The Prophet Karl Marx

Few intellectuals have changed the world in such practical ways.

The London Review of Books.” had Terry Eagleton reviewing British historian Eric Hobsbawm’s new book How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011.

Eagleton notes that the book is “… the work of a man [Hobsbawm] who has reached an age at which most of us would be happy to be able to raise ourselves from our armchairs without the aid of three nurses and a hoist, let alone carry out historical research.” ( Hobsbawn was born in 1917 in Alexandria, Egypt.)

Eagleton at least disagreed with Hobsbawn’s assertion that Gramsci “is the most original thinker produced by the West since 1917.” (Eagleton prefers Walter Benjamin.) And there’s the small matter of Marx’s global influence:

‘If one thinker left a major indelible mark on the 20th century,’ Hobsbawm remarks, ‘it was he.’ Seventy years after Marx’s death, for better or for worse, one third of humanity lived under political regimes inspired by his thought. Well over 20 per cent still do. Socialism has been described as the greatest reform movement in human history. Few intellectuals have changed the world in such practical ways. That is usually the preserve of statesmen, scientists and generals, not of philosophers and political theorists. Freud may have changed lives, but hardly governments. ‘The only individually identifiable thinkers who have achieved comparable status,’ Hobsbawm writes, ‘are the founders of the great religions in the past, and with the possible exception of Muhammad none has triumphed on a comparable scale with such rapidity.’

Read the review here.

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