Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger, a bracing ‘history of the present’, went to print in the week that Donald Trump’s election victory seemed to prove his thesis that anarchy, anger and an urge to smash the system were spreading. As modernity reaches beyond the western world, shocks follow in its wake, and when its promised prosperity and equality don’t arrive, anger is the result. Nationalism, extremism and violence are responses to an increasingly unstable and unequal world characterised by envy and ruthless competition. How should we understand this age of anger, and what kind of transformative thinking will help us find our way out of it?
To accept the conventions of traditional society is to be less than an individual. To reject them is to assume an intolerable burden of freedom in often fundamentally discouraging conditions.