Coffee and Bandits!

Would we drink coffee with Eric Hobsbawm?

Kristy: When I heard about Eric Hobsbawm’s death a short time ago I had one of those weird, “Oh I didn’t realize he was still alive… but now he’s not…” moments. We had just spent a good amount of quality time together as both The Invention of Tradition and Bandits were on my reading list for my qualifying exams. And it’s because of those that I’m going to have to say yes. Bandits is one of the most delightful pieces of scholarship I’ve encountered–it has a fun subject matter, it’s written in an easy to comprehend manner, and it’s short. It was only in reading his various obituaries that I learned about his political leanings. And yeah, they were a little… extreme. But I think it’s also very easy for people in my generation to dismiss communism; we grew up able to see that it would never work on a large scale. Not because of the propaganda our government put out, but because we literally got to see it fail. But if I hadn’t seen that… I mean, it’s a nice idea. Not a nice enough one to justify Stalin’s actions, and not a practical or realistic one, but in a theoretical sense… nice. So anyway, I’m really hoping I can get him caught up discussing invented traditions and folklorization of history and we can just avoid that political whatever. Honestly, I’d like to know his opinions on how scholarship should be written. Why don’t more scholars write accessible works and should they? I have to wonder if his political leanings have anything to do with his proletarian style. It might be interesting to see. (By the way, are there British intellectuals who aren’t Marxists and aren’t Christopher Hitchens? I feel there must be, but everyone I encounter is fairly severely Marxist. Maybe Eric can tell me.) I’m curious to see where he stands on disciplinary divides given that he often worked kind of on the edge of his discipline. And I’d like to know, even though this might get the political rants going, if he has any regrets about being so vocal on his views. Several of his obituaries stated that his brilliance as a scholar was overlooked because of his political reputation. I’m not sure that will be true for his long term reputation, but if it is, is he okay with that? Was it all worth it?

Cammy: I’m gonna pass.  I know next to nothing about his scholarship, which means I’m gonna have a damn hard time participating in any kind of meaningful conversation, and I’ve a nasty feeling that despite all of Kristy’s best efforts, there will be political ranting.  Since there is about 0% chance he and I are going to be in agreement on anything in that arena, and while I’m sure a debate on political theories with this guy would be WAY more valuable and well-informed than with most people, I’m SO OVER political ranting right now.  So, I’m gonna go hang out at the bar and let Kristy handle this one.

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