British historian Hobsbawm on imperialism today. A critical review


This video is of an Iraq War Protest – Seattle, USA, in 2003.

From British daily The Morning Star:

A weak-kneed theory

(Sunday 22 July 2007)

Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism by Eric Hobsbawm
(Little, Brown, £17.99)

LEFT WANTING: Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism by Eric Hobsbawm.

JOHN MOORE sees historian Eric Hobsbawm’s take on imperialism, war and terrorism as a weaker replacement for his old spot-on analyses.

In his survey of the prospects for war and peace in the 21st century, Eric Hobsbawm compresses his material expertly, in his usual clear, temperate style, with thought-provoking ideas.

The flows of immigrants, a consequence of globalisation, are likened to Marx’s reserve army of unemployed, which keeps wages down.

He condemns the Iraq war and relegates terrorism from “threat to our way of life” to the category of serious public order problem. He says that the rhetoric of the so-called war against terror is “designed to make the flesh of our citizens creep” and to excuse the invasion.

Hobsbawm realises that intervention by a state in another’s territory is rarely justified … But behind the cover of armed invasion in defence of human rights hides a state acting to pursue its own interests. …

Once upon a time, Hobsbawm would have seen the roots of imperialism in monopoly capitalism, with an inbuilt drive to overseas expansion. Now he sees them embedded in the backward central mass of the US population, inward-looking compared with the more advanced, cosmopolitan people of the east and west coasts.

What of the future? Hobsbawm hopes for “enlightened self-interest and education” in the US. Perhaps this weak-kneed message will be heard in the White House and the Pentagon.

J.A. Hobson on imperialism: here.

Hobsbawm and debates about the strength of the British labour movement: here.

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5 thoughts on “British historian Hobsbawm on imperialism today. A critical review

  1. One hardly ever hears the word imperialism in the US. There are a few Marxists who attack US Imperialism, but the larger group (still very small) is composed of left Christians who have come to identify the American Empire with Rome.

    I’ve read a little Hobsbawm, but not enough to understand the criticism. The last books I remember reading were “Bandits” and “Primitive Rebels”.

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  2. Hi Jon, those books by Hobsbawm which you mention are earlier books. The criticism in the Morning Star of his latest book is that Hobsbawm does not link imperialism to monopoly capitalism, as he would have done earlier.

    About 1900, in the USA there was the Anti Imperialist L:eague, certainly not consisting of Marxists alone; including Mark Twain, and even steel capitalist Carnegie.

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  3. Pingback: British historian Hobsbawm dies | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: British government spied on historians Hobsbawm and Hill | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Collabroration between British MI5 and Hitler’s Gestapo | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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