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By E. P. Thompson

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Historical facts survive (as texts) in fortuitous or preselected ways: they arrive already within an ideological field (of a given society in the past, and in terms of its own self-evaluation); they are therefore in no way 'neutral'. Historical notions of causation or of structure are highly-elaborated theoretical constructions; as such, they are the properties of theory and not of its object, 'real' history. No empirical procedures can identify the category, social class; no experiment can be run through to prove the bourgeois character of bourgeois ideology, nor, indeed, to licence such a holistic notion.

A narrative account; such a reconstruction (however much it may b e despised by philosophers, by sociolo­ gists, and by an increasing number of contemporary historians who have been frightened by the first two) being an essential constituent of the historical discipline, a pre-requisite and premise of all historical knowledge, the ground of any objective (as distinct from theoretic) notion of causation, and the indispen­ sible preliminary to the construction of an analytic or structured account (which identifies structural and causative relations), even though in the course of such an analysis the primitive sequential narration will itself undergo radical transformation; 5) As links in a lateral series of social/ideological/economic/ political relations (as, for example - this contract is a special case of the general form of contracts at that time: such contracts were governed by these forms of law: they enforced these forms of obligation and subordination), enabling us thereby to recover or infer, from many instances, at least a provisional 'section' of a given society in the past - its characteristic relations of power, domination, kinship, servitude, market relations, and the rest; 6) It may follow from this, if we press the point a little further, 40 THE POVERTY OF THEORY that even discrete facts may be interrogated for 'structure­ bearing' evidence.

All that thought can know is thought - and pretty bad artefacts of thought at that, 'for the mind of man is . . '23 Theory must now set that right. Althusser does not so much confuse thought and the real as, by asserting the unknowability of the real, he confiscates reality of its determinant properties, thus reducing the real to Theory. This Theory lay immanent, awaiting Marx's epistemological break. And the knowledge then appropriated by Marx (although 'revealed' would be a better word) was determined in no way by its object.

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