In This Review

On the Edge of the New Century
On the Edge of the New Century
By Eric J. Hobsbawm
New Press, 2000, 176 pp

A collection of world-weary reflections by an eminent historian at the century's end. Useful as a companion to Hobsbawm's The Age of Extremes, these essays emerged out of an extended interview that speculated gloomily on the future of war, globalization, left-wing politics, American leadership, and economic inequality. Hobsbawm argues that the collapse of the Cold War order loosened the restraints on American power and the discipline of the nation-state system. Although war among the major states therefore seems less likely, more and more civil wars spill over into the international arena. He also makes the interesting point that globalization is not the same as cosmopolitanism; rising interdependence has not yet fostered the political institutions or sensibilities necessary to hold the expanding global market together. Globalization is irreversible but unpredictable -- and sometimes quite unpleasant. Deeply disturbed by rising global economic inequality, Hobsbawm sees income disparities and the gathering backlash against unregulated markets cutting short today's liberal capitalist triumphalism. Unfortunately, his book would be better served by a discussion of how countries have historically coped with the disruptive free play of markets.