the career of Oliver C. Cox

George Snedeker snedeker at SPAMconcentric.net
Sun Jun 3 11:16:59 MDT 2001


Cox treats racism as part of the superstructure of capitalism. it is a
justification for  exploitation of Black labor. this is a little more than
an "attitude." there are definite limits to Cox's approach, like the fact
that he did not see how the white working class benefited from racism. he
thought that poor whites were just manipulated by the ruling class.
----- Original Message -----
From: Austin, Andrew <austina at uwgb.edu>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Sunday, June 03, 2001 1:13 PM
Subject: RE: the career of Oliver C. Cox


> Snedeker: "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."
>
> This statement is hard for me to understand because Cox's approach to
racism
> in Caste, Class, and Race strikes me as a form of idealism. For the most
> part, he reduces race to attitudes (much like Fields does--race is an
> illusion). (Cox's basic thesis is internally contradicted, so I am
focusing
> on his specific claims about what racism is. I don't have time to go into
> his borrowing and mutation of Furnivall's "plural society" concept.) In
> contrast, Myrdal's approach (as well as Doyle, Davis, the Gardners, and
> others working in the caste school of social relations) was not idealistic
> but a holistic approach that conceptualized racism much in the same
fashion
> as Gramsci conceptualized class, considering both coercive and consensual
> elements of class hegemony. The concerted attack on Myrdal has obscured
the
> basic ontology that he and others assumed in their scholarship, one quite
> workable from a historical materialist perspective, namely, that the
> structure of society determines the content of the law and the
> culture-ideological structure without reducing either politics or culture
to
> economics. At the same time, the school gives cultural-ideological forces
a
> significant role in determining history. And the caste school even bridges
> the structural and the instrumental by observing that white-ethnic elites
> control the machinery of society, the political, economic, and social
> resources, at the same time their power to do so is given by the
race-class
> structure.
>
> For example, the caste school argues that the racial system is not created
> by the law but that the law is a feature of the racial system. Because the
> law has a race-ethnic character it reinforces the racial structure. (All
> very dialectical.) In contrast, Cox argues that racism is for the most
part
> created and maintained by the law. He specifically says that blacks are
not
> controlled through culture-ideological forces. Blacks and whites stand in
> naked opposition to one another, he says--violence is the main form of
> racial control.
>
> And in all of this, ironically, Cox conceptualizes class as Myrdal's
> "American Creed," which for Myrdal is a culture-ideological system. Cox
even
> suggests that the U.S. Constitution "with certain amendments and
> abrogations...may become the fundamental law of a consummate democracy"
(p.
> 514 from the 1970 edition). One might ask at what point in changing the
U.S.
> Constitution to create a "consummate democracy" could the U.S.
Constitution
> be said to exist anymore?
>
> Incidentally, Cox claims that the situation of blacks is improving because
> the attack on the legal structure of race is permitting them to become
> integrated with white society. Here he is consistent, since it follows
that
> if the racial system is secured by state and legal violence and the
failure
> of the state to prevent extralegal violence--what Cox calls "organized and
> unorganized violence"--then eliminating this system will end racism. This
is
> precisely what conservatives and most liberals have argued since the 1964
> Civil Rights Act, and this line of thinking represents what CRT scholars
> have dubbed the "standard civil rights discourse," which is itself a form
of
> racism (in this Cox was no doubt an unwitting participant--in all fairness
> to Cox, CRT scholarship operates as a much higher level of
sophistication).
>
> Andrew Austin
> Green Bay, WI
>
>






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