Volume 61 part 1 (April 2016)
Gabriel Winant, Andrew Gordon, Sven Beckert, and Rudi Batzell. Introduction: The Global E.P. Thompson
This article introduces the present Special Theme on the global reception and appropriation of E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class (1963). It aims to interrogate Thompson's legacy and potential vitality at a moment of renewed social and intellectual upheavals. It emphasizes the need for an inter-disciplinary and global reflection on Thompson's work and impact for understanding how class, nation, and "the people" as subjects of historical inquiry have been repeatedly recast since the 1960s. Examining the course of Thompson's ideas in Japan and West Germany, South Africa and Argentina, as well as Czechoslovakia and Poland, each of the following five articles in the Special Theme is situated in specific and different locations in the global historiographical matrix. Read as a whole, they show how national historiographies have been products of local processes of state and class formation on the one hand, and transnational transfers of intellectual and historiographical ideas, on the other. They highlight the remarkable ability of Thompsonian social history to inspire new lives in varying national contexts shaped by different formations of race, class, and state.
Thomas Lindenberger. From Structuralism to Culturalism: The Protracted German Reception of The Making of the English Working Class and its Actuality Reassessed from a Post-Cold War Perspective
Based on the author's experience as one of the German translators of The Making, this article lays out its protracted and contradictory reception in Germany. When E.P. Thompson's magnum opus was published fifty years ago, German scholars on both sides of the Iron Curtain failed to take note of it for several years. The relatively muted reception in West Germany during the 1970s was marked by its dismissal as theory-lacking and "subjectivist". Examining the contrasting contexts of postwar Britain, with its popular anti-fascist experience, and post-fascist West Germany helps to understand why Thompson's "empirical idiom" of class history failed to strike a chord at the time with leading representatives of the new generation of "progressive" social historians in Germany and a broader reading public. It was only with the arrival of Alltagsgeschichte, feminist history, and more generally the cultural turn in humanities that The Making and its German translation became a canonical point of reference both in working-class history and the humanities more generally. A brief epilogue discusses its lasting potential for a historical understanding of today's processes of post-Cold-War class formation and human rights struggles.
Rudolf Kučera. Facing Marxist Orthodoxy: Western Marxism, The Making, and the Communist Historiographies of Czechoslovakia and Poland, 1948-1990
Although the impact of Thompson's work outside the UK has been recognized and pointed to many times, the ways in which Thompsonian categories and concepts, or Marxist thought from the West more broadly, was received in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc remain rather unclear. Although The Making has never been translated into Polish, Czech, or Slovak, the historians of East-Central European countries were not totally cut off from Western scholarship. Major academic institutes and universities throughout the communist bloc maintained basic contacts with colleagues in the West, and Thompson's work was known among some local social historians. Marxism from the West in general and Thompson's work in particular posed challenges that had to be dealt with. This paper traces the ways in which historians of Poland and Czechoslovakia responded to these challenges to the official position of Marxist orthodoxy. Taking The Making as an example, it highlights the reception (or lack thereof) of Western influences on local scholarship, and the dynamics of these encounters - whether they were affirmative or critical - in relation to the changing political landscape of East-Central European countries after the Second World War.
Hideo Ichihashi. The Reception of E.P. Thompson in Japan: The New Left, The Making, and "Moral Economy"
This article traces the chequered history of the reception of E.P. Thompson in postwar Japan and tries to assess what kind of impact his thoughts and ideas actually had on the Japanese intellectual world. In so doing, I will draw on interviews with several academics in Japan from various generations as well as written documents. The article begins with a survey of postwar left-wing politics in Japan, against which background Thompson was introduced as a New Left thinker. It also considers the National History Movement, whose problematic legacy seemed to operate to condition the reception of The Making of the English Working Class in Japan in the 1960s. After exploring the limited reception of The Making among Japanese historians, we witness the more favourable reception of the concept of "moral economy". The article demonstrates that the rather awkward history of the reception of E.P. Thompson in Japan cannot be understood without referring to the postwar concerns of Japanese intellectuals, concerns that changed fairly dramatically in the course of time.
Lucas Poy. Remaking The Making: E.P. Thompson's Reception in Argentina and the Shaping of Labor Historiography
This article traces the reception of E.P. Thompson's work in Argentina over the past three decades. It explores the context in which Thompson was read by labor historians as a means to analyze the way in which the country's labor historiography was shaped over this period. It argues that, in the 1980s and the 1990s, against a context characterized by a crisis of the political left and a downturn in the labor movement, Thompson's appropriation was focused on his critique of Marxist "determinism". While this corresponded to similar developments in other countries, Argentinian labor historiography started to show a different path in the early 2000s, when a tremendous social, political, and economic crisis shook the country. The article concludes that recent developments in labor historiography in Argentina show a different pattern to those seen in the "global north".
Jonathan Hyslop. E.P. Thompson in South Africa: The Practice and Politics of Social History in an Era of Revolt and Transition, 1976-2012
The work of E.P. Thompson has had an enormous impact on the writing of history in South Africa since the 1970s. This article traces the rise of this historiographical trend, focusing especially on the Johannesburg History Workshop. It outlines how a South African version of Thompsonian historical practice was theorized, and sketches some of the ways in which Thompson's ideas were utilized by South African historians. The article shows how the History Workshop attempted to popularize their research, and examines the political projects behind these activities. Finally, the article suggests that although the influence of Thompson-style South African social historians has declined, their work has had a lasting impact on the country's literary culture, well beyond the academy.
Neil Roos. South African History and Subaltern Historiography: Ideas for a Radical History of White Folk
In considering how "radical" histories of ordinary whites under apartheid might be written, this essay engages with several traditions of historical scholarship "from" and "of" below. For three decades, Marxist-inspired social history dominated radical historiography in South Africa. It has, however, proved little able to nurture historiography of whites that is politically-engaged and acknowledges post-Marxist currents in the discipline. I advocate a return to theory and suggest that new sources may be drawn from the academy and beyond. Historiographies "of" below need not necessarily be historiographies "from" below and this article proposes the idea of a "racial state" as an alternative starting point for a history of apartheid-era whites. It goes on to argue that Subaltern Studies, as a dissident, theoretically-eclectic and interdisciplinary current in historiography offers useful perspectives for exploring the everyday lives of whites in South Africa. After suggesting a research agenda stemming from these theoretical and comparative insights, I conclude by reflecting on the ethics of writing histories of apartheid-era whites.