The Bourgeois Eric Hobsbawm

August 26, 2014 Topic: HistorySociety Region: United Kingdom Tags: Communism

The Bourgeois Eric Hobsbawm

The famed Communist historian had distinctly non-Marxist views of high culture.

Somewhat ironically, given Hobsbawm’s vocal Communist politics, it is this side of his work, rather than his Marxism, that now does the most to keep it readable and relevant. The political tyrannies to which he professed loyalty have collapsed so completely that even the ideals they proclaimed can no longer function seriously as yardsticks against which to measure anything. The hope of a world revolution springing from the source of the October Revolution has joined its original exponent, Leon Trotsky, in the place he himself named the “ash heap of history.” But the impulse that drove the doomed Jews of Central Europe to define their new, emancipated status by their veneration for high-minded, beautiful poetry and painting, novels and plays, symphonies and operas—surely that is something for which we should all continue to feel more than a little nostalgia.


David A. Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Era of North Atlantic Revolutions at Princeton University.

Image: Flickr/Rob Ward. CC BY 2.0.