The Confounding Island: Institutions, Culture and Mis-Development in Post-Colonial Jamaica was just delivered to the press by Professor Orlando Patterson. This book examines one of the world’s most perplexing societies. Famous for the spectacular successes of its athletes and musicians, its vibrant democracy, and its religiosity, Jamaica is equally infamous for being among the world’s most violent places. It confounds World Bank economists with stagnant growth rates accompanied by 50% cuts in poverty. It befuddles historical demographers by its incredibly fast transition from medieval level life expectancy to one on a par with the advanced world at a time when it was still dirt poor. It attempted a socialist revolution during the 1970s, then became the darling of the IMF during the 1980s. Far from being in a chronic state of anxiety, its population is ranked among the 11 happiest on earth. In explaining Jamaica’s many conundrums, Orlando also examines broader theoretical issues in development and global studies. Thus, Professor Patterson's explanation of Jamaica’s failed development addresses a major issue in development studies: the relative role of institutions vs good policies. Similarly his analysis of why Jamaica, though a democracy, is so violent, critically appraises the democratic peace thesis, the view that democracies are inherently peaceful. And his analysis of the rise and global diffusion of Jamaican reggae music addresses the problem of whether globalization leads to the homogenization of the world’s local cultures.
Congratulations to Professor Patterson and Xiaolin Zhou, whose "Modern Trafficking, Slavery and Other Forms of Servitude" will soon be published in the 2018 Annual Review of Sociology. The article is an evaluation and recasting of the field for sociologists. Further studies of this subject are to follow and anyone interested should contact Orlando or Xiaolin.