Sweetness and Power Essay

This essay has a total of 628 words and 4 pages.


Sweetness and Power





Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
Some of the most brilliant minds have made many unorthodox suggestions. This is the case
with Sidney Mintz’s thesis in Sweetness and Power: The Place of Modern History.
Mintz’s suggestions that industrial capitalism originated in the Caribbean sugar
plantations may seem to contradict the European version of world history fed to most of
the Western world, but is nevertheless supported by substantial evidence. In general,
Western education has conditioned students to believe that everything productive
originated in Europe.

Mintz begins by explaining the process of obtaining granular sugar from the liquid
extracted from the sugar cane. There was very significant sense of discipline on sugar
plantations. Each stage of the process required a certain amount of
“expertise”, just as each worker in a factory has a specific
“skill”. This is where Mintz’s theory that plantations were a
“synthesis of field and factory” is best explained; “The specialization
by skill and jobs, and the division of labor by age, gender, and condition into crews,
shifts and ‘gangs,’ together with the stress upon punctuality and discipline,
are features associated more with industry than agriculture – at least in the
sixteenth century” (Mintz 47). Plantations required a “combination
farmer-manufacturer”. Workers on plantations worked assiduously with a definite
sense of time. They worked continuous shifts, resting only form Saturday to Monday
morning.

Mintz goes on to explain that “as the production of sugar became significant
economically, so that it could affect political and military (as well as economic)
decisions, its consumption by the powerful [people] came of matter less; at the same time,
the production of sugar acquired that importance precisely because the masses of English
people were now steadily consuming more of it, and desiring more than they could
afford” (Mintz 45). Similar to factory workers, cheap labor was used for mass
production of commodities to meet the growing demand.

As a result, Mintz completely transformed my ideas on industrial capitalism. As a
consumer and lover of sugar, I have now given a considerable amount of thought to the
sugar that I consumed so often. The extent to which the Caribbean people and land were
exploited is unfathomable. When speaking of a “plantation”, Americans usually
think and refer to the cotton plantations in the South. Even those Americans with roots
in the Caribbean are completely unaware of the exploitation of their land and people. The
long-term effects of this exploitation led to the underdevelopment of these Caribbean
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