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Plural Society

John Rex

Subject Cultural Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Many of the societies which have problems of multicultural governance are former multi-ethnic colonies. A theory of such colonial and postcolonial societies draws particularly on the work of J. S. Furnivall and M. G. Smith. According to Furnivall, different ethnic groups in a plural society meet only in the marketplace. This marketplace, however, lacks the characteristics which Durkheim envisaged in his concept of organic solidarity. It lacks the shared values which organic solidarity requires and involves brutal conflict and exploitation. The sense of solidarity on which morality depends is to be found within the different ethnic groups when they go home from the marketplace. Within these groups there is intense solidarity and moral unity. Furnivall worked in Burma but wrote about Java, drawing on the research of Dutch economic theorist Boeke. Boeke wrote that in the economy of Netherlands India “there is a materialism, rationalism and individualism and a concentration on economic ends far more complete and absolute than in homogeneous Western lands” (quoted in Furnivall 1939 : 452). As he sees it, this is a capitalism quite different from that which grew slowly over hundreds of years and maintained its moral roots. M. G. Smith wrote originally about Grenada but his theory of the plural society has been widely used in the analysis of colonial and postcolonial societies in the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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