The Social Origins of Democratic Socialism in Jamaica

Synopsis

In 1974, following a successful parliamentary election, Michael Manley and his People's National Party took Jamaica onto a self-proclaimed democratic socialist path. Although the project failed even prior to the subsequent electoral defeat of the PNP in 1980, this short-lived experiment has evoked considerable interest among development scholars. In this book, Nelson Keith and Novella Keith challenge current interpretations of Jamaican events and develop an alternative theoretical model: national popularism.Without dismissing the negative machinations by the U.S., internal mismanagement, and other problems, the authors argue that the events in question speak of the fragility of a national class alliance that coalesced temporarily, amidst a crisis, around a "new" politics. While incorporating radical impulses "from below" as well as socialist policies, the new politics was rooted in liberal democratic strains that had evolved historically in ways that could accommodate these impulses. The Manley project can thus be better understood as the "management" of peripheral capitalism rather than a budding socialism. In their rich historical analysis of race and class in Jamaica, the authors trace the emergence and demise of progressive "alternative paths to development" in the Third World. Author note: Nelson W. Keith is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for International Development at West Chester University.Novella Z. Keith is Research Professor, Institute for International Development at West Chester University.