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Why Some Classes Are More Successful than Others
A theoretical model of class formation must undergird any serious theory of capitalist politics, just as the concrete analysis of class formation must be the prerequisite for the realistic examination of the historical development of any particular capitalist country.  So far, in contemporary Marxist research, two approaches to the problem of class formation have predominated. On one hand, there is the current of social and labour history whose unrivalled exemplar remains Edward Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class. Primarily concerned with the nineteenth century, the main contribution of this historiographic work has been to tell us when and how, and sometimes to what extent, a distinctive, self-conscious working class first came into existence, set apart from the rest of the population. On the other hand, there is another body of research and debate which commences from the reformist versus revolutionary dichotomy, and has the aim of explaining why, when and to what extent this or that working class became reformist—as the supposedly unexpected norm—deviating from the vision of revolutionary socialism. The literature on this topic is almost inexhaustable, but its fulcrum may be said to be the debate—for and against—the labour aristocracy thesis.  Here, however, I am mainly interested in class formation as a twentieth-century explanans, not as a nineteenth-century explanadum. Likewise, I am not so much concerned with the characteristics of a given class per se, as with its capacities and achievements in conflict and in other types of relations with other classes. From this relational perspective, the question of whether and why a certain class at a certain time should be called reformist or revolutionary loses its centrality, and is replaced by a question of the capacities of a given class to act in relation to others and the forms of organization and practice thereby developed.
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