Friday, February 03, 2017

Age of Anger

The Economist has a review here of the book

"Age of Anger: A History of the Present" by Pankaj Mishra.

Mr Mishra argues that the sort of resentments which have produced anger, nationalism and unexpected election results in 2016 may continue to intensify.

Indeed, he argues that the world will become only more divided and disorderly.

As economies slow, more people will feel that powerful elites have dangled the fruits of material progress only to pull them away. More will feel a sense of displacement, either figuratively within their country, or literally, because they have been forced to leave their failing states. Some will take the spontaneous decision to vote for a populist who promises to tear down the system at great cost. Some will make a life-altering and fatal decision for jihad. Whether easy or extreme, angry reactions may be perverse, but they can feel exhilarating.

What will intrigue some people - and have others scratching their heads and saying "no, things don't work like that" is his argument that much popular resentment has it's roots in much older ideas.

I can certainly see that ideas can linger on long after they are formulated - Keynes made a very powerful argument about how this happens in economics - but I think this argument can be overstated.

For example, I doubt that many of the Americans who voted for Trump or British voters who opted for "Leave"  were significantly influenced in that vote by the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I don't say that because I am trying to patronise them, but because the manner in which people have described why they voted as they did owed more to the perceived impact of "establishment" policies on their daily lives than to the kind of intellectual philosophising to which the opinions of an 18th century French writer might be relevant.

Nor do I take seriously the suggestion that DA'ESH mass murderer Mohammed Emwazi ("Jihadi John") was significantly influenced by the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nevertheless some of Mishra's ideas deserve more than a little consideration.

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