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Week 3 Tutor

Dr Aditya Sarkar

Powerpoint slidesLink opens in a new window-2023

This session will focus on the problem of social class, looking at the influence of theories of class - especially their Marxist variant - upon both political action and historical research. It will introduce different ways of looking at social division, and explore the intersections - as well as the tensions - between experiences and theories of class, and those of 'other' social identities, such as gender, race and community.

Core Reading

  • Erik Olin Wright, Understanding Class (2015), Chapter 1 (19 pages)
  • Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, 'Questions of Class: The general strikes in Bombay, 1928-29', Contributions to Indian Sociology, 33, 2 (1999), pp. 205-237
  • Karl Marx, The Communist Manifest. Many copies of this are available in the Library. Work in groups to avoid disappointment! Ideally, read the 1998 Verso edition with the introduction by Eric Hobsbawm, do also bear in mind that pretty much all of Marx (including editions of The Communist Manifesto) is on the internet for free.
  • Richard Sennett, Jonathan Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class (Cambridge, 1977): 1-50. Approx. 4 copies of this are available in the Library. Work in groups to avoid disappointment!
Seminar/Essay Questions
  1. Is Marxism obsolete?
  2. Is class still a relevant concept?
  3. ‘Class is a useful concept for historians only to the extent that it throws light on relationships between subjective identity and social structure.’ Discuss.
  4. “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another.”
    (Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto). Discuss.
  5. “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.” (Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto), Discuss.
  6. 'Class happens when some. men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), - feel and articulate h e identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.'' (E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 1963). Discuss.
  7. ‘It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.’ (Karl Marx Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy [1859])
  8. ‘Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.’ (Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848)
  9. Discuss Richard Sennett's and Jonathan Cobb's idea of the new American class conflict in the 1970s America.
Further Reading
  • G. Cohen, Karl Marx’s Theory of History (1978).
  • Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Marx and History’ in E. Hobsbawm, On History (1997).
  • Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Karl Marx’s Contribution to History’, in R. Blackburn (ed.), Ideology in Social Science (1972).
  • Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Class Consciousness in History’ in I. Meszaros (ed.), Aspects of History and Class Consciousness (1971).
  • Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (London, 1984).
  • Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Forms of Capital’, in A. H. Halsey et al (eds), Education: Culture, Economy, and Society (Oxford, 1997): 46-58.
  • M. Bush (ed.), Social Order and Social Classes in Europe since 1500 (1992).
  • David Cannadine, Class in Britain (1998), pp.1-23; pp. 164-89.
  • Fiona Devine, Mike Savage, John Scott and Rosemary Crompton (eds), Rethinking Class: Culture, Identities and Lifestyles (2004).
  • Patrick Curry, ‘Towards a Post-Marxist History’ in AdrianWilson (ed.), Rethinking Social History: English Society, 1570-1820 (1993).
  • Geoff Eley and Keith Neild, The Future of Class in History: What’s Left of the Social? (2007).
  • G. Eley & K. Neild, ‘Farewell to the Working Class’, International Labor and Working-Class History (2000).
  • Patrick Joyce (ed.), Class: A Reader (1999).
  • J. Lawrence, ‘The British Sense of Class’, Journal of Contemporary History 35, 2 (2000): 307-318.
  • Terry Lovell, ‘Bourdieu, Class and Gender: “The Return of the Living Dead”?’, Sociological Review 52: Supplement 2 (2005): 35-56.
  • J. Pakulski &M.Waters (eds), The Death of Class (1996).
  • Sheila Rowbotham and Huw Beynon, ‘Handing on Histories’, Sheila Rowbotham and Huw Benyon (eds), Looking at Class: Film, Television and the Working Class in Britain (London, 2001): 2-24.
  • Mike Savage, Class Analysis and Social Transformation (2000).
  • Mike Savage, ‘Space, Networks and Class Formation’, in Neville Kirk (ed.), Social Class and Marxism: Defences and Challenges (1996), Chapter 3.
  • Beverley Skeggs, Class, Self and Culture (London, 2004).
  • Laura Schwartz, '"What We Feel is Needed is a Union for Domestics Such as the Miners Have":The Domestic Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland 1908-1914', Twentieth-Century British History 25:2 (2014), 173-192 or Feminism and the Servant Problem: Class and Domestic Labour in the Women's Suffrage Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
  • Aditya Sarkar, Trouble At The Mill: Factory Law And The Emergence of The Labour Question in Late Nineteenth-Century Bombay (Oxford University Press, 2018) or "The Tie That Snapped: Bubonic Plague And Mill Labour in Bombay, 1896-1898", International Review of Social History (2014).