Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chapters 6-8 Hobsbawm

This week’s readings covered diverse material in “The Age of Empire”—Chapter 6 focused on Nationalism, Chapter 7 describes the “uncertainties of the bourgeoisie”, and Chapter 8 depicts the new role of women in this time period. Hobsbawm begins Chapter 6 by defining nationalism—the readiness of people to identify themselves with a certain nation and to be mobilized politically by these feelings for their nation. This somewhat reserved definition of nationalism was new, because for most of the 19th century the term “nationalism” was associated with radical and liberal social or political movements. The author also describes the progress of nationalism all over the world—because literacy was rising, language also became an important tool and created something called linguistic nationalism which sparked people to become involved in politics. Therefore, states were now “nations”—a territory with national patriotism and what the author describes as “linguistically and administratively homogenized citizen with urgency and zeal”(150). Another important fact the Hobsbawm emphasizes is that the spread of nationalism was carried out mostly by the lower-middle class of society. Finally, he stresses that the idea of nationalism cannot simply be described as an ideologically constructed. The actions motivated by the power of nationalism led to a more worldly culmination—World War11.

Although Chapter 7 revealed many interesting comparisons and differences between the bourgeoisie and the upcoming lower to middle class, the pictures that were in the middle of this chapter really caught my eye. With titles such as “society”, “technology”, “Empire”, “personalities”, “confrontations and transformations”, “confidence and hope”, and finally “the march into the future”, the pictures truly capture Hobsbawm’s Age of Empire. The pictures juxtapose pictures of high income, upper class celebrations with pictures of the everyday lives of the poor and labor workers. Furthermore, it makes the reader visualize the great personalities of the time like Einstein, Lenin, Nietzsche, and Shaw. Finally, there is a picture of British soldiers marching off to battle, fittingly foreshadowing the First World War.

Finally, Chapter 8 follows the development of women in society, what Hobsbawm deems “The New Woman”. He first cites the fact that from 1875 on women in developed countries began to have significantly fewer children. This lower birth rate, scholars believe, could have been due to women marrying later in life, more women staying single, or because of some form of birth control; all of which indicate the modernization of the women and a change in social values. Moreover, with industrialization, women were separated from the home and put more in the public sphere, the workplace. Just as Hobsbawm cites the development of women, he also portrays the other side,the fact that women and children were exploited for labor in this time. However, he ends the chapter with a detailed discussion of the feminist movement the idea that the right to vote was by far the most prominent issue. Unfortunately, women in America did not receive the right to vote until after the “Age of Empire”.

I thought the reading was extremely interesting for this week, and I especially enjoyed the section on nationalism. But the question I have is why did Hobsbawn begin the chapter with these specific quotations, especially, “Nationalism…attacks democracy, demolishes anti-clericalism, fights socialism, and undermines pacifism…declares the programme of liberalism finished.” I thought this was very odd and coupled with the other two quotes gives almost a negative view of nationalism. Why does the author portray this in a negative light?

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