Keith Thomas on the working methods of a historian (archive)

This wonderful piece is back open access as part of the LRB’s archive.

Progressive Geographies

Keith Thomas on the working methods of a historian – archive piece from the LRB.

I shared this back in the early days of this blog, but I came across it again today, and it’s worth another read.

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1 Response to Keith Thomas on the working methods of a historian (archive)

  1. dmf says:

    “Over the last nine years we have lived through an economic crisis of historic proportions. But it was more than that. It was not just an economic crisis. It was a crisis of “the economy” – a discursive object, a set of institutions, ideas and practices that have been fundamental to the organization of society, politics and government
    since the late nineteenth century. At least, this is the working hypothesis of this paper. The discursive object of the national economy was always unstable. It has always been riven by constitutive tensions. The crisis has heightened those tensions
    to such a pitch that it seems worth posing the question: Are we witnessing a terminal crisis, the “end of the economy”?
    For the economy to have an ending, it must have a history. That it does have a history, is not obvious. For many, “the economic” and “the economy” are timeless.
    Every human society must have an economic system. Every human society must solve the problem of reconciling manifold desires with limited resources. And there
    are certain mechanisms present in all societies to perform these basic functions. To put the issue in these terms transparently performs ideological as well as analytical work. It legitimates present day arrangements as anthropological constants. Asserting the opposite, insisting that “the economy” has a history is, not
    for nothing, a claim associated with a variety of important critical traditions Personally, it is a research program to which I first expressed my adherence almost twenty years ago. It is why I am a historian not an economist. Coming out of the 1970s and 1980s we wrote and thought under the impact of neoliberalism. If there was “no such thing as society”, so the thought went, then perhaps there was no such
    thing as “the economy” (or “the state), either. Today, the aftermath of the
    cataclysmic crisis of neoliberalism offers a welcome moment to take stock.
    Undoing the reification of the economy is a project on which many critical
    traditions converge”

    Click to access Tooze-Unfixing-the-Economy-Revised.pdf

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