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Age of Anger: A History of the Present

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,995 ratings  ·  397 reviews
One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis

Modernity, secularism, development, and progress have long been viewed by the powerful few as benign ideals for the many. Today, however, botched experiments in nation-building, democracy, industrialization, and urbanization visibly scar much of the world.

As once happened
ebook, 416 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 26th 2017)
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Brian Cowlishaw Seriously? Trump ran on a platform basically *composed* of paranoid hatred--of Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT folks, you name it. And it hasn't improved sinc…moreSeriously? Trump ran on a platform basically *composed* of paranoid hatred--of Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT folks, you name it. And it hasn't improved since he took office.(less)
Oldnerdguy The online world has all the kinds of hate that exist in the real world (and then some). Collectivism is where someone else leads you astray. Individu…moreThe online world has all the kinds of hate that exist in the real world (and then some). Collectivism is where someone else leads you astray. Individualism is where you lead yourself astray.(less)

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How the World Feels

Identifying the fictions in which we live is an awkward matter, mainly because it involves creating an alternative fiction. And comparing the merits of competing stories is tricky. Each story carries with it its own criterion of verification and presents its facts accordingly: Jews are responsible for our financial problems; look at all the Jewish names in banking. Muslims are educated to hate us; proven by the Q’uran. Immigrants undermine society; drugs come from the same pla
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without doubt, this is a topical book, in a world which has seen a US President elected on a wave of intolerant rhetoric and the UK voting to leave the EU; a world at war, with so many people displaced and extremism rife. The author of this book attempts to re-examine the divided, modern world; inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a (then) candidate for President, as well as Brexit.

In 1968, Hannah Arendt wrote, “for th
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Disclaimer: I did not enjoy this book and I apologize for the lengthy critique, but I had experienced my own 'age of anger' while reading this book.

I gave the book due dilligence and decided to quit reading after 144 pages - something I typically avoid doing. I decided to put the book down because I could not quite get over the structural and style flaws with the work. The following review is of the first 1/3 of the book, but it appeared as though the book wasn't going to get any better.

The tra
Maru Kun
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All round the planet excitement is mounting as people get ready for the first “World Cup of Ideas” of the 21St Century.

The 20th Century saw this contest held three times, starting with a hard fought championship in France in 1914. The kickoff for the next round was Poland in 1939 while the surprise venue to start the third and final match of the last century was Fulton, Missouri in 1946, starting only a year after the last match had finished.

As always the Liberal-Democrat-Cosmopolitans are expec
This was a fascinating discussion. Very meandering, maybe organization and presentation could've been streamlined so that knocks it down a bit for me. To be fair, given the breadth of the material and ambitious nature of this book it is probably an impossible task. But overall I enjoyed the author's exploration of the intellectual history of "ressentiment" (anger, resentment). His exploration stretches as far back as the French Revolution.

I guess if I had to distill things the main focus here is
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
"They have counterbalanced their loss of nerve before the political challenge of terrorism with overreaction, launching military campaigns, often without bothering to secure the consent of a frightened people, and while supporting despotic leaders they talk endlessly of their superior ‘values’ – a rhetoric that has now blended into a white-supremacist hatred, lucratively exploited by Trump, of immigrants, refugees and Muslims (and, often, those who just ‘look’ Muslim). Meanwhile, selfie-seeking ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Description: In a ground-breaking new analysis, Pankaj Mishra traces the tangled roots of hatreds and nationalisms across the world.

Inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate for President, as well as Brexit, the author attempts to re-examine the divided modern world.

Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from th
Omar Ali
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
(This review, with screenshots and proper formatting, is at )

Pankaj Mishra is a British-Indian writer and public intellectual who currently lives between London and Mashobra and writes regularly for publications like the NY Times and the NYRB. He started his career as a promising literary critic (Naipaul was initially impressed) but soon switched to "native informant" mode, presenting and interpreting what he described as the angst, atomization, envy and
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Very well written history on the challenge to modernity by tribalism, romanticism, fascism, and nihilism. It is the complaint against the materialistic modern secular liberal enlightenment dream. It has been countered by these movements since the 1700s in various ugly irrationalities. They seem to flare up just after times when cosmopolitan elites thought they had everything sewed up. It characteristically values tribe, violence, manhood, spirit, action, irrationality, wildness, blood, and soil. ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first became aware of Pankaj Mishra's political writings in his articulate rebuttal of Niall Ferguson's asinine historical justification for empire. I was therefore keen to read 'Age of Anger', Mishra's exploration of how myth of European enlightenment and the ideas it espouses; equality, liberty and fraternity only ever really applied to a small strata of humanity.

Well-researched and accessible there are several key themes to Mishra's story. The first is that the enlightenment, rather than be
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
If it feels like the world recently has been splitting in two, along comes Pankaj Mishra to let you know: You're not wrong! Describing what he calls a "global civil war," Mishra in Age of Anger describes more than 200 years of rhetorical, even bloody conflict between two conflicting worldviews: The Enlightenment modernism of Voltaire and his ideological descendants, and the reactionary nationalism of Rousseau and his.

Mishra's book is incredibly well researched, stretching as it does from 18th-c
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The past two centuries of history in the West have been defined by the transition from traditional society into a modern one. But the effects that this transition had on human beings - economically, philosophically, and spiritually - have been given a monumental pangloss. The violent dislocations that accompanied 18th and 19th century European modernization gave rise to waves of violence, paranoia, hatred and chauvinism that reached their final crescendoes in totalitarianism and near-annihilatio ...more
Joachim Stoop
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
"Today, the belief in progress, necessary for life in a Godless universe, can no longer be sustained, except, perhaps, in the Silicon Valley mansions of baby-faced millennials. [...] In an economically stagnant world that offers a dream of individual empowerment to all, but no realizable dreams of political change, the lure of active nihilism can only grow."

This book is so insightful: just like a zooming-in from outer space 'till we see our little blue planet, it pinpoints our present age in an
This book is an effort at an intellectual history of the prevailing anger that appears to be gripping political systems worldwide, from the election of Trump and other populists in the US and Europe to the continual morphing of violent terrorists throughout the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and Africa, to those who suffer the effects of profound economic inequality and reduced expectations for a productive and satisfying middle class life. Not bad as intentions go, right?

Mishra frames th
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Sometimes present circumstances force us to hold back and reflect and make sense of the world. In 'Age of Anger' Mishra looks at the contemporary world and its discontents; the Brexit and the escalation of far-right forces across the globe but particularly in the west. While all this seems new, unprecedented– a direct outcome of global mingling that turned supremely problematic for many (western) countries: immigration, terrorism, jobs– this chaos produced demagogues of all kinds from Erdogan, L ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, literature
Pankaj Mishra approaches the history of world modernity in a challenging and stimulating way. Published in 2017, I ignored this book for a couple of years, assuming it was too recent to analyze current events. This was not a problem; it is a brilliant analysis of past literature. Mishra begins at the flowering of the Enlightenment. An underlying tenet was that the envy of the haves would inspire have-nots to pull themselves forward, voiced prominently by Adam Smith.

It was a powerful thesis with
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:
In a ground-breaking new analysis, Pankaj Mishra traces the tangled roots of hatreds and nationalisms across the world.

Inspired by Hindu nationalists in his own country, the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate for President, as well as Brexit, the author attempts to re-examine the divided modern world.

Mishra looks at historical events from the industrial revolution to the French revolution, from the writings of phi
Mikey B.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mikey B. by: Sebastien
Page 91-92 (my book) Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“All these grand words of society, of justice, of law, of mutual defence, of help for the weak, of philosophy and of progress of reason are only lures invented by clever politicians, or by base flatterers to impose themselves on the simple.”

This is definitely an interesting book overflowing with ideas and concepts. It is philosophical in tone. There are many aspects that were new to me – and I certainly didn’t agree with everything. Every page can jump f
Paul O'Leary
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Our Mr Mishra is a bit of a flirt. That, there's no use denying. He drops semi-obscure and esoteric names left and right, though before we can catch our breath with awe, or before too much is even said, he pirouettes over to the next gentleman. I get it. Best not to keep one's feet too firmly in place if covering the complete social map of cultural history during modern times is important to you. This flitting attribute makes for a lively and convivial a cotillion. For an author o ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Haters are gonna hate. They really don't need Rousseau or Voltaire to justify their beliefs. They'll figure how to make those they don't like into the other one way or another. This book tries to give a depth of coherence to the anger of haters. I'm leery of books that favorably quote Niall Ferguson, a man who lacks any depth beyond sound bites, or Allan Bloom, a frustrated stick in the mud who never got past 'no fault insurance and no fault divorce' or thinks music died after Wagnerian opera, o ...more

edit 2019 October 19th: a user named 'Wisdom' suggested stated the author's English as a second language is an excuse/reason for why their writing is so long-winded and not understandable and that reading it a second and THIRD time will finally make you understand it.

For real. The gall of some people.

Fuck that, write a book properly once so readers only need to read it once. FFS.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for our time. It's a necessary counterpoint to the Huntington "clash of civilization" lot, but also the Pinker/Friedman/Fukuyama/Harari "democracy and liberalism won and history is over and everything is all better now" camp as well. I think the book is shorter on answers than it is on denouncements of the optimists, but it was very well written and well thought out.
Umair Khan
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The world is passing through turbulent times. There is unrest and disarray. Global values of liberty, equality and fraternity advanced by the Western nations are challenged by not only the eastern societies but also by large groups in the very western societies as well. The losers of history in a wave of populism are challenging the global order shaped by the western elites across the globe. Scholars are in a state of perplexity and finding it difficult to explain this whole chaos. Age of Anger ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Kind of all over the place. An intellectual who writes about intellectuals. There were some good insights, but yawning gulfs of boredom in between.
Charles J
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Twenty years ago, that liberal Baal, philosopher Martha Nussbaum, assigned me to read “The Golden Bowl,” by Henry James. She said it was the best book she had ever read. Maybe it was, but it was unreadable, and I am just as smart as Nussbaum. The problem with “The Golden Bowl” is that you know Henry James is very bright, yet you have to struggle so much to get at the meaning that you wonder if there is any meaning there—or is it all just a parlor trick to gratify the author’s vanity and flatter ...more
Lancelot du Lac
Aug 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
Quite a hodge-podge, while reading it appears that the book has been deliberately written in an esoteric manner. Also, the author doesn't stick to one idea for long enough. One moment he's telling you about Nazi Germany, in the next sentence he jumps on to Cold War followed by colonial Australia which in turn is followed by South African apartheid, after that comes US-Russia arms race and this goes on till the last page. If you're a layman or new to geo-politics, it's all going to fly over your ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book provided a comprehensive survey of the impact of philosophy and key literature on political thought. The author made clear that philosophy and literature were not simply responding to political thought throughout the ages, but shaping it as well. I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would, mainly because this author idolizes no one. It was a critique of just about every person included in the book. Often, he wrote about the accomplishments of specific influential people ...more
Dan Graser
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
In his latest work, one which is likely to provoke strong reactions from the left and right, Pankaj Mishra attempts to, as he puts it, "explore a particular climate of ideas, a structure of feeling, and cognitive disposition, from the age of Rousseau to our own age of anger."

This anger that he identifies is not a simplistic emotional reaction but more in line with the concept of ressentiment - an existential resentment of other people's being, caused by an intense mix of envy and sense of humili
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book that explores the ever-widening gap that yawns between our expectations and the frustrating realities of our world.
C. Varn
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Pankaj Mishra is erudite and compelling as a writer, and yet, I have almost never been more frustrated by his writing or a popular critique of the Enlightenment. Mishra’s critique of globalization goes back to the Enlightenment’s philosophes and the various reactions and ressentiment that it exposes when the promises of development are realized upon. Yes, neoliberal snottiness and whiggish history plays villains, but Mishra wants to see this as a psychological development between modernity and i ...more
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Pankaj Mishra (पंकज मिश्रा) is a noted Indian essayist and novelist.

In 1992, Mishra moved to Mashobra, a Himalayan village, where he began to contribute literary essays and reviews to The Indian Review of Books, The India Magazine, and the newspaper The Pioneer. His first book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995), was a travelogue that described the social and cultural c

Articles featuring this book

How do we explain the current wave of rage in today's society? The author shares the books that informed the Age of Anger.
15 likes · 5 comments
“They encourage the suspicion – potentially lethal among the hundreds of millions of people condemned to superfluousness – that the present order, democratic or authoritarian, is built upon force and fraud; they incite a broader and more apocalyptic mood than we have witnessed before. They also underscore the need for some truly transformative thinking, about both the self and the world.” 4 likes
“Postcolonial nation-building was an extraordinary project: hundreds of millions of people persuaded to renounce – and often scorn – a world of the past that had endured for thousands of years, and to undertake a gamble of creating modern citizens who would be secular, enlightened, cultured and heroic.” 3 likes
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