Mishra's Age of Anger: History's Winners and their Illusions…
Mishra's Age of Anger: History's Winners and their Illusions
The Good Barbarian
Meritocracy was idealism by the Philosophes, as it seemed most logical
Government system based on merit or ability
Just because they were liberal did not mean they necessarily desired democracy- a common misconception
Freedom of social mobility, without obstacles and with security. One still needed status and property however
Tended to enjoy the rule of enlightened despots over anything else
Not a fan of social equality
"We have never claimed to enlighten shoe-makers and servant girls"(60)
In the end, he just wants the ability for him and other philosophes to have an influential role in the courts of despots, and praises those who follow through
:question: How did the philosophes desires for meritocracies and enlightened despots to rule somehow become misconstrued over time?
I think that we over the years, we have found the rule meritocracies and enlightened despots to be unfair. So while we like most of the other political, ethical, and financial ideologies of the philosophes, we have integrated their ideas into a system we deem more fair
In addition, modern democracies seem (to the best of my knowledge) to be a fairly recent development. This system has faults no doubts about it. Perhaps in the future a new system of government will take its place as superior. If so, would we change as well? Or would the West resist change in that instance??
Highway of Progress
After the Soviet collapse, many believed that free-market capitalism was the only way with no alternatives
Feel that every society on Earth is destined to be this way
Zakaria: Rest of world will rise because of American ideas (38)
I think that it is very clear that this is a dangerous idea. While American ideals have worked for America, they will not necessarily interact with other cultures in the same way. I also feel the only reason these ideas are spreading is because of American interference in world affairs, and that has not always worked out favorably (such as 9/11 terrorists being trained by those once sponsored by the CIA as seen on page 46) :!:
View the "highly contigent achievements of [Western] culture as the final form and norm of human existence" (37)
West is obsessed with modernization
West itself was not always "Western"
Time period following the beginnings of the French Rev. was filled with chaos
The Terror, nationalist revolts, and wars follow
:question: Could one argue that today's Age of Anger is a result of this same process, and in the end things will turn out fine?
America and other Western nations try to force democracy onto other nations
Perhaps terrorism that is committed by agents in the middle east is a form of ideological resistance :!:
European dominance =/= progress
Herzen sees the brutality under this "progress" in the C.19. Comes to fruition in the C.20
Modernization: "the universal creed that glorified the autonomous rights-bearing individual and hailed his rational choice-making capacity as freedom"
Individualist culture on America focuses on what others have and desiring to obtain that, even though it is not fit for everyone.
Santayana: Most humans are unfit for the race and those who are do not feel truly free or secure (41)
Is America really as individualist as it says when tribalism within the state grows? It seems if you disagree with one things someone says you are no longer
Rosseau was a critic of many in the enlightenment
I think that in general this section is speaking about how we are placing blind faith in not necessarily a broken system, but certainly a broken approach. In the West we generally feel that we have figured out everything and as a result we feel that we are qualified to tell others how they should run their countries. However, for too long we have ignored the atrocities and failures our governments have played a role in, yet we some how feel qualified to lecture the rest of the world.
That is not to say that the actions of others are not wrong, nor that we should stop denouncing horrendous acts, but rather to recognize the irony of the situation. Canada does seem to be acknowledging the dark parts of our past recently, which is a step forward
The rest of the world will take a long time to catch up
How I think this relates: States are adopting this individualist attitude that was explained in the first section of the chapter. They see the success of nations such as America, Canada, and others and wish to imitate it. However, due to the developmental gap as well as other factors like traditional views within these states, they are destined for difficulties such as resistance from different groups, delay on updating infrastructure (depending on the country) and much more.
Replicating the chaos and disorder that happened to the West during their period of modernization but to a greater degree with greater costs (48)
What does Mishra mean by "Obscuring the costs of the West's own 'progress', it turns out, severely undermined the possibiility of explaining the prolifertion of a politics of violence and hysteria in the world today, let alone finding a way to contain it"(48)?
Terror and Religion
Irony- no one recalls that terrorism started in France during the revolution
ISIS has turned those who feel forgotten and left out into fighters for the Islamic State. ISIS gives them purpose and empowerment and directs their anger and isolation
I feel that because the West often attacks the Middle East as a whole (e.g., drones are not accurate and produce civilian casualties more often than not), ISIS is able to use it in their narrative of the West oppressing Muslims and therefore making acts of jihad seem necessary for survival . This strengthens their cause and make it easier to radicalize others perhaps
West feels the need to defend its value, which it sees as non-existent in places like the Islamic State. Organizations such as ISIS takes advantage of this to make themselves look better
French and industrial revolution opened a world of new opportunities
What began as a small movement from the property owners turned into a mass movement for global equality and the "abolishment of private property" (51)
This equality is insatiable and is prone to radicalization (e.g., Pol Pot, Mao)
The philosophes felt excluded and superior. The church's grasp inhibited them
French spread ideas of humans being capable enough to reshape their lives and societies
Everyone feels capable, a secular event. Man can create his circumstances, not God
Religious views that held a stronghold of Europe are challenged by science and reason
Man is the centre of his world
In a way it seems like a return to the humanist views held during the ancient world and by some in the renaissance
The philosophes impact was immense. A small group of people managed to change the world in such a way that the echos of their beliefs and influence can still be felt today
Origins of the philosophes
Radicals Against their Wills
"appropriative mimicry" or desiring things because they are made out to be desirable by others (62)
Rousseau condemned the mimetic society as favoring the elite
Believed it would lead to class warfare and social chaos and decay
During the industrial period this comes to fruition, as the workers revolt for better living and working conditions. The well-off leaders of society become a hated symbol
Idea that all men are rational is beginnings of modern idea of equality
Latecomers to Modernity
Europe is wealthy
Girard: After satisfying his basic needs, human is subject to intense desires for what others have (66)
I think that this has always been a factor in historical conflicts. However, I agree with Mishra that it seems to be more prevalent in our Age of Anger than any other time in history.
Utopian, rational future
People around the world read philosophes to try and find the key to being a successful state
War of individuals against other individuals, "where most people were condemned to be losers" (70)
Dostoevsky saw the motto of the French rev. to be false and misunderstood
European culture has permeated every part of the world
A lot of this would be due to imperialism and trade
Could globalization be just as much as a result of shared culture as it is increased trade and communications?
Symbol of mimetic desire
Built in London for a world expo and visited by people from around the globe
What Dostoevsky feared was becoming a reality. People developmentally behind wanted to keep up when it was not optimal to do so
Kwame Nkrumah destroyed Ghana economically by trying to improve infrastructure
The West's influence has overtaken traditional cultures in much of the world
People begin to feel resentment when the mimetic desires they want are out of reach and their traditional way of life has been disturbed
Wish to attack modernity for failing them and attack others who have been successful as being terrible people who are not true citizens (of the traditional society or religion)
Examples: Trump supporters, Chinese nationalists, ISIS
People within this line of thinking also face mimecy, as many people like to copy what others have done in acts of terror in order to honor them and to be feared
Rousseau hates individualistic societies
Sidenote: I am aware that Mishra just wants to explain how we have gotten to this point in our history, but I am curious about what he believes himself. Sometimes he comes off as hating democracy and freedom of expression in some of his arguments and I was curious if that is his belief or if he is just telling us a story.