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Age of Anger: A History of the Present by…
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Age of Anger: A History of the Present

by Pankaj Mishra

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Mishra suggests that today’s troubles are the result of the unresolved clash between the Enlightenment tradition and the mass of the citizenry, who are generally less interested in change and rationality and feel condescended to by the educated elites. Modernism is full of violence; ISIS is not an Islamic entity but rather a backlash entity similar to many others provoked by Enlightenment ideals implemented in a context of economic inequality. He has an extended riff on the coherence of Timothy McVeigh’s ideology that helps illustrate why US conservatives are so happy to have Russian conservatives on their side. ( )
  rivkat | Apr 11, 2018 |
The "Age of Anger" explains the roots of today's populist movements in a way unlike any other book. The author, Pankaj Mishra, traces the roots of today's movements back to the arguments between Voltaire and Rousseau. It then follows-up with the philosophies of the German Romantic movement and the turn of the century anarchists. In the process, he forces you to see the events of today from a new perspective.

The weakness of the book is the style in which it is written. Mishra jumps from Modi to Erdogan to Trump in the space of just a few sentences in a way that gives the reader whiplash. He also expects you to have a detailed knowledge of 18th, 19th and 20th century political and cultural history. ( )
1 vote M_Clark | Jun 2, 2017 |
Now I understand why those right wing idiots vote the way they do. It has to do with the development of man as a independent person, and his desire for unlimited freedom. Other than that insight, the book took forever to read,and it is still worth five stars. Mishra is amazingly well-read, and he dumps a lot of thoughts. Rousseau may be the bad boy of the Romantic era, but Voltaire is pretty good and the efforts of Bakunin and Nietsche pay off. He writes about ISIS and the other idiots who object to civilization. His big take is that Napoleon was a jerk, and that the development of the world over the last few years has led to too many people being sidelined and the
other countries (the middle east) will take over Europe's idea that anarchism was the only way out.He also believes that the society doesn;t work for most people and that we could be in a 19th century place in that there
are more people who know they are superfluous and will rise. ( )
1 vote annbury | Apr 29, 2017 |
Pankaj Mishra in "Age of Anger - A History of the Present" reminds Westerners of our violent transition to modernity and emphasizes much of the current turmoil is a symptom of the same transition. “The history of modernization is largely one of carnage and bedlam.” A unique take on the current world situation. The subject is fascinating and the reach from the 1800's to present is impressive. However, I think it would have been a better book if the author had not tried to include every example and quote he had available. His resources are substantial, but lose some emphasis by having a "bibliographic essay" instead of actual footnotes. ( )
1 vote MM_Jones | Mar 12, 2017 |
In this interesting book, political and cultural essayist Mishra examines several disturbing phenomena -- ISIS, nativism, demagogic authoritarianism -- and argues that they are manifestations of one problem. This problem, he argues, is not something new, but is yet another manifestation of the clash between rational "modern" values and the failure of those values to deliver a better life to most members of society. And that, he argues further, is not unique to the present. Instead, he sees it as a central theme of the history of the West since the 18th century, which is now being taken up world wide. The essential dilemma he poses is that modernity shattered the traditional supports of religion, family, and locality, replacing them with the possibility of a self-directed life. Such a life became available to the few winners in the dog-eat-dog free market economy that accompanied modernization, but was out of reach for most people. And that left some of them bitter, resentful of the winners, and ripe for political violence. In particular, highly educated but under-employed young men were and have been a section of the population that is particularly vulnerable to the deep resentment that Mishra regards as the source of political violence. In the 19th century that took the form of anarchism; in the 20th of totalitarian governments; in the 21rst of both jihad and populism.

Mishra's arguments are compelling, and the book is well worth reading. That's not to say that all of it is convincing: the wide scope of Mishra's thesis leaves it vulnerable on some specifics. Nor is it to say that this is an easy read: it might well have been shortened. But it is an important and thought-provoking book. ( )
  annbury | Feb 24, 2017 |
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This is an important, erudite and flawed book about the deepest roots of this inflamed moment [...] Mishra didn’t scramble for a theory to fit the facts. He has a highly developed understanding of the psychic and emotional forces propelling illiberalism’s spread across the globe, a movement united by a sense of disappointment, bewilderment and envy — the spiritual condition that Nietzsche diagnosed as ressentiment. An anger that Mishra both interprets and shares.
added by melmore | editNew York Times, Franklin Foer (Feb 13, 2017)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374274789, Hardcover)

One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis

How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world―from American shooters and ISIS to Donald 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 enjoy its promises―of freedom, stability, and prosperity―were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world―or were left, or pushed, behind―reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: with intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected 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.

Today, just as then, the wide embrace of mass politics and technology and the pursuit of wealth and individualism have cast many more billions adrift in a demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity―with the same terrible results.

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 27 Jan 2017 08:23:42 -0500)

"One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis. How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world--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 fulfill its promises--freedom, stability and prosperity--were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world or were left, or pushed, behind, reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected that the militants of the 19th century arose--angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally. Today, just as then, the wider embrace of mass politics, technology, and the pursuit of wealth and individualism has cast many more billions adrift in a literally demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity--with the same terrible results. 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"--… (more)

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