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Jamaica, independence movement, 1950–present

Obika Gray


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Despite significant shortcomings, radical social movements in post-independence Jamaica exerted enormous influence on the island's political evolution, occasionally directing it along paths more favorable to popular needs than power holders preferred. Dissident movements accomplished this by displaying creativity in fashioning a variety of ideological challenges to power, by producing a succession of political organizations, notable personalities, and anti-status quo groups with popular appeal, and by summoning poor Afro-Jamaicans and alienated middle-class intellectuals to a common agenda. For two decades – 1960 to 1980 – this broad social movement, with its protean ideological and diverse social composition, retained an unmatched unity in challenging the authority of the state, in impugning the legitimacy of its repressive power, and undermining the cultural bases for its moral claims. Despite the enormity and duration of this influence, however, the Jamaican social movement's hold on the popular imagination, and its capacity to subvert authority on the basis of an alternative politics and competing moral claims, dissipated and even unraveled after 1980. Faced with the defeat of left-wing regimes at home and abroad, the imposition of a neoliberal economic agenda in the region, and disillusionment with the meager gains of radical politics, the dissident social movement collapsed. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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