How to Change the World


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Reflections on Marx and Marxism

Eric Hobsbawm

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A penetrating reassessment of Marxist thought and its relevance today, by a world-renowned historian of Marxism

"We need to take account of Marx today," argues Eric Hobsbawm in this persuasive and highly readable book. The ideas of capitalism's most vigorous and eloquent enemy have been enlightening in every era, the author contends, and our current historical situation of free-market extremes suggests that reading Marx may be more important now than ever.

Hobsbawm begins with a consideration of how we should think about Marxism in the post-communist era, observing that the features we most associate with Soviet and related regimes—command economies, intrusive bureaucratic structures, and an economic and political condition of permanent war—are neither derived from Marx's ideas nor unique to socialist states. Further chapters discuss pre-Marxian socialists and Marx's radical break with them, Marx's political milieu, and the influence of his writings on the anti-fascist decades, the Cold War, and the post–Cold War period. Sweeping, provocative, and full of brilliant insights, How to Change the World challenges us to reconsider Marx and reassess his significance in the history of ideas.

Eric Hobsbawm is professor emeritus, department of history, classics and archaeology, and president, Birkbeck University of London. He lives in London.

"Hobsbawm has lived through so much of the political turbulence he portrays that it is easy to fantasize that History itself is speaking here, in its wry, all-seeing, dispassionate wisdom. It is hard to think of a critic of Marxism who can address his or her own beliefs with such honesty and equipoise."—Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books

"[T]his collection shows [Hobsbawm] is a brilliant writer, erudite critic and, as he approaches his 94th birthday, a joyfully unrepentant communist. . . . [How to Change the World] is a book anyone interested in politics could and should devour. It is charmingly optimistic and constantly lucid, and contains the distilled wisdom of a great thinker, thinking about a great thinker." Amol Rajan,  Independent

"This is a book of serious ideas, not of politics."— Ben Wilson, Daily Telegraph

“Hobsbawm… is as clear and trenchant as ever in How to Change the World.”—Bookforum

"How to Change the World is the best book on Marx and his legacy that I have read in years. Elegantly written, balanced in its judgments, and exhibiting exceptional erudition and knowledge, this is a major work by one of the great European historians of our time."—Stephen Eric Bronner, Distinguished Professor (PII) of Political Science, Rutgers University

'[Hobsbawm's] Marx cannot be categorised in terms of modern disciplinary boundaries, and does not provide a set of definitive texts but a process of developing thought’. Andrew Gamble

Hobsbawm’s ‘lucid intelligence shines through’ --Francis Wheen, the Financial Times

"What Hobsbawm has to say about Marx is bound to be interesting. There is plenty with which to argue and engage in this stimulating book. It is certainly an insider’s account. Hobsbawm treats Karl Marx as a friend who needs defending," Ben Wilson Daily Telegraph

". . . the cumulative description of how Marxism has adapted over time persuades us of its continued relevance as a critique of our society in an era in which many think, as Hobsbawm writes, ‘capitalism is not the answer but the question’." Ben Felsenberg the Metro

"Even the most erudite students of Marxism, however, will find themselves learning from these essays." Terry Eagleton

"uniquely valuable . . .  [written by an] indomitable spirit" Terry Eagleton

“A major work by a major historian….Its arguments are original, especially in the current historical situation, and the scholarship is first rate.”--Stephen Bronner, author of Moments of Decision and A Rumor About the Jews

“The death of communism provided an opportunity to rescue [Marx] from his self-appointed disciples and hear what he himself had to say. Since he ceased to be an icon, Marx has become far more interesting.  Hobsbawm’s lucid intelligence shines through the noxious 20th-century fog.”--The Financial Times
ISBN: 9780300188202
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
480 pages, 5 15/16 x 9

Sales Restrictions: For sale in the United States, its territories and dependencies, the Philippine Islands, and Canada