Labour History

Australian Labour Intellectuals: An Introduction

Labour History (1999), 77, (1), 1–10.


Labour intellectuals are knowledge producers in labour institutions. The liberal conception of the ‘free-floating’ intellectual has limited utility for understanding labour intellectuals. The idea of the labour intellectual directs our attention to the complex and changing relationships between intellectuals, classes and labour movement institutions, and the place of these institutions in broader society. This article reviews the contributions of Antonio Gramsci, Jurgen Habermas and his critics, and Ron Eyerman, to the concept of the labour intellectual. Gramsci directs us to the possibility that all have the capacity to be (labour) intellectuals. Learning from Habermas, we trace intellectuals back to the sites in which they produce ideas and discourse. Agreeing with the critics of Habermas, we see those sites as multiple publics. From Eyerman we take the idea of labour intellectuals as a plural historical category. The study of labour intellectuals has the potential to widen the scope of labour history.

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Author details

Irving, Terry

Scalmer, Sean

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
p. 11
p. 22
p. 33
p. 44
p. 55
p. 66
p. 77
p. 88
p. 99