Scott Hamilton
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A peculiar classic
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‘The Peculiarities of the English’ is perhaps the most celebrated of the four texts Edward Palmer Thompson collected in The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays. Through 1960, Thompson was kept busy addressing Left Club meetings, writing for the New Left Review, and speaking at Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) demonstrations. Thompson begins ‘Where Are We Now?’ by interrogating the concept of ‘intellectual work’. Thompson contested Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn's portrait of the English bourgeoisie as a weak class mired in pre-capitalist ideology and he was fearful of confronting the remnants of the old feudal class. ‘The Peculiarities of the English’ rapidly became a classic, breeding a large and mostly admiring body of commentary. Thompson's engagement with the ‘New New Left’ only served to emphasise his alienation from a new generation of activists.

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The crisis of theory

EP Thompson, the New Left and postwar British politics


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