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


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How to Cite
BRESCIANI, Marco. Two historians in front of the economic crisis of 2007-2008: Hobsbawm and Judt between Marxism and the legacies of 20th century. Filozofija i društvo / Philosophy and Society, [S.l.], v. 27, n. 1, feb. 2016. ISSN 2334-8577. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 26 sep. 2017. doi: