Reworking Class

Reworking Class

Reworking Class

Reworking Class


The twelve essays in this volume propose new directions in the analysis of class. John R. Hall argues that recent historical and intellectual developments require reworking basic assumptions about classes and their dynamics. The contributors effectively abandon the notion of a transcendent class struggle. They seek instead to understand the historically contingent ways in which economic interests are pursued under institutionally, socially, and culturally structured circumstances.

In his introduction, Hall proposes a neo-Weberian venue intended to bring the most promising contemporary approaches to class analysis into productive exchange with one other. Some of the chapters that follow rework how classes are conceptualized. Others offer historical and sociological reflections on questions of class identity. A third cluster focuses on the politics of class mobilizations and social movements in contexts of national and global economic change.


Patrick Joyce

THIS BOOK REGENERATES CLASS, ENABLING IT TO BE THOUGHT ABOUT IN new kinds of ways. It is a very welcome book. The welcome, above all, must be for the book's contribution to rethinking the economic in relation to culture, agency, the social, and the political. Through this rethinking, the concept of social class comes to have renewed use. A conception of social class without the economic becomes a contradiction in terms, and many existing conceptions of social class—in relation to which the book positions itself—are seen to have a limited understanding of the economic that renders them well-nigh useless. Thus, Reworking Class resuscitates a concept that was almost dead on its feet. Yet like all good books, it poses as many questions as it answers.

John R. Hall's Introduction identifies the twin processes that have led to "the end of class as a historical subject" and "the deconstruction of class as a theoretical object." With the latter he associates what he calls "the postmodern crisis of knowledge," and with the former the transforming economic and political changes of recent times. The problem of the "historical subject" may be said to turn both on class (or "group") as a collective actor and on the narratives that write the movement of this actor in history. The problem of class as a "theoretical subject" may be said to involve the question of structure; it evinces, in Hall's words, "the need to theorize in nonstructuralist ways." To meet this need, Hall replaces "class structure" with "class action," thereby avoiding the theoretical bind of the action-structure and culture-economy dualisms. This is the cue for the particularly revealing contributions of Margaret Somers and Richard Biernacki, and for Sonya Rose's employment of Sartre's existentialist concept of seriality as linked social locations, obviously pertinent to the notion of class formation. What is so interesting about concepts like seriality is that they exemplify the deeply felt need to think not . . .

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