Bland Fanatics: Liberals, the West, and the Afterlives of Empire

Pankaj Mishra. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-374-29331-4
In this insightful, persuasive essay collection, London Review of Books contributor Mishra (The Age of Anger) blames contradictions inherent within liberalism for recent social and political upheavals in Europe and the U.S. In pieces written between 2008 and 2020 and covering events including the Iraq War, Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump, Mishra faults Western leaders for continuing to claim that “liberalism is the only thing that can save civilization from chaos,” even as their policies bring about “devastation” abroad and “terrorism” at home. He argues that “liberalism’s complicity in Western imperialism” has been obvious for decades to intellectuals in exploited African and Asian countries, and laments the popularity of Niall Ferguson, Jordan Peterson, and other “unnerved” Western elites who “conflate their own relative diminution with a more general disintegration.” Well-informed reviews of books by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mark Greif, and Samuel Moyn identify some lights in an otherwise dim intellectual landscape, though Mishra stops short of advancing an alternative political and cultural ideology. Still, this erudite and dryly witty collection will help readers to make sense of the current age of discontent. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 06/15/2020
Release date: 08/04/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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