Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Carl J. Cuneo




This study examines the nature of the socio-economic changes which were generated in Jamaica as a result of foreign, corporate investment in the Jamaica sugar industry during the period 1945-1970. The main thesis advanced in this work is that such investment played a major role in the underdevelopment of various sectors of Jamaican society. Underdevelopment is conceptualized as a multidimensional, multifaceted phenomenon which unfolded in Jamaica primarily because of the way in which the country was incorporated into the world capitalist structure. The structural dependency approach, which underpins this perspective, posits that development and underdevelopment are dialectically related and are the products of the international class system. The analysis focuses not only on the effects of the external, imperialist relations which existed between Jamaica and various metropolitan countries but also on the distorted, internal class structure which unfolded in Jamaica during the period under review. Multinational corporations, such as Tate and Lyle, and United Fruit Company wielded so much power that they imposed severe constraints on various aspects of the socio-economic development of Jamaica. In the agricultural sector, production relations operated in favour of foreign investors and their allies, and to the detriment of the peasantry and other rural classes. The exploitative class relationship which prevailed between the corporate owners and sugar workers, limited, in varying degrees,the development of the sugar-plantation areas. This work also analyses the social dimensions of underdevelopment as they appear at the level of the plantation and in the wider society. In the case of the former, the extent to which the quality of life of sugar workers was circumscribed by foreign ownership of the sugar industry, is examined. Factors such as the deplorable living and working conditions of sugar-plantation labourers, as well as the unstable patterns of family life in the sugar-plantation villages, are shown to be causally related to the structure and organization of plantation labour. The dissertation argues that many of the incidents of racial discontent, class cleavages, and violent social upheavals which gripped Jamaica in the 1960s and 1970s reflected the deep race-class divisions which permeated the country. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that in order to understand these phenomena, as well as the exclusion of African-Jamaicans from the Jamaican corporate economy, the role of the sugar entrepreneurs and the racial ideology which they espoused, must be examined. The conclusion reached is that the overwhelming predominance of foreign capital in the first major Jamaican capitalist enterprise--the sugar industry--resulted in inequities and distortions in important sectors of Jamaican society. It was against these kinds of structural constraints and obstacles to socio-economic advancement that many Jamaicans struggled.

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