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The Crisis of TheoryE.P. Thompson, the New Left and Postwar British Politics$
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Scott Hamilton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719084355

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719084355.001.0001

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A peculiar classic

A peculiar classic

(p.93) 3 A peculiar classic
The Crisis of Theory

Scott Hamilton

Manchester University Press

‘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.

Keywords:   The Peculiarities of the English, New New Left, Edward Palmer Thompson, Left Club, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Perry Anderson, Tom Nairn

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