Eric Hobsbawn – RIP

Eric Hobsbawm passed away. I remember reading some of his work in University. Timothy Snyder wrote a eulogy at CNN which had a clear regard for the power of the narrative of communism for the subject of history. He puts an interesting spin on it by comparing it to a contemporary capitalist narrative:

Private property must stay, not be abolished. The state must shrink, not grow. The rich are not villains, but heroes. Capitalism does not bring its own collapse, but expanding stability. If we followed these simple prescriptions, then a utopia would await us as well. The end of the Soviet Union was understood by many of us not as an end to ideology, but as proof that our ideology was the better one.

It seems to me unfortunate how many people can utter this narrative with no sense of irony. I must admit I do not know whee Snyder himself is on this as a narrative view of history.

Having just read also the wonderful book on Iraq by Rajiv Chandrasekaran “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” (apparently now with a Matt Damon starring movie tie-in…)  I think of all those believers of this style of narrative of history who wanted to make Iraq a new capitalist free market utopia in the Middle East. I don’t know whether to laugh at their misadventures in naivete or to weep at the scale of suffering that they brought to the people of Iraq.

I would love to see some people work out a new Christian critique of capitalism, and in particular the deep pride, hubris which is convinced of “our rightness and yet gives rise to atrocity after atrocity.

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