Publication Details

Irving, T. H. & Connell, R. (2016). Scholars and radicals: writing and re-thinking class structure in Australian history. Journal of Australian Studies, 40 (1), 3-15.


We wrote Class Structure in Australian History in a period of heightened social struggle. It grew out of collaborative research projects at Sydney's Free U in the late 1960s. The book was distinctive in both emphasising the socialist tradition of class analysis and trying to find new paths for it. Its first edition was ignored by mass media, and often mis-interpreted in professional journals. Nevertheless it circulated widely and has continued to be a point of reference for progressive scholarship. Its method tried to carry forward the Free U project of democratic knowledge making, linking documents with analysis and inviting shared interpretation. Its theory emphasised the reality of classes as historical formations, and the importance of understanding class structure as a whole, on both points reacting against influential frameworks of the time. Looking back, CSAH appears uncertain in its approach to race and gender, and inadequate in its handling of coloniality; it was written in isolation from similar projects in other parts of the postcolonial world. Yet its approach still has value in understanding the changing dynamics of class on a world scale, the class relations of the neoliberal era in Australia, and the current configuration of power in Australia.



Link to publisher version (DOI)