February 20, 2011

YEAH. THE STACKS OF CORPSES ARE A BIT BOTHERSOME:

How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism, By Eric Hobsbawm: A career-spanning collection of essays by our most eminent Marxist historian is cause for celebration. But it has its blind spots (Amol Rajan, 20 February 2011, Independent)

If Marxism is the answer, what is the question?

When I worked at the Foreign Office many moons ago, one of the more venerated research analysts explained to me why his job was impossible. "It is not the job of political science to predict the future," he said. "The job of political science is to explain, once the future has become the past, why it was inevitable that History should have transpired thus." This is one half of Karl Marx's interminable beef with the march of civilisation. Too many people read him as a political scientist, and in its fullest form, his Forecast for Man shows no sign of materialising. Once his utopian vision has become an everyday reality for a vast number of people, perhaps he will be supremely right. Until then, he's mainly just usefully wrong.

The other half of Marx's beef with civilisation is the 20th century. Though he doesn't admit it, Eric Hobsbawm, the most eminent Marxist historian writing in English today, must be at least a little annoyed that a chunky portion of the horrors of modernity were perpetrated in his hero's name. Of course, the likes of Stalin and Mao were Stalinist and Maoist long before they were Marxist, but Hobsbawm's ongoing refusal to confront this basic truth depletes his contribution to political thought.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2011 7:25 AM
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