Social Organization. Prior to 1960, Barbadian society was characterized by a small merchant-planter elite of largely European ancestry; a slightly larger class of accountants, lawyers, medical personnel, journalists, and teachers of diverse ancestry; and a huge lower class of field laborers and domestic servants with a largely African ancestry. The elite remains about the same size but has grown much more diverse in heritage. The lower class has all but disappeared. In its place, there now exists a huge middle class that encompasses skilled blue-collar workers employed in manufacturing firms and hotels, and a wide range of white-collar, professional, and managerial occupational groups employed directly or, in the case of public employees, indirectly in the manufacturing and tourist sectors of the economy.
Political Organization. Barbados is organized as an independent parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. For administrative purposes, the island is divided into the city of Bridgetown and eleven parishes: Saint Lucy, Saint Peter, Saint Andrew, Saint James, Saint Joseph, Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Philip, Saint George, Saint Michael, and Christ Church. The monarch of England is recognized as the head of state, and the highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The monarch appoints a governor-general, selected from among nominees put forth by the majority and minority political parties. Two principal political parties, the Barbados Labour party and the Democratic Labour party, compete for seats in the House of Assembly; members of the Senate are appointed by the governor-general. The leader of the majority party in the Assembly serves as prime minister. A cabinet appointed from among majority-party members of the Assembly assists the prime minister in carrying out executive functions of government. The judiciary consists of a national police force and three tiers of courts. Magistrates oversee Lower Courts, which adjudicate minor cases and hear preliminary evidence for major ones. Judges who sit in the Assizes hear cases involving allegations of major crimes. Barbados's chief justice heads a group of three judges who hear cases in the Court of Appeals. The last court of appeals is the Privy Council in England.