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Disappointing. This book purports to explain the recent rise of far-right, anti-globalist sentiment around the world (Trump, Brexit, LePen, etc., to say nothing of Isis), but the author's thesis isn't very compelling. He argues that contemporary manifestations of nativism can be traced back to Rousseau, who reacted to Voltaire's glorification of reason by celebrating personal experience and intimate communities. This is a bit too neat for me, too schematic. Only in the epilogue does he introduce the idea of other forces at play in today's world, including the rise of previously disadvantaged groups and growing income inequality. These last two phenomena are of extreme importance, especially the economic chasm between working stiffs and the richest of the rich. The American Dream said that anyone could make it, but nowadays more people believe they were sold a bill of goods—they can never make it. I would have liked more discussion of that, but it's outside of Mishra's argument.
On another note, I was puzzled by the book's lack of organization. It seemed to have no structure, and there was a great deal of repetition.
On a positive note, Derek Perkins's narration was excellent, and he made a conscientious effort to pronounce the many foreign expressions correctly, even if he didn't always succeed.
11 of 14 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Age of Anger the most enjoyable?
Difficult book, topic - but very very important subject area - very good research - his thesis is clear - not much help with reference to prescriptions on "how to solve".
What did you like best about this story?
Background context and Misra "draws the line" from Revolutions and Industrial Revolution to today's Sense or Rage.
What about Derek Perkins’s performance did you like?
Attention to detail - pronunciation of names.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
Where we are - how we got here
Any additional comments?
Age of Anger
A History of the Present
By Panbkaj Mishra
406 pp Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
This is an important but difficult book. The books’ main thesis is:
• “We’ve seen this before” – a global sense of rage – as a reaction to the “modernity” brought about by 18th century political revolutions and the impacts of the Industrial Revolution. Then, as now according to Mishra believes the individual “feels ressentiment” – which Mishra defines as “an existential resentment of other people’s being, caused by an intense mix of envy and sense of humiliation and powerlessness”. Mishra details the rise of assassinations of heads-of-state as a result of this ressentiment. One example is the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand – thought by some to be one of the proximate causes of the First World War. Also, it is a short step from large scale ressentiment – to a population’s turning to a demagogue. Mishra uses Putin and Erdogan as examples.
• Pankaj Mishra goes into great deal of detail discussing both German and Russian philosophers to support his main thesis. Mishra details the work of Johann Fichte, Mikhail Bakunin and Pyotr Kropotkin and their intellectual contributions.
• There are emotional-social-cultural elements contributing to the global sense of rage – in addition the economic impacts. The emotional-social-cultural elements are just as (if not more important) than the economic impacts.
• Mishra also states that there are no “counter-narratives” as yet available against this ressentiment – using ISIS as an example. There appears to be no “counter narrative” against the revolutionary actions that ISIS is undertaking.
This is an important, flawed and disturbing book. Mishra points out this ‘problem’ (anger/ressentiment) – usually blames Neo Liberalism, Globalization and Capitalism systems – but offers few alternative economic/political models.
Mishra also seems to indicate that this ressentiment is an ongoing problem (at a slow boil) – and Mishra doesn’t offer a short-term estimate of “what will happen” – Mishra offers phrases such as a “continuing Global Civil War” for the reader’s consideration.
Mishra closes with view that (unspecified) “new thinking” will be required to address this issue – ressentiment – effects of modernity – a feeling that democracy/government is not working for the ‘average person’ and the narrative that detail the benefit of authoritarianism.
The Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra – review – Nick Fraser – the guardian – January 23, 2017.
Age of Anger – What America’s violent transition to modernity has in common with the rise of Islamic extremism. Laura Miller – The Slate Book Review – January 25, 2017.
Apocalypse Now: What’s Behind the Volatile Mood of Today’s American – and European – Voters – The Age of Anger – A History of the Present – Franklin Foer – The New York Times – February 13, 2017.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful