[Marxism] E.P. Thompson, social class and the 'social sciences'

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Dec 10 19:10:40 MST 2006

Mark wrote:
>E.P. Thompson left the CP but was still a Marxist when he wrote MAKING
THE ENGLISH WORKING CLASS.  His understanding of class tries to provide
explanation for the self-directed activities of working people.  This is
what good history does...and it's what historical materialism does quite
well, when used by someone who really knows the subject...the making of
working class, in this case.

Yeh, a Marxist classic.  Later his politics went pretty awful, but he
can be forgiven a lot since he produced this wonderful book.

>Western "social science" evolved from the need of capitalist
institutions to manage populations.  Its starting point is not what
people are thinking or desiring--which explains what the people are
doing and why--but what
resources--and how much--need to be administered to who....  It is
the practical approach for capitalist institutions, but impractical in
of understanding class and actions based on class.

Robin Blackburn (ed), "Ideology in Social Science", London, Fontana,
1972, is very good on this subject.

And Martin Nicolaus' speech at the 1968 conference of the American
Sociological Association is brilliant on the development of sociology
(albeit in the specifically US situation).  See:

Both Blackburn and Nicolaus can be forgiven quite a lot, in my book, for
these two wonderful works.

Paul Mattick, in the opening chapter of "Economic Crisis and Crisis
Theory" examines the development of bourgeois economic theory in a
similar way.  This is now on the net:


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