Envisioning Caribbean Futures, Brian Meeks, NWIG, Vol 85, No 1-2, 2011, 53-78
In Envisioning Caribbean Futures: Jamaican Perspectives (2007), Brian Meeks writes “in sympathy with the new social movements that have evolved in the past decade which assert boldly that ‘another world is possible’” (p.2). His effort is “to explore the horizons for different approaches to social living in Jamaica and the Caribbean in the twenty-first century” (p. 2). In this, he “seeks to move beyond a statement of general principles to propose specific alternatives” in order to “stimulate a conversation that looks beyond the horizon of policy confines, yet is not so far removed as to appear hopelessly utopian” (p. 3). My hope with this essay is to advance that conversation, in the first place by reviewing and assessing Meeks’s contribution and then by extending the discussion to the role that Jamaica’s diaspora (and by extension that of the region’s generally) might play in moving the country, as Meeks puts it, from its current “state of crime and murder, and the broad undermining of the rule of law that pervades the society” (p. 71).
Central to Meeks’s thinking are Antonio Gramsci’s insights into the mechanisms by which ruling classes generate and retain legitimacy. Though a Marxist, Gramsci argued that class domination is not simply an economic phenomenon. Rather a ruling class is most successful when prevailing attitudes result in most people’s accepting their subordinate status as reasonable and normal. A functional system of class rule requires a political culture in which elite dominance is thought of as commonsensical. Gwynn Williams summarized Gramsci’s concept in the following terms: Hegemony is “an order in which a certain way of life and thought is dominant, in which one concept of reality is diffused throughout the society in all its institutional and private manifestations, informing with its spirit all taste, morality, customs, religious and political principles, and all social relations, particularly in their intellectual and moral connotations” (quoted in Genovese 1971:406).