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Labour History, the ‘Linguistic Turn’ and Postmodernism

  • Dick Geary

Abstract

This article begins by examining recent work on labour history by some French and British historians, who have been influenced by postmodernism and the ‘linguistic turn’ but often find themselves locked into what are primarily ‘cultural’ explanations of labour's identity and development. It disputes the culturalist methodology and stresses that an alternative model of discourse analysis insists on contextualisation, which in turn re-instates the significance of realms of explanation outside language, text and culture. It also sees the comparative method as a means of identifying historical structures, and concludes with a schematic account of European labour in the twentieth century.

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