Saint Lucians - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Saint Lucia has long had a dual class structure: an elite class that controls the economic and political scene, and a poor, laboring class. A popularly expressed differentiation, analogous to the geo-spatial distinction between "town" people and "country" people (see "Settlements"), is drawn between "high" people and "low" people. The former are typically associated with urbanity, a light skin hue, the English language, and "high" occupations—attorney, landowner, teacher—whereas the latter pertains to rural residence, darker skin hues, the Patwah language, and "low" occupations—manual labor and domestic service.

In Lucian society, particularly among "low" people, there is a strong sense of community and sharing, which is achieved by cultivating an extensive social network. This ethos is perhaps best exemplified by "friendly societies"—voluntary associations established for extending mutual aid to members in times of financial need caused by illness or death in the family. Each member contributes monthly dues, and officers are expected to oversee the funds. In times of distress, members apply to the association for benefits. Operating at the individual level is the su-su, another type of revolving-credit association, in which individuals merge into small groups of about six. Every month, members of the su-su give one individual in the group a fixed amount of money to be disposed of as he or she chooses.

Political Organization. Saint Lucia is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister governs the island with the aid of a ten-member cabinet. The legislature consists of a seventeen-seat elected House of Assembly and an elevenseat Senate, whose members are appointed by the governor general, the prime minister, and the leader of the opposition. The constitution also provides for a parliamentary commissioner and an integrity commissioner, both appointed by the governor general.

Social Control and Conflict. Major deviant behavior is handled through the judicial system, which consists of the Magistrates Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Privy Council in Britain. Minor deviance is controlled at the community level through gossip, obeah, and familial intervention.

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