In recent decades, the working class as it was once conceived has lost its paradigmatic place in labor history along with the nineteenth-century struggles from which it emerged. This essay surveys what the Working Class in American History book series has taught us about class in the age of cotton, coal, and steel, reviews the major criticisms of the concept of the working class on which it was founded, and reconsiders what its nineteenth-century subjects still have to say. The essay concludes with a call to reclaim a more capacious conception of class as a political formation based on property relations, describing at once a prospect, a project, and a perspective with labor at its core.
The Work of Class in American History
JEFFREY SKLANSKY teaches history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in the intellectual and social history of capitalism in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century America. He is the author of Sovereign of the Market: The Money Question in Early America (2017) and The Soul’s Economy: Market Society and Selfhood in American Thought, 1820 – 1920 (2003).
Jeffrey Sklansky; The Work of Class in American History. Labor 1 December 2019; 16 (4): 11–28. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-7790213
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