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Introduction: Reading twenty-first-century capitalism through the lens of E. P. Thompson

Kathleen M. Millar

Keywords: CAPITALISM; CLASS; MORAL ECONOMY; SOCIAL CHANGE; SUBJECTIVITY

Abstract

E. P. Thompson's social history of capitalism has enduring relevance for anthropological analyses of economic crisis, precarious labor, and class struggle today. This introduction provides a synthesis of the ethnographic cases in this theme section by reflecting on several impulses in Thompson's work that both resonate with and challenge current ethnography of political and economic change. Thompson's focus on moments of transition, his conception of human subjectivity as a process of “making,” and his view of class struggle as arising from tensions between old and new orders bring history and political economy into the study of emergent social formations. Inspired by Thompson's critique of rigid theoretical models, this introduction suggests ways not only to adopt but also to modify the historian's insights for ethnographic work on contemporary capitalism.

Affiliations

Millar, Kathleen M. - Simon Fraser University