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A Man Out of Time

Iain Macwhirter reviews Eric Hobsbawm’s book, “Globalization, Terrorism and Democracy” in the Sunday Herald:

At the age of 90, Eric Hobsbawm is the world’s greatest living Marxist historian. Not that there are a lot of Marxist historians left these days, and even Hobsbawm has largely dispensed with such categories – at least in this collection of lectures on the nation and terrorism. There is no mention of class or historical materialism, let alone revolution.

This leaves a large empty space in his critical account of contemporary history. He is a radical without any radicalism, an ideologue without an ideology. Perhaps he has simply lived too long, seen too much – though he certainly hasn’t lost any of his intellectualacuity,orhisvastlearning, which leaves many younger practitioners of the art looking meretricious and shallow.

Hobsbawm is magisterial in his review of the 20th century, the age of total war, in which civilians became combatants and some 180 million met a violent death. In the process, the 19th-century nation state tested itself to destruction,and so – he argues – did liberal democracy.

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