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Age of Anger: A History of the Present

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One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis Modernity, secularism, development, and progress have long been viewed by the powerful few as benign ideals for the many. Today, however, botched experiments in nation-building, democracy, industrialization, and urbanization visibly scar much of the world. As once happened One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis Modernity, secularism, development, and progress have long been viewed by the powerful few as benign ideals for the many. Today, however, botched experiments in nation-building, democracy, industrialization, and urbanization visibly scar much of the world. As once happened in Europe, the wider embrace of revolutionary politics, mass movements, technology, the pursuit of wealth, and individualism has cast billions adrift in a literally demoralized world. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected and the spiritually disorientated, that the militants of the nineteenth century arose—angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally. Many more people today, unable to fulfill the promises—freedom, stability, and prosperity—of a globalized economy, are increasingly susceptible to demagogues and their simplifications. A common reaction among them is intense hatred of supposed villains, the invention of enemies, attempts to recapture a lost golden age, unfocused fury and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra explores the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world—from American “shooters” and ISIS to Trump, Modi, and racism and misogyny on social media.


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One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis Modernity, secularism, development, and progress have long been viewed by the powerful few as benign ideals for the many. Today, however, botched experiments in nation-building, democracy, industrialization, and urbanization visibly scar much of the world. As once happened One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis Modernity, secularism, development, and progress have long been viewed by the powerful few as benign ideals for the many. Today, however, botched experiments in nation-building, democracy, industrialization, and urbanization visibly scar much of the world. As once happened in Europe, the wider embrace of revolutionary politics, mass movements, technology, the pursuit of wealth, and individualism has cast billions adrift in a literally demoralized world. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected and the spiritually disorientated, that the militants of the nineteenth century arose—angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally. Many more people today, unable to fulfill the promises—freedom, stability, and prosperity—of a globalized economy, are increasingly susceptible to demagogues and their simplifications. A common reaction among them is intense hatred of supposed villains, the invention of enemies, attempts to recapture a lost golden age, unfocused fury and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra explores the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world—from American “shooters” and ISIS to Trump, Modi, and racism and misogyny on social media.

30 review for Age of Anger: A History of the Present

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Without doubt, this is a topical book, in a world which has seen a US President elected on a wave of intolerant rhetoric and the UK voting to leave the EU; a world at war, with so many people displaced and extremism rife. The author of this book attempts to re-examine the divided, modern world; inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a (then) candidate for President, as well as Brexit. In 1968, Hannah Arendt wrote, “for th Without doubt, this is a topical book, in a world which has seen a US President elected on a wave of intolerant rhetoric and the UK voting to leave the EU; a world at war, with so many people displaced and extremism rife. The author of this book attempts to re-examine the divided, modern world; inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a (then) candidate for President, as well as Brexit. In 1968, Hannah Arendt wrote, “for the first time in history, all peoples on earth have a common present.” With the internet relaying every event, plus reactions to it, around the world; never has this comment felt more true. Globalisation means that every country is affected by the shock of events in other countries – whether they are near neighbours, or at the opposite ends of the world. In this book, Pankaj Mishra has gone back to the past to help understand the present. Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from the writings of philosophers to the end of the Cold War. Indeed, at the end of the Cold War, there was a belief that the global capitalist economy would alleviate ethnic and religious differences and would usher in prosperity and peace. This belief, he states, now lies in tatters, with no alternative in sight, and with economic power shifting from the West. Meanwhile, the IMF suggests that emerging economies will take much longer to catch up economically with the West than was previously believed. During this book, the author looks at nationalism, alienation, xenophobia, the ‘lone wolf’ and the pack behind him, domestic terrorism and the frustration and resentment both aimed at the West and from those in the West who are alienated. This is an interesting account which attempts to explain the state of the world through looking at historical events that precede our present times. Any lover of history will know that history not only helps explain the present, but that current events have probably happened before; albeit in a different form. I cannot say this is an uplifting read but, if you look at the news and feel despair, this book will help put events in a historical context and make them a little more understandable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    How the World Feels Identifying the fictions in which we live is an awkward matter, mainly because it involves creating an alternative fiction. And comparing the merits of competing stories is tricky. Each story carries with it its own criterion of verification and presents its facts accordingly: Jews are responsible for our financial problems; look at all the Jewish names in banking. Muslims are educated to hate us; proven by the Q’uran. Immigrants undermine society; drugs come from the same pla How the World Feels Identifying the fictions in which we live is an awkward matter, mainly because it involves creating an alternative fiction. And comparing the merits of competing stories is tricky. Each story carries with it its own criterion of verification and presents its facts accordingly: Jews are responsible for our financial problems; look at all the Jewish names in banking. Muslims are educated to hate us; proven by the Q’uran. Immigrants undermine society; drugs come from the same places they do. ‘Fact-checking’ these sorts of narratives is unproductive. The problem isn’t one of falsehood but of incompleteness. One way to judge such a narrative therefore is its inclusion of more facts than its competitors. Particularly telling is the inclusion of apparently contradictory facts which are otherwise unexplained: The Jewish names on the door front largely Christian organizations. The Bible is as casually and inhumanely brutal as anything in the Q’uran. Immigrants and drugs come from the places that have been impoverished through globalization. Mishra’s technique for creating a more ‘inclusive’ narrative is to start with an aesthetic judgement rather than a thesis: “... ressentiment as the defining feature of a world... where the modern promise of equality collides with massive disparities of power, education, status, and property ownership.” He then lets rip on a journey through culture and its present discontents, drawing in as many facts as he can handle, and that’s quite a few. He considers himself a “stepchild of the West” as well as an Asian. Only a few are likely to have his breadth of cultural experience, so his choice of ressentiment as the key to global sentiment seems inspired to me. Mishra’s opinion is that this pervasive feeling of disappointment and fear is the result of the collapse in the principle of “historic inevitability” that was the foundation of not just Marxism, but also of the liberal and neo-liberal believers in free market progress. Both socialism and capitalism have created societies in which material advantage has been offset by enormous economic, racial, and sexual inequities. What young, thinking, even vaguely aware, person could avoid the conclusion that those in charge are either frauds or crooks? The road to both ISIS and the Alt-right are paved with thwarted idealism. Contingency not fate rules the world. It is the young especially who perceive the absurd gap between any ideology that suggests it knows the destination of human society and the obvious mess of reality. Neither proletarian nor consumer utopia has ever been in sight; the Second Coming has been unconscionably delayed. And if the narratives of ideology as well as religion are bust, then “Nothing less than this [Enlightenment] sense of expectation, central to modern political and economic thinking, has gone missing today, especially among those who have themselves never had it so good.” Neither body nor spirit provides a foothold for supporting intelligent life. A sort of negative idealism, a rampant nihilism, beckons. Mishra quotes Walter Benjamin for effect: the self alienation of humankind “has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.” Could there be a better confirmation of this claim than Trump, a man who fits Benjamin’s description exactly (although elected only after Age of Anger was already with the publisher)? If not, then it is essential to recognise Trump not as anomaly but as epitome. He is what we have become, in all his vileness. He is a symbol, one hopes not of the moral standards of modern society, but certainly of the existential deficiency of all of our conventional political and cultural narratives. As surely as Kant, Trump deserves the title of der alles Zermalmender, the All-destroyer. It is fatuous to think that some sort of familiar normality will return with Trump’s departure, no matter when that takes place. The myths of the past - American democracy, indeed liberal democracy, as a natural end-state; increasingly rational international cooperation in the furtherance of mutual interest; the universality of human interests themselves; the possibility of global rule of common law - are no longer tenable and not worth the treaties they’re written in. Ressentiment is a symptom of despair among populations who still long for the comforts these myths provide. Their loss makes us all sick, although it is generally the young (and the psychotic) who act out most readily. It is the young (and the psychotic) who first spot how facile and self-satisfied these myths are. The rest of us resist like the Boers resisted in South Africa, by doubling down on the myths. Hence the apparent paradox of simultaneously increasing secularisation and religious fundamentalism - in Alabama, and Moscow, as well as Aleppo; the economic dissatisfaction among those who are the wealthiest on the planet; the drive to roll back democratic institutions by those democratically elected to safeguard them. Can we exist as cognitively gifted social animals without myths? Highly unlikely. Can we find better ones? Possibly, if we can only get past the kind of either/or dualisms that infest so much of our culture and are embedded in our institutions: Christianity defines itself essentially as ‘not-Jewish’; the monotheistic God is most fundamentally not his creation; the rational is that which is logical rather than that which is important; will, desire, and faith are personal possessions and not communally owned; European institutions (one thinks of the modern corporation) have proven themselves superior by their proliferation; wrongs must be righted, if necessary by employing more wrongs. The Age of Anger is far too rich with historical, literary, and cultural facts to summarise easily. Its conclusions are less than precise and directive. But I find this both consistent and convincing rather than a flaw. It is a narrative which denies its own definitiveness and begs for additions and modifications and reversals. Perhaps it is a model for the kind of myth we now need to keep us from exterminating one another.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    Like the ghosts of the dead, 2016 is with us. Donald Trump is still with us, Brexit is still with us, the forces of economic anxiety and racial prejudice are still with us, the howls of rage from the dispossessed, across Middle America and the factory towns of North England are still with us, the siren songs of nationalism and protectionism and wall-building and the contempt for cities and the hatred of the educated and the decadent and moderately prosperous and the different are still with us. Like the ghosts of the dead, 2016 is with us. Donald Trump is still with us, Brexit is still with us, the forces of economic anxiety and racial prejudice are still with us, the howls of rage from the dispossessed, across Middle America and the factory towns of North England are still with us, the siren songs of nationalism and protectionism and wall-building and the contempt for cities and the hatred of the educated and the decadent and moderately prosperous and the different are still with us. Pankaj Mishra writes that they have been with us for much longer. Mishra's thesis, taken broadly, is that the sequence of events in the past quarter century - first the triumph of free market liberalism, and then a sequence of populist movements, resentment, and political violence convulsion, is the most recent stanza of a pattern that has occurred since the 19th century. A society organized around naked self-interest leads to the benefits of a few and the expense of many others. This reaction to the structural inequality of market liberalism, industrialization, and the situation of 'modernity' bubbles over into resentment, tribalism, and often violence. This is an intellectual history, and Mishra's presentation of 19th century European thinkers showcases some uncomfortable similarities to contemporary anxieties. Revolutionaries, anarchists, xenophobes, have beliefs that are only too familiar, repeated in the anger of some nationalist or extremist today. Take the 'Futurist Manifesto', where Marinetti calls for the destruction of museums, libraries, and contempt of women - too much like ISIS. Think of radical anarchists who set off bombs in public squares and assassinated heads of state as 'propaganda of the deed' is an echo of modern terrorism, in London or Paris. Or, for another example German nationalists who held 'rootless cosmopolitans' and 'finance' in contempt, called for "holy war", and resented the power and influence of their French neighbors. The attempts to create an imaginary golden age - see Bannon or Le Pen talking about how 'strong nations' make 'strong neighbors', or how Jean-Jacques Rousseau idealized Sparta. This book does not end on an upbeat note, and the author is rightfully suspicious of those who claim to have all the answers. Too many Utopian movements have gone awry for him to make that mistake. But this is a thorough investigation of our times, and one worth thinking about, and then acting on.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    All round the planet excitement is mounting as people get ready for the first “World Cup of Ideas” of the 21St Century. The 20th Century saw this contest held three times, starting with a hard fought championship in France in 1914. The kickoff for the next round was Poland in 1939 while the surprise venue to start the third and final match of the last century was Fulton, Missouri in 1946, starting only a year after the last match had finished. As always the Liberal-Democrat-Cosmopolitans are expec All round the planet excitement is mounting as people get ready for the first “World Cup of Ideas” of the 21St Century. The 20th Century saw this contest held three times, starting with a hard fought championship in France in 1914. The kickoff for the next round was Poland in 1939 while the surprise venue to start the third and final match of the last century was Fulton, Missouri in 1946, starting only a year after the last match had finished. As always the Liberal-Democrat-Cosmopolitans are expecting to do well, fielding some top notch players known to us all. We should see the highly talented Frenchman Francois-Marie Arouet (better known to his fans by the nickname ‘Voltaire’) take the forward spot. He will be ably supported by mid-field mood-maker Emmanuel Kant playing alongside the solid Jeremy Bentham. Diderot and Montesquie will be out on the wings with the rest of the team made up from other well known players from the Enlightenment League. This is a team that loves to play with ideas and their supporters are expecting great things. The problem with the Liberal-Democrat-Cosmopolitans (whose fans call them the “Philosophes”) is, of course, identical to the problem faced by Brazilian football team: they are a great team on paper with individual players guaranteed to give 110 percent but they all have their own style of play, rarely work well together and just don’t seem able to maintain the same team-discipline as their main rivals, the Anti-Modernist-Nativist-Authoritarians (to their fans, the ‘Nationalists’). The Nationalists are well known for sticking together and playing ruthlessly on the field even if their individual skills just aren’t at the same level. A lot of supporters are blaming the recent poor run of the Philosophes on their merger with the Liberal-Capitalist team around thirty years ago. Its certainly true that we’ve seen a lot of shabby tactics from them since then, with players like Adam Smith or John Locke hogging space in front of the goal mouth and not letting the rest of the team get a look in. This trend has lost the Philosophes a lot of fans. After all, except for some very rich season ticket holders, who wants to go to a match where Voltaire is left in the dressing room while Milton Friedman plays up front? Some of the fan base are so turned off they’ve even gone back to the Socialist-Communist team (known as the “Reds” after their supporters’ favorite color) even though the Reds placed bottom when the last Cup ended in 1989. Part of the drama of a good World Cup of Ideas is seeing Voltaire up against his arch rival on the Nationalist team, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Knowing that they are both French, that they played head-to-head for top teams in the Enlightenment League while also knowing that they hate each other with a passion off the field just adds to the spectator’s enjoyment. Although the ‘Nationalists’ have Rousseau on their team the rest of their players are far less well known. We expect to see them field a mixed team with a bias towards German and Italian players: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giusseppe Mazzini, Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau, Adam Mickiewicz, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Herbert Spencer, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar are all expected to catch the manager’s eye along with a few less well known players. Just like in previous competitions, this century we expect both the Philosophes and the Nationalists to make a pitch for the controversial but incredibly talented young German player from Saxony in Prussia: Friedrich Nietzsche. Some fans say Nietzsche is good enough to swing the balance in favor of any team he plays for but Nietzsche’s critics complain that its often difficult to tell which side he is actually on. Either way we can be pretty sure he will be taking to the field for this Cup as well. It’s time to touch on an important subject that comes up in every World Cup of Ideas. That subject is Hooliganism. I am sorry to have to report that, yet again, the offending supporters are all fans of the Nationalist team. It’s often said that Nationalist fans don’t know and don’t even care who is playing on their side in the World Cup of Ideas because they are just there looking for a fight. It is sad, but true, that if you asked the average Nationalist in the US, the UK, France, India, Turkey or wherever who Giusseppe Mazzini or Johann Gottlieb Fichte is they would struggle to answer you. Supreme (but often misplaced) confidence in their own team’s abilities doesn’t seem to stop the Nationalist fans playing dirty in the pre-tournament fixtures. In recent years we’ve seen them beating up other fans, taking over the sound system around the pitch and even trying to hack the score board thinking that no one would notice. This behavior has got to stop. Despite overall poor placing in past matches the Anarchist/Nihilist team (the “Blacks” to their fans) is also expected to be well represented in the up-and-coming Cup. The Blacks always amuse the crowd with their antics on the field of play given how they love to kick the ball in random directions and are often tackling members of their own team. The can be dangerous to watch though, as they have been known to attack the spectators much like Eric Cantona with his famous drop kick in the 1995 Manchester United v Crystal Palace game. While they might please the crowd their erratic play means the Blacks often disappoint and I wouldn’t put money on them even getting to the semi-finals. The Reds are still a weak team after their defeat at the end of the last century. They have been steadily losing fans, mainly to the Nationalists and the Blacks. There is even some talk that their star player from Trier in Prussia, Karl Marx, might be waiting for the transfer market to open up so he can make a move to the Nationalists team or even the Philosophes. As anyone following the World Cup of Ideas knows the choice of venue is still wide open. Europe has always been a popular location ever since the tournament was first held in France in 1789, but where the next championship will start is anyone’s guess. The leading contender is a brand new location for the fixture: the South China Sea. The Korean Peninsular nearby is also a possible location, as is Kashmir. That perennial favorite “somewhere in the Middle East” is never out of contention. A few fans have suggested that the next World Cup of Ideas should be a purely domestic fixture held in the US, with a team of Liberal Democrat Cosmopolitans from the coasts (the ‘Liberals’) playing a team of Nativist, Evangelical Authoritarians drawn from the American South and mid-West (the ‘Rednecks’). This sounds like a rerun of a much earlier Championship of Ideas that kicked off in 1861 in South Carolina but which only had regional match status rather than being a full World Cup. It looks unlikely that the US would be the venue for the very first Cup in the 21st Century, but you never know. If things continue as they are in the US it could well be a venue for the next fixture after that. Well, that’s just about it for my round up of prospects for the next World Cup of Ideas. If you would like a more detailed guide to the forthcoming championship then “The Age of Anger” is a great place to start. It has profiles of many of the players and is a good guide to how they performed in earlier matches. It also has a run down of each team’s strengths and weaknesses and useful commentary on how they might perform when the next round starts. No point sitting on the sidelines anymore. Pick your team and get out there with your support. PS: This article in The Guardian suggests suggests this book will be well worthwhile. Also a one hour interview with the author at the RSA is here

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sebastien

    This was a fascinating discussion. Very meandering, maybe organization and presentation could've been streamlined so that knocks it down a bit for me. To be fair, given the breadth of the material and ambitious nature of this book it is probably an impossible task. But overall I enjoyed the author's exploration of the intellectual history of "ressentiment" (anger, resentment). His exploration stretches as far back as the French Revolution. I guess if I had to distill things the main focus here is This was a fascinating discussion. Very meandering, maybe organization and presentation could've been streamlined so that knocks it down a bit for me. To be fair, given the breadth of the material and ambitious nature of this book it is probably an impossible task. But overall I enjoyed the author's exploration of the intellectual history of "ressentiment" (anger, resentment). His exploration stretches as far back as the French Revolution. I guess if I had to distill things the main focus here is about anti-systems intellectuals; intellectuals who rebel against the power of the state/power elite, the insipid and empty nature of bourgeois life (as some see it!), the hollowing out of spirit and agency due to the cult of modern materialism/consumerism, inequality and asymmetry of power in society, the sterilized secularized nature of the liberal Enlightenment era. What is the fall-out from these ideas? this kind of thinking can be warped into burn the system down philosophy with a focus on extreme nationalism and xenophobia, a mode of thought that is willing to destroy any and everything (with everything permitted, all crimes permitted so long as ends justify means). Of course for such ideas to take hold the ground amongst the public must be fertile, there must already be wide discontent, anger, economic pain/inequality, cultural revanchist sentiment, the view that society is spiritually dead, anger against entrenched elites who seem to monopolize power (politically, culturally, economically)... The book goes beyond the intellectual realm and explores individuals and groups who acted on some of these ideas (including terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, elements of Al Qaeda. Symmetry between some of their thinking was surprising to me but in a way makes sense). I really enjoyed his examination of Rousseau and Voltaire, along with various other contemporaries like de Maistre (I know very little about him, but de Maistre critiqued them both, I've made a note to read more on him). As I understand it, and forgive the flattening of nuance into simple caricatures, but Rousseau struck me as a pretty harsh anti-system, anti-elitist, anti-bourgeois, anti-materialist guy (most of which wasn't really new to me, but my depth of understanding his philosophy is low). What was new to me was Voltaire, I had no idea he was so wealthy and entrepreneurial. So while he was a rationalist, skeptic, etc, based on Mishra's presentation he comes across as an old school neoliberal elitist who looked down upon the masses in his own ways (even though he was locked out from the power elite that had political power, he made up for it with financial and cultural/intellectual power). That was fascinating, given those facts it makes sense why he and Rousseau absolutely hated each other. I guess when it comes down to it I think both figures are interesting, would love to read more about them and their relationship as well. But to me a guy like Rousseau is more dangerous than a guy like Voltaire, even though both have flaws. And yet I'm firmly of the belief that thinkers like Rousseau are important, guys like him shake things up, inject a bit of passion and excitement back into the intellectual and public realms, challenge the holders of power... but excesses from this kind of character can be incredibly dangerous, can unleash an uncontrollable monster within the public realm. Then again, such ideas only get hold of the public imagination when the public is ripe and angry enough to embrace them, and some of these guys like Rousseau have a real bloodlust that is frightening and can help give frameworks for people to execute campaigns of violence. Although I'm sure when people are motivated/angry enough they can find a reason to destroy regardless of if a guy like Rousseau exists or not. (these are merely my impressions) There were also major explorations of Russian intellectual thought, especially mid-19th to early 20th century, certainly not a lack of bomb-throwing burn the system type guys in that era! But given that the vast majority were locked out and completely disenfranchised from any shred of power it makes sense that this would be the perfect grounds for such anger. Dostoevsky is endlessly fascinating (read a lot of him when I was younger, want to get back to reading his work, more familiar with his explorations on suffering than his political philosophy). Also exploration of quite a few German thinkers like Nietszche. Nice analysis of the dynamic between France and Germany, both intellectually, politically and the interplay between those who adopted certain French cultural intellectual ideas and those who rebelled against it. And the tension that occurs when there is a dominant hegemonic foreign culture/ideology and the need to define oneself against it and form a counter/counter-vision. Mishra also points out this interesting dynamic in India. There was a section on Hindu nationalism and the development of modern ressentiment in India. The book gets into some pretty nuanced psychological analysis with both Germany and India, how the dynamics worked between those who adopted certain intellectual ideas from abroad and how it warped them in different ways (not really in ways you'd necessarily expect). Learned quite a bit in this section, that history is somewhat non-linear and multi-factional which was interesting, some of it is somewhat speculative but makes you think. Basically lots of good stuff. This is a very ambitious book and sure it falls short in a few sections, it is hard to tie everything together. The author has a lot of knowledge, has read a lot, has some very interesting insights. I imagine some people might take issue with some of his analysis, for me it works quite well overall, but even if you don't agree with his analysis the discussion and explorations are fabulous and make it well worth the read. PS. I thought this was a solid op-ed recently written by Mishra on US situation: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/op...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    Disclaimer: I did not enjoy this book and I apologize for the lengthy critique, but I had experienced my own 'age of anger' while reading this book. I gave the book due dilligence and decided to quit reading after 144 pages - something I typically avoid doing. I decided to put the book down because I could not quite get over the structural and style flaws with the work. The following review is of the first 1/3 of the book, but it appeared as though the book wasn't going to get any better. The tra Disclaimer: I did not enjoy this book and I apologize for the lengthy critique, but I had experienced my own 'age of anger' while reading this book. I gave the book due dilligence and decided to quit reading after 144 pages - something I typically avoid doing. I decided to put the book down because I could not quite get over the structural and style flaws with the work. The following review is of the first 1/3 of the book, but it appeared as though the book wasn't going to get any better. The tragic part is that I looked forward to reading this book because the concept seems quite interesting and very timely. The world appears to be full of angry individuals and societies. This book's objective - I think - was to explain the sources of this rage and the implications for our modern world. First of all, I want to say that I believe that the editor of this book failed the author entirely. This, in my opinion, is the reason behind this book being a wasted opportunity to explore a novel concept. I'm not sure if there was a rush to get the book published or the editor not having someone on staff who could wade through the author's prose. The structure of this book is well, nonexistent. The chapters and sections within chapters are not arranged in any discernible manner. The content is not arranged thematically or chronologically. The content moves back and forth from the past to the present in the space of a paragraph. The author is speaking about a certain author or philosopher at one moment and then erratically moves on to the next subject with little discernible connective tissue. I got the feeling that one does when a child is given the opportunity to show a new person his room; moving excitedly from one object to the next, rapidly (and partially) explaining what something is before moving on to the next thing that catches his eye. There are so many ways that this book could have been more properly structured. For example, the author could have selected a few regions or countries or groups or individuals to serve as case studies for why they are filled with this contemporary rage. There are so many examples to choose from. Al Quaeda is a great example because bin Laden was upset about how coalition troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia. Talk about how Japan was forced to modernize and trade with the West. Talk about how Arab countries were ashamed because they lost the Six Day War to an Israel backed with Western technology. Talk about how modern Iran has been victim to Western incursions and had their democratically-elected leaders overthrown by foreign coups. Pick a few that suit your aims and talk about how those events impact the present. A few, well-selected, in-depth case studies would have greatly aided in the author's thesis. Next, this book would have greatly benefitted from inter-disciplinary work. I acknowledge that the author cited numerous philosophical, literary and religious texts. However, very few readers are intimately familiar with the works of Rousseau or Locke. The inclusion of obscure Indian religious texts is assuredly a conceptual bridge too far. What I had in mind in particular was the use of psychology. If you are going to talk about individuals being consumed by rage, it would be beneficial to talk about what occurs physiologically when someone is angry. Why do they become angry? How much is one's environment involved? Are there factors that make individuals more or less susceptible (education, geography, age, socio-economics, genetics, etc) to fits of rage? Perhaps talk about certain people that became consumed with rage (terrorists, politicians, writers, etc) and do a deep-dive into what made them tick. Another considerable gripe that I have with this book is the overall pedantic vibe that emanates from the pages. Most pages are filled with references to esoteric information, obscure SAT-style words, lesser-known Latin terms in Italics, and B-list historical celebrities. We get it, author - you're a smart guy (or at least someone that has access to a thesaurus set to max difficulty). You don't need to wow me, seriously. I am a firm believer that writers should not water-down their vocabulary when writing. I'm a big boy and can clap-out the challenging words. However, when these vocabulary and reference land mines are interspersed throughout clunky prose, then you do your readers a tremendous disservice. The statements made by the author throughout the work are haphazardly painted in broad strokes and are unsopported by evidence. For example, what does one make of this statement: "The early impact on Africa's tradition-minded societies of a West organized for profit and power is memorably summed up by the title of Chinua Achebe's first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958)". Okay, forget that I, along with most high school students, have read the aforementioned book. The part that I want to know is how does anyone make such a sweeping, non-sensical generalization based on the title of a book? (I did point out that the editor failed this author, right?) With all that being said, I am in my own 'Age of Anger' after having attempted to read (1/3 of) this book. I feel cheated out of a learning experience on a topic that is urgent and noteworthy. I guess I will have to wait for some other author to come along a produce a more structured, lucid analysis of modern angst.

  7. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    "They have counterbalanced their loss of nerve before the political challenge of terrorism with overreaction, launching military campaigns, often without bothering to secure the consent of a frightened people, and while supporting despotic leaders they talk endlessly of their superior ‘values’ – a rhetoric that has now blended into a white-supremacist hatred, lucratively exploited by Trump, of immigrants, refugees and Muslims (and, often, those who just ‘look’ Muslim). Meanwhile, selfie-seeking "They have counterbalanced their loss of nerve before the political challenge of terrorism with overreaction, launching military campaigns, often without bothering to secure the consent of a frightened people, and while supporting despotic leaders they talk endlessly of their superior ‘values’ – a rhetoric that has now blended into a white-supremacist hatred, lucratively exploited by Trump, of immigrants, refugees and Muslims (and, often, those who just ‘look’ Muslim). Meanwhile, selfie-seeking young murderers everywhere confound the leaden stalkers of ‘extremist ideology’, retaliating to bombs from the air with choreographed slaughter on the ground." We live, as they say, in "interesting times." Many of us are trying to make sense out of what swirls around us. For those, Mishra has a big answer that not only explains the present but spans the past several centuries. He certainly sees Voltaire as self-interested hypocrite who could preach tolerance while sitting on the laps of dictators. He gives several shout-outs to Rousseau for his exposure of this hypocrisy as well as predicting what would happen if we ventured far down the road of pure capitalism. Mishra highlights the current world of a small circle of "haves" and a much larger circle of "have-nots." In this larger circle are the dispossessed, the refugees and those without hope for a better life. He points out that much of what we see in ISIS was part of post World War I Italy. "Today, as alienated radicals from all over the world flock to join violent, misogynist and sexually transgressive movements, and political cultures elsewhere suffer the onslaught of demagogues, D’Annunzio’s secession – moral, intellectual and aesthetic as well as military – from an evidently irredeemable society seems a watershed moment in the history of our present: one of many enlightening conjunctures that we have forgotten." And I am grateful to him for tying some of the present to elements of the past. We must ask ourselves if our actions or beliefs have contributed to where we find ourselves now. Bakunin and the Russian Revolution is another stop along the trail for Mishra. "Many of Bakunin’s anarchist and terrorist followers revealed the depth of a revolutionary lust that has broken free of traditional constraints and disdains to offer a vision of the future – a lust that seeks satisfaction through violence and destruction alone. Incarnated today by the maniacs of ISIS, it seems to represent absolute evil. But, as Voegelin once argued: This new absoluteness of evil, however, is not introduced into the situation by the revolutionary; it is the reflex of the actual despiritualization of the society from which the revolutionary emerges. The revolutionary crisis of our age is distinguished from earlier revolutions by the fact that the spiritual substance of Western society has diminished to the vanishing point, and that the vacuum does not show any signs of refilling from new sources." Yet, in defining the smugness of liberal democracy, Mishra is seemingly at a loss to suggest anything to replace it. He can point out that there is value in "tradition" and a society with religious values may offer some grounding, but whether or not his diagnosis is sound, he seems (after more than 600 pages) unable to define a path to peace and prosperity for more of us. Thanks, but I could have appreciated this point of view in a more condensed version.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08flm2j Description: In a ground-breaking new analysis, Pankaj Mishra traces the tangled roots of hatreds and nationalisms across the world. Inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate for President, as well as Brexit, the author attempts to re-examine the divided modern world. Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from th http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08flm2j Description: In a ground-breaking new analysis, Pankaj Mishra traces the tangled roots of hatreds and nationalisms across the world. Inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate for President, as well as Brexit, the author attempts to re-examine the divided modern world. Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from the writings of philosophers to the end of the Cold War. Indeed, at the end of the Cold War, there was a belief that the global capitalist economy would alleviate ethnic and religious differences to usher in prosperity and peace. This belief, he states, now lies in tatters, with no alternative in sight, and with economic power shifting from the West. Meanwhile, the IMF suggests that emerging economies will take much longer to catch up economically with the West than was previously believed. Further, Mishra looks at nationalism, alienation, xenophobia, the 'lone wolf' and the pack behind him, domestic terrorism and the frustration and resentment both aimed at the West and from those in the West who are alienated. He introduces us to the people at the heart of much of the action as we discover the causes and consequences of their beliefs and their actions.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    Very well written history on the challenge to modernity by tribalism, romanticism, fascism, and nihilism. It is the complaint against the materialistic modern secular liberal enlightenment dream. It has been countered by these movements since the 1700s in various ugly irrationalities. They seem to flare up just after times when cosmopolitan elites thought they had everything sewed up. It characteristically values tribe, violence, manhood, spirit, action, irrationality, wildness, blood, and soil. Very well written history on the challenge to modernity by tribalism, romanticism, fascism, and nihilism. It is the complaint against the materialistic modern secular liberal enlightenment dream. It has been countered by these movements since the 1700s in various ugly irrationalities. They seem to flare up just after times when cosmopolitan elites thought they had everything sewed up. It characteristically values tribe, violence, manhood, spirit, action, irrationality, wildness, blood, and soil. It seems these movements have existed as a challenge to the enlightenment rationality and cosmopolitanism and although take different forms in times and places it is the same reactionary retreat from the kingdom of reason. We are in a time where it has the upper hand again be it Brexit, Trump, Modi, Putin the forces of anger are on the march.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    I first became aware of Pankaj Mishra's political writings in his articulate rebuttal of Niall Ferguson's asinine historical justification for empire. I was therefore keen to read 'Age of Anger', Mishra's exploration of how myth of European enlightenment and the ideas it espouses; equality, liberty and fraternity only ever really applied to a small strata of humanity. Well-researched and accessible there are several key themes to Mishra's story. The first is that the enlightenment, rather than be I first became aware of Pankaj Mishra's political writings in his articulate rebuttal of Niall Ferguson's asinine historical justification for empire. I was therefore keen to read 'Age of Anger', Mishra's exploration of how myth of European enlightenment and the ideas it espouses; equality, liberty and fraternity only ever really applied to a small strata of humanity. Well-researched and accessible there are several key themes to Mishra's story. The first is that the enlightenment, rather than being a tool to bring about equality to mankind, was instead an excuse for colonialism, a blunt tool with which Europeans could state they were 'civilising' backward states and societies, a way in which they could disguise their subjugation as liberation. The second, and perhaps most important, is that in giving mankind the realisation that it was a master of its own feet, the enlightenment both liberated and entrapped mankind, or in liberating the mind it made it aware of the greater enslavement it faced-that of the society and state. This is at the root cause of what Mishra terms anarchism, a  desire borne out of a sense of deep alienation and disaffection, and the root cause of acts of terrorism, whether it be 19th century Russian revolutionaries or modern day Islamic terrorists, the causes which they fight for-Islam, Communism, nationalism or fascism are largely irrelevant, what truly drives them is the desire to overthrow the social order stemming form a deep sense of dissatisfaction with their place in the world; ; freedom is seen as being as much of a burden as it is a boon.  Mishra also argues that the homogenising nature of  globalisation has caused a crisis in the countries whose cultures, languages and histories it is over-taking. As countries see their identities ripped apart under the relentless wheels of capitalism, so they begin to double-down on what they perceive as the spirit and nature of their culture, hiding behind localised (and often incorrect) myths and vulgar strong-men. Indeed it is this tension between the perceived elites who run politics and democracy for their own gain which is behind the raise in demagoguery and populism, whose outward brashness and bravado hides a deep sense of insecurity.  A perceptive analysis of the root causes of not just past injustice but also the present predicament the world finds itself in. 

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    If it feels like the world recently has been splitting in two, along comes Pankaj Mishra to let you know: You're not wrong! Describing what he calls a "global civil war," Mishra in Age of Anger describes more than 200 years of rhetorical, even bloody conflict between two conflicting worldviews: The Enlightenment modernism of Voltaire and his ideological descendants, and the reactionary nationalism of Rousseau and his. Mishra's book is incredibly well researched, stretching as it does from 18th-c If it feels like the world recently has been splitting in two, along comes Pankaj Mishra to let you know: You're not wrong! Describing what he calls a "global civil war," Mishra in Age of Anger describes more than 200 years of rhetorical, even bloody conflict between two conflicting worldviews: The Enlightenment modernism of Voltaire and his ideological descendants, and the reactionary nationalism of Rousseau and his. Mishra's book is incredibly well researched, stretching as it does from 18th-century France to 21st-century China, with stops to sketch ideological histories of Italy, Iran, Germany, India and Russia, among others. I am frankly dazzled by how he manages to condense so much information into such a relatively short book; no matter how well read you are, you almost certainly will learn new things and likely be introduced to new people. Of course, it's that very trick – packing so much into just 300 or so pages – that left me struggling to keep up. At times, concepts and characters flow into each other. I often found myself re-reading paragraphs and flipping back to make sure I could understand the flow of Mishra's thoughts. The book was worth the struggle, but I felt a longer book with more room to structure the concepts in a more traditional way would actually have made this a more enjoyable read. In the end, Mishra's thesis is compelling. By tracing the history of nationalism through the way stations of anarchism, nihilism and terrorism, he places in the same ideological bed both Islamism and Trumpism – both of them rising from disaffection with the failed promises of gilded modernity, just as terrorism and nationalism rose together for the same reasons in the late 19th century. It's this hard work of making connections, both within our time and across centuries and continents, that makes Mishra's work so powerful. We are all connected, to each other and to our past, and although many pundits and politicians portray a clash of civilizations between the modern West and the anarchic Middle East, Mishra shows that in fact the clash is within and between us all, for we are all children of both the Enlightenment and its dissenters.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joachim Stoop

    "Today, the belief in progress, necessary for life in a Godless universe, can no longer be sustained, except, perhaps, in the Silicon Valley mansions of baby-faced millennials. [...] In an economically stagnant world that offers a dream of individual empowerment to all, but no realizable dreams of political change, the lure of active nihilism can only grow." This book is so insightful: just like a zooming-in from outer space 'till we see our little blue planet, it pinpoints our present age in an "Today, the belief in progress, necessary for life in a Godless universe, can no longer be sustained, except, perhaps, in the Silicon Valley mansions of baby-faced millennials. [...] In an economically stagnant world that offers a dream of individual empowerment to all, but no realizable dreams of political change, the lure of active nihilism can only grow." This book is so insightful: just like a zooming-in from outer space 'till we see our little blue planet, it pinpoints our present age in an historic timeline with reoccuring themes and problems and with some great known and lesser known thinkers who phrase things in the 18th and 19th century about society, as if it was written today. It is not an easy read because of the associative writing style and the many jumps in time and geography. But it is an absolute must for all who wants to get a firmer grip on what's happening lately. Chapter 1: 6 stars Chapter 2: 5 Chapter 3: 5 Chapter 4: 3 Chapter 5: 3 Chapter 6: 4 Chapter 7: 5

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amrit Zoad

    This writer lives in his own world. I am an Indian and everyone voted for Modi because he promised change from a corrupt monarchy-type government. He didn't said a single thing against the minorities during his election campaign. And the majority with which he won, apparently states that even most of the 20% Indian Muslims voted him. It will be a foolish idea to compare him with Trump whose main arguments for winning the elections were based on racism and communal hatred. Modi's mottos: Developem This writer lives in his own world. I am an Indian and everyone voted for Modi because he promised change from a corrupt monarchy-type government. He didn't said a single thing against the minorities during his election campaign. And the majority with which he won, apparently states that even most of the 20% Indian Muslims voted him. It will be a foolish idea to compare him with Trump whose main arguments for winning the elections were based on racism and communal hatred. Modi's mottos: Developement of the India, Make in India Trump's mottos: Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, Temporary ban on Muslims The writer should understand that the misinformation he is feeding to the non-Indians will not be fruitful for anyone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Khush

    Sometimes present circumstances force us to hold back and reflect and make sense of the world. In 'Age of Anger' Mishra looks at the contemporary world and its discontents; the Brexit and the escalation of far-right forces across the globe but particularly in the west. While all this seems new, unprecedented– a direct outcome of global mingling that turned supremely problematic for many (western) countries: immigration, terrorism, jobs– this chaos produced demagogues of all kinds from Erdogan, L Sometimes present circumstances force us to hold back and reflect and make sense of the world. In 'Age of Anger' Mishra looks at the contemporary world and its discontents; the Brexit and the escalation of far-right forces across the globe but particularly in the west. While all this seems new, unprecedented– a direct outcome of global mingling that turned supremely problematic for many (western) countries: immigration, terrorism, jobs– this chaos produced demagogues of all kinds from Erdogan, Le Pen, Modi and Trump to tap into the simmering reservoirs of cynicism and discontent across countries. The books central theses in Mishra own words; “This book takes a very different view of a universal crisis, shifting the preposterously heavy burden of explanation from Islam and religious extremism. it argues that the unprecedented political, economic and social disorder that accompanied the rise of the industrial capitalist economy in the 19th century Europe, and led to world wars, totalitarian regimes and genocide in the first half of the 20th century, is now infecting much vaster regions and bigger populations: that, first exposed to modernity through European imperialism, large parts of Asia and Africa are now plunging deeper into the West's own fateful experience of that modernity.” Mishra delves deeper in modern history especially from mid 18th century onwards and cites a broad range of writers, philosophers, political upheavals, important events, wars, massacres and so forth to show that the transformation to modernity even within the West was anything but peaceful. He gives very specific examples from French, Italian and German history. With industrialization, Europe created great wealth, however, not everyone was invited to the party.Since the elite within Europe remained very tiny, the masses lived in penury and migrated from their home countries. They ran from homebred conflicts, poverty, and persecutions to America. More scientific developments further strengthened the tiny elite and increased their power over the masses; both within Europe, and eastwards in the form decisive colonialism. All this eventually culminated into two most lethal (global) wars mankind has known. The book makes an easy read, though it is a scholarly work. As I went on reading this book, I also felt a bit depressed. 'What is happening today has happened before' is what this book is about. It suggests that nobody is a hero here. As one looks at today's world; it is amazing to see how much progress has been made in the fields of space travel; medicine, robotic technology, education and so forth; but when it comes to basic human characteristics in regard to love, compassion, evil, we are still primitive. Nothing much has changed in these spheres since Plato.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Omar Ali

    (This review, with screenshots and proper formatting, is at http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/2017... ) Pankaj Mishra is a British-Indian writer and public intellectual who currently lives between London and Mashobra and writes regularly for publications like the NY Times and the NYRB. He started his career as a promising literary critic (Naipaul was initially impressed) but soon switched to "native informant" mode, presenting and interpreting what he described as the angst, atomization, envy and (This review, with screenshots and proper formatting, is at http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/2017... ) Pankaj Mishra is a British-Indian writer and public intellectual who currently lives between London and Mashobra and writes regularly for publications like the NY Times and the NYRB. He started his career as a promising literary critic (Naipaul was initially impressed) but soon switched to "native informant" mode, presenting and interpreting what he described as the angst, atomization, envy and ressentiment of newly emerging and fitfully modernizing India; a phenomenon that other elite commentators and foreign visitors were presumably failing to notice. He then expanded this theme to all of Asia and has finally graduated to interpreting the Metropole to the metropolitans themselves. This could have been a somewhat risky move, since Western reviewers who received his reports about the darker nations relatively uncritically, might well know enough about their home turf to become critical. But by and large, that has not happened; reviews have generally been favorable. This is not one of those favorable reviews. I found the book tendentious, shallow and repetitive, with quotes and facts cherry-picked from across his vast (but chronologically limited and highly Eurocentric) reading list, full of unfounded assumptions and opinions that are casually passed off with an "as everyone knows" air in practically every paragraph. The book begins with a brief account of D'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume in 1919. This relatively obscure episode is sprinkled with cherry-picked quotes and while the facts are mostly true, their significance is asserted rather than proven. This pattern is followed throughout the book; vast historical claims (e.g. that modernity led ultimately, not just transiently, to more immiseration in Europe; "First manifested in 19th century Europe - Bursts of technological innovation and growth offset by systemic exploitation and widespread immiseration") are casually asserted as if they are already known and accepted by all sane-thinking people. There is no systematic description of what happened economically, socially or culturally in Europe (or elsewhere) in the last 200 years, and no data is ever offered to support any claims, but since these claims (sometimes stated, frequently just hinted at) are almost all prevalent (if only vaguely and without systematic evidence) in postmodern liberal European (and Westernized Desi) circles, so the book gets a pass in those circles; but the fact is that if you stop and dig into any random claim, the tone and the details will not pass muster. It could be objected that this is not the point of the book. As Pankaj himself puts it: "This books is not offered as an intellectual history; and it cannot even pose, given its brevity, as a single narrative of the orign and diffusion of ideas and ideologies that assimilates teh many cultural and political developments of the previous two centuries. Rather, it explores a particular climate of ideas, a structure of feeling, and cognitive disposition, from teh age of Rousseau to our own age of anger" He goes on to say "It tries to show how an ethic of individual and collective empowerment spread itself over the world, as much through resentful imitation as coercion, causing severe dislocations, social maladjustment and political upheaval. " Marx said it better but this is not bad either. But unlike Marx, who offered a diagnosis and then a prescription (right or wrong), Pankaj goes on to dig through 200 years of (mostly European) intellectual history to find quotes and episodes that bewail this process of destruction of the old in action; but he never offers a diagnosis of why human beings and human societies created modernity in the first place (after all, even Europeans, or rather Anglo-Americans, who appear in this book as the only people who actually do things instead of just reacting to things being done to them, are also humans); nor does he offer any ideas about what an alternative may look like. What he does add to the diagnosis of some of the authors he quotes is a relentless focus on ressentiment as the quintessential human emotion; the secret sauce that explains everything that Pankaj does not like about the world today, from Trump and Modi to Erdogan and, somewhat surprisingly, the New York Review of Books ("a major intellectual periodical of Anglo-America"). Resentment and envy drive everything in Pankaj-world. Herder and Fichte, for example, are "young provincials in Germany.. who simmered with resentment against a metropolitan civilization of slick movers and shakers that seemed to deny them a rooted and authentic existence". This motif is repeated with variations throughout the book. Everyone (except the Anglo-Americans of course) is endlessly burning with resentment and hates who they are. It almost makes one wonder if the book is really about Pankaj digging through 200 years of intellectual history to find his own mirror image everywhere? But this would be to psychologize, and one should try to avoid that, even if Pankaj never does. Perhaps all this would be fine if he was suitably humble about his own limitations, but of course, he is no such thing. There is a consistent tone of "I have discovered what all of you fools missed" throughout the book. That tone is grating, partly because what he has discovered is not very original, and partly because it is by no means certain that his assessment of the Enlightenment and its major thinkers is the correct assessment. I think it likely that the specialist who specializes in any thinker cited in this book will disagree with the flippant generalizations and cherry-picked quotes, but given that this treatment is being meted out to dozens of thinkers from across the globe and the specialist knows only his own, he may not realize that Pankaj is equally shallow about all of them. For example, he sums up Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Voltaire and Kant on one go with the dismissive "the universal commercial society of self-interested rational individuals that was originally advocated by such Enlightenment thinkers as Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Voltaire and Kant"; is this really a fair and reasonable summary of all that those subtle and profound thinkers wrote and thought? I think it is certainly part of what they said, but Pankaj has no use for their other insights. What he needs for his purposes is the code words "commercial, self-interested, rational". He knows these will do their magic within his (superficially anti-capitalist) audience, and he is probably right. Of course, doubts and misgivings about modernity have been the subject of countless works ever since the terms were invented. In fact, the reason Rousseau, Nietzsche and company are one of the two groups who dominate the quote-mining in this book (terrorists and anarchists are the other) is precisely because they did produce works that questioned and critiqued many Enlightenment assumptions. Pankaj, with his focus on resentment and envy is, if anything, a much more limited and shallow version of their work. This may sound harsh, but this book is really little more than a disorganized dictionary of selected (sometimes misleadingly so) quotations and sweeping generalizations about writers who generally thought deeper and harder than Pankaj does. So my suggestion, dear reader, is, why not read them? Which brings us to another problem with this book; its complete lack of interest in all human history before 1688 and in all civilizations except the European civilization of the last 200 years. Again, one may say that they are not the subject of the book, but the problem goes deeper than that. Not only are they not the subject of the book, it seems that they are not of interest to Pankaj at all. He never shows any interest (or awareness) of humans as biological beings, evolved over millennia, with instincts, drives and abilities shaped by that evolution far more than they can ever be shaped by "modernity", whatever that may be. He is not interested in 10,000 years of human cultural evolution or in the vast literature on the evolution of political order. And he seems to regard all non-European (or perhaps non-Anglo-American) civilizations as interchangeable place holders for "tradition", trammeled under the boot of modernity. That China and the Chinese, for example, may not be exact counterparts of his native India, and may even be a civilization that regards itself (justifiably) as a world-leader, a source of many "modern" ideas, fully capable (and desirous) of joining the modern world on its own terms. But these are not notions to be found in Pankaj-land. To him, all non-Europeans are simply interchangeable primitives; "traditional" people driven by resentment and envy and, more to the point, doomed to fakery, imitation and disappointment. Finally, there is the issue of conscious (or unconscious?) manipulation of facts and anecdotes to fit his agenda. Pankaj seems to know the prejudices and vague preconceptions of his postmodern Eurocentric audience, and he never misses a chance to push their buttons, even if it requires some subtle alteration of events. A few random quotes will illustrate this tendency: "Turkeys Erdogan to India's Modi, France's Le Pen and America's Donald Trump, have tapped into the simmering reserviors of cynicism, boredom and discontent". Discontent, yes, but cynicism and boredom? Other than sounding good to his audience, how much sense does this really make? Speaking of the 1990s "The Dalai Lama appeared in Apple's "Think different" advertisements and it seemed only a matter of time before Tibet, too, would be free". Did it? really? to whom? The only reason this sentence appealed to him is because it presses the right buttons. The Dalai Lama, check. Evil corporation Apple, check. Advertisement, check. Sheeple being fooled yet again, check. It is a theme, and it recurs. He casually claims that the first televised beheading occurred "in 2004, (just as broadband began to arrive in middle-class homes) in Iraq, of a Western hostage dressed in an orange Guantanomo jumpsuit". This is another classic example of Pankaj in action. It is hard to believe that he has not heard (or did not learn while Googling) that the televised beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl happened two years earlier in 2002; but that beheading was in Pakistan, involved Jew-hatred and did not include an orange Guantanomo jumpsuit. So it doesnt really evoke instant anti-imperialist memes in the way the Iraq invasion and Guantanomo jumpsuits do, so the example chosen has to be Iraq in 2004. And the "broadband arriving in middle class homes" is the cherry on the subliminal messaging cake. This is a minor point, but it is worth noting that even in the case of minor points, the rhetorical needs of Pankaj's overall project are going to be paramount. The reader has to be on his guard. "only on the rarest occasions in recent decades has it been acknowledged that the history of modernization is largely one of carnage and bedlam rather than peaceful convergence" . First of all, it is by no means certain that this history is "largely one of carnage and bedlam", but among those who think this is true, this has been the fashionable view for decades. Pankaj does not get to announce this as new news to the in-crowd. "Wrought by the West's transition to industrial capitalism and mass politics..". We know he is against capitalism. Perhaps against industry as well. But is he also against mass politics? Pankaj will not say "the people" are ignorant, easily manipulated fools, but he is never too far from implying exactly that. It would be hugely interesting if he went deeper into this topic and reached some philosophically interesting (and perhaps even controversial) conclusions (aristocratic ones? under that "man of the people from Jhansi" exterior?) but this is another reason I am not a fan of his books. You get the party line, and nothing but the party line. The message is in fact NEVER controversial or new or shocking. it is exactly tailored to fit current postliberal fashions and where those fashions are internally contradictory, Pankaj will not venture. Sad! By the way, he thinks Pope Francis is the "most convincing and influential public intellectual today". Convincing? to whom? and MOST influential?? When it comes to Islam, he is even more predictable and safe. The following, for example, is a fairly typical example of clueless Euroliberal apologetics, and Pankaj may even know better, but he knows what buttons to push, so here it is. (Osama and Zarqawi, not to speak of Al-Baghdadi, who has a PhD in Islamic studies, do in fact know a lot about the Islam of their ancestors. that the foot soldiers don't know the theological details is neither here nor there; foot soldiers of other ideologies don't know either) He is not always wrong. In fact he is frequently perfectly correct, but in a trite and almost trivial way. For example, he says (correctly in my view) that "those routinely evoking a woldwide clash of civilizations in which Islam is pitted against the West, and religion against reason, are not able to explain many political, social and environmental ills". Yes, but to hear him say it, you would think everyone except Pankaj thinks this is the case. But in fact, hardly any liberal commentators see this as the main explanatory framework for the world today. Debunking this to a liberal audience (and there is no other audience for this book) seems like the easiest of easy shots, not worth wasting 350 pages. But that is the problem with the book: in the end, it is just dumbed down propaganda, preaching to the converted, telling then what they already believed, but making them feel like they are participating in the unmasking of some deep and meaningful secret. This formula surely works as a way to sell books and get good reviews. But for anyone interested in new information or deeper insights, it is a waste of time. What Scruton said about Foucault's "The order of things" ("an artful book.. a work not of philosophy but of rhetoric") applies to this book too. Which is unfortunate. Pankaj is obviously intelligent and very widely read. He could do something more interesting than just artfully massaging the fashionable prejudices of his class and his audience. Besides, while he hates this "soul-killing world of mediocrity and cowardice" he is also a Westernized liberal (or post-liberal) who cannot possibly stand alongside, say, the extreme Hindu or Islamic radical who says exactly the same things. To him, those people are justified in their rebellion (though he is not at all sympathetic to the Hindu variety, relatively gentle on the Islamist variety, and most forgiving of the Leftist variety, because of the particular politics of his own peer group) but at the same time he cannot really advocate any "return to traditional mores" because of course, those mores are patriarchal, heirarchical, transphobic etc etc.. Knowing this and knowing his audience, he never goes too far into this problem. But the problem is very real. If modernity is evil, then why not the premodern? And if that too is "problematic", then we have a bigger human issue on our hands and all this handwaving has done nothing to bring us one step closer to a solution. "Man..can no longer connect cause to effect". OK, but that implies a return to very ancient isolation. Is that the solution? maybe it is, but you won't hear more about it from Pankaj. He presses the button, makes you feel deep, and moves on. The book is full of this sort of elevated pseudo-discourse.. We end where we began. We need to do something new. But what?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book is an effort at an intellectual history of the prevailing anger that appears to be gripping political systems worldwide, from the election of Trump and other populists in the US and Europe to the continual morphing of violent terrorists throughout the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and Africa, to those who suffer the effects of profound economic inequality and reduced expectations for a productive and satisfying middle class life. Not bad as intentions go, right? Mishra frames th This book is an effort at an intellectual history of the prevailing anger that appears to be gripping political systems worldwide, from the election of Trump and other populists in the US and Europe to the continual morphing of violent terrorists throughout the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and Africa, to those who suffer the effects of profound economic inequality and reduced expectations for a productive and satisfying middle class life. Not bad as intentions go, right? Mishra frames this study in terms of a history of "ressentiment" - the combination of anger, frustration, envy, and demoralization that goes with losing out in political and economic life. It is not just a history but an intellectual history. Today's terrorists and protests are working out the intellectual program of a set of authors and activists, who in turn are working out the thoughts of earlier thinkers and propagandists. If one follows the intellectual genealogies back to their origins, the starting point is with the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The lines of thought first developed in arguments between Voltaire and Rousseau, lead to the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the various currents, such as Storm and Drang and later Romanticism, Marxism, militant nationalism, colonialism, and decolonialism. This is a broad and bold undertaking. Start with a history of Enlightenment, add in the continental reactions that arose when Napoleon conquered Europe and then was forced out. Even with Napoleon, these ideas hung around in various forms through the revolutions of 1848, the wars of German Unification, and the run-up to WWI. .... then ... these ideas continued to morph on throughout the 20th century and the period of the World Wars and the Cold War and into the decolonization period.. Think of what an author needs to do to make this work. First the stories of the first rate authors needs to be scripted into a book's intention. Then the second rate and less well known authors need to be fitted in and linked to the real classics. Repeat the process three or four times until you get Trump and the environment of 2017. Along the way, the author needs to mix historical events with the intellectual story. It is quite an undertaking. Some of Mishra's efforts seem to work well. Enlightenment ideas are sometimes abstract and not directly linked to real life. Once someone takes on that job, the conflict between the general ideas and the particular situations of the moment, makes it almost certain that there will be losers in competition and in the battle of ideas. Expectations may rise too high for most so that many will not be satisfied. There are also huge contradictions in the ideas themselves - consider the disagreements between Rousseau and Voltaire. Then politics and markets will lead to a few winners and a large number of losers, leading to more frustration and anger. This does not even begin to consider the issue of colonialism and decolonization. Add to this a technical revolution and global competition among developed states that many middle class jobs are either offshored or rendered obsolete, leading to more anger - along with more Springsteen songs. Mishra is a fine writer and someone who appears to have read everything - it really shows. His style is engaging and insightful. But it strikes me as a "bridge too far". The narrative weakens in more than a few spots into an extended personal essay and one can get the sense that all the names are being dropped in order to dots the "i's" on the book's agenda. It still seems like the argument that the travails of Enlightenment lead to upset in colonial and post-colonial intellectual life is not fully made and more is needed. I don't want to blame everything on Rousseau and Voltaire. An interesting comparison is between this book and Evans new book - The Pursuit of Power. The latter is a comprehensive one volume history of the long 19th century in Europe that covers much of the intellectual activity, supported by lots of political history. I give Mishra credit from trying. I learned a lot about colonial writers and their roots and that by itself is valuable. The trouble with setting out a huge agenda is that it is very hard to tell such a huge and complex story well. That Mishra had trouble is no sin but more a comment about the broad objectives of the work. There is an old satirical comic book entitled "never eat anything bigger than your head". There must be a critical version of that maxim that can apply to this book. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the book, even if it did not quite work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    The past two centuries of history in the West have been defined by the transition from traditional society into a modern one. But the effects that this transition had on human beings - economically, philosophically, and spiritually - have been given a monumental pangloss. The violent dislocations that accompanied 18th and 19th century European modernization gave rise to waves of violence, paranoia, hatred and chauvinism that reached their final crescendoes in totalitarianism and near-annihilatio The past two centuries of history in the West have been defined by the transition from traditional society into a modern one. But the effects that this transition had on human beings - economically, philosophically, and spiritually - have been given a monumental pangloss. The violent dislocations that accompanied 18th and 19th century European modernization gave rise to waves of violence, paranoia, hatred and chauvinism that reached their final crescendoes in totalitarianism and near-annihilation. While we tend to look at the development of Western societies as an escalating process of enlightenment, the reality has been very different. This failure to grapple fully with history now prevents us from understanding the experiences of the millions around the world, in Asia and Africa, who are now undergoing their own confrontation with modernity. Pankaj Mishra's "History of the Present" is an attempt to explain contemporary times in the context of modern European intellectual history. Today, millions around the world are now living through the same processes that Europeans faced in recent memory. Increasingly unmoored from traditional cultures and institutions, they have been forced, often violently, to confront the full implications of liberal individualism, globalization and Darwinian economic competition. Thanks to technology almost no one is insulated from the global commons anymore. "People with radically different pasts have been forced into a common present," thus forced into comparison of their standing in the world with that of all its other inhabitants, an inevitably fertile ground for waves of envy and 'ressentiment'. While we may define ourselves in radically different forms, we are, as humans, almost all subject to the same phenomenon of mimetic thinking. We are locked in a never-ending game of reflecting upon "the other" as a means of evaluating ourselves, mimicking what we want and desiring it because it is what others possess. When we don't have it, and we don't resemble others as we feel we should, anger builds. This is process that is invariably heightened in conditions of radically inequality. As Mishra shows even violence is mimetic - something that the Guantanamo-jumpsuit clad hostages of ISIS can attest. Though the dynamic has now become global, the phenomenon of comparison, resentment and reaction is not unprecedented. Following the cultural and political ascendance of France in the 18th century, many in Russia and Germany (late-modernizing countries) were forced to confront the implications of their own sudden inferiority to their neighbor. The arrogant attitude of world-defining French intellectuals, coupled with the achievements of French nation-builders, bred longing among their foreign observers. When this longing was met with French imperial aggression, it bred a toxic mix of humiliation and rage among many Germans and Russians. This ultimately gave rise to ideologies of supremacism and chauvinism, (with origins in German Romanticism) as well as violent radicalism and the belief in mass politics and hatred as a means of remaking the world. Terrorism has roots here, as does genocide and totalitarianism - the logic of a burning desire to make the world "right" as soon as possible, and without tolerating moral constraints on such an effort. A similar dynamic has helped give rise to groups like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria today. Human beings have a natural desire for equality of conditions and regard from others that equates with their own self-image. When pressed into situations of humiliation and subservience, particularly with violence, they have learned to react with radical solutions to put the world back in order, so to speak. While ISIS may claim to harken back to a medieval past, just as many of their radical European forerunners did, their entire attempt to create a utopia here on earth (the "Caliphate") is alien to traditional religions which have generally taught people to await patiently their utopia in the afterlife. The "fatalism" that early European orientalists described in Africa and Asia, including among traditional Muslims, is nowhere to be found in the behavior or rhetoric of such groups. Who they do resemble however are the anarchists, chauvinists, ideologues and political radicals who created our modern categories of political community and who often counseled massive bloodletting as a means of creating a new world. The apparent love of violence for its own sake and the radical individualism of the "lone wolf" also have their roots in Europe's break with modernity, and the discontents who attempted to reshape the world, or at least their own experience of it. The book moves from the competing perspectives of Voltaire (the confident neoliberal) and Rousseau (the populist critic of modernity and "amour propre"), to the ideological reaction of the German Romantics and Russian novelists like Dostoyevsky (including a few powerful excerpts of Dostoyevsky's reaction upon confronting the of the "Crystal Palace" in France) and finally to the radicalism of Nietzsche, Giuseppe Mazzini, Bakunin and others who taught the urgent need to fashion a New Man and New Community in the face of modernity. These intellectuals are also the ones who directly passed the torch to the Asians and Africans who created the post-colonial world, and whose descendants are now struggling with its legacy. The subtext of this book is "A History of the Present" but it could also have been called "A Guide for the Perplexed." It provides the invaluable service of demystifying various different groups and movements around the world who are rebelling against existence in various forms. A group like ISIS seems to make no sense in the chronology of our received intellectual history, but it comes into much greater focus when juxtaposed with the bloodlust, xenophobia, and confidence of modern revolutionaries in Italy, Russia and elsewhere. Their mimetic response to early-modern radicalism in Europe is not so different than the mimesis of modernizing Middle Eastern elites who also looked to Western exemplars for a path forward to modernity. As Mishra shows the same dynamic is at play with Hindu nationalists, right-wing populist movements and Chinese nationalists. We are all locked in one grand dialogue - more than ever thanks to continued advances in information technology - and have long since ceased to exist in separate ideological worlds. This is a book that I suspect, somewhat sadly, will continue to be relevant to our political futures.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week: In a ground-breaking new analysis, Pankaj Mishra traces the tangled roots of hatreds and nationalisms across the world. Inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate for President, as well as Brexit, the author attempts to re-examine the divided modern world. Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from the writings of phi From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week: In a ground-breaking new analysis, Pankaj Mishra traces the tangled roots of hatreds and nationalisms across the world. Inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate for President, as well as Brexit, the author attempts to re-examine the divided modern world. Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from the writings of philosophers to the end of the Cold War. Indeed, at the end of the Cold War, there was a belief that the global capitalist economy would alleviate ethnic and religious differences to usher in prosperity and peace. This belief, he states, now lies in tatters, with no alternative in sight, and with economic power shifting from the West. Meanwhile, the IMF suggests that emerging economies will take much longer to catch up economically with the West than was previously believed. Further, Mishra looks at nationalism, alienation, xenophobia, the 'lone wolf' and the pack behind him, domestic terrorism and the frustration and resentment both aimed at the West and from those in the West who are alienated. He introduces us to the people at the heart of much of the action as we discover the causes and consequences of their beliefs and their actions. Read by Pankaj Mishra Produced by David Roper A Heavy Entertainment production for BBC Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08fll1l

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Armour

    Will man ein Buch besprechen, das den Titel DAS ZEITALTER DES ZORNS trägt, wird man wohl nicht umhin kommen, Bezug auf die unmittelbare Gegenwart zu nehmen. Zorn, so scheint es, ist das zeitgenössische Movens, die vorherrschende Emotion, weltweit. Zornige Männer wählen andere zornige Männer, die die Welt wieder so einrichten sollen, wie sie nie gewesen ist; junge zornige Männer rotten sich in den verschiedensten Gegenden dieser schönen Welt zusammen und begehren gegen…was auch immer auf. In Syri Will man ein Buch besprechen, das den Titel DAS ZEITALTER DES ZORNS trägt, wird man wohl nicht umhin kommen, Bezug auf die unmittelbare Gegenwart zu nehmen. Zorn, so scheint es, ist das zeitgenössische Movens, die vorherrschende Emotion, weltweit. Zornige Männer wählen andere zornige Männer, die die Welt wieder so einrichten sollen, wie sie nie gewesen ist; junge zornige Männer rotten sich in den verschiedensten Gegenden dieser schönen Welt zusammen und begehren gegen…was auch immer auf. In Syrien und dem Irak treten sie als Banden des IS auf, vorgeblich einen Gottesstaat zu errichten, in den USA macht sich eine abrutschende weiße Mittelschicht, im Kern patriarchal definiert, auf, eine letzte Schlacht in Verteidigung ihrer historischen Vormachtstellung zu schlagen, und in sächsischen Kleinstädten machen wütende, angeblich perspektivlose junge Männer Jagd auf andere junge Männer, die eine dunklere Hautfarbe haben, aus ihrer Heimat vor Krieg, Elend und Hunger geflohen sind und ebenfalls eine gehörige Portion Wut im Bauch tragen: Wut darüber, historisch seit Jahrhunderten zu den Verlierern zu gehören, ausgeliefert an Kräfte, die sich fernab, in europäischen Hauptstädten, über ungenaue Karten beugen und mit schnellen Strichen ganze Regionen neu ordnen, ungeachtet lokaler Besonderheiten oder kultureller Bedürfnisse. Seit den 1970er Jahren entstand weltweit ein Forschungsgebiet, das man grob mit dem Begriff der cultural studies umschreiben kann, und das sich unter anderem mit den Folgen des Kolonialismus, des europäischen Imperialismus beschäftigte und daraus resultierend (und in Bezug auf die Zeitläufte) oftmals an feministische Untersuchungen zur Rolle der Frau in der damals noch sogenannten „3. Welt“ gekoppelt war. Folgt man Standardwerken wie Edward Saids ORIENTALISM (1978) oder Gayatri Chakravorty Spivaks bahnbrechendem Essay CAN THE SUBALTERN SPEAK? (1988), aber auch neueren Texten vor allem afrikanischer Theoretiker wie Achille Mbembe (POLITIK DER FEINDSCHAFT/2016), lernt man – neben etlichen Gedanken, die das Nach-Denken lohnen - vor allem eines: Wie Geschichte funktioniert. Denn ohne den Rückbezug auf Europa und die europäische Geschichte, vor allem die Kulturgeschichte, sind nah-, wie fernöstliche, afrikanische oder gar südamerikanische Geschichte und Entwicklung kaum mehr zu denken. Und wie auch, wenn die Entwicklung dieser Kontinente und ihrer Länder fast 400 Jahre lang durch die europäische Ausbeutung und Unterdrückung geprägt war, was natürlich auch das Selbstbild der Menschen dieser Kontinente und ihrer Länder maßgeblich mit-gestaltet hat. Cultural Studies sind also auch immer eine Selbstvergewisserung, identitätsstiftend und ein Beitrag zur gegenwärtigen Standortbestimmung. Pankaj Mishra erfüllt diese Kategorien mit DAS ZEITALTER DES ZORNS. Vielleicht liegt sein Schwerpunkt eher auf tagesaktuellen Entwicklungen, greift er doch gerade den eingangs beschrieben Zustand globaler Erzürnung auf, doch mit seinem weiten Ausgriff in die europäische Kulturgeschichte vor allem des 19. Jahrhunderts wird sein Text eben auch zu genau der Reflexion, die seine Referenzpunkte in der abendländischen Philosophie spiegelt und in einen außereuropäischen Referenzrahmen stellt, sozusagen neu verortet. Der Wutbürger, global gesehen, wird dabei von Mishra ebenfalls als europäischer Exportartikel ausgestellt, was er vor allem aus den aufklärungs- und zivilisationskritischen Schriften vornehmlich deutscher Autoren des 19. Jahrhunderts ableitet. Ob Theoretiker wie Nietzsche, Marx oder Stirner, oder Vertreter der Tat, wie Bakunin: Die Idee des radikalen Umbruchs, der Revolution, des weltlichen Himmelreichs, das mit Gewalt zu errichten sei, fand ihren Ursprung in den innereuropäischen Kulturkämpfen in Folge der Aufklärung und der Französischen Revolution. Auch dazu unternimmt Mishra einen langen Exkurs und vollzieht die Entwicklung des Aufklärungs-Projekts (das ein solches nie war, eher nachträglich aufgegriffen so verstanden wurde) als eines nach, das im Kern nie als Massenbewegung gedacht gewesen sei. Natürlich hat er damit nicht unrecht, nach modernen Maßstäben dachten auch die Vertreter der europäischen Aufklärung den „Menschen“ als universelles Wesen vor allem weiß. Und meist auch männlich. Mishra zeigt noch einmal die verschlungenen Wege auf, die Ideen wie „Volk“ und „Nation“ auch und gerade durch Aufklärer, die sich zugleich schon als Kritiker des aufklärerischen Gedankens verstanden, wie Rousseau, in die europäische Welt kamen und weshalb diese Ideen gerade in Deutschland nach den Erfahrungen mit Napoleon schnell attraktiv wurden und um sich griffen. Fast organisch ist die Hinführung zu den Reaktionen des 19. Jahrhunderts und den wiederum daraus folgenden Entwicklungen hin zu den Nationalismen und Ideologien des 20. Jahrhunderts. Ebenso verdeutlicht Mishra, daß wesentliche Vertreter der Aufklärung – namentlich Voltaire – oftmals Wasser predigten und Wein tranken. So werden natürlich selbst die Denker als Zeugen wider ihre eigenen Ideen angeführt. Allerdings wagt Mishra es, auf diesem Wege die Ideen selbst zumindest in Frage zu stellen, wenn nicht zum Teil offen anzuzweifeln. Eine für den europäischen Rezipienten schwer zu ertragender Standpunkt, der sich allerdings aus der Perspektive Mishras durchaus erklärt. Hier tut sich das eigentliche Spannungsfeld des Buches auf. Denn obwohl sich Mishras Text durch eine enorme Kenntnis europäischer Philosophie auszeichnet, seine Hinführung also durchaus zwingend erscheint, liegt eine - vielleicht die einzige - Gefahr seines Textes auch genau darin. Ein kenntnisreicher Leser, der gerade die Geschichte der Aufklärung - also vor allem die oft verschlungene, manchmal durchaus widersprüchliche Geschichte, die in den Kernländern der Aufklärung wie Frankreich, England und einzelnen deutschen Kleinstaaten sowie Preußen jeweils eine sehr eigene Ausprägung gewann – kennt, wird schnell merken, daß dies eine Engführung ist, die genau die Thesen bedient, die Mishra vertritt. So werden einzelne Topoi, wie der „edle Wilde“ herausgegriffen – zugegeben ein wirklich schwieriger Begriff, der seinen ganz eigenen Beitrag zum europäischen Blick auf fremde Völker und Kulturen beigetragen hat, der allerdings einer sehr genauen Untersuchung in seinem zeitlichen, auch seinem linguistischen Kontext und eine differenzierte Definition zwischen seinem historischen Gebrauch und seinem gegenwärtigen Bedeutungsrahmen verlangte - , um inhaltlich zu unterfüttern, worauf der Autor hinauswill. Und er hat natürlich recht, wenn er andeutet, daß europäische Lösungen für europäische Probleme möglicherweise nicht für die Lösungen asiatischer oder afrikanischer Länder taugen. Die Ideen als solche aber anzugreifen, kann nicht der Weg sein, stellt sich doch schnell die Frage nach dem Umkehrschluß: Was bedeutet es, in einer Welt, einer Gesellschaft zu leben, in der nicht die Regeln der Aufklärung gelten? Mishras Analyse kommt zu dem Schluß, daß ein entfesselter globaler Kapitalismus langsam auch jene frisst, die ihn überhaupt erst im Kontext ihrer Geschichte entworfen, geprägt, entwickelt, verbreitet und schließlich entfesselt haben: Die westlichen Nationen, die sich unter dem Banner von Demokratie, Menschenrechten, Aufklärung und Wohlstand (inklusive dem Recht auf „Glück“) einst aufmachten, die Welt nach ihrem Bild zu formen. Aber war das wirklich so? Wollten sie das? Weder der britische, noch der französische oder der (verspätete) deutsche Kolonialismus haben sich jemals wirklich so verhalten. Eher als daß sie fremde Länder „geformt“ hätten, haben sie sie „mißbraucht“ , ausgepresst und die einheimische Bevölkerung dabei meist als feindlichen Fremdkörper behandelt, wenn nicht gar ausgerottet. Dennoch sickerte europäische Lebensart in die kolonisierten Länder, europäisches Ordnungs- und Bürokratiedenken und somit auch europäische Ideen, die allerdings – Spivaks Essay gibt darüber beredt´ Zeugnis – im Laufe der Jahrhunderte ihre eigenen Ausprägungen und Ausformungen entwickelten und dabei oftmals auch Verbindungen eingingen (religiös-nationalistischer Natur, wie in Indien, wovon Mishra eindringlich berichtet), die so nie vorgesehen waren. Und in dieser Form zum Teil nach Europa zurückschwappten. Denn Europa hatte in den fernen Ländern und seinen Völkern immer auch eine Projektionsfläche, die die eigene Geschichte, aber auch die Ängste und verdrängten Nöte reflektierten. Es ist die Perspektive dieser Wechselwirkung, die Mishra einnimmt und untersucht. Die Wechselwirkung zwischen europäischen Ideen, europäischen Versprechungen und der Enttäuschung, festzustellen, an diesen Versprechen, gerade was Wohlstand und ökonomische Entwicklung betrifft, nicht teilzuhaben, bringt jenen Zorn hervor, der als scheinbar neues Phänomen Europa, die USA, den Westen, vor allem aber seine Lebensart anzugreifen droht – in Form des Migranten, der seine zur Wüste verödete Heimat verlässt und um jeden Preis in die „Festung Europa“ eindringen will; des „schwarzen Manns“, der eine fremde, vermeintlich wilde, unzivilisierte Kultur repräsentiert; des Moslems, der eine Religion vertritt, die angeblich feindselig und expansiv ist und „den Westen“, „das Abendland“, überrennen will, und schließlich in Form des entfesselten Terroristen, der in einer Horde auftritt, die an Vorbilder aus apokalyptischen Filmen gemahnt, nebst des unscheinbaren, anonymen Einzeltäters, der seinen Körper zum Schlachtfeld erklärt und zum Teil der tödlichen Waffe macht. Und dieser Zorn steht wiederum in Wechselwirkung zu dem Zorn jener im Westen, die, geschichtsvergessen bis offen revisionistisch, Abschottung, Vertreibung Fremder und Austreibung des Islam fordern, darüber hinaus aber auch die liberalen Errungenschaften des Westens – Frauenwahlrecht, Gleichberechtigung, Rechtsstaatlichkeit und eine funktionierende Zivilgesellschaft – angreifen und zurückschrauben möchten. So kommt die Kultur global ins Schlingern und findet sich unter äußerem wie innerem Druck. Mishra wirft einen interessanten, intensiven Blick auf diese Entwicklungen, droht allerdings in seiner thematischen Engführung gelegentlich in regelrecht antiaufklärerische Gefilde abzudriften, was man ihm allerdings nicht als gewollt unterstellen sollte. Vielleicht ist die offen geübte Kritik an der Entwicklung und an gewissen Auswüchsen der Aufklärung und vor allem der historischen Verarbeitung ihrer politischen Auswüchse als Revolution im 19. Jahrhundert in den Augen eines Europäers ein Sakrileg. Vielleicht sollte man als erstes die eigene Reaktion im Leseprozeß überprüfen. Doch auch bei mehrmaligem Lesen und bei genauerem Durchdringen der Thesen von Pankaj Mishra kommt man zu dem Schluß, daß dies bestenfalls ein Beitrag sein kann, eine These unter vielen, die dem westlichen Rezipienten einen erweiterten Blick auf die eigene Geschichte und die Auswirkung dieser immer noch all zu oft eurozentrisch wahrgenommen Geschichte auf die Welt als globaler Einheit bietet.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Page 91-92 (my book) Jean-Jacques Rousseau “All these grand words of society, of justice, of law, of mutual defence, of help for the weak, of philosophy and of progress of reason are only lures invented by clever politicians, or by base flatterers to impose themselves on the simple.” This is definitely an interesting book overflowing with ideas and concepts. It is philosophical in tone. There are many aspects that were new to me – and I certainly didn’t agree with everything. Every page can jump f Page 91-92 (my book) Jean-Jacques Rousseau “All these grand words of society, of justice, of law, of mutual defence, of help for the weak, of philosophy and of progress of reason are only lures invented by clever politicians, or by base flatterers to impose themselves on the simple.” This is definitely an interesting book overflowing with ideas and concepts. It is philosophical in tone. There are many aspects that were new to me – and I certainly didn’t agree with everything. Every page can jump from era to era and individuals (Voltaire, Rousseau, Nietzsche, - and Trump). Even though the sub-title is “A History of the Present” it is much more about the European past in the age of the Enlightenment. The author relates this to our current era. And the author is often given to rhetorical flourishes – some excellent and biting – some overcooked! Page 336 Constantly evolving mobile media technologies such as smart phones, tablets, and wearable devices have made every moment pregnant with the possibility of a sign from somewhere. Page 75 The irrepressibly glamorous god of materialism has superseded the religions and cultures of the past in the life and thought of most non-Western peoples. The main premise of the book is that the Age of Enlightenment (Voltaire) ushered a liberation from religion as being the structure of life – with the possibility of happiness in the afterlife – to a more scientific and rational way of living. The superstition of religion in Western Europe was replaced with the idea of the nation-state – that proposed in France “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” – in the U.S. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Secular society – the nation-state – now became responsible for establishing the above concepts in the new liberal age. The trouble is that it never accomplished this to everyone’s satisfaction. It promised a utopia but could never deliver. Some groups felt left out, victimized... There were periods of peace in 19th century Europe – but other “citizens” became vastly disheartened with their “Enlightenment status”. This led to abominable consequences in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Countries like Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan were unsuccessful in building their liberal Enlightenment and turned to vicious alternatives. They felt victimized by perceived enemies. The author posits that this is happening again. Countries, such as India, Russia, have become disillusioned with the “liberal Enlightenment” and are looking for alternatives. Many are moving to more authoritarian regimes. The “disenfranchised” feel removed from the democratic process. This has led to the election of Trump, of Brexit, and the rise of right-wing parties. The author also uses this to explain the lure of ISIS to those in Western societies who feel marginalized (more on this later). This proposes a bleak and disheartening future. Is there another world conflagration on the horizon – as more and more perceive their governments to be inept at providing essential services? They look to more extremist options. Page 340 Burdened by uncontrollable social unrest, and irreversible climate change, Indians and Chinese will never enjoy in their lifetime the condition of a civilized urban existence that a few millions in Europe and America enjoyed intermittently through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Page 80 Christians in Rust belt America and post-communist Poland as well as long-bearded Muslims in France push a narrative of victimhood and heroic struggle between the faithful and the unfaithful, the authentic and unauthentic. Page 169-70 Germany in the late 19th century Feeling marginalized by the sophisticated socio-economic order [Rights of Man] emerging in western Europe, and its aggressive rationalism and individualism, these young men started to idealize what they took to be the true Volk, an organic community united by a distinctive language, ways of thought, shared traditions and a collective memory enshrined in folklore and fable – versus the abstract universal individual equipped with reason. The author explains that the abstract theories of the Enlightenment - the betterment of man through rational science – eventually led to nationalism, which was less rational and more deadly. Page 333 Too many people, Tocqueville warned, were living a “sort of fancied equality” despite the actual inequality of their lives. Page 321 Alexander Herzen “They have lit new desires in the hearts of men, but they have not provided ways of satisfying them.” I find the authors’ explanations of those finding a meaning in ISIS (or radical Islam) insufficient. He overlooks the fact that Islam was not affected by the Enlightenment; Christianity had to give way to the more secular and rational world of science. His discourse on the Charlie Hebdo murders was flippant. There were demonstrations across the Muslim world when these cartoons were published. If this is not a clash of civilizations, of values – what isn’t? There are so many issues and theories raised that one feels pulverized – it feels like a nail-gun boring into you! But this book makes you think!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paul O'Leary

    Our Mr Mishra is a bit of a flirt. That, there's no use denying. He drops semi-obscure and esoteric names left and right, though before we can catch our breath with awe, or before too much is even said, he pirouettes over to the next gentleman. I get it. Best not to keep one's feet too firmly in place if covering the complete social map of cultural history during modern times is important to you. This flitting attribute makes for a lively and convivial character...at a cotillion. For an author o Our Mr Mishra is a bit of a flirt. That, there's no use denying. He drops semi-obscure and esoteric names left and right, though before we can catch our breath with awe, or before too much is even said, he pirouettes over to the next gentleman. I get it. Best not to keep one's feet too firmly in place if covering the complete social map of cultural history during modern times is important to you. This flitting attribute makes for a lively and convivial character...at a cotillion. For an author of a serious publication addressing our stressful political times, I have to admit, it feels a bit coquettish. Maybe even indecently so. But then, he does drape the beginning of this screed with the likes of D'annunzio, so I guess I can't say I wasn't formally warned. What's worse, though, is that he returns to him. This isn't typical for the most part, however. A Stirner here. A Wyndham Lewis there. The briefest nod to Kierkegaard or Kitaro. Keep the party going. Look at all the interesting guests! This was the overall feeling I received from the first half of the book. Unfortunately, I was mostly familiar with the party list already, so I might have been less than suitably impressed. In fact, I almost walked out around the middle of it. By the end, I'm mostly glad I didn't. Mishra settles down somewhat in the second half to some more substantive slow dancing with a select group of his favorite partners(Rousseau, Bakunin, for examples that betray something of the book's tone). The gist of the substance is that around the time of the French Revolution many people were upset over their meager station in life. Of course they had been before, but the revolution indicated that they were inclined not to take it any more. Turns out, despite their best efforts, they were quite wrong. And though monarchy was mostly swept away or rendered effete by the emergence of capitalism, many folk still believed they got a raw deal. Maybe they were better off before? Ahh, but it's too late to go back to the way things were, reply those quite better off. And look at all the wondrous things now available for sale on an open market, if only you had the money to buy them... Thus came to be the generally disgruntled, semi-educated never-do-well who knew he was destined never to do well the way things were. Rather than try hard to succeed or assimilate, anger and violence offered a quick fix and a method of dismantling the object of offense(whatever that might currently be). This dichotomy of success and failure(or perceived failure) animates our global history right down to this day according to Mishra. Even parenthesizes it. All the cultural history in this book(and there's plenty) basically serves as bunting to this general modern social dynamic of economic & psychological friction. Reading through this work I was reminded of Sloterdijk's much more imaginative Rage and Time, which Mishra never mentions, even in his bibliographic essay. I suspect Sloterdijk's notion of a Rage Bank to be far too mercantile for Mishra's rather socialist tastes. However, this segues nicely to my next gripe with this work. Mishra may use quotation marks for borrowed material, but he doesn't directly cite quotes, leaving the reader to guess where he retrieved his outside pulp from in his bibliographic essay. Need I say it's Inexcusable for a book of this sort not to directly cite its sources. Topicality doesn't mean unmoored from sources. Mishra does an able job illustrating the inherent conflict between our present day politics of identity promoting the virtue of difference chafing against the equally lauded cosmopolitan method of inclusion regardless of difference. Ultimately, this chafing bespeaks a starkly divided polis, often times reduced vulgarly to that of the haves and have nots. As this division is mostly qualitative, rather than actually quantitative, relativism reigns amid this slide into anarchy where ISIS soldiers know little of the tenets of traditional Islam according to Mishra and rich politicos, buttressed by genuine popular support, espouse the virtues of the people they cynically exploit. Mishra is rather convincing in his argument that terrorism is ultimately less about cause, more about temperament. Mishra's point behind his extensive history lesson is that this temperament has continued to grow, not diminish, with rapid technological progress. The current search for political grandeur so widespread among nations today really exposes our diseases of discontent rather than indicate any authentic search for their bonafide cure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Haters are gonna hate. They really don't need Rousseau or Voltaire to justify their beliefs. They'll figure how to make those they don't like into the other one way or another. This book tries to give a depth of coherence to the anger of haters. I'm leery of books that favorably quote Niall Ferguson, a man who lacks any depth beyond sound bites, or Allan Bloom, a frustrated stick in the mud who never got past 'no fault insurance and no fault divorce' or thinks music died after Wagnerian opera, o Haters are gonna hate. They really don't need Rousseau or Voltaire to justify their beliefs. They'll figure how to make those they don't like into the other one way or another. This book tries to give a depth of coherence to the anger of haters. I'm leery of books that favorably quote Niall Ferguson, a man who lacks any depth beyond sound bites, or Allan Bloom, a frustrated stick in the mud who never got past 'no fault insurance and no fault divorce' or thinks music died after Wagnerian opera, or Edmund Burke, who Burkean bells always go off in my ears when I hear him quoted because 'why can't all conservatives be as wise as we pretend he was', or Alexis de Tocqueville, who is always quoted by conservatives to show something I never really quite understand about the US but my gut tells me its got something to do with their mantra of conservatism with their ad mixture of 'community, character and Christianity' is all we need to make perfect patriotic citizens out of all of us and why can't the rest of the world be as good as them dang capitalistic liberty loving equality be darned Americans of 1836. The author does a good job at explaining the philosophical roots of some of the hate movements of the past and the present. After having read his section on Timothy McVeigh and his sympathetic presentation I momentarily would forget how despicable of a human being he really was. The author is presenting facts, yes, but I really think fascist, neo-nazis, and anti-humanist would enjoy this book because it shows coherently the ontological foundations of their creeds for hating. The ultimate group that makes them into us against an other can be religion, but this book skirted that for the most part except for the extreme Hindi nationalist movement. Overall, I really don't think Donald Trump has read his Nietzsche and that's not what motivates his anger, resentment or petty thinking.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Umair Khan

    The world is passing through turbulent times. There is unrest and disarray. Global values of liberty, equality and fraternity advanced by the Western nations are challenged by not only the eastern societies but also by large groups in the very western societies as well. The losers of history in a wave of populism are challenging the global order shaped by the western elites across the globe. Scholars are in a state of perplexity and finding it difficult to explain this whole chaos. Age of Anger The world is passing through turbulent times. There is unrest and disarray. Global values of liberty, equality and fraternity advanced by the Western nations are challenged by not only the eastern societies but also by large groups in the very western societies as well. The losers of history in a wave of populism are challenging the global order shaped by the western elites across the globe. Scholars are in a state of perplexity and finding it difficult to explain this whole chaos. Age of Anger – A History of the Present is the latest attempt by British based Indian author to find a link between various kinds of resentment that we are witnessing today and its historical origins. No account of our times that is discussing global upheavals, systemic flaws and structural inadequacies can ignore Francis Fukuyama’s End of History thesis and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations antithesis. So, Pankaj Mishra dissects the utopian triumphalism inherent in Fukuyama’s self-styled prophetic proclamation and Huntington’s dystopia based on a perpetual conflict of multiple civilisations and holds them challenges the basic assumption common to both theories, ie, superiority of Enlightenment and its by-products of Capitalism and democracy over any other ideology. Pankaj Mishra is in line with the tradition of Karl Marx when he highlights the internal contradictions of the contemporary neo-liberal order like Karl Marx did with the 18th century capitalism. Mishra blames neo-liberalism and the promises it makes to everyone of prosperity, but couldn’t keep, for the disillusionment of masses both in developed as well as developing countries. This trend can be observed in the Brexit, popularity of Le Pen in France, rise of Donald Trump, policies of Erdogan, and shenanigans of Narendra Modi. Demagogues of our times are exploiting the fears and disgust of their people by stoking a false sense of national superiority. But, they are closely allied and protecting the interests of the rich elites of their societies. Therefore, the nationalistic jingoism is a smokescreen being used to advance the same free-market agenda that produced the populist uprisings that they cashed to come to power. However, unlike Marx, Mishra has quite intelligently only provided a critique of the existing chaos and has not offered any coherent solution. It is the solution part that is almost impossible to come up with and even if theoretical solutions are presented, their implementation brings fundamental changes to them. Marx is rarely criticised for his diagnosis of the problem. Majority of his critics do not agree with his prescription though. And it is also debatable how far the systems established in Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Yugoslavia and other communist regimes adhered to the teachings of Marx. Mishra is of the view that these populist upheavals cannot be understood without examining the history of rise of Enlightenment ideals in Western Europe and how they were introduced to the rest of the world. Modernity, for the rest of the world, was an onslaught of the colonial powers on the local resources that treated indigenous cultures as inferior to the Enlightenment ethos. The freedom movements in majority of these areas, like India or Egypt, were centred on the idea of nationalism borrowed from the same western thought but with a flavour of local myths and exceptionalism in a world of fast changing identities. Modernity, in the post-colonial societies, created two camps: that westernised class that favoured it and those groups which looked to their glorious pasts to forge a unique identity for themselves. Based on this unique identity, they took upon themselves the task of dominating in the competitive world. This clash, according to Mishra, cannot be reduced to a clash of civilizations as Huntington did. It is not a recent phenomenon. It started in the 19th century central Europe, mainly Germany, in response to the conquests of Napoleon. There are other scholars who are also worrisome about this rising tide of Populism. Slavoj Zizek, a continental philosopher, writes in one of his articles “We encounter here the old dilemma: What happens to democracy if the majority is inclined to vote for racist and sexist laws? It’s easy to imagine a democratised Europe with a much more engaged citizenry in which the majority of governments are formed by anti-immigrant populist parties.” Noam Chomsky is a staunch critic of Neo-liberalism and wrote in his book, Profit Over People, “Standard economic history recognizes that state intervention has played a central role in economic growth. But its impact is underestimated because of too narrow a focus. To mention one major omission, the industrial revolution relied on cheap cotton, mainly from the United States. It was kept cheap and available not by market forces, but by elimination of the indigenous population and slavery. There were of course other cotton producers. Prominent among them was India. Its resources flowed to England, while its own advanced textile industry was destroyed by British protectionism and force.” Mishra also tries to put Islamic extremism in the same context. He is critical of the American response to the 9/11 attacks. He digs a whole series of terrorist attacks dating back to late 19th century and how they were responded to, almost always though law enforcing agencies. Bush, however, responded militarily and majority of people in the world have been conditioned by the western media that it is legitimate to decimate whole countries in response to a singular attack. Mishra is also critical of the scholars who blame teachings of Islam to be responsible for the terrorism committed by the Jihadists. He puts these jihadists in the same line of dissidents that have historically rejected and reacted against Enlightenment, Modernity, and Free market Capitalism. Tracing the ideological roots of the dissidents of Enlightenment, Mishra goes back again and again to Rousseau and puts his against Voltaire, the quintessential Enlightenment man. From Rousseau he moves on to Mazzini, Nietzche, Bakunin, Herzen, Zarqawi, and several others. The ideologues of ISIS, according to Mishra, are cashing the hatred and a sense of loss in the Muslim population as Modi and Trump are exploiting Hindu and White supremacists. Apart from this commonality between these two trends of populism and terrorism, there is little that can be presented as an example of a unified response to the same underlying problems. At this point, Mishra’s argument seems to be a bit strained. The narrative of Mishra is difficult to comprehend because it consists of several layers of investigation including social, political, economic, psychological, and philosophical. It is the interplay of these layers that makes the narrative complex. Then, there is the problem that most of the scholars that Mishra has cited are mostly unknown to the readers of the Anglo-American writers who ignore the voices of those, which have been defeated by them in the battles of the last two centuries. This aspect of Mishra’s book makes it highly informative though. Moreover, Mishra has not stick to the traditional method of presenting his historical evidence in a chronological fashion. The frequent jumps to distant occurrences both spatially and temporally creates a maze of sticky notes like the products of stream of consciousness. Reading Age of Anger is an informative and genuinely thought provoking experience with loads of historical examples and scholarly discussions. Sometimes, it appears to be a long array of info-bits from the archives of literature, art, politics, and history. But, it can be taken as a challenge by a serious reader to grasp all this information to get to the crux of the argument presented by Mishra. Overall, it is a brilliant attempt to tackle a difficult subject and essential to make sense of the perplexities of the world today. Source: http://dailytimes.com.pk/arts-culture...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Monk

    Kind of all over the place. An intellectual who writes about intellectuals. There were some good insights, but yawning gulfs of boredom in between.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    In his latest work, one which is likely to provoke strong reactions from the left and right, Pankaj Mishra attempts to, as he puts it, "explore a particular climate of ideas, a structure of feeling, and cognitive disposition, from the age of Rousseau to our own age of anger." This anger that he identifies is not a simplistic emotional reaction but more in line with the concept of ressentiment - an existential resentment of other people's being, caused by an intense mix of envy and sense of humili In his latest work, one which is likely to provoke strong reactions from the left and right, Pankaj Mishra attempts to, as he puts it, "explore a particular climate of ideas, a structure of feeling, and cognitive disposition, from the age of Rousseau to our own age of anger." This anger that he identifies is not a simplistic emotional reaction but more in line with the concept of ressentiment - an existential resentment of other people's being, caused by an intense mix of envy and sense of humiliation and powerlessness. As aforementioned, he begins setting our modern political and societal anger in context by harkening back to several philosophers and thinkers beginning with the conflict between Voltaire and Rousseau, emphasizing, "The gulf between Voltaire and Rousseau was intellectual, moral, temperamental and fundamentally political. From the vantage point of the present, however, their disagreements over the meaning of modernity for backward peoples in the East have the profoundest implications." This dispute and its fallout over the ensuing centuries is expressed through the likes of Herder and Wagner in Germany, Mazzini, and D'Annunzio in Italy, as well as Savarkar and Ghandi in 20th century India. His summary is usually quite informative and dispassionate though as you will note when reading this, he has no love for the current Modi leadership in India and at several points breaks his narrative to get in a barb or two. While I genuinely think this is a thought-provoking examination of the ramifications of philosophical discontent and "ressentiment," Mishra spends so much time providing context that his connection to our current climate is somewhat rushed (occupying about 30 pages out of 350), and in the case of his diagnosis of the rise of ISIS, somewhat superficial and cheap. Thus, by the end of the narrative, we are given no connection to sweepingly generalized remarks such as, "The energy and ambition released by the individual will to power far exceed the capacity of existing political, social, and economic institutions. Thus, the trolls of Twitter as much as the dupes of ISIS lurch between feelings of impotence and fantasies of violent revenge." This is not to say that several of his analyses are not correct or at least worthy of further examination, my main critique is that he never really connects the dots between some of his excellent historical and philosophical examination with some of his remarks about modern, "ressentiment." Definitely worth a read though perhaps doesn't quite deliver as spectacularly well as it could have.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Awful

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ruchi Patel

    Well written history. Writing shows deep knowledge

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aidan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The main thesis of this thought-provoking book is that our sense of living in exceptional times is based upon a myth. Essentially, the myth that since the Enlightenment western progress has been driven by reason and that the liberal, market-based and tolerant society that has developed since is only now facing a series of unique threats. Specifically, the threat of unhinged nationalism and the death-cult of organisations like ISIS. Mishra argues (convincingly, as it happens) that the seeds of ou The main thesis of this thought-provoking book is that our sense of living in exceptional times is based upon a myth. Essentially, the myth that since the Enlightenment western progress has been driven by reason and that the liberal, market-based and tolerant society that has developed since is only now facing a series of unique threats. Specifically, the threat of unhinged nationalism and the death-cult of organisations like ISIS. Mishra argues (convincingly, as it happens) that the seeds of our modern crisis can be traced back to the debates at the heart of Enlightenment ideas and the failure of the Enlightenment to produce a society that benefited all - not in the 2000s, but in the 19th Century. The problems we have today are either the cast shadows or full fruit of the past. He argues that the clash between Voltaire and Rousseau lies at the heart of today's debates about nationhood, governance and the role of reason. Voltaire elevated reason to the heart of societal decision-making, and helped to inspire the Salon (a rarified atmosphere of free intellectual debate). However, this idealised version of his teachings ignores the fact that he was profoundly suspicious of the masses, called for the elimination of 'primitive' Turks and Poles and that the intellectual elite he helped bring to power (in France directly, but also of great influence in the Russian Court) simply replaced one unassailable group (the Clergy) with another (the cosmopolitan elite determined to impose their beliefs from the top down via their influence in court). Contrast that with Rousseau, who was not only an outsider because of discomfort with the rules and norms of Salon society, but also because he feared the tremendously disruptive influence of a society based upon 'reason' and self-interest. Instead, he turned to an idealised version of Spartan society as the model for nationhood. A society based upon common beliefs and ancestry, and a healthy suspicion of the cosmopolitan 'other'. The only appropriate response to the the imposition of ideas which devalue the nobility of people pursuing a greater collective cause was to use violence, if necessary, to reject the atomising and dehumanising aspects of Voltaire's beliefs. Furthermore, Bakunin's response to the failure of revolution (especially the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848) to cast off the shackles of emergent capitalism led to a new response - anarchic terrorism. Bakunin's role as a figure attracting nihilist, disaffected young men determined to weaken society through acts of theatrical terrorism-as-propaganda is directly (and convincingly) compared to ISIS and similar terrorist organisations. So, why read it? Because it clearly links contemporary issues to the intellectual roots from which they have developed. It also challenges us to abandon the mythology that what we are seeing now is a 'correction' in an otherwise largely smooth progress from the roots of Enlightenment to a global, tolerant, market-based economy that is embraced by all. Instead it argues that - whether it is Bakunin's anarchists in Spain, Modi's ethno-nationalists in India, Trump's assaults on the elites, the insistence that if only people would abandon 'superstition' and embrace reason, the emergence of the German 'Volk' in the 19th Century to disastrous effect in the 20th - the nature of progress and identity has always been contentious, fragmented and based around competing and inflammatory ideas. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    This book provided a comprehensive survey of the impact of philosophy and key literature on political thought. The author made clear that philosophy and literature were not simply responding to political thought throughout the ages, but shaping it as well. I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would, mainly because this author idolizes no one. It was a critique of just about every person included in the book. Often, he wrote about the accomplishments of specific influential people This book provided a comprehensive survey of the impact of philosophy and key literature on political thought. The author made clear that philosophy and literature were not simply responding to political thought throughout the ages, but shaping it as well. I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would, mainly because this author idolizes no one. It was a critique of just about every person included in the book. Often, he wrote about the accomplishments of specific influential people in history, giving the reader a positive image only to smash that image when he introduced all of the mistakes that each one of these potential heroes has made . That might have been my favorite part of the book. I felt constantly shamed for holding anyone as my hero. For example, I love both Russo and Voltaire. He extolled the virtues of each and then make darn sure the reader knew *every* shortcoming of each. Just when I was crushed most, having to suffer through some legitimate but extremely harsh critiques, he would begin to extoll their virtues once more. The take home message was that no one knows all things. Even those who have made great accomplishments and had progressive insights were still human and were still often quite mistaken about a number of things. If the author had a central message I think it might be that we can never live in a bubble. When you don't know, and fully understand, your history, you have effectively isolated yourself and you too, no matter what things you get right, will also get many things wrong. It's important to understand that some people are not trying to be progressive. They are trying to do what is best for them, which usually involves gaining power however they can. The message here was similar to the Dictators Handbook by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita, Alastair Smith in that both authors suggest that people seeking power will only serve the people as long as the people keep them in power. There are many ways to achieve this and each potential leader will use the tactic they predict will be the most successful. By understanding our history, we can see how some leaders take more than their share. What motivates young people from all over the globe, in every period of history, to rise up and fight? How does perceived or actual fairness factor in that motivation? How does the rest of the world see America? How can anger both shape freedom and equality and create groups who wish to oppress other groups? Considering that all citizens of the world are continually moving toward globalization, how can we do that and make sure things stay fair for everyone? Can it be done? Can we do it without spawning large hate groups? If you live in a bubble and refuse to make yourself aware of what is going on all over the globe, it's unlikely that any attempt at power will be long lasting or without great threat from these groups.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    Man is born to fit into a limited situation; he can understand simple, close and definite purposes, and he gets used to employing the means which are near at hand; but as soon as he goes any distance, he knows neither what he will nor what he should be doing. Goethe back in 1795. The current age of anger is basically a reaction against too much rapid change, of the breaking of traditional work cultures couple with the rise of individualism which in the age of the Internet is inevitable. So when Man is born to fit into a limited situation; he can understand simple, close and definite purposes, and he gets used to employing the means which are near at hand; but as soon as he goes any distance, he knows neither what he will nor what he should be doing. Goethe back in 1795. The current age of anger is basically a reaction against too much rapid change, of the breaking of traditional work cultures couple with the rise of individualism which in the age of the Internet is inevitable. So when a university graduate is forced to drive as an Uber driver in the knowledge that the billionaire owner of Uber is at best a university dropout than a natural tension is created, which is easily exploitable. The exploiters are everywhere, Modis, Erdogan's, Trumps or Conservative party exploiting the Brexit sentiments on the British. They channel the tension against the vulnerable immigrants instead of dealing with the tsunami of the technological revolution. If the much-developed states are vulnerable to this tension then is it much difficult to imagine ISIS which was formed into war-torn dysfunctional states? I am indebted to Mishra of finally bringing the tension in the developed and underdeveloped states in the same narrative, instead of purely ISIS bashing experience which I normally get to read.

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