Courtesy Reuters

Overcoming Insularity in Jamaica

In the long run it may yet transpire that the differences between stages of economic development as between various nations and regions of the world are a more important determinant of history than differences in ideology or systems of government. Religious wars are contested with fervor at the time; so are wars to make the world safe for democracy. But sooner or later, the economic historian presents an alternative analysis which seems to put the hysteria of yesteryear in a more realistic frame.

And so today, press, pulpit and politician would have us believe that a new ideological focus is at the heart of the uncertainties, tensions and conflicts of the second half of the twentieth century. Once again, I suggest that tomorrow's historians will point out that behind the hysteria lay economics and that the real battleground was in that largely tropical territory which was first the object of colonial exploitation, second, the focus of non-Caucasian nationalism and more latterly known as the underdeveloped and the developing world as it sought euphemisms for its condition. It has now proclaimed itself the third world to mark its transition from an age of apology to one of assertiveness.

To the extent that all this is true, any development in any part of the third world has an importance that far outweighs the size, wealth or power of that particular part of that world. And so, recognizing that this explanation may be required, I do not apologize for writing about Jamaica with its 4,000 square miles and two million people and its relationship to the English-speaking Caribbean which covers many more square miles but still adds up to only a little more than five million people.

Because Jamaica and the Caribbean are a part of the third world, they are best understood if one first isolates certain basic features that are common to that world and its general condition at this moment of history.

I think that four factors can be distinguished. First of

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