1. Marxist ideas of class

1. Marxist ideas of class
a) What does he say – who are the proletariat, the bourgeoisie and the landed
class? How do we define them? Class as a thing.
b) Class consciousness – a class for itself – class as a collective subjectivity.
c) Marx’s ideas did not come out of nowhere – people need to find a way to
explain the unequal world in which they live – this is why the problem has
never gone away.
2. This idea of class influenced much history writing.
a) Marx himself argued for a historical role for class. It was the engine of social
change. ‘All history is hitherto the history of class struggle.’
b) Idea that proletarian revolutions would follow bourgeois revolutions was
applied by many historians.
c) This has the potential to produce a mechanistic history. But not always.
Marxist historians such as EP Thompson showed considerable innovation.
Looked more at class consciousness – cultural manifestations of classes.
Hobsbawm on coherency of working-class communities pre-war.
3. Socio-economic developments
a) Decline of Fordism – Post-Fordist society.
b) Rise of consumer culture – identity emerges through what we buy, not what
we produce?
c) Identity politics – class no longer over-riding unifier in politics. Displaced by
gender and/or race?
d) Youth culture, subcultures.
4. Different historical approaches to class
a) Empirical questioning – blurred boundaries between different classes/ workers
voting Tory
b) Feminist historians and Black historians point out that the idea of a unified
working class is a myth.
c) Poststructuralist theory – instability of identities, we can be many identities at
5. Goodbye to class? Class remains a persistent concern within society.
a) Inequality persists at a structural level. Cabinet where most people went to
Oxbridge. Only 30 per cent of students at Oxbridge went to comprehensives,
and of those only 0.3 per cent had free school meals.
b) Austerity regime is seen by many as a form of class warfare.
c) Link between material conditions and political alignments reoccurring –
Precariat, new dangerous class.
d) Can we have a more flexible, more nuanced understanding of class?