Pankaj Mishra’s latest book Age of Anger couldn’t be more well-timed. Suddenly our world is threatened by rising populism. Mishra, celebrated Indian novelist and essayist, shows that this is not a new thing. Modernism, enlightenment, capitalism and socialism are intertwined and responsible for our economic growth and focus on individual well-being. But in all the rational thinking on how to improve our lives we overlook the desire for human dignity and spiritual need of the human soul.
According to Mishra it sometimes seems as though man has enough of peace and quietness. Malignant politicians react to the fear of a part of the population. The people respond to this with choices that seem irrational and dangerous: look at Brexit or elected president Donald Trump, or at the idea of 'closing' the borders. Fear and anger are the driving force, destructive instinct and negativity are the result. They threaten to disrupt our society. And the question is: how is this possible? Pankaj Mishra describes in Age of Anger in a concise and brilliant way the history of anger as a political motive. With surprising historical parallels he shows that this time is not unique: even the beginning of the twentieth century was full of destructive instinct, nationalism and terrorism. That is not a comforting thought and Age of Anger is an alarming book: a change of attitude will be needed to preserve our freedom, prosperity and stability.
Pankaj Mishra is one of the most important writers and intellectuals of our time. He regularly writes for the New York Review of Books, the Guardian and the New Yorker. His book From the Ruins of Empire was cause for polemics in Great Britain, and Temptations of the West was met with much debate in South Asia. In his latest work Age of Anger (2017) he argues that almost everything that has happened since the end of the eighties suggests that the market-oriented democratic state has begun to falter. We have seen not the steady spread of representative constitutional democracy but a “universal crisis” caused by the social, economic and political disfranchisement of huge numbers of people, marginalised by the ruthless search for profit of a global capitalism largely freed from the constraints of state regulation.