Oliver Cox

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Oliver Cromwell Cox (24 August 1901 – 4 September 1974) was a Trinidadian-American sociologist noted for his early Marxist viewpoint on fascism. He was a founding father of the world-systems perspective,[1] an important scholar of racism and its relationship to the development and spread of global capitalism, and a member of the Chicago school of sociology [2] He was the son of William Raphael and Virginia Blake Cox. His father worked as a captain of a revenue schooner, and later on as a customs and excise officer[3].


Cox was born in a middle-class family in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. When he was in Trinidad, he attended Saint Thomas Boy's School, where he studied Math, English, Language and more[4]. In 1919 when he emigrated to United States, Cox attended YMCA High school and Crane Junior College in Chicago[5][6]. Later in 1927, he earned a bachelor of science degree from Northwestern University. Two years later, he developed poliomyelitis (polio), causing both his legs to be permanently crippled and that was when he gave up his plans to study law. He then attended the University of Chicago Economics Department and graduated with a master's degree in June of 1932. From there, he continued at Chicago in the Sociology department where he received both his Master's Degree and his Ph. D. His Master's Degree was completed in 1932, and then six years later in 1938 he graduated with his PH.D.


Cox first initiated his teaching career at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. From there, he also lectured at Tuskegee Institute in 1944, where many thought he would "bring them prestige."[7] Later in 1949, he moved to Missouri, where he taught at Lincoln University until March 11, 1970 where he told the president at the college, Walter Daniels, that he was retiring. Before he died in 1974, he moved and accepted a position as a Visiting Professor in the sociology department that was encouraged by Alvin W. Rose at Wayne State University of Michigan[8].


Cox was a Marxist who criticized capitalism and race in Foundations of Capitalism (1959), Capitalism and American Leadership (1962), Capitalism as a System (1964) and his last, Jewish Self-Interest and Black Pluralism (1974). Perhaps Cox's most profound and influential if also "understudied" book was his first, Caste, Class and Race, published in the same year E. Franklin Frazier became the first black president of the American Sociological Association, 1948. In a scathing "Introduction" to The Black Anglo Saxons by Nathan Hare, Cox ridiculed what he regarded as a misguided approach to the study of race relations he called "The Black Bourgeoisie School" headed by E. Franklin Frazier. The title of Caste, Class and Race referred to the vigorous criticism of W. Lloyd Warner's caste conception of race in the USA[9]. Cox was the first ever recipient of the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award by the American Sociological Association.


  • "It is remarkable that some of the most precious rights of human welfare are attributed to the advocacy and practice of communists; and yet, in the same breath, we are asked to hate communists." Caste, Class and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics, Monthly Review Press, New York, (1959) pg. xxxiii
  • "it should not be forgotten that, above all else, the slave was a worker whose labor was exploited in production for profit in a capitalist market. It is this fundamental fact which identifies the Negro problem in the United States with the problem of all workers regardless of color." ibid. pg. xxxii
  • "Racial antagonism is part and parcel of this class struggle, because it developed within the capitalist system as one of its fundamental traits. It may be demonstrated that racial antagonism, as we know it today, never existed in the world before about 1492; moreover, racial feeling developed concomitantly with the development of our modern social system." ibid. pg. xxx
  • ""The capitalist State is not a spiritual product; its function, from its inception in the medieval town, has always been primarily to secure the interest of a certain class." "ibid".
  1. ^ Wallerstein, Immanuel (2000). "Oliver C. Cox As World-Systems Analyst". Research in Race and Ethnic Relations. 11: 173–183.
  2. ^ Cheseboro, Anthony (1998). "Conflict and Continuity: E. Franklin Frazier, Oliver C. Cox and the Chicago School of Sociology". Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 92 (2): 150–172.
  3. ^ Hunter, Herbert M. (1983). "Oliver C. Cox: A Biographical Sketch of His Life and Work". Phylon (1960-). 44 (4): 249–261. doi:10.2307/274575. ISSN 0031-8906. JSTOR 274575.
  4. ^ https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/cox-oliver-c
  5. ^ Celarent, Barbara (2010). "Review of Caste, Class, and Race, Oliver Cromwell Cox". American Journal of Sociology. 115 (5): 1664–1669. doi:10.1086/652956. ISSN 0002-9602. JSTOR 10.1086/652956.
  6. ^ "Oliver C. Cox: A Biographical Sketch of His Life and Work". Phylon (1960-). 1983.
  7. ^ Scott, John. 2007. Fifty Key Sociologists the Formative Theorists. London: Routledge.
  8. ^ Hunter, Herbert M. (1983). "Oliver C. Cox: A Biographical Sketch of His Life and Work". Phylon (1960-). 44 (4): 249–261. doi:10.2307/274575. ISSN 0031-8906. JSTOR 274575.
  9. ^ Herbert M. Hunter, Sameer Y. Abraham, "Race, class, and the world system: the sociology of Oliver C. Cox", Monthly Review Press, 1987

Archival Papers[edit]

Cox's manuscript for "Capitalism as a System" is available for research in the Oliver Cromwell Cox Papers at the Walter P. Reuther Library in Detroit. http://reuther.wayne.edu/node/14325


  • Biography on the African-American Registry
  • Oliver Cox, Race, Caste and Class, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1948. [1]
  • Oliver Cox, "Introduction," The Black Anglo Saxons (by Nathan Hare), New York: Marzani and Munsell, 1965.
  • The Sociology of Oliver C. Cox: New Perspectives (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations), H.M. Hunter (Editor),JAI Press,2000.
  • Robinson, Cedric J. "Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Historiography of the West," Cultural Critique 17 (Winter 1990/91), 5-20.
  • The Mind of Oliver C. Cox, Christopher A. McAuley, University of Notre Dame Press, 2004.

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