The main idea that I was able to construct from this reading is best represented by Eric Hobsbawn’s comment, “They plainly lived in flourishing times.” He set the stage for The Age of Empire by providing an overall summary of the overwhelming growth in the world at this time. The technological revolution is a prominent example of growth since the railway, steamship, automobile, aeroplane, telegraph, telephone, electrical light bulb, and cinema became extremely developed, which further led to expansion in both production and communication worldwide. There was now a mass mobilization of the industrial working class, and an extreme increase in the massive body of purchasers. The better quality and quantity in consumer goods was growing exponentially, with the concentration of capital and the rationalization of production. There was also a growing convergence between politics and economics when policies of social reform and welfare were introduced, and imperialism rose, leading to World War I of course.
I found the suggestion of two separate sectors in the world, the developed countries and the third world regions, rather interesting. Hobsbawn did a thorough job of explaining why Europe was still the most important in the world economy but also how other countries were becoming more dominant and developing more competition. This idea of revived international protectionism was intriguing, like Hobsbawn said, industrialization and the Great Depression practically forced the development of these rival economies across the world.
Something that certainly confused me was the overall reason behind the several references to Adam Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand.” I am familiar with this concept, as it is a basic principle of economics, but the way Hobsbawn referred to it seemed almost contradictory, unless of course I am mistaken. I first was under the impression that during this era, the “invisible hand” was in control because the market worked on it’s own without any interference, but the end of the reading suggests that due to the convergence of politics and economics it disappeared. Does this simply mean that during this era it disappeared over time? I’m not sure why it was mentioned, but I am interested to keep reading and learn how an era with an economy so golden for the middle classes could possibly drive the world towards war, revolution and disruption, and a loss of this paradise, as Hobsbawn says.