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From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against…

From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of…

by Pankaj Mishra

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An interesting history of anti-colonial intellectual life in the East during the greatest days of Imperialism. Mishra's new book is one much needed by Western readers. It's a necessary corrective. It's loaded with information about intellectuals in the Muslim world, China and India most of whom I have never heard of before. Each of these men--Jamal al din al-Afghani, Liang Qichao, Rabindranath Tagore and others--possessed insights into the true nature of Western nations' motivations in Asia. They saw the dependence by Eastern states on the West and knew nothing good would come of it. They saw that their own states were weak and predisposed to this manipulation because of aspects in their own cultures, say, favoring authoritarianism or the blandishments of religion. Theirs were not democracies. The populace did not take a personal interest in government, which was opaque and insular. The Enlightenment had caused western states to swing away from despotism toward participative democracy. There was no such parallel movement in the East. There doesn't appear to have been much scrabbling about in dusty archives by Mishra. He does not appear to have a working knowledge of either Arabic or Chinese, and, it seems, has relied exclusively on English-language sources. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
This is a non fiction work focussing on rise and fall of imperialism in the Asian continent right from Egypt to Japan. It focuses on the process of awakening of the people and the leaders behind them throughout Asia. Some countries in Asia were European colonies and some were just heavily influenced in policy matters by the European powers. The two world wars contributed to the decline of the European powers and the Asian people awakened to their rights.

This is a excellent book which gives us the background information like the rulers, religion and the beliefs of the different nations and how each country chose the different path to freedom. It also gives us various new and unheard philosophers who directly or indirectly influenced the uprisings of people. ( )
  mausergem | Feb 21, 2014 |
Got me thinking differently about Japan's role in the history of Asia. Contains powerful excerpts from 3 powerful men. Thank you. ( )
  Michael.Bradham | Sep 2, 2013 |
This is a history, through biography, of the first origins of nationalism and post-colonial resurgence. The author chooses the figures of Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, a pan-Islamic reform, Liang Qichao, a Chinese 'Strengthen the Nation' intellectual, and Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet. From these biographies, he aims to sort out the ideas which later became rooted into more modern and powerful figures and thoughts in the modern world today, and how a reaction against Western thought continues there.

The big idea is that nationalist movements today arose as a reaction to imperialism and colonial exploitation in the 19th century. "Why do they hate us?" asked Mr. Bush. Not solely because of our freedoms, but because of our power, and how it was built through exploitation and betrayal. The Versailles Treaty at 1919 was a particular failure due to Wilson's inability to express the principles of national self-determination, and instead permitting the preservation of a colonial system.

There is one further omission. Self-contained empires to colonies and then into modern states without an intermediate stage of democratic nation-building. Let the people themselves express themselves, and not another tyrant who claims to liberate, and then destroys instead. See the Imperial Japanese, once a light for Pan-Asian liberation, and then becoming tyrants and exploiters just like the rest before their fiery defeat.

A solid look at a part of history which has been ignored for too long by too many. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
A well-written and readable book, in English, giving the view of colonialism from the other side of the telescope. It is a brutally objective look from the Asian perspective at Western colonialism and the resulting intellectual struggles against that colonialism. Mishra uses the narrative theme of following several significant Asian thinkers, plotting their intellectual trajectories and their results or lack therof in defining the various struggles to throw off the Western yoke.
I leave this book with a vastly deeper sense of the impact that the age of imperialism had on the subject nations.
However, I also leave this book with a vast sense of irony. The various intellectual threads that Mishra describes all lead to one place - the adoption of the basics of various Western technologies and ideas. Nationalism runs rampant throughout the world, even in the Islamic polities which by Mishra's rights should be united more by religion than divided by borders. Western technology of course reigns supreme, and in fact is mostly manufactured in Asia, and by now is really World technology, for more and more innovation comes direct from various Asian states. Liberal democracy, the enemy throughout much of the book, seems to be an aspiration of virtually everyone. Probably because it speaks for the very individualism which was so opposed by the intellectuals described in the book.
Possibly, Mishra's description of thesis and antithesis between West and Asia is really in the end the prelude to the synthesis of various intellectual streams. Maybe Mishra started off pace Huntington and ended up pace Fukayama.
Anyway, what is Asia? It works geographically, although Europe is not a continent, but a peninsula. It doesn't work as a definition. It is too broad. The West as a definition is bad enough, but Asia?
After all this harping on the book, it was a good read, and one which I can say has altered my thinking. ( )
  RobertP | Mar 16, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374249598, Hardcover)

A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world

     A little more than a century ago, as the Japanese navy annihilated the giant Russian one at the Battle of Tsushima, original thinkers across Asia, working independently, sought to frame a distinctly Asian intellectual tradition that would inform and inspire the continent’s anticipated rise to dominance. 

     Asian dominance did not come to pass, and those thinkers—Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire—are seen as outriders from the main anticolonial tradition. But Pankaj Mishra shows that it was otherwise in this stereotype-shattering book. His enthralling group portrait of like minds scattered across a vast continent makes clear that modern Asia’s revolt against the West is not the one led by faith-fired terrorists and thwarted peasants but one with deep roots in the work of thinkers who devised a view of life that was neither modern nor antimodern, neither colonialist nor anticolonialist. In broad, deep, dramatic chapters, Mishra tells the stories of these figures, unpacks their philosophies, and reveals their shared goal of a greater Asia.
    Right now, when the emergence of a greater Asia seems possible as at no previous time in history, From the Ruins of Empire is as necessary as it is timely—a book essential to our understanding of the world and our place in it.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:10 -0400)

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Provides an overview of the great thinkers and philosophical leaders from across Asia who helped change and shape the modern continent, including Tagore and Gandhi in India, Liang Qichao in China and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim in the Ottoman Empire.

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