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The Age of Capital: 1848-1875. Eric Hobsbawm (1977/1995)

September 7, 2013

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“Thus what is today called the ‘Third World’ or the ‘underdeveloped countries’ lay at the mercy of the west, its helpless victim. But did these countries derive no compensating advantages from their subordination? As we have seen, there were those in the backward countries who believed that they did. Westernisation was the only solution, and if this meant not only learning from and imitating the foreigners but accepting their alliance against the local forces of traditionalism, i.e. their domination, then the price had to be paid. It is a mistake to see such passionate ‘modernisers’ in the light of later nationalist movements simply as traitors and agents of foreign imperialism. They might merely take the view that the foreigners, quite apart from their invincibility would help them to break the stranglehold of tradition, and thus allow them eventually to create a society capable of standing up to the west. The Mexican elite of the 1860s was pro-foreign because it despaired of its country. Such arguments were also used by western revolutionaries. Marx himself welcomed the American victory over Mexico in the war of 1846-8, because it brought historical progress and created the conditions for capitalist development, that is to say for the eventual overthrow of capitalism. His views of the British ‘mission’ in India, expressed in 1853, are familiar. It was a double mission: ‘ the annihilation of the old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in India’.”

[op. cit., p. 161]

Manuel J. Matos‘s insight:

An interesting example of Hobsbawm‘s view of History as a flow, not as an end in itself. No “end of history” here, even for a marxist …

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