Searching for meaning in a world gone wrong
The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reac- that the development of philosophy could be taken up again.
One fascinating chapter, called From Luther to Walmart, argues that in pursuit of intellectual and emotional comfort we have from time immemorial “fabricated myths to convince ourselves that we understand the underlying processes by which the world took on its current shape”. The most commonly concocted myths in history, he points out, use the idea of civilisational decline to “give temporal reasons for why life is so hard”.
Christianity was the first worldview to turn its back totally on such thinking, breaking into traditional theories of time to declare a bright and redemptive future. And yet here we are 2000 years later, with powerful Christian philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre, still waiting for a figure who will not return us to medieval thinking but lead us to a nurturing, moral community beyond the withering effects of individualism, liberalism and capitalism.
Contrary to the cliche, no serious “reaction- ary” thinker, Lilla points out, has convincingly argued for a return to a more glorious road not taken. His book — like two earlier ones, The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West and The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics — is not polemical so much as careful, seeking to understand the recent and apparently sudden rise of populism and the right around the world.
Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger: A History of the Present, by contrast, is a powerful polemic. Mishra is a regular contributor to The London Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London, where he lives, and is one of that exciting tribe of thinkers, born and bred within the wide Indian worldview, whose analysis is only sharpened by advanced training in Western critical thought.
He finished writing the book, he wrote in a column for The Guardian that coincided with its release, as Britain was voting to leave the EU and Donald Trump was elected President. In