A wide-ranging, controversial collection of critical essays on the political mania plaguing the West by one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. In America and in England, faltering economies at home and failed wars abroad have generated a political and intellectual hysteria. It is a derangement manifested in a number of ways: nostalgia for imperialism, xenophobic paranoia, and denunciations of an allegedly intolerant left. These symptoms can be found even among the most informed of Anglo-America. In Bland Fanatics, Pankaj Mishra examines the politics and culture of this hysteria, challenging the dominant establishment discourses of our times. In essays that grapple with the meaning and content of Anglo-American liberalism and its relations with colonialism, the global South, Islam, and “humanitarian” war, Mishra confronts writers such as Jordan Peterson, Niall Ferguson, and Salman Rushdie. He describes the doubling down of an intelligentsia against a background of weakening Anglo-American hegemony, and he explores the commitments of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the ideological determinations of The Economist. These essays provide a vantage point from which to understand the current crisis and its deep origins.
The liberatory sentiment that stoked the Arab Spring and saw the ousting of long-time Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak seems a distant memory. Democratically elected president Mohammad Morsi lasted only a year before he was forced from power to be replaced by precisely the kind of authoritarianism protestors had been railing against in January 2011. Paradoxically, this turn of events was encouraged by the same liberal activists and intelligentsia who’d pushed for progressive reform under Mubarak. This volume analyses how such a key contingent of Egyptian liberals came to develop outright illiberal tendencies. Interdisciplinary in scope, it brings together experts in Middle East studies, political science, philosophy, Islamic studies and law to address the failure of Egyptian liberalism in a holistic manner – from liberalism’s relationship with the state, to its role in cultivating civil society, to the role of Islam and secularism in the cultivation of liberalism. A work of impeccable scholarly rigour, Egypt and the Contradictions of Liberalism reveals the contemporary ramifications of the state of liberalism in Egypt.