After carefully laying the theoretical groundwork for the better part of a decade, Steinberg has shown the range of his argument about class formation and collective action (as dynamic processes and the role played by discourse in their unfolding and their meaning) in his recent book Fighting Words. Written with great clarity and analytical power, it is a book that is destined to attract a good deal of attention across disciplines…As the outside reviewers make clear, Steinberg is already an important “player” on a field that includes some very large figures.
One is struck by the laser-like analytical focus and the relentlessness by which Marc has forged an intellectual path through, and beyond, more than a few of the real giants in the field of socio-historical analysis. With great care and rigor, Steinberg has spent a decade chipping away at the post-structural/post-modern edifice in socio-historical studies, demonstrating the partially mistaken foundations upon which it has been constructed, while deploying its most valuable contributions.
By underscoring the gendered character of class consciousness and by tracing the complex ways in which class formation and patriarchy were interpenetrated at both a symbolic and a material level, Steinberg uses the critique of Thompson in a way that enhances class analysis rather than banishing it (as the post-structuralists are inclined to do.) Indeed, Steinberg’s overall project has been not to simply attempt to dismantle the “post-structural” edifice, but rather to begin to set about rebuilding it along new and more conceptually promising lines.
I consider Marc to be a truly decent colleague, a real mentsch. Regularly (meaning once a week and sometimes more) Marc sends along a clipping, a citation, or an announcement of a conference that relates to my research or my teaching. It is a small gesture, to be sure, but it is indicative of Marc’s thoughtfulness. I can’t say whether he does this with everyone in the Department, but I’d bet that he does. The important thing though, besides the thoughtfulness it demonstrates, is that it has prompted me to do the same. In lots of different ways, Marc has come to serve as an outstanding example to many of us. In my view the real problem with regard to Marc is not figuring out whether or not he ought to be granted tenure (for of course he should and will) but how we are going to be able to keep such a fine scholar, teacher, and colleague at Smith for the long haul.