There are few places more puzzling than Jamaica. Jamaicans claim their home has more churches per square mile than any other country, yet it is one of the most murderous nations in the world. Its reggae superstars and celebrity sprinters outshine musicians and athletes in countries hundreds of times its size. Jamaica’s economy is anemic and too many of its people impoverished, yet they are, according to international surveys, some of the happiest on earth. In The Confounding Island, Orlando Patterson returns to the place of his birth to reckon with its history and culture.
Patterson investigates the failures of Jamaica’s postcolonial democracy, exploring why the country has been unable to achieve broad economic growth and why its free elections and stable government have been unable to address violence and poverty. He takes us inside the island’s passion for cricket and the unparalleled international success of its local musical traditions. He offers a fresh answer to a question that has bedeviled sports fans: Why are Jamaican runners so fast?
Jamaica’s successes and struggles expose something fundamental about the world we live in. If we look closely at the Jamaican example, we see the central dilemmas of globalization, economic development, poverty reduction, and postcolonial politics thrown into stark relief.