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Where Do New Ideas (About Class) Come From?

  • Barbara Weinstein (a1)

Abstract

In my comment I raise two main questions about the Eley/Nield essay. First, I express some doubts about whether the issues discussed in their essay can be unproblematically transposed to historiographical debates in areas beyond Western Europe and North America. Certain themes, such as the need to reemphasize the political, are hardly pressing given the continual emphasis on politics and the state in Latin American labor history. Closely related to this, I question whether the state of gender studies within labor history can be used, in the way these authors seem to be doing, as a barometer of the sophistication and vitality of labor and working-class history. Despite recognizing the tremendous contribution of gendered approaches to labor history, I express doubts about its ability to help us rethink the category of class, and even express some concern that it might occlude careful consideration of class identities. Instead, pointing to two pathbreaking works in Latin American labor history, I argue that the types of questions we ask about class, and primarily about class, can provide the key to innovative scholarship about workers even if questions such as gender or ethnicity go unexamined. Finally, I point out that class will only be a vital category of analysis if it is recognized not simply as “useful,” but as forming a basis for genuinely creative and innovative historical studies.

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Where Do New Ideas (About Class) Come From?

  • Barbara Weinstein (a1)

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