On Pankaj Mishra


From the Ruins of Empire ends on a prolonged note of despair. “No convincingly universalist response exists today to Western ideas of politics and economy,” Mishra writes, “even though these seem increasingly febrile and dangerously unsuitable in large parts of the world.” He sees everywhere an ascendant Asia capable of challenging the West for resources, territory and market share. Where Mishra’s ur-generation of Asian intellectuals seemed to agree on the necessity of Western science, so their descendants seem to have settled on one-track Western-style economic development. “The Graduate Students Who Remade Asia” could be the subtitle for the yet-to-be-written history of those US- and UK-trained economists who undertook the market-centered reforms of the 1980s. For Mishra, “the revenge of the East” only means it will repeat the West’s mistakes on a larger scale. This already appears to be happening: in March, the BRICS announced the creation of a development fund meant to be their answer to the World Bank and the IMF. It is unlikely to be a gentler civilizer of nations.

more from Thomas Meaney at The Nation here.