A wide-ranging, controversial collection of critical essays on the political mania plaguing the West by one of the most important public intellectuals of our time.
In America and in England, faltering economies at home and failed wars abroad have generated a political and intellectual hysteria. It is a derangement manifested in a number of ways: nostalgia for imperialism, xenophobic paranoia, and denunciations of an allegedly intolerant left. These symptoms can be found even among the most informed of Anglo-America.
In Bland Fanatics, Pankaj Mishra examines the politics and culture of this hysteria, challenging the dominant establishment discourses of our times. In essays that grapple with the meaning and content of Anglo-American liberalism and its relations with colonialism, the global South, Islam, and “humanitarian” war, Mishra confronts writers such as Jordan Peterson, Niall Ferguson, and Salman Rushdie. He describes the doubling down of an intelligentsia against a background of weakening Anglo-American hegemony, and he explores the commitments of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the ideological determinations of The Economist. These essays provide a vantage point from which to understand the current crisis and its deep origins.
"There's enough truth in Mishra's alternative history for it to stand as a useful corrective to the Grand Narrative that still maintains a firm grip on the imagination of many in the West . . . As a goad to liberal self-criticism, Mishra is well worth reading."
—Damon Linker, The New York Times
"Mishra excels at calling out intellectual vapidities, what he calls “pseudo-scholarship” . . . This is a writer with a clearer sense of what he is up against, who veers into the personal only to draw a larger political point. In a post-truth world, you read Mishra to clear the air, to make sense of our bewildering moment."
—Abhrajyoti Chakraborty, The Guardian
"It remains a dazzling display of what close analysis and precise polemic can achieve . . . this collection does a whole lot more than simply kick against the pricks. It's an extraordinarily powerful argument, by a writer of powerful and perhaps even remorseless conviction, for the case that we need first to rethink our past in order to reshape our future. And never more so than in the times of present stress."
—Mark Rappolt, Art Review
"This erudite and dryly witty collection will help readers to make sense of the current age of discontent."
"Mishra offers a sharp rebuke of Western neoliberalism. In this wide-ranging and eviscerating collection of essays, Mishra pillories the imperialistic dogmas that are still alive and well and having a ruinous impact on domestic and foreign policy. Tactics once exclusively used on colonial populations have been brought home and the West’s relationship with the global south is still dictated by imperialist interventionism and massive resource transfer. Bland Fanatics opens the gates to deeper intellectual analysis of the fundamental assumptions that undergird Western society."
—Powell's Books Best Nonfiction of 2020