Plural Society

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Excerpt from Understanding the Plural Society by Barrow and Reddock, p.182

Consequent upon this definition of society in terms of culture or in terms of institutions is the view of the integration of the society as a matter of holding the institutions of the society together. Such a view leads to the conception of the integration of homogenous societies as essentially different from and less difficult than that of heterogeneous societies. This view of the plural society or the culturally diverse community as essentially unstable appears to ignore some of the most important facts. The most significant of the plural societies, the caste system of India, has shown a stability not shared by ‘homogenous’ Western societies. Similarly, conditions of revolution and other forms of political instability appear not to depend upon homogeneity of culture alone, although this may be a relevant factor. For instance, the threat to the social order in the West Indies in the post-emancipation period appears to lie not only in the cultural differences of the social groups, but in the fact that such differences came to be hinged around and identified with racial and colour symbols that were cardinal to the values held by the society.

The limitations of the concept of the plural society as contrasted with the unitary society can be seen from the fact that nearly all national societies, even the most homogenous of them, show significant regional, ethnic, rural-urban, and social class differences among themselves. Another society appears highly unitary when we do not know it, but all the research that has been done in the more highly developed societies has gone to show that a rich cultural variation can subsist within an apparently highly unified national society. Indeed, from a historical point of view, it is the homogenous society that appears exceptional.

Source: Barrow, C. and R. Reddock (eds.). 2001. Understanding the plural society. In Caribbean Sociology: Introductory Readings. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers Limited. p. 182.