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Eric J. Hobsbawm quotes (showing 1-18 of 18)

“Historians are to nationalism what poppy-growers in Pakistan are to heroin-addicts: we supply the essential raw material for the market.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“The test of a progressive policy is not private but public, not just rising income and consumption for individuals, but widening the opportunities and what Amartya Sen calls the 'capabilities' of all through collective action. But that means, it must mean, public non-profit initiative, even if only in redistributing private accumulation. Public decisions aimed at collective social improvement from which all human lives should gain. That is the basis of progressive policy—not maximising economic growth and personal incomes. Nowhere will this be more important than in tackling the greatest problem facing us this century, the environmental crisis. Whatever ideological logo we choose for it, it will mean a major shift away from the free market and towards public action, a bigger shift than the British government has yet envisaged. And, given the acuteness of the economic crisis, probably a fairly rapid shift. Time is not on our side.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“It is a melancholy illusion of those who write books and articles that the printed word survives. Alas, it rarely does.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism
“Human mental identities are not like shoes, of which we can only wear one pair at a time. We are all multi-dimensional beings. Whether a Mr. Patel in London will think of himself primarily as an Indian, a British citizen, a Hindu, a Gujarati-speaker, an ex-colonist from Kenya, a member of a specific caste or kin-group, or in some other capacity depends on whether he faces an immigration officer, a Pakistani, a Sikh or Moslem, a Bengali-speaker, and so on. There is no single platonic essence of Patel. He is all these and more at the same time.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“Many years later, another Marxian rephrased this as the choice between socialism and barbarity. Which of these will prevail is a question which the twenty-first century must be left to answer.

Eric J. Hobsbawm
“The Labour party on the whole has not been a very effective opposition since the election, partly because it spent months and months electing its new leader. I think the Labour party should, for one thing, stress much more that for most people in the past 13 years, the period was not one of collapse into chaos but actually one where the situation improved, and particularly in areas such as schools, hospitals and a variety of other cultural achievements—so the idea that somehow or other it all needs to be taken down and ground into the dust is not valid. I think we need to defend what most people think basically needs defending and that is the provision of some form of welfare from the cradle to the grave.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“But a progressive policy needs more than just a bigger break with the economic and moral assumptions of the past 30 years. It needs a return to the conviction that economic growth and the affluence it brings is a means and not an end. The end is what it does to the lives, life-chances and hopes of people. Look at London. Of course it matters to all of us that London's economy flourishes. But the test of the enormous wealth generated in patches of the capital is not that it contributed 20%-30% to Britain's GDP but how it affects the lives of the millions who live and work there. What kind of lives are available to them? Can they afford to live there? If they can't, it is not compensation that London is also a paradise for the ultra-rich. Can they get decently paid jobs or jobs at all? If they can't, don't brag about all those Michelin-starred restaurants and their self-dramatising chefs. Or schooling for children? Inadequate schools are not offset by the fact that London universities could field a football team of Nobel prize winners.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“The greatest cruelties of our century have been the impersonal cruelties of remote decision, of system and routine, especially when they could be justified as regrettable operational necessity.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991
“Denied a Lenin and deprived of Napoleon, France retreated into the last and, we must hope, indestructible redoubt, the world of Astérix. The postwar vogue for Parisian thinkers barely concealed their collective retreat into Hexagonal introversion and into the ultimate fortress of French intellectuality, Cartesian theory and puns.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“Economists who
simply advised leaving the economy alone, governments whose first
instincts, apart from protecting the gold standard by deflationary policies,
was to stick to financial orthodoxy, balance budgets and cut costs, were
visibly not making the situation better. Indeed, as the depression continued,
it was argued with considerable force not least by J.M. Keynes who
consequently became the most influential economist of the next forty
years - that they were making the depression worse. Those of us who
lived through the years of the Great Slump still find it almost impossible
to understand how the orthodoxies of the pure free market, then so
obviously discredited, once again came to preside over a global period of
depression in the late 1980s and 1990s, which, once again, they were
equally unable to understand or to deal with. Still, this strange phenomenon
should remind us of the major characteristic of history which it
exemplifies: the incredible shortness of memory of both the theorists and
practitioners of economics. It also provides a vivid illustration of society's
need for historians, who are the professional remembrancers of what their
fellow-citizens wish to forget.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“Memory is life. It is always carried by groups of living people, and therefore it is in permanent evolution.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age Of Empire 1875-1914
“We may thus conclude that the kilt is a purely modern costume, first designed, and first worn, by an English Quaker industrialist, and that it was bestowed by him on the Highlanders in order not to preserve their traditional way of life but to ease its transformation: to bring them out of the heather and into the factory.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Invention of Tradition
“Indeed, it may be suggested that ‘traditions’ and pragmatic conventions or routines are inversely related.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Invention of Tradition
“En estas circunstancias, la democracia era más bien un mecanismo para formalizar las divisiones entre grupos irreconciliables.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“Quando gli uomini si trovano di fronte a qualcosa di nuovo che li coglie impreparati, si affannano a cercare le parole per dare un nome all'ignoto, anche quando non possono definirlo né comprenderlo.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991
“For, whatever was the case in de Tocqueville's day, not the passion for egalitarianism but an individualist, that is anti-authoritarian, antinomian though curiously legalistic anarchism, has become the core of the value system in the USA.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm
“As one would expect of tourists, they tried to find poverty colourful,”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Invention of Tradition
“La distruzione del passato, o meglio la distruzione dei meccanismi sociali che connettono l’esperienza dei contemporanei a quella delle generazioni precedenti, è uno dei fenomeni più tipici e insieme più strani degli ultimi anni del Novecento. La maggior parte dei giovani alla fine del secolo è cresciuta in una sorta di presente permanente, nel quale manca ogni rapporto organico con il passato storico del tempo in cui essi vivono.”
Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991

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