Top positive review
AN UNDOGMATIC MARXIST APPROACH
on 21 February 2017
This is a book which has the courage of its author's convictions. Hobsbawm was a Marxist, and remained unrepentant about that throughout his long life, despite the shattering developments of 1989-1991, when the Wall came down, and the USSR collapsed. This book was written at an earlier date, and it assumes that Marx was right - that feudalism had been replaced by capitalism, and that capitalism was destined to be replaced by socialism. Since it dealt with the period 1848-1875, before socialism became a reality, the thesis cannot be invalidated; and it seems to hold good. It certainly fits the mid 19th century better than it did (say) the 17th century in England - despite all the many books written by Christopher Hill to the contrary.
Marx was above all dedicated to the notion of the importance of materialism; and the book reflects this. So, we hear very literal about those titans of political and diplomatic history - Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi in Italy and Bismarck in Germany - nor about Louis Napoleon. Gladstone and Disraeli, nor about Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in the USA. The history is told in terms of steam engines, commodities, mass emigration, and the cultural history of the triumphant bourgeoisie, who remade the whole world in their image.
Hobsbawm might have been expected to concentrate on Great Britain, or Europe, or the USA, which were after all the winners; but in fact the book is refreshing because it is an early example of what has come to be known as World History. We tour the globe, noting the material progress, but also the conflicts this brought about, and the 'downside.'
A truly original work, and not in the least dogmatic, despite the admiration for Marx.