What Is a Plural Society?

The term "plural society" refers to a society that is separated into various communities according to differences in language, ethnicity, race or religion. The expression was coined by the British academic and Fabian socialist, John Furnivall.

Furnivall originally applied the concept of a plural society to the countries in South-East Asia, particularly Burma, which is present-day Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia. These nations, once subjected to colonial rule, developed divergent ethnic factions that were not morally bound to adhere to a single nationalistic identity. Contemporary usage of the term "plural society" now includes post-colonial states and the multiracial groups of South Africa and the Caribbean nations.