Sunday, April 21, 2013


Pankaj Mishra has the admirable and rare ability for an accomplished academic and scholar of being concise; precise and sticking to the salient points of the question asked.

The clarity of his exposition of the deep historical analysis contained on his latest book has the audience spellbound and in awe of the story of the victims of imperialism from the victims and what may ultimately be the winners of this ghastly project of rapacious capitalism in which everyone , including the individuals of the West were turned from Humans with Spirit to commodities with an expendable shelf-life.

The Book tells the story of the reaction to the brutal inhumane conquest of industrial capitalism and it needed the resources and markets of non-European civilisations to feed its insatiable consumer needs.All in the name of Free-Trade; Democracy and civilising the savages.

This detailed and highly perceptive review of Mishras "The ruins of Empire" gives a good synopsis of the Books tale of how the intellectuals of the Muslim and Chinese Worlds reacted ; analysed and then came up on the other side of this extraordinary two century experience and have yielded some of the movements that are taking on neo-liberalism and the neo-con projects full on even whilst we in the West are impotent to the march of the market economies that have seen to be failing in the last few years.

 " Not content to rehash the East versus West debate, Mishra’s purpose is more ambitious and valuable. In his account, the legacy of imperialism does not fade to irrelevance after World War II — it lives on in the Iranian revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood, the policies of the Chinese Communist Party. Hearing the lesser known non-Western voices in Mishra’s book provides an important reminder that neither the simplistic formulas of “modernization theory” nor the hollow campaigns for “Asian values” can do justice to the historical trajectories of countries outside of Europe and North America:"
A brilliant point made by Mishra was the unity towards non-Europeans by both the right and the so called Left.Whilst the right had the Cecil Rhodes and other megalomaniacs  , the left at the time had no real objection to imperialism as such , their efforts seemed to be limited to the share of the imperial cake being more evenly divided by the West.Hence we have Dickens commenting in the most crass and lurid xenophobic manner on the Mutiny of 1857 and how harsh the reprisals should be , and in the US such champions of the common man like Jack London are looking to find the Great White Hope to restore the premium place of the White Man against the "Ethiopian" Jack Johnson , and even Fabians like H.G. Wells are never to concerned of the plight of the Peoples who suffer in the dominions that supply the ingredients of the cake they wish to distribute to their nationals and we even have the example of the author of the great left-wing Bible "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" only known trade union activity being the organisation of strikes to prevent Black Workers taking white peoples jobs.

Pankaj Mishra also his a website in which you can find out more about the Book and his previous work. 

Another vital point Mishra expressed was the very cosmopolitan nature of the Islamic and Chinese world and how tolerance was one of their qualities which made them unable to deal with the militaristic western entry into their domains.In 1800 India has a GDP of 20% of the World and China had better Crop Yields and less incidence of Medical death rates than Europe.After a century of Western domination the GDP of India was less than 3% and China was synonymous with Famines and deadly diseases and floods.

Another contribution Mishra has made is in the debate between the hypocrisy of Salman Rushdie and his condemnation of the Chinese Nobel Prize for literature winner Mo Yan.

"Vladimir Nabokov was not declared ethically deficient, or his filigreed sentences examined for intellectual rot, after he congratulated Lyndon Johnson for his "admirable work" in Vietnam. Bellow hardly met any Palestinians in To Jerusalem and Back, his admiring account of Israel published a decade after the country became a colonialist power in the West Bank. Later, Bellow, widely hailed in Anglo-American circles as a great humanist, also endorsed a bogus book that claimed that the Palestinians did not exist."
This article got a reply from Rushdie which yielded this cogent response.

" Salman Rushdie (Letters, Guardian, 16 December) helpfully clarifies that he approved of the assault on Afghanistan since he saw it as simple retribution rather than, as I incorrectly if charitably implied, an attempt at democracy-promotion. But my article was not about Rushdie's strenuous justifications of his government's fiascos. It did not propose a "moral equivalence" between what he calls "free" and "unfree" societies. Nor did it advance the preposterous argument that, as the estimable Perry Link puts it, "if A is a citizen of country Y, he or she should shut up about country X."

In the video below Mishra gives a detailed in depth interview about the book and its themes , especially the weakness of the nation-state model  and why it may not be the answer to Europe , yet alone the rest of the world ,  with the historian Michael Woods: ( see especially from 58 mins on)

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