Jamaica and Barbados

A Contextualisation

Jamaica and Barbados, it can be argued, represent polarities along the continuum on which the British Caribbean countries can be placed. In this context, many of the characteristics of most of the other Caribbean countries can be found in either of the two countries being studied. These two countries have similarities in their histories, which can be extended to most of the English-speaking territories in the Caribbean, as well as important differences, which have led to different outcomes in their development.


With regard to similarities, both countries experienced a very long period of exposure to British colonisation and the domination of plantation agriculture. Shared historical experiences in this regard have led to similar cultural patterns in respect of language and to a large degree the evolution of a social hierarchy based on colour and class. In both countries blacks made up a large proportion of the population with very little economic or political power. At the top of the hierarchy sat an elite, made up mostly of whites or 'near whites', whose socioeconomic and political power far outweighed their numbers in the society (Collier et al. 1992).


Despite the similarities, however, important differences have resulted in different developmental patterns in these two countries. In the first instance geographical size and topography were of great importance in determining the nature of the societies that evolved during and after slavery (Brown 1993). Rugged, inaccessible terrain and greater physical size afforded the Jamaican population opportunities for resistance to slavery and colonialism that were absent in Barbados. Differing means of social control assumed varying degrees of typicality in the two societies. Education and other means of socialisation into the dominant social ethos achieved more success in Barbados than Jamaica. In the bigger island the naked use of force and brutality came to acquire an importance that it never assumed in the smaller.[1]


Jamaican society developed a tradition of fractiousness and marronage which is absent from the more well-ordered Barbadian society.


Barbados was regarded as a colony of settlement, a home away from home. This led to a greater entrenchment of the attitudes and values of British society, and to more serious attention to the development of a stable and continuous social and political institutional infrastructure, than was the case in Jamaica. The vision of Codrington, the scholarly colonial overlord, to produce Christian gentlemen out of the children of slaves, exemplifies this attempt to recreate English society in Barbados. The result was a society of greater cohesion and consensus than Jamaica, which was regarded as a colony of exploitation where Englishmen came to make their fortune and return home. It could be argued that this has contributed to the relatively greater degree of internal social cohesion, and the considerably higher quantity and quality of the social capital found in Barbados today. Brewster (1996) has described the superior social capital base of Barbados, relative to that in Jamaica, as well as the much greater degree of social, economic, political, and industrial conflict that continues to disrupt the Jamaican society.


These differences led to another very important divergence which is worthy of note. The factors of size and topography have led, in Barbados, to the pervasiveness and maintenance of the plantation system for a significantly longer time than in Jamaica. In Jamaica, the ex-slaves withdrew into the hillsides and established independent peasant communities.


Due to the immigration of other ethnic groups as labourers into Jamaican society the sharp division between blacks and whites in the society was less straightforward than in Barbados. Access to resources was nevertheless still unequal in both countries, with blacks having the least access to resources in the society. A very important difference between these two societies, however, and one that has very important implications for the growth and development of entrepreneurship, is the difference in the levels of, and access to education by the population. To what extent, it can be asked, did education act as an obstacle to the development of an entrepreneurial spirit among blacks? Also, to what extent can it impact on the further growth and development of black entrepreneurship in the Caribbean?


Finally, structural adjustment policies have been implemented in both countries at different times. Jamaica has had a longer history of exposure to these policies than Barbados. It is therefore of interest to examine the impact of these policies on the economy and labour force of both countries, as well as the extent to which these policies have influenced entrepreneurial activity in these countries.


It is important, therefore, to recognise the possible role of the macro-economic le of force and situation and policies on the incidence and development of work and entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviour.



[1] Orlando Patterson (1973) notes that Jamaica was second only to Brazil in the New World in the number of slave rebellions that occurred during the period of slavery.