This republished version of Foundations of Capitalism could not have been possible without God’s succor during the many months of re-researching and editing; the expertise of Dr. Rhoda Reddock, Professor of Gender, Social Change and Development, and Deputy Principal at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus; Dr. Wendy Arnott, Wayne State University; Norma Abdulah, staunch admirer of Dr. Cox; Ülo Uibopuu, nephew-in-law of Dr. Cox; and John Oliver Frederick, grandnephew of Dr. Cox. Do know that their assistance is appreciated and that we, the members of the Oliver Cromwell Cox Online Institute, shall be forever in their debt.
Juliet Awon Uibopuu, July 2014
The author wishes to thank both
authors and publishers for permission to reprint from the following works:
Witt Bowden, Industrial Society in England towards the End of the
Eighteenth Century, New York, Macmillan Co., 1925; Frederic C. Lane,
Venetian Ships and Shipbuilders of the Renaissance, Baltimore, The Johns
Hopkins Press, 1943; Ferdinand Schevill, History of Florence, New York,
Harcourt, Brace and Co.; James Westfall Thompson, Economic and Social
History of Europe in the Later Middle Ages (1300-1530), New York,
Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1931; Silvia L. Thrupp, The Merchant Class
of Medieval London 1300-1500, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1948.
This book is dedicated to the many Americans who suffered economic hardship resulting from the greed of businesspeople who chose higher profits rather than fair wages for their employees; the marginalized, the poor, and through no fault of their own, those who work fulltime yet are trapped in poverty in one of the richest countries in the world. Juliet Awon Uibopuu, July 2014
The educational community has deemed "Capitalism and American Leadership;" "Capitalism as a System;" and "The Foundations of Capitalism" to be a set primarily because of the confluence of information contained in them.
These, and all Dr. Cox's other books—"Caste, Class and Race," "Race: A Study in Social Dynamics," and "Race Relations: Elements and Social Dynamics"—were reproduced using state-of-the-art technology, and are now being offered for sale exclusively at The Oliver Cromwell Cox Online Institute.
Scholars and educators of today who highly respect and admire Dr. Cox's work have recognized its value and importance to the field of education. Their sincere enthusiasm has encouraged the reprinting of these precious writings to serve as tools to educate this and future generations.A new era for his literature and philosophies dawns as Oliver Cromwell Cox is rediscovered.
Oliver Cromwell Cox was my mother’s brother. As a child I communicated with him by postal mail from the then Trinidad,1 British West Indies. He corrected my mistakes then mailed my letters back to me. Now, scores of years later, I am pleased to be associated with the republishing of Foundations of Capitalism—one of his five major works, the others being Caste, Class and Race (1948), Capitalism and American Leadership (1962), Capitalism as a System (1964), and Race Relations: Elements and Social Dynamics (1976). This exercise so many years later—afforded me the wonderful opportunity to make some minor editorial corrections while maintaining the boundaries of the original text. Born in Port of Spain in 1901 to middle-class parents, William Raphael Cox and Virginia Blake Cox, he spent his childhood at the family’s homes in Port-of-Spain and in Tabaquite—the location of their cocoa estate. At the insistence of his father that all of his children go to the United States for further education, Oliver Cromwell Cox completed his higher education in the United States with a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. In Trinidad and Tobago, Cox was influenced by his mentor, tutor and uncle, Reginald V. Vidale, a school principal who subsequently became inspector of schools and later became mayor of Port of Spain. Other influences would be the famous black lawyers and activists for self-government such as E. Muzumbo Lazare, Michel Maxwell Phillip, Edgar Maresse-Smith, H. H. Hall, Thomas Meade Kelshall, Cyrus Prudhomme David and Sir Henry Alcazar who impressed Oliver so much that he decided to study law in 1919 when he left Trinidad for Chicago. Having met the prerequisites for entry, he attended and graduated from Northwestern University in 1928 where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Law. His plans to return to Trinidad and practice law, after graduation ended tragically as he succumbed to poliomyelitis which permanently crippled both legs. Faced with this disability, he felt compelled to find another career. He entered the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago and in June 1932, graduated with a Master’s Degree. His thesis was entitled “Working Men’s Compensation in the USA.” His legal knowledge had enabled him to present many cases in which he demonstrated to the government ways to improve compensation for all workers. To this day, workers continue to benefit from the early findings of these cases.
Unconvinced by the explanations provided by the Chicago School economists of the causes of the Great Depression of the 1930’s he moved to sociology noting that: “I felt that if the economists did not explain what I wanted to know; if economists did not explain the coming of the Depression and did not help me to understand the great economic change, then I felt I did not need it (Hunter, 1983:251).” Consequently, he attended the University of Chicago—Department of Sociology, and graduated on August 22nd, 1938 with a Ph.D. in Sociology. Not only did he find the answers that he sought for the cause of the depression, but also discovered the correlation between sociology and economics. These discoveries led to the inclusion of economics in the teaching of sociology—thus changing the course of sociology forever. Not surprisingly therefore, this political economy/economic sociology approach is evident in the Foundations of Capitalism (1959) and Capitalism as a System (1964), where according Hunter, he veers towards what would later be referred to as a world systems perspective of capitalism (Hunter, 1985; Wallerstein, 2000: McAuley, 2006). While much of the data from which his analysis in Foundations derives is drawn from Europe, it has been argued that “his lived experiences as a British colonial subject and an immigrant to the United States” must have been a mediating influence (McAuley, 2006:187). Someone said to me, “Dr. Cox was a genius; but he did not only have unique talents, like most good scholars his scholarship was also the result of the many hours that he spent researching at libraries which was the norm for him. His brilliance and avid interest in issues of ‘race’ resulted in his recognition of the centrality of ‘race relations’ to capitalism while doing the research for Foundations of Capitalism. After years of non-recognition, his work on race relations was finally recognized in 1971 when he became the first recipient of the American Sociological Association’s Dubois-Frazier-Johnson Award. In 2006 the members voted to change the name of this award to the Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award “given to an individual or individuals for their work in the intellectual traditions of the work of these three African American scholars.”2 Today the work of Cox is receiving renewed interest in his place of origin—The Caribbean, although he continues to be little known. A session on his work entitled: “Oliver Cromwell Cox, a Central Voice from the Margins” was organized as part of the May 2014 Conference of the Caribbean Studies Association. It is hoped that the republishing of this historic work can contribute to this new awareness and appreciation of this outstanding scholar in his homeland, region and internationally.
McAuley, Christopher (2006). “Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Roots of World Systems Theory,” Nelson Lichtenstein (ed.) American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Hunter Herbert M. (1983). “Oliver C. Cox: A Biography of his Life and Work,” Phylon, Vol. 44, No. 4., 249-261.
Hunter Herbert M. (1985). “The World-System Theory of Oliver C. Cox”, Monthly Review, Vol. 37. October, 43-53.
Wallerstein, Immanuel (2000). “Oliver C. Cox as World-System Analyst” in Herbert M. Hunter (ed), The Sociology of Oliver C. Cox: New Perspectives, Stamford, Connecticut, JAI Press.
July 2014—Juliet Awon Uibopuu—New Smyrna Beach, Florida with Rhoda Reddock—St. Augustine, The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
1 Full name [The Republic of] Trinidad and Tobago
2 http://www.asanet.org/about/awards/CJF.cfm, accessed on 25, June 2014
Harry Elmer Barnes
The subject of capitalism has engaged my interest and attention from time to time in connection with my studies in economic history, social institutions, and the history of sociological theory, where the latter touches upon the views of leading sociologists, such as Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch, dealing with the origins of capitalism. I am glad to return to it for a brief discussion in the form of a foreword to Professor Oliver C. Cox’s comprehensive work on the nature and evolution of capitalism as a socio-economic system.
Writers interested in economics, all the way from the most extreme Libertarians on the Right to Communists on the Left, are at least in agreement that capitalism is the outstanding product of economic evolution to the present time and the basic economic institution of the modern age. Whatever its present status and future prospects, the debate about capitalism was never more lively than at the present time. Of late special attention has been given to the question as to how far the factory system and capitalism were responsible for the harsh working and living conditions in the early days of the first Industrial Revolution.
Libertarians, not unduly alarmed by the current trends towards collectivism and state action, even in the so-called free nations, ardently urge a return to the free enterprise of the days of the Physiocrats, Adam Smith and David Ricardo. The radical collectivists assume that the days of capitalism are numbered if, indeed, they do not view the system as a sort of economic antiquity or museum piece. Realistic scholars, not committed in advance to either extreme, are seeking to understand its origins, nature, present state, and future trends. They recognize that the economic world was never in a more fluid or unpredictable condition than it is today. So far as I can judge by this first volume of Professor Cox’s projected three volume work on the history and theoretical analysis of capitalism as a social system, the author belongs to this third group.
number of classic works have been devoted to the origins, nature
and development of capitalism, notably those by Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch,
R. H. Tawney, Lujo Brentano,
and, above all, the encyclopedic survey by
Werner Sombart, Modern Capitalism.
In addition, there have been numerous systematic economic
histories, the latter portions of which are necessarily concerned with
various technological, material and institutional aspects of the origins
and triumph of capitalism in the modern world.
Cox’s work is a novel departure from earlier books dealing with the
growth of capitalism.
not a traditional economic history, with capitalism as the major theme,
but a social history of the capitalist system and the spirit which
engendered it, motivated it, and brought about its integration as a system.
It treats of the broad pattern of capitalistic society, its origins,
growth and expansion, providing a theoretical analysis as well as a
description of the integral elements in the system.
His tribute to the achievements of capitalism well illustrates his
broad approach to the problem:
our present day of crisis and transition the achievements of capitalism
should not be minimized. They involve preeminent cultural gains for
mankind. The magnitude of these gains may be inferred from the
following incomplete list: unification of the world into a system of
national interdependence; effective liberation of the human mind from the
fetters of religious mysticism and hence secularization of the dominant
culture; banishment of irrational fear and hostility towards persons of
other societies; establishment of an imperishable faith in the efficacy of
science and technology, and comprehension of economization in production;
provision of a milieu for the growth of democracy; and, eventually,
demonstration of the feasibility of purposively organizing the societies
of the world in the interest of human welfare.
It would probably be difficult to show that any part of this great
boon to mankind could have arisen without the intervention of capitalism.
In outlining his
method of study and his approach to the problems of capitalism, Professor
Cox makes it clear that he employs a combination of social psychology,
sociology and history, the latter as much for a broad perspective as for
the presentation of specific data.
He is interested in the
patterns of personal and social behavior as they operate within the
capitalistic social system.
the material and social facts he adds, as a vital element, a careful
consideration and presentation of the spirit or “ethos” of capitalism
which gives cohesion and dynamic impulse to the system.
Professor Cox lays
down a number of fundamental postulates about capitalism and its
Among these are the following:
Capitalism as a socio-economic system is relatively new and recent in the
economic experience of mankind.
arose only after the fall of Roman civilization in the West, as more
favorable disposing social conditions were gradually provided.
While elements that have gone to make up the capitalist system can
be traced back to earlier times, they did not constitute capitalism in any
true sense, even fractionally or casually.
They became a sector of capitalism only when they were integrated into the
organized capitalist system.
this system arose all aspects of the society took on capitalist traits,
but never previously.
is a unique form of social organization and a specific type of organized
psychological motivation and orientation.
Previous items which were later gathered into the capitalist social
system took on quite a different psychological and material significance
and functional operation within the capitalist complex.
Generalizations about social and economic facts in the life of
non-capitalistic civilizations, based upon capitalistic assumptions and
experiences, are likely to be distorted and misleading, whatever the
apparent superficial similarities and analogies.
Capitalism can only be understood when viewed and analyzed within the
premises and operations of a capitalistic society.
Even here, there is danger in universal generalizations.
While there is a general similarity in the basic organization and spirit
in capitalism everywhere manifested on the planet, there are significant
differences in details.
This is one reason why the
universalism in the dogmas of classical economics was often fallacious and
Capitalism not only
involves and requires a unique form of economic organization, motivation
and operation, but must also have a suitable government with which to
control public policy.
cosmopolitan and heterogeneous monarchies of antiquity or the diffused
agrarian feudalism of the Middle Ages were totally unsuited to the
operations of capitalism.
This requires a republic or
democracy controlled by business men who operate the political and legal
system in accord with the dictates of the capitalistic economy.
The national state, constitutional government and the parliamentary
system have been needed and produced to meet the political demands of
Not only politics but also religion must be nationalized and freed from the more paralyzing restraints of mysticism and ritualism. Protestantism, especially Calvinism and Puritanism, as Max Weber, R. H. Tawney, Georgiana Harkness and others have so convincingly shown, provided the answer to the needs of capitalism in the realm of religion.
Capitalism also requires an urban social base.
It cannot rise and thrive in an agrarian setting, which was a main
reason why it developed but little during the period of medieval
feudalism, save in the city states which lay aside from the feudal system
in their social and economic life, or in eastern Europe during modern
These major traits
and components of capitalism had come into being in
Finally, Professor Cox contends that the historic experience of capitalism proves that a capitalist city or national state must expand its operations, especially in the commercial field, if it is to endure. It is tied to the necessity of gaining ever greater access to, and successful exploitation of foreign markets. In so doing, it either disorganizes the social and economic system of the more primitive or static economies which it penetrates or, as in the case of England, forces them to abandon the old system, become capitalistic, and launch their own process of expansion.
In this first volume of his work, Professor Cox traces the rise and growth of capitalism from its origins in the Italian city-state of Venice down through the Industrial Revolution in England, by which time the capitalistic system had taken on all of its essential attributes prior to the rise of finance, state and military capitalism in the twentieth century, a subject reserved for the later volumes.
The book leads off
with an extended history and excellent analysis of the socio-economic
The volume concludes with an extended consideration of the first
Industrial Revolution in
far as this first volume is concerned, while possibly differing on some
details of description and analysis, I find little to complain about in
Professor Cox’s treatment and much to commend in it.
It should prove illuminating and helpful to all three of the groups
mentioned in the opening paragraphs of the Foreword as most actively
concerned with discussing capitalism today.
It provides a fresh and illuminating treatment not duplicated in
the large in any other work in any language.
As such, it must be regarded as a major contribution to social and
economic history in our day.
Naturally, I am unable to predict here what I might have to say about
the two later volumes in his projected series.
I suspect that I might
differ rather more radically with his treatment of finance, state and
military capitalism, and would find Orwellianism far more of a menace to
the future of capitalism than Marxism.
In particular, I would think that I might offer the
That it did not do so, and is not likely to do so, is apparent to all students of recent American economic history and world relations. Indeed, this country has gone off on a wild and unprecedentedly expensive form of planetary expansion which does not even have the merit of the older imperialism in paying its way, or more, for a considerable period. Hence, there is evidence that American capitalism may collapse more rapidly than was the case with any other capitalist society. This is likely to be especially true so long as the main custodians of American capitalism are absorbed with the alleged threat of Marxism from without while ignoring or promoting the surrender to Orwellianism and military state capitalism within our own boundaries. Interventionism is far more a threat to American capitalism than Marxism.
In conclusion, I should say a word about Professor Cox’s professional record in so far as it relates to his competence to write on the history and nature of capitalist society. Few persons could be better qualified for the task. He had graduate work at the University of
Such training would have been far more comprehensive and diversified
than that possessed by any other historical student of capitalism known to
In addition to this,
however, Professor Cox had two years of instruction at the
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Cover illustration: Man and Machinery; detail of a mural by Diego Rivera—Courtesy Detroit Institute of Arts.
Originally published by Philosophical Library, Inc. 1959.
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