[OPE-L] the scope and emphasis of working-class studies

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Mon Apr 18 2005 - 09:51:25 EDT

> "Labour History as the History of Multitudes"
> Marcel van der Linden, Multitudes
http://info.interactivist.net/article.pl?sid=04/11/02/1744204&mode=nested&ti>   If this conclusion is justified, then labour historians will indeed
> be expected to expand their field of research considerably. Linebaugh
> and Rediker write: "The emphasis in modern labor history on the
> white, male, skilled, waged, nationalist, propertied artisan/citizen
> or industrial worker has hidden the history of the Atlantic
> proletariat of the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth
> centuries." (Linebaugh and Rediker, 332)

From the standpoint of someone who taught in a labor studies program
for 19 years and is familiar with the way in which labor history and other
working-class studies are taught,  this idea that the emphasis of
contemporary labor historians is on "white, skilled, waged,
nationalist, propertied artisan/citizen or industrial worker ..." is quite
absurd!  From the standpoint of classroom instruction, I know of no
instructor of labor history or working-class studies for whom the
"emphasis" is so narrowly understood.  Moreover, even the most casual
examination of journals relating to labor history -- and dissertations
written related to labor studies -- will show that the claim above about
the narrow "field of research" and the emphasis among those doing
research on these subjects is so far from the truth that it is comical:
it's as if L & R are stuck in a time warp and haven't been brought up
to date about research in the last 35 years.

It is also not true that bonded labour, including slavery,  is not discussed
or emphasized by labor historians.  Indeed, there has been an enormous
amount of  research on that topic in recent decades.  I certainly know of no
course in US labor history (which includes the 19th Century) that
doesn't examine slavery.  Indeed, I know of no US labor historian who
thinks that subject isn't important from the standpoint of comprehending
subsequent developments in US  history and divisions within the
working class.

It is simply amazing to me that anyone would take such a claim seriously.
But, I guess among politically-inspired researchers there's always the
temptation to make exaggerated claims.

In solidarity, Jerry

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