Eric Hobsbawm's last work

Eric Hobsbawm was the preeminent historian in the English language until his death last 1 October. His last work, is soon to be published.

For me Interesting Times, published by Little Brown in 2002 was an introduction to contemporary history that I had never really looked at in terms of changing culture rather than changing society. Fractured Times, if the reviews are anything to go by, is going to be a fantastic read.

To save me the bother of trying to sum up various reviews, I have pinched Amazon's blurb:

'Born at the turn of the 20th century and raised in Vienna, Eric Hobsbawm, who was to become one of the most brilliant and original historians of our age, was uniquely placed to observe an era of titanic social and artistic change. As the century progressed the forces of Communism and Dadaism, Ibiza and cyberspace, would do battle with the bourgeois high culture fin-de-siècle Vienna represented - the opera, the Burgtheater, the museums of art and science, City Hall. InFractured Times Hobsbawm unpicks a century of cultural fragmentation and dissolution with characteristic verve and vigour.

Hobsbawm examines the conditions that created the great cultural flowering of the belle époque and held the seeds of its disintegration, from paternalistic capitalism to globalisation and the arrival of a mass consumer society. Passionate but never sentimental, Hobsbawm ranges freely across his subject: he records the passing of the golden age of the 'free intellectual' and examines the lives of great, forgotten men; he analyses the relation between art and totalitarianism and dissects cultural phenomena as diverse as surrealism, women's emancipation and the American cowboy myth.

Written with consummate imagination and skill, Fractured Times is the last book from one of our greatest modern-day thinkers.'

At the normal price of £25 it is a bit of a big investment, the Guardian is offering it at pre-publication price £18 and it is released on 28 March. Mind you, wait a few weeks and Amazon will no doubt match the £18 and perhaps a little less. I believe it will be a brilliant read whatever.

I meant it in the sense of change within culture against changes in society. However, one interacts with and responds to the other - culture is made by society and does not exist of itself, whereas society changes culture and is condition by those changes which may then be constant and unceasing or 'freeze' at a particular favoured point in time. The Reformation is the best example whereby there are, for example, Zwinglians who still wish to follow the literal teachings of Huldrych Zwingli who died in 1531 but who led their 'ancestors' out of Roman Catholicism, thus not only changing their doctrinal but also cultural position in the world around them. The late 20th century saw 'pop' music essentially rise out of the gospel music of slavery, via blues, jazz and the influence on poor white people who developed their folk music to country and western to rockabilly. Somewhere in the post WW2 period they needed find greater freedom culturally, thus emerged as rock and roll, rhythm and blues (which fed back to gospel to become soul...) and new forms of jazz and folk as protest music. After that it is easy to follow their course as you more or less sum it up. The popularity of new music forms plus the Cold War fear of annihilation of humanity pushed cultural revisionism...

Don't get me going, it is fantastic stuff and I bet good old Eric's stuff does it all justice.

A very interesting idea, 'changing culture rather than changing society'.

Does changing culture change society; does changing society change culture?

For example, take a rather simple idea, pop music. 1959 rock and roll music affected society. Led to the birth of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles which had major effects on society. Fashion, attitudes to drugs.

In America 1961 the black community wanted freedom/rights. This led to Bob Dylan responding to the needs of society and writing some fine protest songs. Without society's needs, Bob Dylan, to use his words, may have just been 'a ditch digger named Joe.'

Sounds an interesting book.