Monday, January 17, 2011

Eric Hobsbawn: The world's greatest historian is 93 and still going strong

Thanks to Jim Johnson's always excellent blog Notes on Politics, Theory and Photography (which I read every day) I was alerted to this interview with 93 year old British historian Eric Hobsbawm in the UK Guardian. Hobsbawn is recognized as one of the finest English speaking historians of all time.

Hobsbawm's book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991 is  perhaps the finest history books I have read on the history of the 20th Century.

The Guardian interview serves as an opportunity for Hobsbawn to explore the themes and ideas contained in his new book  How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism. Some quotes from the interview are below:
"On the other hand, I think there's a risk in assuming, as neoliberals and free marketeers do, that there's only one type of capitalism. Capitalism is, if you like, a family, with a variety of possibilities, from the state-directed capitalism of France to the free-market of America." 

"How to Change the World is an account of what Marxism fundamentally did in the 20th century, partly through the social democratic parties that weren't directly derived from Marx and other parties – Labour parties, workers' parties, and so on – that remain as government and potential government parties everywhere. And second, through the Russian Revolution and all its consequences.

"The record of Karl Marx, an unarmed prophet inspiring major changes, is undeniable. I'm quite deliberately not saying that there are any equivalent prospects now. What I'm saying now is that the basic problems of the 21st century would require solutions that neither the pure market, nor pure liberal democracy can adequately deal with. And to that extent, a different combination, a different mix of public and private, of state action and control and freedom would have to be worked out.  What you will call that, I don't know. But it may well no longer be capitalism, certainly not in the sense in which we have known it in this country and the United States"

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