THE AGE OF EXTREMES by Eric Hobsbawm

THE AGE OF EXTREMES

A History of the World, 1914-1991

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A troubling look at world history during the ``Short Twentieth Century,'' from 1914 to 1991. Hobsbawm (History/Univ. of London; The Jazz Age, 1992, etc.) divides his review of this tumultuous period into thirds: the ``Age of Catastrophe'' from 1914 through 1945, when the world was continually either engaged in vastly destructive wars or preparing for them; the ``Golden Age,'' from 1945 to 1973, characterized by a standoff between capitalist and communist blocs and by increasing wealth and social revolution in the capitalist sector; and the ``Landslide'' after 1973, when the world ``lost its bearing and slid into instability and crisis.'' The author points out that this short span of the 20th century saw the disappearance or diminution of the world's ancient kingdoms, empires, and great powers; the waging of the two most destructive wars in world history and many minor ones; multiplication of world population; a growing threat of ecological disaster; and technologically orchestrated death on a mass scale. At the same time, the author notes, there was unprecedented economic prosperity in the postWW II years, and triumphs of science and technology promised to better the lot of humankind, at least in the richer countries. Reviewing transformations in social mores, global economy, politics, and the arts, Hobsbawm concludes that the world is now radically less Eurocentric than it was before WW I and much more integrated in transport, communications, and economics--so much so that the very term ``national economy'' may be outmoded. At the same time, societies are significantly more anomic and individualistic as ancient patterns of human relationships have disintegrated. The socialist historian concludes that the human race cannot prosper in the face of the continued growth of world capitalism and relentless change. This eloquent, well-written, and depressing review of the folly and tragedy of humankind's recent past is even more oppressive when it looks into what appears to be an unstable future. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1995
ISBN: 0-394-58575-5
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994




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