Pankaj Mishra’s Reckoning With Liberalism’s Bloody Past

Kanishk Tharoor in The New Republic:

For nearly three decades, Mishra has skewered the pieties of politicians and intellectuals in the Anglophone world (including India, which boasts more English speakers than the United Kingdom), while also bringing his spirited attention to the histories and imaginations of people outside circles of wealth and power. The scales first fell from his eyes during his travels and reporting in Kashmir in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the disputed Indian-administered territory, he saw firsthand the collision between India’s pluralist liberal democracy—its avowed commitment to democratic norms, individual rights, and multiculturalism—and the reality of military occupation. Indian apologia for abuses in Kashmir, he writes, “prepared me for the spectacle of a liberal intelligentsia cheerleading the war for ‘human rights’ in Iraq, with the kind of humanitarian rhetoric about freedom, democracy and progress that was originally heard from European imperialists in the nineteenth century.” The remit of Mishra’s work has grown steadily wider over the decades, from an early focus on the dreams and catastrophes of small-town India, to a thoughtful exploration of colonial-era Asian intellectual history in the excellent From the Ruins of Empire (2012), to the sweeping global jurisdiction of his recent books, which directly confront the international order made by the United Kingdom and the United States.

More here.