cultures then one
family type cannot dominate all others. Amongst Afro and Indo-Caribbean familiesthe
extended family type is still a dominant feature.Functionalists who ascribe to the
nuclear family unit and the roles whicheachindividual play within such a unit fail to
understand, or choose to largely ignore certain socio-historic factorswhich prevent
this family type from being achieved within many units. They argue for example that
disorder occurs whenchildren are born out of wedlock and men in particular fail to
fulfill their rolesas fathers. Yet ironically our European ancestors who tried during
slavery to perpetuate the nuclear family form as the “acceptable” unit to aspire to were
the ones who were separating slave familiesfrom each other.On many slave
plantations marriageswere not allowed or encouraged by slave masters as it would
result in a sense of stability and comfort amongst slaves. Besides, stable unions would
serve to encourage reproduction which would be additional expensesfor plantation
owners. Thus it was common especially during difficult financial time for slaves to be
sold to other plantations separating them from other family members. Dr. Maureen
Rowe has sought to attribute the general lack of responsibility shown amongst
Caribbean fathers to their familiesto what happened during slavery. She argues that
as a result of male slavesbeing sent away to other plantations as soon as a family was
formed, Caribbean men especially in the English-speakingterritories never learnt to
take responsibility for their own actions. The double-standards are even more
revealing whenwe consider the growing mulatto class which emerged during the
period of slavery consisting of children born largely out of wedlock to European slave
masterswho, for the public image sought to portray a perfect nuclear family form.
Essentially the debate on family types and values also lends itself to the question as to
whether family type, structure or composition has any bearing on the kinds of persons
produced by that family. The answer is no. Good and bad persons seemed to have
emerged from all manner of circumstances. Yet there still existsa strong body of
opinion that values familiesconsisting of two wedded parentsand children.
In summary the Conflict perspective gives us an alternative view to that of the
dominant view of the social institution of family. Both describe the impact of the family
on Caribbean people however functionalismcontributes some of the dominant ideas
that help to shape the common view whereas our history and conflict theory show us
how diverse we are in interpreting “family”
THE SOCIAL INSTITUTIONOF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
The justice system refersto the interaction of those social institutions that are cleary
identified withsocial control.These include the interaction of crime,the law and the
judiciary,as well as the police and the protective services. Less formally, membersof
society are socialized from very young into what is considered acceptable and
unacceptable behaviour. Observance of these rules for living is mostly based on
systems of rewardsand sanction, at least in early life. As more mature citizens we
usually observe lawful conduct because we are personally convinced that to recognise
and uphold the rights of others is a hallmark of a good citizenand not because of
Functionalist perspectieve of the justice system
Functionalists believe that valuesabout justice, equality and fairness are universally
acclaimed as good and form the basic framework for society.Society has to have ways
of dealing with those who break the laws of society because they contribute to disorder
and disharmony leading to chaos and confusion.
Functionalist created the institutionsof the justice systemto take care of suc
deviants- by one or more of the following, punishment, detterence or rehabilitation.
The police force and the court system have a role to perform. Deviant behaviour is
explained is explained largely in termsof breakdown in the family socialisation
process or how individuals react to cchanges in society. For example,the anomie
theory says that there are socially accepted meansof obtaining the rewardsof society
but those who cannot accessthe rewards through these means will try other socially
unacepted ways. This is likely to happen when most people in the socie ty accept the
same highly desired goals but few have means to attain them.
Conflict/MarxistPerspective on Justice System
According to Marxist thought the justice system is another institution that forms part
of the state apparatus. It functions to maintain the wealthy in power and by extension
seeks to oppress others and discriminate against them.
The view is that the inequalities of society are brought on by capitalism which helps to
isolate poorer class who canot accessbetter jobs. So the acts of crim ethat these
inviduals may commmit could be regarde as a rebellion against their situation.
Marxist believe that there is a superstructure that includes the police service and the
law courts which functions to control the activitiesof the poor. Criminal stasticsare
used as a device to blame social problems on the working class. This is evidence of
unequal law enforcement, says Marxxist, because the many crimesof the wealthy go
either unreported or unpunished. In sum, social order is imposed by the powerful on
the powerless and is not based on shared values. Th ejustice system serves th
einterest of the elitesand is not about social integration.