State, society, and structural change: The political sustainability of economic reform in Jamaica, 1981-1995

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

William C. Smith, Committee Chair


Why did deteriorating social, economic, and political circumstances not derail stabilization and structural adjustment attempts in Jamaica? This study contends that the political sustainability of structural adjustment in Jamaica was due to significant changes in the balance of power within, and between, the state and society. Within the state, chief executives centralized power and decision-making in the Office of the Prime Minister, surrounded themselves with technocrats from outside the bureaucracy, and coopted large numbers of legislators, thereby skewing the balance of power in their favor. They also raised barriers to the collective action of losers in civil society. These political arrangements served to augment the relative autonomy of the state vis-a-vis civil society. The relative autonomy of Jamaican leaders was also shaped by the acute dependence on bilateral and multilateral loans, foreign technical advice, and external markets. Within society, government reformers were backed by a powerful coalition of large influential capitalist winners and a growing cross-section of the public that viewed market- and export-oriented policies as necessary for long-term growth and development. This broad constituency supported the economic program even in the face of high adjustment costs. Those adversely affected interests failed to mount an effective challenge to the dominant coalition because they lacked the political capability, due to internal or external constraints to collective action, and/or reduced their political effectiveness by concentrating their energies on survival strategies or by disengaging from the political fray.


Political Science, General

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