chapter
plural society
Pages 7

The paradox of the plural society entered anthropology with J.S.Furnivall’s discussion of colonial policy and practice in Burma and Indonesia. He described a plural society as one in which racially distinct peoples met only in the market place, a feature of colonial *political economy. Critiques of the concept followed in rapid succession. It was suggested by Maurice Freedman, writing about Malaya, that although *ethnicity might be recognized as a preliminary to the useful fiction of a plural society, and although members of each ethnic *community recognized commonality, these were cultural categories (mental constructs) and not organized entities (groups). None of the ethnic divisions distinguished was politically autonomous; none constituted a unit; none was a valid group. How such categorical labels became instituted in colonial societies, often in the face of local opposition, later became the subject of anthropological inquiry.