Professor Steinberg’s contributions to the Department, the College, and the larger discipline are exemplary…He is rigorously ethical and unstinting in his generosity to junior and senior colleagues alike, the model colleague.
The central problem Marc addresses in his book [Law, Labor, and England’s Great Transformation] and the numerous related articles is widely considered to be pivotal to scholarly concerns about whether, when, how, and under what conditions social-class consciousness can be said to “form.”…History provides manifestations of consciousness among skilled and semi-skilled labor in late-18th and early-19th century Britain, and these have been mined assiduously in the empirical literature. Thus, the contest Marc joins in his scholarly work is widely regarded as an important one for the advance of theory and his own contribution certainly merits a significant place in that ongoing debate. Marc’s work is centered in the controversy surrounding “free labor” that occurred in conjunction with the consolidation of capital and shifting views of the social contract that anticipate the modern industrial organization of workers and the means of production in the factory system. His unique contribution lies in the empirical analysis of the public dialogues attending this controversy as they engaged the silk weavers of Spitalfields and the cotton spinners of Ashton-Stalybridge…[H]e develops and defends his thesis that class consciousness is simultaneously shaped, advanced, and constrained by the content of these debates which, moreover, must be understood for their implicitly “gendered” character. Marc has addressed a central theoretical problem, mastered its many nuances, and carefully constructed a place for his own contribution to it. The various articles he has published, many in very prestigious venues, variously anticipate, elaborate and extend it.
The book’s three case studies are rich, grounded in abundance of detail, and covering cases which each contribute a new angle of vision. In many ways the book’s most important contribution is the theoretical framework, which takes on major questions and thinkers. The external reviewers are unanimous that the book represents a major theoretical contribution to several key fields in sociology. Reviewer 1 writes that “The last chapter contains a magisterial reinterpretation of the industrial revolution that forces a reexamination of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transportation, which is not only the major sociological treatment of the industrial revolution, but one of the founding texts of recent economic sociology.” Reviewer 2 stresses that “Professor Steinberg’s publications are unique in that they combine close attention to social historical characteristics and developments with serious attempts to extend social theory.” Reviewer 3 finds that Steinberg’s chapter on “institutions—theory and history” goes “far beyond the productivism of Marx and his followers…I consider this chapter a masterful synthesis.” Reviewer 4 notes that Marc Steinberg “upends several conventional understandings of the great transformation from feudalism to capitalism in the West and the liberal narrative of the development of the free labor contract as the signature feature of this transformation.”
It is unusual…to see [teaching] evaluations for the introductory course, Sociology 101, consistently above 6.0 across seven sections, as Marc’s are. Typically one or the other of the regular members of the department will attain a summary evaluation in Sociology 101 that exceeds 6.0, but none of us save Marc has consistently received summary means this high, not since Marc came to Smith in 1994 and not in the twenty-odd years I’ve been at Smith.
…This reveals something of the way Marc approaches his work more comprehensively. He identifies a problem and the constraints, conditions and influences that render it a problem, and then sensitively, rationally, and exhaustively searches for resources with which to address it. …Marc does it all, and he does it all very well.
Professor Steinberg is as near to being a “Master” teacher as there is in the Department of Sociology, and perhaps even as there is a Smith College. This is not only evident in his student teaching evaluations, which have consistently been at the top of the departmental rankings ever since he arrived at Smith in the mid-1990’s (and continue to reside there) but in the high degree of care and respect that he shows for the craft of teaching, year in and year out, in all of his courses…One aspect of Professor Steinberg’s teaching that we found particularly impressive was his ability to use student comments to their full advantage, wringing the best ideas from them in order to move the class forward, while saving the class from any erroneous or superfluous comments that might bog the discussion down by extended correction of inaccuracies. In other words, Professor Steinberg was adept at extracting and retaining valuable nuggets, while delicately leaving the unnecessary parts behind, allowing individual student comments to usefully advance class discussion. This benefitted the class as a whole by keeping analytical discussion at a high level, while also encouraging individual student involvement.
Marc is the very best teacher in our department.