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.
Reading twenty-first-century capitalism through the lens of E. P. Thompson
Kathleen M. Millar
E. P. Thompson and The Making of the English Working Class
This special issue on E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963) grew out of a symposium I organized at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in October 2013 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the book’s publication. I am, on the face of it, one of the least likely modern British historians to be organizing such an event. I can remember the first time I held the weighty tome in my hands: I was a junior in college, in the fall of 1982, and it was on the syllabus for a course I was taking on Victorian Britain, taught by Jonathan Schneer at Yale University. As did many feminist and postcolonial historians of my generation, I struggled with what I saw as Thompson’s indifference to women and gender (oh, those deluded followers of Joanna Southcott!) and his incapacity to see the evidence of race and empire in his sources even when they cried out from below the footnote line for all to see.
Comment on Newberry and Rosen
Althusserian structuralism), and sympathizing with the radical social historians when they chose, instead, to read and absorb E. P. Thompson's work—in particular, his polemical The Poverty of Theory ( 1996 ). In line with Thompson's reaction against having
Decolonizing the Curriculum
intellectual frameworks of Antonio Gramsci, E. P. Thompson and latterly Michel Foucault heavily informed the work of the Subaltern Studies scholars ( Sanchez and Strümpell 2014 ). However, as Zeus Leonardo observes in his appraisal of Said (this volume), during
After the commons—commoning!
examples. Such practices and events served to sustain what E. P. Thompson (1993) called “customs in common.” Such customs in common would then feed into some of the popular and practical bases of an imagined community of rights that would subsequently
Time, Public Credit, and David Hume's Political Discourses
Edward Jones Corredera
Jonathan Sheehan and Dror Wahrman, Invisible Hands: Self-Organisation and the Eighteenth Century (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015), 125–127; E. P. Thompson, “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” Past & Present 38 (1967): 56
Notes on the incorporation of Argentina's subproletariat into consumer credit (2009–2015)
) reflections and E. P. Thompson's (1967) classic article, I would argue this mismatch between the time of finance and the time of labor is emblematic of a specific form of capital accumulation, in which a large proportion of the working class remains at the
Notes and observations from the field
Nuit Debout demonstrators. Commoning may be as fleeting and episodic as the squares, but such commoning episodes are indicative of a new recognition of growing inequality. E. P. Thompson (1963) takes the appearance of “working class” in the working
The search for an autonomous political initiative among a subaltern group in the Beninese savanna
notably referred to this by using E. P. Thompson’s (1971) notion of “moral economy.” Referring to the colonization of East Asia, for example, Scott (1976) has taken this concept as a set of economic and moral values inscribed in popular groups’ culture
Informalization and differential subsumption in Thailand’s garment sector
—their “drunkenness, embezzlement of yarn and so on,” as E. P. Thompson (1963: 358) put it. The putting-out system, with its (albeit limited) element of worker control, had since its inception been beset by pilfering of materials and erratic pace, as peasants who