the career of Oliver C. Cox

George Snedeker snedeker at concentric.net
Sun Jun 3 10:14:22 MDT 2001


Louis mentioned that Oliver Cox was African-American. he was born in
Trinidad in 1901 and died in Detroit  in 1974. in 1919 he came to the United
States to further his education, first attending the YMCA High School in
Chicago and then going on to North Western University and the University of
Chicago. in the late 20s, he was stricken with Polio. after his recovery, he
changed his career goals from law to  sociology. like the other important
Black sociologists of his day, he was educated at a white university, but
went on to teach at Black colleges. this was also the fate of Frazier,
Johnson and Du Bois. Cox seems to have viewed his disability as a
contingency to be dealt with, not as a subject for social or political
analysis. he never wrote a word about the situation of the disabled in
society.

after retiring from Lincoln University, where he seems to have been treated
well, he was given an appointment at Wayne State University as a
distinguished professor of sociology. this was the only integrated college
he ever taught at.

Cox was the only important Black sociologist of the period who had no
interest in participating in Gunner Myrdal's American Dilemma study of
racism. He  objected to Myrdal's Idealist approach to the study of racism
and set about developing his own Materialist analysis which he published in
CASTE, CLASS AND RACE in 1948.

Race seems to have marginalized Cox more than either his disability or his
radicalism. he did receive fewer rewards and honors in the academic world
than either E. Franklin Frazier or Charles Johnson. His work did not receive
much general attention until Monthly Review Press republished CASTE, CLASS
AND RACE in 1959.

I have an essay on Cox called "CAPITALISM, RACISM AND THE STRUGGLE FOR
DEMOCRACY" WHICH I COULD SEND IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED. My essay focuses on
his analysis of capitalism and racism, not his work on world system theory.
it was published in THE SOCIOLOGY OF OLIVER C. COX, Herbert M. Hunter ed.,
JAI Press, 2000. in the same book there is an essay by Wallerstein which
discusses Cox's importance for his own work in world system theory.




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