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Call for pitches: Class.

by The Editors
May 9, 2022

All the information you need to pitch for our forthcoming 'Class' edition. 2035 words / 8 min read

We are now open for pitches for our forthcoming edition, to be published in late August/early September. The theme of this edition is Class. We are looking for work that responds to this theme, as well as book reviews and pieces for our “Culture is Ordinary” section. Book reviews and culture pieces need not respond or relate to the overarching theme.

We particularly encourage ideas from working class people and people from the Global South; we’re also very interested in collectively-authored pieces, conversations, open-ended investigations, and pieces that constructively experiment with (or subvert) the hegemonic essay form.

Below, we have offered some guidance for pitches. Please read the relevant guidance carefully before pitching. We would also recommend reading previous examples of work we’ve published, to get a feel for the sort of thing we’re after—although we are always open to new ideas.

If there is anything you’re unclear about, or if you would prefer this information in another format to aid with accessibility, contact Tom or josie via. the email addresses on this page.

Class

Background information

In his 1967 essay ‘Marxist Political Theory in Great Britain’, Nicos Poulantzas took aim at “the lack in Marxist thought of a systematic theory of social classes”.1 This lack, for Poulantzas, is not only the result of certain intellectual shortcomings—it is also the result of the shifting, overdetermined and contradictory ways in which class operates. Social class is multi-dimensional; it is impossible to grasp or describe it within a single framework, or on just one level of abstraction. Responding to Poulantzas’s provocation, we are looking for analyses and explorations of class from a variety of perspectives and through a range of approaches.

Emerging, to a significant extent, out of frustration at the various ways in which class is discussed on the left in Britain, our Class edition will attempt to explore the concept with a level of theoretical and empirical rigour and breadth, along with an attention to the emotional or affective aspects of classed experience. We have been struck by the relative marginalisation of working class voices in discussions of class—a factor which explains, in part, why these discussions so often feel limited and frustrating. We conceptualise this edition as a necessary (albeit inevitably partial) corrective to these patterns.

Our starting point is a rejection of the two predominant tendencies that we have observed within the British left’s thinking about class. On the one hand, we reject an authentocratic position that reduces class to a set of cultural markers: markers which may once, though not always, have had some relationship to a historically-existing, white, often male part of the working class, such as accent or consumption preferences (what Hobsbawm describes as the “common style of proletarian life”). On the other hand, we also reject the opposing position (which often originates in an attempt to correct for the limits of the authentocratic position, and is passed off as “the Marxist definition of class”), which holds that the working class is comprised of all wage earners—and perhaps their dependents and those reliant on state benefits, though these positions are often completely unacknowledged and unaccounted-for.

Above all, we reject what both positions share: firstly, the sense that class is always and only one thing (or, at best, one relation); secondly, the idea that class can be analysed adequately within national borders, and entirely independently from considerations of other contradictions, including (but not limited to) race and gender. These positions, moreover, share the presumption that class in its solidity exists prior to class struggle. Our contention, following E. P. Thompson and Louis Althusser (in a rare moment of agreement!), is that class struggle and class contradiction are necessarily prior to class itself.

Both the positions described above—the ‘wage earner’ thesis or the authentocratic approach— result from and reproduce the marginalisation of working class voices, especially on theoretical questions. The authentocratic position denies the very possibility of working class theorists: to have an interest in (and capacity for) theorising is, to the authentocrat, a reliable indication of not being working class. The ‘wage earner’ thesis, by contrast, treats even very privileged wage earners as working class; thus tending towards an uncritical reproduction of that privilege, including in its theoretical effects and its role in excluding the less privileged (what Raymond Williams and others have called the “habit of command”).

We’re also very struck by the exemplary work of writers such as Walter Rodney or Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja2 on the determination of class relations by imperialism, and, with this, the exploration of race and class. For us, class in Britain is decisively determined by imperialism. This determination is often through the maintenance (albeit increasingly strained) of the standards of living for working class people in the imperial core through the profusion of cheap(ened) commodities produced elsewhere. This maintenance through unequal exchange, including unequal ecological exchange, includes the central place of border regimes in limiting labour mobility and maintaining wage differentials.

It is also lived politically: as far back as 1944, George Padmore argued that “imperialism unites labour and capital,” softening class contradictions within Britain, and giving the working class (and particularly its representatives in the Labour Party and Trade Union leadership) a shared interest with British capitalists in maintaining the spoils of imperialism and the power of the state. The distribution of these spoils are then struggled over within limits determined by that imperialist and capitalist state.

What has changed decisively since 1944 has been global shifts in physical production away from the imperial core. The working class as a whole tends, through technological developments, to be marginalised in the production process; the working class of the imperial core are doubly so, through shifts in the geographies of industrial production. The vast majority of what might be called the British working class—that is: the working class producing commodities for consumption in Britain and generating surplus value for British capital (and, through taxation, for the British state, and therefore resources for social provision)—are located outside Britain’s borders. We are extremely sympathetic to efforts to define the working class beyond an industrial-productivist one, but we also note with suspicion the ways in which many such attempts began to be formulated at precisely the moment when a great deal of industrial production was leaving the imperial core.

What we’re looking for

We imagine the edition comprising three strands. We’ve listed each of them below, along with some suggestions as to what this might include (though if you’ve got an idea that we don’t mention, but that you think is relevant, please feel free to pitch it):

  1. Theory. Exploring and developing Marxist understandings of class, and exploring and democratising knowledge that is often inaccessible (often due to the vagaries of publishing), or needs to be connected to contemporary struggles. Limits of the ‘wage earner’ thesis. We’re particularly interested in explorations of some of the incredibly suggestive, but now often forgotten debates around class from the 1970s and 1980s, and attempts to work through what could be learnt and made use of today.
  2. Concrete analysis of particular social formations, histories, countries, regions (etc.), focusing especially on class and other contradictions, including but not limited to gender, race, and disability. We welcome pitches that consider global class relations, as well as those that cohere within national or regional borders. Other concrete questions might include strategic problems, such as:
    • how class relationships are reproduced (and even produced) within labour movement, as Rosa Luxemburg explored so brilliantly in analysing how the mass party or trade union produces its own petty bourgeoisie or even bourgeoisie (or, as Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa put it, how movements produce “those managerial types”);
    • classes and class fractions that the left tend to overlook (the petty bourgeoisie, the peasantry, the rural working class…);
    • understanding the ruling and/or exploiting class(es);
    • experiences and struggles outside the point of production, particularly those that have acquired a particular contemporary relevance within Britain: such as housing, debt, or how class position may (or may not) shift with age. We invite contributions on these topics that maintain a commitment to the Marxist method.
  3. The Wounds (and Joys) of Class. Refusing the reduction of class to wage-earning, we are particularly interested in the experiences of the dominated/exploited class(es). What does class feel like?

    We have been particularly struck by Mark Fisher’s exploration of Dickens’s Great Expectations in his final lectures.3 We are interested here in personal experiences—in the “matchless phenomenology” of working class life4 offered by figures such as Williams and Richard Hoggart, but also by literary figures such as Elena Ferrante or Patrick Chamoiseau—and in explorations of how class feels in literature, art, film, and music.

    For this strand, we are only interested in the experiences of the dominated and exploited classes (though not necessarily the working class), and will not consider pitches from those outside of these positions. This is not, of course, a question of “cancelling” comrades from outside the dominated and exploited classes, but of attempting to correct for certain limiting tendencies. We want to centre the experiences and the lives of those most harmed by capitalism—those who will, in ways yet to be determined, be key to its overcoming.

We are very interested in collectively-authored pieces, particularly for the second and third strands. Our hope is that this approach will open up space for a wide range of experiences, perspectives and expertise. For example, how might theoretical analysis, explorations of experience and qualitative work be combined? We are also interested in pieces, collectively-authored or otherwise, that capture something of the contradictions of class within their form: pieces that maybe argue with themselves, or might not have a definite conclusion to insist upon, but that reflect the multiplicity of experiences comprising what’s glossed as ‘the’ experience of class.

Other sections

Culture is Ordinary

We invite pitches for Culture is Ordinary. These do not have to be linked to class, but should be broadly cultural in focus, and of interest to New Socialist’s audience. We imagine that the majority of pieces we will commission for this section will be no longer than around 2,500 words.

Book Reviews

Whilst we welcome proposals to review any books likely to be of an interest to our audience, we would be particularly interested in reviews of:

Payment

We pay all writers. As of May 2022, our current rates of payment are:
Edition essays: £100
Culture is Ordinary: £50
Books: £75

We are entirely subscriber-funded, so these rates may increase.

How to pitch

For the main theme, please email [email protected] with an outline of your idea. Please ensure your email is clearly marked as a pitch for the Class edition.

For book reviews, please email [email protected].

For Culture is Ordinary, please direct pitches to [email protected].

Deadline for pitches: 12 June, 2022.


  1. Nicos Poulantzas. [1967] 2008. ‘Marxist Political Theory in Great Britain’. In James Martin (ed.). The Poulantzas Reader: Marxism, Law and the State. London: Verso, p.125. 

  2. See particularly the exemplary analysis of the class structure of the Belgian Congo in 2002. The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History. London: Zed Books, pp. 61-77. 

  3. Mark Fisher. 2020. Post-Capitalist Desire: The Final Lectures. London: Repeater, p. 126. 

  4. The phrase is used critically in Perry Anderson’s “Origins of the Present Crisis”, the essay critiqued by Poulantzas in ‘Marxist Political Theory in Great Britain’. 


Author:

The Editors (@newsocialistuk)

The New Socialist editorial collective.