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New Left Review 61, January-February 2010

eric hobsbawm



Age of Extremes ends in 1991 with a panorama of global landslide—the collapse of Golden Age hopes for world social improvement. What do you see as the major developments in world history since then?

I see five main changes. First, the shift of the economic centre of the world from the North Atlantic to South and East Asia. This was beginning in Japan in the seventies and eighties, but the rise of China from the nineties has made a real difference. Secondly, of course, the worldwide crisis of capitalism, which we had been predicting, but which nevertheless took a long time to occur. Third, the clamorous failure of the us attempt at a solo world hegemony after 2001—and it has very visibly failed. Fourth, the emergence of the new bloc of developing countries as a political entity—the brics—had not taken place when I wrote Age of Extremes. And fifth, the erosion and systematic weakening of the authority of states: of national states within their territories, and in large parts of the world, of any kind of effective state authority. It might have been predictable, but it has accelerated to an extent that I would not have expected.

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Eric Hobsbawm, ‘World Distempers’, NLR 61: £3

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