Hobsbawm speaks to the crucial need for engaged public intellectuals and the kind of rigorous social and political analysis...



The last writings of an eminent British historian.

Hobsbawm (How to Change the WorldTales of Marx and Marxism, 2011, etc.), who died in 2012, gathers 22 essays that represent his deep and wide historical interests: 19th-century European culture, the role of the public intellectual, and the relationship of art to science, revolution and power. Selections include book reviews, journal articles and lectures, half previously unpublished. Hobsbawm characterizes the present as intellectually shattered: “an era of history that has lost its bearing, and which in the early years of the new millennium looks forward…guideless and mapless, to an unrecognizable future.” Science, religion and the arts, he contends, have lost their cultural force, and the current distrust of science marks a vast change from the 19th-century belief that it “held up the temple of progress.” The author champions such influential thinkers as chemist J.D. Bernal, author of The Social Function of Science (1939), and biochemist Joseph Needham, author of a groundbreaking history of Chinese science; both men aimed to affect “changing relations…between science and society.” Hobsbawm sees a “major cause for alarm” in the “rise of radical but predominantly right-wing ideologies” within Protestant Christianity and Islam. Fundamentalist movements are concerned not with fostering community but with “powerful, individual spiritual experiences.” The arts, he writes, no longer “function as measures of good and bad, as carriers of value: of truth, beauty and catharsis,” but instead have become merely consumer items for personal satisfaction. “Who can tell,” he asks, “on what terms reason and revived anti-reason will coexist in the ongoing earthquakes and tsunamis of the twenty-first century?” Global movements toward widespread suffrage and representative governments, he asserts, are undermined by weak leadership and uninformed, thoughtless voters.

Hobsbawm speaks to the crucial need for engaged public intellectuals and the kind of rigorous social and political analysis so well represented by these urgent and important essays.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59558-977-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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