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's time-sense at the edges of Rio de Janeiro
Kathleen M. Millar
This article puts E. P. Thompson's writings on time-sense in conversation with the temporality of work on a garbage dump in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this site, several thousand urban poor (catadores) collect recyclables for a living outside relations of wage labor. The lived experience of “woven time” on the dump, which combines labor with other activities of the everyday, has fashioned what these workers call “a different rhythm of life.” Diverging from other temporalities of neoliberal capitalism, such as “ruptured time,” woven time emerges as an important dimension of a life well lived, as conceived by catadores. Attention to the micro-temporalities of wageless work reveals how precarious forms of labor in contemporary capitalism constitute processes of subject making that both parallel and diverge from the transition to wage labor that Thompson describes in his social history of capitalism.
The making of race and class in Brazil and the United States
Sean T. Mitchell
The extensive literature critiquing the weakness of cross-class Afro-Brazilian solidarity is perhaps equaled in size by the structurally similar literature on the weakness of cross-race working-class solidarity in the United States. For many critics, marginalized or exploited people in Brazil and the United States do not have the political consciousness they ought to have, given apparently objective conditions. What if we started, instead, from E. P. Thompson's insight that class is a “cultural as much as an economic formation,” that it is “a relationship and not a thing,” acknowledging that political consciousness is the partially contingent result of culturally specific struggles and utopias, as much as of determinate historical conditions? Drawing on ethnographic research on conflicts between Afro-Brazilian villagers and Brazil's spaceport, supplemented by comparative data on the mobilization around inequalities in Brazil and in the United States, this article sketches a comparative anthropology of political consciousness that attempts to avoid the objectivizing pitfalls of the genre.
The making and unmaking of a rural moral economy
This paper draws on the work of E. P. Thompson to understand anticapitalist resistance in northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. Through an analysis of the back-to-the-land movement in a region I call “Claytown,” I show how the making of a rural moral economy was in part enabled by the presence of a nascent marijuana industry. However, whereas a relatively small-scale marijuana industry helped forge anticapitalist resistance in the 1960s and 1970s, this industry has become a form through which values of capitalist political economy are being instantiated and reasserted. I situate my ethnographic analysis within a broader historical and legal framework to show how a contemporary moral economy is made and increasingly unmade in the context of late capitalism.
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
Production and exchange, business and friendship
was political-economic, much of it directly Marxist in inspiration. In reaction, James Scott (1977) , borrowing (from E. P. Thompson) the concept of “moral economy,” sought to provide a counterbalancing cultural dimension. While Thompson’s application
Boat Time and the Temporal Experience of London’s Liveaboard Boaters
deterministic, precise and inflexible clock time that has been described since E.P. Thompson’s (1969) classic text as being the prime shaping force of the modern capitalist world. Ingold (2000: 290) , through his comparative use of ethnographic studies of
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