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Engaged History

  • Judith Stein (a1)


Ira Katznelson urges labor historians to respond to a crisis in their field by returning to political, institutional, and state-centered history. This state of affairs has come about, he and others tell us, because of the dual challenge of “new social movements” and then the decline of labor movements, the crisis of social democracy, and collapse of communist states. Labor history is in crisis, he concludes, because class no longer provides the best categories with which to describe the world and the working class is no longer the principal historical actor.



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1. Arnesen, Eric, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class and Politics, 1863–1923 (New York, 1991);Barrett, James R., Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago's Packinghouse Workers, 1894–1922 (Urbana, 1987).

2. For an example of this tendency, see Kelley, Robin D.G., “‘We Are Not What We Seem’: Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in the Jim Crow South,” Journal of American History 80 (06 1993): 75112.

3. See Takaki, Ronald, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America (New York, 1979). The book lacks a single sentence on the antislavery movement or Reconstruction.

4. Stein, Judith, The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (Baton Rouge, 1986).

5. See Lichtenstein, Nelson, “David Brody: Heir to the Wisconsin School,” Labor History 34 (Fall 1993):502503. Lichtenstein's piece is part of a symposium on Brody's Steelworkers in America. The fact that such a symposium appears at this moment is a sign of the shift in labor history.

Engaged History

  • Judith Stein (a1)


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