Fighting Words: Working-Class Formation, Collective Action, and Discourse in Early Nineteenth-Century England

(Cornell University Press, 1990)

  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title selection
  • Vivianna Zelizer Award for Best Book in Economic Sociology, Economic Sociology Section of the American Sociological Assocation (ASA), 2017
  • “Honorable Mention” for the 2000 Barrington Moore Prize of the Comparative-Historical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association (ASA), 2000.


Anna Clark, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

“Fighting Words represents an original and important contribution to debates about class in the nineteenth century and to the theoretical debates currently raging between those with materialist and linguistic perspectives.”



“An important new addition to the literature on work, class, and economic and social history.”


Michael Dintenfass, Journal of Modern History 

“The inversion of the textual and the structural is the predominant tendency of the powerful school of social history and historical sociology whose impressive dimensions and stimulating factiousness can be appreciated in Steinberg’s excellent bibliography. Fighting Words reveals its author to be one of the most accomplished students of this academy.”


Michael Huberman, Dept. of History, University of Montreal, Industrial and Labor Relations Review

“An ambitious book….well presented and documented….”


William A. Gamson, Contemporary Sociology

“In the end, this is a deeply satisfying book. The arid and antiquated debates between materialist and idealist approaches disappear in a perspective that examines how material conditions and their discursive representations interact in a dynamic system of social life. The social life is brought alive in the concrete, historically embedded history of that time and place. What more could one ask?”


Colin Barker, Mobilization

“Marc Steinberg has written a splendid and important book. It is rich, argumentative, and necessary…. Steinberg has opened a door to a new landscape of questions, where social movement scholars will wander in future with excitement and with new puzzles.”


Miles Taylor, English Historical Review

“Sophisticated…. The author argues his case with passion.”


Philip Harling, American Journal of Sociology

“Steinberg effectively carries out the broadest task that he sets for himself in this perceptive and carefully researched book: to show the ways in which material and discursive processes work together in the shaping of consciousness.”