Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal 1890-1940 / Edition 1

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Overview

Dipesh Chakrabarty combines a history of the jute-mill workers of Calcutta with a fresh look at labor history in Marxist scholarship. Opposing a reductionist view of culture and consciousness, he examines the milieu of the jute-mill workers and the way it influenced their capacity for class solidarity and "revolutionary" action from 1890 to 1940. Around and within this empirical core is built his critique of emancipatory narratives and their relationship to such Marxian categories as "capital," "proletariat," or "class consciousness."

The book contributes to currently developing theories that connect Marxist historiography, post-structuralist thinking, and the traditions of hermeneutic analysis. Although Chakrabarty deploys Marxian arguments to explain the political practices of the workers he describes, he replaces universalizing Marxist explanations with a sensitive documentary method that stays close to the experience of workers and their European bosses. He finds in their relationship many elements of the landlord/tenant relationship from the rural past: the jute-mill workers of the period were preindividualist in consciousness and thus incapable of participating consistently in modern forms of politics and political organization.

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
Dipesh Chakrabarty has now made a signal and valuable contribution to the history of the Calcutta jute workers and their industry and has given important guidelines for more searching study of all groups in the working class of India.
Journal of the South Asia Studies Association
Refreshingly original. . . . The author's clarity and consistency of purpose force one to reflect on the problematic nature of working-class history and the difficulties involved in its conceptualization and writing. . . . Chakrabarty travels consistently and illuminatingly between the warp of theoretical proposition and woof of historical specificity.
The Journal of Asian Studies
[A] thought-provoking study in Marxist labor history, perhaps the most important monograph since E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. . . . This book represents a brilliant effort to connect traditions of post structuralist and Marxist thought in a fascinating tale of working-class protest and organization in colonial Calcutta.
From the Publisher
"[A] thought-provoking study in Marxist labor history, perhaps the most important monograph since E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. . . . This book represents a brilliant effort to connect traditions of post structuralist and Marxist thought in a fascinating tale of working-class protest and organization in colonial Calcutta."—The Journal of Asian Studies

"Dipesh Chakrabarty has now made a signal and valuable contribution to the history of the Calcutta jute workers and their industry and has given important guidelines for more searching study of all groups in the working class of India."—American Historical Review

"Refreshingly original. . . . The author's clarity and consistency of purpose force one to reflect on the problematic nature of working-class history and the difficulties involved in its conceptualization and writing. . . . Chakrabarty travels consistently and illuminatingly between the warp of theoretical proposition and woof of historical specificity."—Journal of the South Asia Studies Association

The Journal of Asian Studies
[A] thought-provoking study in Marxist labor history, perhaps the most important monograph since E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. . . . This book represents a brilliant effort to connect traditions of post structuralist and Marxist thought in a fascinating tale of working-class protest and organization in colonial Calcutta.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691070308
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/7/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xvii
Abbreviations xix
1. Intoduction 3
2. Jute: The nature of the Industry 14
3. Of Conditions and Culture 65
4. The Paradox of Organization 116
5. Protest and Authority 155
6. Class and Community 186
7. Conclusion: Rethinking Working-Class History 219
Glossary 231
Bibliography 233
Index 243

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