Age of Anger

The latest outpouring of resentment and anger happens to be in Chemnitz in eastern Germany (, but it’s only an example of what’s cropping up all over the world. In this case, something truly horrible – the resurrection of the fascist far right in Germany – should set all sorts of alarm bells ringing.

What are the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds disfiguring our close-knit world? We observe American ‘shooters’, ISIS, a boorish adolescent president Trump, populism, vengeful nationalism, undisguised racism, vicious Internet trolls, death threats made to politicians, pure rage and misogyny on social media. In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra ( addresses our bewilderment by casting his gaze back to the eighteenth century, then leading us back to the present.

Mishra shows that as the world became modern those who were unable to enjoy its promises – freedom, stability and prosperity – were increasingly resentful and 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 millions adrift in a literally demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity – with the same terrible results.  But the winners and losers in global modernity have not remained the same throughout. Initially, most people in the West got benefit from the ruthless exploitation of the rest of the world. Now it’s the transnational capitalist class plus the Asian middle class who win. Losers include the lower and middle classes in Europe, the US and Japan. Intensifying the anger and resentment is the comparison that an instantaneous global media makes possible. We can all see how other people are living. How are those marginalised millions going to feel when robotics and automation rob them even of the dignity of steady employment? People with no stake in society will turn to desperate measures – crime, demagogues, and gangsterism. It’s all so likely to happen. Get the steel palisade built around your executive housing estate now. Arrange for the Local Neighbourhood Protection Society to engage a private security company.

This is a powerfully argued historical account of our world predicament. You would gain much by reading it.

Check if this thought provoking new book is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

416 pages in Penguin

First published 01 February 2018

ISBN  978-0141984087

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Pankaj Mishra

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