The world is passing through turbulent times. There is unrest and disarray. Global values of liberty, equality and fraternity advanced by the Western nations are challenged by not only the eastern societies but also by large groups in the very western societies as well. The losers of history in a wave of populism are challenging the global order shaped by the western elites across the globe. Scholars are in a state of perplexity and finding it difficult to explain this whole chaos. Age of Anger – A History of the Present is the latest attempt by British based Indian author to find a link between various kinds of resentment that we are witnessing today and its historical origins. No account of our times that is discussing global upheavals, systemic flaws and structural inadequacies can ignore Francis Fukuyama’s End of History thesis and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations antithesis. So, Pankaj Mishra dissects the utopian triumphalism inherent in Fukuyama’s self-styled prophetic proclamation and Huntington’s dystopia based on a perpetual conflict of multiple civilisations and holds them challenges the basic assumption common to both theories, ie, superiority of Enlightenment and its by-products of Capitalism and democracy over any other ideology. Pankaj Mishra is in line with the tradition of Karl Marx when he highlights the internal contradictions of the contemporary neo-liberal order like Karl Marx did with the 18th century capitalism. Mishra blames neo-liberalism and the promises it makes to everyone of prosperity, but couldn’t keep, for the disillusionment of masses both in developed as well as developing countries. This trend can be observed in the Brexit, popularity of Le Pen in France, rise of Donald Trump, policies of Erdogan, and shenanigans of Narendra Modi. Demagogues of our times are exploiting the fears and disgust of their people by stoking a false sense of national superiority. But, they are closely allied and protecting the interests of the rich elites of their societies. Therefore, the nationalistic jingoism is a smokescreen being used to advance the same free-market agenda that produced the populist uprisings that they cashed to come to power. However, unlike Marx, Mishra has quite intelligently only provided a critique of the existing chaos and has not offered any coherent solution. It is the solution part that is almost impossible to come up with and even if theoretical solutions are presented, their implementation brings fundamental changes to them. Marx is rarely criticised for his diagnosis of the problem. Majority of his critics do not agree with his prescription though. And it is also debatable how far the systems established in Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Yugoslavia and other communist regimes adhered to the teachings of Marx. Mishra is of the view that these populist upheavals cannot be understood without examining the history of rise of Enlightenment ideals in Western Europe and how they were introduced to the rest of the world. Modernity, for the rest of the world, was an onslaught of the colonial powers on the local resources that treated indigenous cultures as inferior to the Enlightenment ethos. The freedom movements in majority of these areas, like India or Egypt, were centred on the idea of nationalism borrowed from the same western thought but with a flavour of local myths and exceptionalism in a world of fast changing identities. Modernity, in the post-colonial societies, created two camps: that westernised class that favoured it and those groups which looked to their glorious pasts to forge a unique identity for themselves. Based on this unique identity, they took upon themselves the task of dominating in the competitive world. This clash, according to Mishra, cannot be reduced to a clash of civilizations as Huntington did. It is not a recent phenomenon. It started in the 19th century central Europe, mainly Germany, in response to the conquests of Napoleon. There are other scholars who are also worrisome about this rising tide of Populism. Slavoj Zizek, a continental philosopher, writes in one of his articles “We encounter here the old dilemma: What happens to democracy if the majority is inclined to vote for racist and sexist laws? It’s easy to imagine a democratised Europe with a much more engaged citizenry in which the majority of governments are formed by anti-immigrant populist parties.” Noam Chomsky is a staunch critic of Neo-liberalism and wrote in his book, Profit Over People, “Standard economic history recognizes that state intervention has played a central role in economic growth. But its impact is underestimated because of too narrow a focus. To mention one major omission, the industrial revolution relied on cheap cotton, mainly from the United States. It was kept cheap and available not by market forces, but by elimination of the indigenous population and slavery. There were of course other cotton producers. Prominent among them was India. Its resources flowed to England, while its own advanced textile industry was destroyed by British protectionism and force.” Mishra is in line with the tradition of Karl Marx when he highlights the internal contradictions of the contemporary neo-liberal order like Marx did with the 18th century capitalism Mishra also tries to put Islamic extremism in the same context. He is critical of the American response to the 9/11 attacks. He digs a whole series of terrorist attacks dating back to late 19th century and how they were responded to, almost always though law enforcing agencies. Bush, however, responded militarily and majority of people in the world have been conditioned by the western media that it is legitimate to decimate whole countries in response to a singular attack. Mishra is also critical of the scholars who blame teachings of Islam to be responsible for the terrorism committed by the Jihadists. He puts these jihadists in the same line of dissidents that have historically rejected and reacted against Enlightenment, Modernity, and Free market Capitalism. Tracing the ideological roots of the dissidents of Enlightenment, Mishra goes back again and again to Rousseau and puts his against Voltaire, the quintessential Enlightenment man. From Rousseau he moves on to Mazzini, Nietzche, Bakunin, Herzen, Zarqawi, and several others. The ideologues of ISIS, according to Mishra, are cashing the hatred and a sense of loss in the Muslim population as Modi and Trump are exploiting Hindu and White supremacists. Apart from this commonality between these two trends of populism and terrorism, there is little that can be presented as an example of a unified response to the same underlying problems. At this point, Mishra’s argument seems to be a bit strained. The narrative of Mishra is difficult to comprehend because it consists of several layers of investigation including social, political, economic, psychological, and philosophical. It is the interplay of these layers that makes the narrative complex. Then, there is the problem that most of the scholars that Mishra has cited are mostly unknown to the readers of the Anglo-American writers who ignore the voices of those, which have been defeated by them in the battles of the last two centuries. This aspect of Mishra’s book makes it highly informative though. Moreover, Mishra has not stick to the traditional method of presenting his historical evidence in a chronological fashion. The frequent jumps to distant occurrences both spatially and temporally creates a maze of sticky notes like the products of stream of consciousness. Reading Age of Anger is an informative and genuinely thought provoking experience with loads of historical examples and scholarly discussions. Sometimes, it appears to be a long array of info-bits from the archives of literature, art, politics, and history. But, it can be taken as a challenge by a serious reader to grasp all this information to get to the crux of the argument presented by Mishra. Overall, it is a brilliant attempt to tackle a difficult subject and essential to make sense of the perplexities of the world today. The writer is an avid reader and reviews books for various leading publications. He tweets at @umair4v and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 28th , 2017.