What are Hobsbawm's thesis and arguments in the book "Age of Empire?"I am writing a comparative book review on "Age of Empire" and Philipp Blom's "The Vertigo Years." I do not understand Hobsawm's...

What are Hobsbawm's thesis and arguments in the book "Age of Empire?"

I am writing a comparative book review on "Age of Empire" and Philipp Blom's "The Vertigo Years." I do not understand Hobsawm's argument and therefore am having trouble with the assignment...

Asked on by dooby22

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Here's my understanding of Hobsbawm:

First, it's important to understand that he is Marxist and will see things from that point of view.  With that in mind:

He is trying to explain why World War I happened.  He believes that it was caused, more or less, by capitalism.

He says that capitalism caused the war because it simultaneously made the economies of the major European countries better AND worse.

It made things better by expanding most people's standard of living.  But at the same time, it hurt the workers or at the very least didn't let them get ahead as fast they thought they should.  The workers could see that the rich were getting rich really fast and they thought their own lives should get better that fast too.

In order to try to keep this discontent under wraps, the governments had to try to expand their economies.  One way to do this (and the way they usually took) was to build their empires.

As they did this, the various empires started competing with one another and that led to WWI.

So the sequence goes: 1) capitalism makes people richer but makes the working class frustrated; 2) the governments have to expand their economies to reduce this frustration; 3) so they take empires; 4) competition for empires makes them fight.

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