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Age Of Anger: A History Of The Present by Pankaj Mishra

The Blurb On The Back:

How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable – from American “shooters” and ISIS to Trump, from a rise in vengeful nationalism across the world to racism and misogyny on social media?


In Age Of Anger, Pankaj Mishra answers our bewilderment by casting his gaze back to the eighteenth century, before leading us to the present.

He shows that as the world became modern those who were unable to fulfil its promises – freedom, stability and prosperity – were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who were left, or pushed, behind, reacting in horrifyingly similar ways: intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence.

Making startling connections and comparisons, Age of Anger is a book of immense urgency and profound argument. It is a history of our present predicament unlike any other.




Inspired by the rise of the Hindu nationalists to government in India in 2014, Pankaj Mishra attempts in this book to explain that the rise of the demagogues together with the attraction of extremist groups such as ISIS to the westernised youth. He specifically draws parallels between the current world situation with the political, economic and social disorder that occurred during the right of the 19th century European capitalist economies and involved notions of the clash of civilisations and obvious inequalities that led to widespread anger but goes on to argue that the modern plight is heightened by the promotion of individualism and the rise of globalisation.

Central to the book is the notion of “ressentiment” or the increase in mutual hatred and irritability against everyone else and Mishra takes on subjects from the rise of Hindu nationalism, the rise of ISIS and the rise of far-right demagogues like Le Pen and Trump. A lot of research has gone into this book, with Mishra citing a dazzling array of political philosophers including Nietzsche, Hegel, and Rousseau. For me the most interesting parts of the book were where Mishra draws parallels between the ideologies of Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma bomber) and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef (who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center attack) and I was interested to learn that they were in adjacent cells in prison.

It’s a prescient book – not least given the vote for Brexit and Trump’s impending presidency – and it’s chilling to read of the 19th century and 20th century attacks on liberal elites as the same language is used again today. Some of the political philosophy went over my head and Mishra covers such a wide array of time periods and political movements that at times it was difficult to keep up but I found his arguments convincing and fascinating and I would definitely check out his other work.

The Verdict:

Inspired by the rise of the Hindu nationalists to government in India in 2014, Pankaj Mishra attempts in this book to explain that the rise of the demagogues together with the attraction of extremist groups such as ISIS to the westernised youth. He specifically draws parallels between the current world situation with the political, economic and social disorder that occurred during the right of the 19th century European capitalist economies and involved notions of the clash of civilisations and obvious inequalities that led to widespread anger but goes on to argue that the modern plight is heightened by the promotion of individualism and the rise of globalisation.

AGE OF ANGER will be released in the United Kingdom on 26th January 2017. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.
Tags: amazon vine programme, history, non-fiction, pankaj mishra, philosophy, politics, sociology
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