Two historians in front of the economic crisis of 2007-2008: Hobsbawm and Judt between Marxism and the legacies of 20th century

pages: 158-170

  • Marco Bresciani Center for Advanced Studies, Southeast Europe, University of Rijeka


How did intellectuals react to the economic crisis of 2007-2008 and its long-term backlash? What did they learn from the main twentieth-century political and social experiences, in order to make a new sense of the traditional cultures of the Left? In order to answer these crucial issues, this proposal will analyze the paths of the well-known historians E. Hobsbawm and T. Judt and their apparently similar, but actually different reactions to the crisis. First, I will focus on their respective books: How to Change the World (2011) and Ill Fares the Land (2010). On the one hand, Hobsbawm’s critical approach to the post-1991 world, shaped by his lifelong fidelity to Marxism and his persistent sympathy for the Russian Revolution, was connected to his catastrophic vision of the end of the both conflicting and collaborative dynamics between capitalism and socialism. On the other hand, Judt’s re-thinking of the social-democratic tradition, compelled by the global transformations of the social question, was inspired by his connections with the East Central European dissidents’ anti-totalitarian liberalism and by his critical approach to the engagement of the French intellectuals. Second, I will investigate their different interpretations of the „Golden Age“ of post-1945 Europe (with special regard to the long-term impact of the crisis of 1929 and to the influence of Soviet communism) and of the causes of its crisis. Third, I will show how, in spite of their common reference to Marx, late Hobsbawm’s and Judt’s historical visions - respectively combined with determinism and moralism - provide opposite ways of coping with the legacies of the 20th century and of criticizing the language of neoliberal economy within the Left. Keywords: Hobsbawm Eric, Judt Tony, intellectuals, historiography, socialism, communism, Marxism, totalitarianism


Christofferson, Michael (2004), French Intellectuals against the Left. The Antitotalitarian Moment of the 1970s, Oxford: Berghahn.
Davies, Norman (1996), Europe: A History, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eley, Geoff (2005), A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to History of Society, Ann Arbour: University of Michigan.
Eley, Geoff (2008), „Europe After 1945“, History Workshop Journal, 65, Spring, 195–212.
Elliott, Gregory (2010), Hobsbawm. History and Politics, London: Pluto Press.
Furet, François (1985), „The Passions of Tocqueville“, New York Review of Books, June 27th.
Furet, François (1995), Le passé d’une illusion. Essai sur l’idée communiste au XXe siècle, Paris: Laffont.
Garton Ash, Timothy (1989), The Uses of Adversities: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe, New York: Random House.
Garton Ash, Timothy (1999), History of the Present. Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s, New York: Random House.
Garton Ash, Timothy (2010), „Tony Judt (1948–2010)“, New York Review of Books, 30 September 30th.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1959), Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19. and 20. Centuries, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1962), The Age of Revolutions: Europe: 1789–1848, New York: Vintage Books.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1964), Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1975), The Age of Capital: 1848–1875, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1987), The Age of Empire: 1875–1914, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1990), Echoes of the Marseilles, London and New York: Verso.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1994), The Age of Extremes: The Short Century, 1914–1991, London: Vintage Books.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. with Ignatieff, Michael, BBC, 24 October 1994 (
Hobabawm, Eric J. (1996), „Histoire et Illusion“, Le Débat, 89, 129–138.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (2002), Interesting Times, London: Allen Lane.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (2009), „Socialism has failed. Now Capitalism is bankrupt. What comes next?“, Guardian, April 10th.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (2011), How to Change the World. Reflections on Marx and Marxism, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Hobsbawm, Eric J. (2012), „Memoir: After the Cold War: Tony Judt“, London Review of Books, April 26th.
Judt, Tony (1987), Le marxisme et la gauche française, Préface de F. Furet, Paris: Hachette.
Judt, Tony, (Wilson Center, Washington, 1987):
Judt Tony (1988), „The Dilemmas of Dissidence: The Politics of Opposition in East-Central Europe“, Eastern European Politics and Society, Spring, 2, 185–240.
Judt, Tony (1992), „Metamorphosis: The Democratic Revolution in Czechoslovakia“, in Banac, Ivo (ed.), Eastern Europe in Revolution, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 96–116.
Judt, Tony (1993), „The Rediscovery of Central Europe“, in S. Graubard (ed.), Eastern Europe...Central Europe...Europe, Boulder (Colorado): Westview Press, 23–54.
Judt, Tony (1995), „Downhill All the Way“, New York Review of Books, May 25th.
Judt Tony (1997), „François Furet (1927–1997)“, New York Review of Books, November 6th.
Judt Tony (1997), „The Social Question Redivivus“, Foreign Affairs, September–October.
Judt, Tony (1998), The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century, Chicago University Press: Chicago.
Judt, Tony (1999), „Democracy as Aberration“, New York Times, February 7th.
Judt, Tony (1999), „Nineteen Ninety-Nine: The End of Which European Era?“, in Tismaneanu, Vladimir (ed.), The Revolutions of 1989, London: Routledge, 161–76.
Judt, Tony (2005), Postwar. A History of Europe Since 1945, London: Heinemann.
Judt, Tony (2008), Reappraisals. Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, New York: The Penguin Press.
Judt, Tony (2009), „What Is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy?“, New York Review of Books, December 17th.
Judt, Tony (2010), Ill Fares the Land, New York: The Penguin Press.
Judt, Tony (2010), The Memory Chalet, New York: The Penguin Press.
Judt, Tony (2012), Thinking the Twentieth Century, with Timothy Snyder, New York: The Penguin Press.
Judt, Tony (2015), When The Fact Change: Essays, 1995–2010, edited by Jennifer Homans, New York: The Penguin Press.
Lilla Mark (1994), „The Other Velvet Revolution: Continental Liberalism and Its Discontents“, Daedalus, Spring 1994, 129–157.
Mazower, Mark (1998), Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, London: Allen Lane.
Mueller, Jan-Werner (2008), „Fear and Freedom. ‘A Cold War Liberalism’“, European Journal of Political Theory, Special Issue on „Twentieth-Century European
Liberalism“, 7, 45–64.
Mueller, Jan-Werner (2011), Contesting Democracy. Political Ideas in Twentieth-century
Europe, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Mueller Jan-Werner (2015), „Salvos from a Social Democrat“, Irish Times, June 5th.
Picketty, Thomas (2013), Le capital au XXie siècle, Paris: Seuil.
Pons, Silvio (2013), „History as Autobiography: Communism in Hobsbawm’s ‘Short Century’“, Journal of Modern European History, 11 (2013), 4, 410–416
Prochasson, Christophe (2013), François Furet. Les chemins de la mélancolie, Paris: Editions Stock.
Riley, David (2011), „Tony Judt: A Cooler Look“, New Left Review, September–October, 35–62.
Shore, Marci (2015), „Reading Tony Judt in Wartime Ukraine“, The New Yorker, August 11th.
Snyder, Timothy (2010), „On Tony Judt“, New York Review of Books, October 13th.
Snyder Timothy, with Krastev, Ivan and Shore, Marci:
Shklar, Judith (1989), „Liberalism of Fear“, in N. L. Rosenblum (ed.), Liberalism and the Moral Life, Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 337–363.
Wilkinson, Raymond, Pickett, Kate (2009), The Spirit Level. Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, London: Allen Lane.