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Ideology Creators of the New Gilded Age

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I’m not surprised that people are creating ideological justifications for the New Gilded Age. I am surprised however that one of them is Eric Hobsbawm’s daughter.

Julia Hobsbawm is on a mission to make us rethink everything we believe about work and success. She draws on systems theory and British class formation and disruptive innovation—all to sell an idea lots of us find ugly, distasteful, even dangerous.

Here it is: She believes in the power of networking. And she doesn’t just think it’s effective; most people already know and begrudgingly accept that fact. She’s also set on convincing us that networking is great.

Hobsbawm, a visiting professor at London’s Cass Business School, calls herself “the world’s first professor of networking.” She’s the author of several books on the subject, and runs a series of conferences and workshops that help professionals become more culturally literate and better able to navigate a diverse, cosmopolitan world. She talks about a “new salon culture” and a “more meritocratic approach to networking,” and says that once-exclusive gatherings should allot space for members of marginalized groups.

….

Citing both her own stateside experience and academic literature, Hobsbawm tells me that “Americans’ attitude toward networking has been fundamentally transactional for 50 years. It’s just a lot more sophisticated…than that. It’s what you know and who you know.” Far from using the clinical language of business, she is fond of comparing herself to a Yiddish matchmaker. The kind of personal, intimate connections made in small-group settings—in a Guardian interview, Hobsbawm called it “the minute someone looks you in the eye and engages you and your cortisol levels drop, and you feel OK”—are, she says, the root of all successful networks.

Hobsbawm calls her vision “open-sourced elitism.” She is steadfast on the notion that the professional world can’t become a pure meritocracy. “We are all naturally inclined to love an upgrade,” she says. If that’s true, the best way to guard against nepotism and patronage is to keep holding the same kind of elite gatherings we’ve always had, but with more people, especially people who are usually left out. Hobsbawm’s ideal world is one in which “every elitist gathering of individuals…has a quota that is available to people that come from outside the catchment.”

Oh brother. Everyone knows that networking is in fact how people get jobs and how class distinctions get reinforced. It’s a major reason why people join fraternities, for instance. The problem is that rising in life because of who you know is pretty objectively a bad thing, despite all the elites today repackaging it as something great. Selling the idea that networking is awesome and should be embraced is deeply problematic on a number of levels. Hobsbawm pushes the idea that elite spaces should become less tied to the old class elite and offer more opportunity for the current non-elites and then everything would actually be more meritocratic than it is now. But I’m trying to think of why elite spaces would ever do that and I can’t think of one good reason at all, outside of lawsuits about racial and gender discrimination. Even she can’t come up with anything outside of a vague quota system of non-elites in elite gatherings.

Another major problem here is how this reinforces how much of our discourse today is focused on breaking into the elite. With the decline of the middle class, like during the Gilded Age we are again centering our national conversations on life in the upper class and how to achieve it. If it comes packaged in a British accent, well all the better for reinforcing the elite life.

It gets more ridiculous.

This may seem counterintuitive; widening the upper echelon would seem to produce an elite that’s less, well, elite. But Hobsbawm is an optimist. She believes that as talented people from excluded groups break into the elite, they’ll outperform their peers who made it on social connections alone—and eventually replace them.

This is basically repackaged bootstrapism. The finest will rise and the less competent of the elite will fall. I mean, that’s clearly been shown to be true if we examine U.S. presidents for instance so what do I know. Why this current class privilege would not continued to be replicated, I don’t know.

And yet, it’s all about elite, elite, elite in this article. What about those who aren’t elite? What about the average graduate of the University of Rhode Island or University of Oregon who simply lacks the social and cultural capital, the work ethic, the family support, etc., to rise into this elite? What if they are merely competent at their jobs? Does any of this matter anymore? Not to Hobsbawm at least.

When I ask how introverts fit in, she says they’re natural networkers because “in order to connect with another individual, you have to have a degree of intimacy.” As far as she’s concerned, a clear, genuine interest in other people works better than mere glad-handing. This is also why Hobsbawm believes the British are poised to become the world’s best networkers: They are better at curating both a public and private self, she says, and because of Great Britain’s long history of class stratification, they’re not under the illusion that they live in a pure meritocracy.

Now we’ve entered the realm of complete bullshit. As an introvert, this is totally ridiculous. My entire graduate career, I was basically petrified of talking to respected faculty I did not know. So I simply didn’t do it. I did essentially no networking at all. It worked out for me, but then I’ve always been lucky when it comes to employment. But introverts do not want to have a degree of intimacy with people they are meeting at conferences or whatever elite social gatherings Hobsbawm believes will let them in. They want to go home. Or they want someone to pay attention to them and don’t know how to start that conversation. And what if you actually don’t have a clear, genuine interest in other people? Because higher power of your choice knows that the elite don’t have a clear, genuine interest in my life and I probably don’t in their’s either. I might be able to wing it, but that’s not the same thing. As for the British being unusually prepared for this future, well color me shocked that some of the world’s richest people would say they have unique characteristics that prepare them for world domination. But hey, Niall Ferguson provides one of the testimonials on her website so….

And now for the winner:

Ironically, there’s a bootstrapping, almost American aspect to how Hobsbawm got here. Her father, Eric Hobsbawm, was a Marxist historian and one of the most renowned scholars of the 20th century, but young Julia didn’t excel in school. She credits her success to working harder than her more academically-gifted peers, taking on tasks they wouldn’t do, and refusing to coast on her last name. Some people think “there is a shortcut and you just ring the most powerful person on that Rolodex,” she says, but it’s not that simple, “and that’s a good thing.”

Ha ha ha ha ha. Yeah, Julia Hobsbawm totally became a member of the elite because of her good social skills and hard work. She definitely did not gain any advantage from her father’s name and her being able to succeed had nothing to do her father at all. As we were just told, the British understand how to succeed because of their class system so now let me, scion of one of the most famous intellectuals in the world during the second half of the twentieth century, tell you, Oregon mill worker’s son, how to succeed in life through hard work and networking. Well, somehow I’m not buying any of this. This is one tonic of capitalist success that I am not tasting.

Now to be fair, Jordan Fraade, who wrote the linked article, is also quite skeptical and so maybe Hobsbawm really believes she is creating a more inclusive capitalism through her ideas. I see absolutely nothing that suggests her ideas would ever do that. Instead, I see a justification for the successful to tell themselves why they’ve succeeded and more barriers, not less, being placed between the average individual and the plutocrats who run the New Gilded Age.

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  • Yeah, she’s so totally on the cutting edge of noticing the importance of networks. If you define “cutting edge” as 42 years after Granovetter published The Strength of Weak Ties , or 19 years after Castell’s The Rise of the Network Society, or…well, you get the picture.

    • Aimai

      I heard a woman give a presentation on networking and women about 30 years ago in my anthropology department. It wasn’t cutting edge then. In addition what she found is that was that women in business were adopting networking as a way to get ahead but discovered that they couldn’t get ahead as networking happens both upwards/downwards through mentoring and across with equals. Because they weren’t being mentored properly by men who preferred to network with equals they were manically exchanging contacts and sharing information only across the hierarchy and they were unable to use those ties to rise in the organization.

      • Yeah, “networking” is far from a novel concept. To claim it is just makes it obvious she’s a charlatan.

    • Vance Maverick

      You see, with the kind of networks she’s striving to maintain, it’s important to assert novelty as a claim for attention.

      • Aimai

        So this networking with flair idea of hers is, in effect, her thing?

        Xander: What do you mean, what is it? It’s my *thing*.
        Willow: Your thing?
        Xander: My thing!
        Buffy: Is this a penis metaphor?
        Xander: It’s my thing that makes me cool. You know, that makes me unique. I’m Car Guy. Guy with the car.

        Read more: http://www.buffyguide.com/episodes/zeppo/zeppoquotes.shtml#ixzz3Wq9K7HJm

        • Vance Maverick

          A grad school buddy went to some kind of physics conference and listened to a presentation on radiation — valid enough and reasonably interesting but nothing special, just working out the details of some particular arrangement of materials. But the presenter, whose name I recall after these decades as Jacobson, referred to it throughout as Jacobson radiation.

  • JDM

    Good networkers describes the entire Neocon/Bush administration. I’m unconvinced this is a good thing.

    • jeer9

      Yeah, there’s a lot of networking as well that occurs in Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers set amidst the slums of Mumbai. None of it is flattering, and most derives from great sadness, desperation, and inadequacy.

      Knowing that the 1%ers suffer from similar insecurities doesn’t much take the sting out of poverty.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Hobsbawm, a visiting professor at London’s Cass Business School, calls herself “the world’s first professor of networking.”

    I thought that was Clay Shirky!!!

  • Nobdy

    Completely enraging. What about the unattractive or the unconventional. Yes maybe the cream of the poor will rise but only if they are willing to be lick spittles who learn to behave like their elite peers and not challenge the views of those they “network” with. In other words to be co-opted. It is such an ossified myopic view of the world and how it should work.

    • I find it interesting how strongly this all seems a rejection of her father’s work and intellectual life.

      • Maybe he was so prolific because he didn’t spend much time with his family.

      • Linnaeus

        “Youthful” rebellion.

        • Using the John Tower standard, yes, “youthful.”

      • NonyNony

        Isn’t that pretty typical, though? The first generation builds something new and when the second generation goes into the “family business” they end up either as a pale imitation of their parent or “going their own way” by doing the opposite (and ending up being a mirror-universe imitation of their parent).

        It doesn’t always happen, of course. Sometimes the child ends up being better at the “family business” than their parent. But it seems like a pretty typical pattern.

        • postmodulator

          Ever heard the joke about immigrant-owned businesses that are kept in the family?

          The first generation does so well with their food truck/stall, that the second generation gets to do so well with their sit-down restaurant, that the third generation gets to do cocaine.

          • Aimai

            Its usually told as “from rags to rags in three generations.”

            • Weed Atman

              shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves

          • Turkle

            Wow. This… this is exactly what happened with my family. I had no idea this was a thing. Huh.

            • Linnaeus

              Were you the one who did the coke?

          • NonyNony

            Also the trajectory of many other family-owned businesses and if I understand my European history correctly many European aristocratic families…

            • Vance Maverick

              I learned on a visit to the Wallace Collection that this is actually the subject of Poussin’s “Dance to the Music of Time”: poverty -> labor -> wealth -> pleasure -> back to poverty. There it might be supposed to be happening within one life.

              Now, which figure in Powell’s novel is a representation of Eric Hobsbawm?

              • Vance Maverick

                None, I think. The academics are power-mongers, and the leftists are in the literary world.

            • Warren Terra

              I always preferred the Hapsburg trajectory: marry your way into owning half of Europe, continue marrying to preserve the empire, until your scion is so badly inbred that they struggle to chew their food or to speak and are stricken with epilepsy.

              • Noah S. McKinnon

                I assume the second part is referring to this guy, who makes Charles V look like the recipient of a thousand blessings.

                • Warren Terra

                  I may have confused my Spanish Hapsburgs.

                • Noah S. McKinnon

                  Well, Charles V did have a Hapsburg jaw and as a result struggled to chew his food (which I didn’t know despite having had three years of Spanish with a teacher who loved talking about the Hapsburgs) but he wasn’t as screwed up as his great-great-great-grandson. Then again, who was? The poor bastard got all the problems that the family had somehow avoided until then.

                • Hogan

                  Charles V/I could just sack a city in Italy and get a duke to chew his food for him. Maybe even a pope, or a king of France.

                • Karen24

                  You’ve got to love a family that creates their very own genetic disease.

                • Manny Kant

                  I was going to correct you and say that Charles II was actually only Charles V’s great-great-grandson, rather than his great-great-great-grandson, but I’m fairly certain he was actually both.

                • The Dark Avenger

                  The linguistic oddity of the th replacing the z in Castillian Spanish(Lopez is pronounced Lopth) is said to reflect the way it was pronounced by the Spanish Haspburgs.

      • ASV

        See also, Chris Wallace.

        • Weed Atman

          It’s not like his father was anything special

      • Phil Perspective

        So, she’s the female Evan Bayh?

      • Also Paloma Picasso and Bill Browder. And Andrew Cuomo, though Mario was hardly a Marxist.

    • Malaclypse

      “Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        Good quote…

  • Rob in CT

    Born on third base, thinks she hit a triple (or second/double, whatever), part the infinity.

  • Malaclypse

    It will never cease to annoy me when people use the word “meritocracy” without knowing anything about the origins of the word.

    • Moondog

      Wow.

      Bad enough, I think, that people use the word without giving a second’s thought to what they mean by “merit.”

    • nixnutz

      The other big problem is that even if entry into the elites were equal opportunity–the suggestion of which would be a ridiculous pipe dream if it were sincere–it’s still a shitty justification for a system where the other 99% gets fucked.

  • Lee Rudolph

    My entire graduate career, I was basically petrified of talking to respected faculty I did not know.

    Hah. I was petrified at the thought of talking to respected faculty I did know (with two significant exceptions, both amazingly out-going Texans, one of whom was the advisor of my college roommate)—in particular, to my advisor. Sometime in my third or fourth year, he ran into me in the hall one day and suggested that we ought to try to meet in his office once every semester. In my fifth year, the week before my thesis defense, he pointed out that I’d been seeing a lot more of the younger Texan (the older one having long since disappeared to Paris [France, not TX], Brazil, and elsewhere) than of him, and that maybe I’d like (entirely up to me!) to substitute him on the line for Thesis Supervisor.

    I did essentially no networking at all. It worked out for me, but then I’ve always been lucky when it comes to employment.

    Yeah, well.

  • cackalacka

    Several years ago, I had a very industrious female friend who was preparing to join the Peace Corps, and was hosting a yard sale to purge her worldly possessions in anticipation of her stint. One object that caught my eye was a self-help secret-to-success for young women book written by Maria Shriver.

    It was fairly thin, so I thumbed through it. Curiously, none of the advise Ms. Shriver shared was to ensure one is a descendent of Joe Kennedy.

    • Linnaeus

      I had a very industrious female friend who was preparing to join the Peace Corps, and was hosting a yard sale to purge her worldly possessions in anticipation of her stint.

      Apropos of nothing, I had a roommate that went off to the Peace Corps, and everything he didn’t put into storage at his parents’ place, he left with me, which was both generous and a little bothersome at the same time.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      It’s so human. An acquaintance of mine — whom I adore and am glad to have seen succeed! — is the offspring of a military flag officer/later political appointee, grew up in Georgetown, went to the best private schools from grade school on up, was a political appointee at a young age … I don’t want to be too specific … But this person once told me they were able to score a cushy part-time DC job during a difficult run of personal luck … simply because of their superior organizational skills.

      • Orbis_Terrarum

        To be fair, that may be their operational belief rather than their real belief. As a white male who grew up upper-middle class in a wealthy, opportunity rich community, I can acknowledge that where I am is largely a function of that. But if I acted like I believed that what I have is really just from luck and privilege, I wouldn’t be getting much farther.

        • Manny Kant

          I think one issue is that genuinely privileged people are mostly comparing themselves to other privileged people, many of whom are worthless fuck-ups. Srsly Dad Y’s acquaintance probably does have superior organizational skills to lots of other similarly privileged people.

    • Brett

      We got to get someone to write the book, though. “A Confidence Man’s Guide to Wooing Wealthy Heiresses, Divorcees, and Dowagers”.

    • She had to hold on to some secrets. What if everybody started doing it?

  • Sebastian_h

    Don’t worry this will all sound much better coming from President Clinton (the second) or Bush (the Third).

    • Warren Terra

      I’m not Sec. Clinton’s biggest fan, but she was at the very least present and supposedly something of an active partner as her husband’s political career rose from nothing at all to the very heights, from which she had such a smooth path to launch her own career. I think there’s something of a difference between that and being one of the variously stupid, evil, or merely entitled and complacent spawn of at least two previous generations of Walker/Bush wealth and political power.

      • Barry_D

        No, it’s All the Same; Both Sides Do It. And everybody remembers the horrors of the Clintobama administration, 2001-2016. It was so much worse than the ReaganoBushBush administration, 1982[1]-2000.

        [1] Actual WSJ editorial page policy is that the ‘Reagan Era’ started in 1982, at the depth of the recession, and ended in 1990, at the height of the recovery. They repeatedly use trough-to-peak statistics, not adjusting.

  • Atrios

    I am intrigued by her ideas and will subscribe to her newsletter.

    • Warren Terra

      You wish. You have to know the right people to get her newsletter.

  • Aimai

    God that interview is horrible to read. Hobs-spawn should call her new method “sucking up with flair” or “pretending you like it.” There’s some kernel of realism in the plie of shit she calls her insights which is that people can look at their business or academic interactions as work, or as play–they can network because its expected of them or they can genuinely be interested in the other people in their little community and see those interactions as more familial or more social than merely transactional. But whether that works or not depends on how all those other people see the point of the interaction. For most people in the working world networking is irrelevant–you have your job and you do it and no one rewards you by bumping you up because you talked well inthe break room where, in any event, you have no breaks alloted to you because you have no union protections.

    Its a very elite work world at all which has any kind of socializing going on at any time. And, even in those worlds, the goodies and the power are unevenly distributed. This is actually a big point in feminist work on work and socializing–so much power is passed around through social networks that are exclusively male that women can’t break into the events where decisions are being made. This comes up all the time and just came up in the Silicon Valley case against those assholes (which they won). But its as old as golfing with the boys, or a judge playing squash only with his male clerks.

    • A bunch of businessmen golfing would have made the perfect image for this post. I always go back to Gilded Age imagery unfortunately.

  • SgtGymBunny

    “every elitist gathering of individuals…has a quota that is available to people that come from outside the catchment.”

    Yes, I’m sure those “quota” outsiders would just love being paraded about those elite establishments like exotic animals… I propose we do the opposite and send some quota elites to various working class neighborhoods to get their “network” on.

    Her self-important notion that she’s stumbled across some uniquely elite skill in networking that the rest of the poors have yet to benefit from is ridiculous by the way. Everybody networks to get by, it’s just that non-elite don’t have the power of government and finance backing them.

    • “I propose we do the opposite and send some quota elites to various working class neighborhoods to get their “network” on.”

      Isn’t this called 16 year old rich kids buying cocaine?

      • Lee Rudolph
      • Murc

        That’s actually not how it works. We are still, in this country, separated far more by race than by class, although of course it is a complex topic.

        The way drugs usually get into the hands of sixteen-year-old rich (which usually means white) kids is via working-class white kids, who either have their own hook-up in the form of a grower/cooker (in the case of pot or meth) or have an organized crime connection. You will not, typically, see them rolling into the “bad” (read: the blackity black black black) part of town to buy from a guy on the corner, although that of course does happen.

        • SgtGymBunny

          No, they don’t roll into the hoods. But I briefly dated was acquainted with a small time dealer, and he would just make house calls to his “fiends“.

          • weirdnoise

            Behold! The power of networking!

        • postmodulator

          Often, amongst genteel drug abusers, the realization that you’re starting to have to go to the bad part of town yourself is seen as rock bottom.

          Or so I’ve heard.

        • Phil Perspective

          You forget Andy “Big Red” Reid’s kids. I forget if they were buying/selling or both. It was all supposedly an open secret, until one of Reid’s sons got into a traffic accident. Then all the crap hit the fan including the one son’s OD death.

      • SgtGymBunny

        Isn’t this called 16 year old rich kids buying cocaine?

        Not exactly the type of networking I was trying to allude to. More along the lines of maybe the elites should humble themselves to see how the non-elites live/exist rather than taking the self-serving and self-centered approach of merely inviting token non-elites s into their Faberge bubble. But it was a funny digression.

  • Hogan

    . . . class struggle–which in this country almost invariably means the struggle to get into one, not usurp it.

  • MaxUtility

    OK, so if I’m understanding this correctly, we should replace affirmative action in hiring and college admissions with affirmative action for cocktail parties. This will inevitably lead to more ‘meritocracy’. Got it…makes perfect sense.

    BTW, I went to business school. While it is actually quite intellectually rigorous and heavy with valuable insights and ideas, I can assure you that you get hit with a LOT of this kind of BS when it comes to the ‘softer’ aspects of running large enterprises and careers. Read some books on “change management” if you’re having trouble finding reasons to beat your head against a wall. TL;DR – “people don’t like to change.”

    • Murc

      I’ve actually found change management to be a valuable field of study, as the people in it who actually know what they’re talking about approach it is a social problem to be solved; i.e “people don’t like to change, but a lot of times change is necessary, so how do we make it as easy as possible for them? What ways of thinking can we promulgate that will help with this sort of thing, which causes lots of bureaucratic friction and infighting?”

      That said, like all the “soft” aspects of enterprise management, the signal-to-noise ratio is alarmingly high.

      • MaxUtility

        Very true. There’s even some aspects of ‘networking theory’ that was quite valuable to me and would be really valuable to someone from a less privileged background coming up.

        But Hobsbawm sounds like a classic hukster hawking her books, conferences, and seminars.

  • Brett

    It’s kind of funny using Ragged Dick for the header image. Didn’t his “networking” basically consist of saving a rich guy’s kid from drowning?

    In any case, you’ve got a solid response. Expanding networking to include more people doesn’t change the fact that you need an economic system that works for people in the middle and the working class as well. Almost no one is going to be #1, or even #20.

    • Barry_D

      “Didn’t his “networking” basically consist of saving a rich guy’s kid from drowning?”

      I think that that was the point. The guy worked hard, but in the end he lucked out. Otherwise, he’d have been a hard-working schmuck on the bottom of a very, very rough system.

  • liberal

    She believes in the power of networking.

    Or, as my old man told me, It’s not what you know, it’s who you blow.

  • NewishLawyer

    Matt “I Heart Econ 101” Y’s granddad was a journalist for the Daily Worker. Clement Atlee’s grandson is now a Tory peer. These things seem to happen all the time. The number of Marxists in the world is decreasing.

    I also wonder how much younger Hobswam’s upbringing reflected her dad’s Marxism. My guess is that she still grew up in the upper-class British traditions.

    • Orbis_Terrarum

      Wealthy or middle class liberals and socialists have always taked Clarence Darrow’s “I would like to be the working man’s friend, but I would rather be his friend than be him” (or something to that end) as a maxim. It’s pretty hard to blame them for that.

      • NewishLawyer

        Mainly. I know some exceptions. They can be kind of righteous. Can we blame the kids for being more to the right though if they were brought up in upper-middle class circumstances? Maybe they saw the hypocrisy of Champagne Socialism?

        • rhino

          It does take up SO many evenings…

      • nixnutz

        Speaking of folks spending old money on drugs…

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq5pdW8vXVk

  • wca

    This Douglas Adams bit seems relevant. (From So Long and Thanks for All the Fish):

    – Are you rich? – said another. This made Ford laugh. He turned and opened his arms in a wide gesture.
    Do I look rich? – he said.
    Don’t know, – said the girl. – Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you’ll get rich. I have a very special service for rich people…
    Oh yes? – said Ford, intrigued but careful. – And what’s that?
    I tell them it’s OK to be rich.

    […]

    The girl laughed and stepped forward a little out of the shadow. She was tall, and had that kind of self-possessed shyness which is a great trick if you can do it.
    It’s my big number, – she said. – I have a Master’s degree in Social Economics and can be very convincing. People love it. Especially in this city.

  • sorry to crash the gilded age discussion, but:

    where’s bspenser’s take on rand paul mansplaining at savannah guthrie ?

    • Warren Terra

      Among other methods, you can contact vs directly via her twitter account, using an email address posted on her other blog, or through her DeviantArt page. Commenting to a post she didn’t write and isn’t commenting to seems a chancy method.

      • sparks

        I think skippy’s attempting to goad her into writing something on it.

        Don’t scoff, I’ve seen it work on others.

  • guthrie

    She’s obviously not got a clue about history.

    This may seem counterintuitive; widening the upper echelon would seem to produce an elite that’s less, well, elite. But Hobsbawm is an optimist. She believes that as talented people from excluded groups break into the elite, they’ll outperform their peers who made it on social connections alone—and eventually replace them.

    Now obviously this might be badly written and not truly match what she thinks, but, on the face of it this is total balderdash. The last 300 years have seen exactly that happen in the ruling class of Great Britain, and yet we still have a ruling class and a class system and increasing divides between rich and normal people.
    MOre tellingly, as far as I am aware, the master of finance who crashed the world banking system are the most diverse set there ever has been of such people, from a huge variety of backgrounds, many having worked their way up against the odds and against those who had the connections.

    Yet the end result was catastrophic for billions. Something tells me she doesn’t want to notice that.

  • hylen

    She draws on systems theory . . .

    Say no more.

    However, I did enjoy this

  • CP

    Another major problem here is how this reinforces how much of our discourse today is focused on breaking into the elite. With the decline of the middle class, like during the Gilded Age we are again centering our national conversations on life in the upper class and how to achieve it. If it comes packaged in a British accent, well all the better for reinforcing the elite life.

    This is why I despise the American Dream or at least what it’s come to mean. It’s all about “opportunity” and basically tells you that you can solve all your problems by becoming successful – “but not everyone can be this successful?” “WHO CARES? YOU’RE not one of these losers, are you?”

  • Matt_L

    Hardly surprising that Julia Hobsbawm would be a capitalist ideologue and apologist. Her father was a brilliant historian, but a diehard communist ideologue in his political life. If you don’t believe me try reading his autobiography “Interesting Times: A Twentieth Century Life (2002).” Its lack of critical and personal introspection is stunning. It is amazing how long he clung to the Communist Orthodoxy while writing intellectually brilliant books like “Age of Revolutions” and “The Invention of Tradition.” A serious disconnect between belief and intellect. Its not surprising that he would pass that character trait on to some of his kids.

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