Pankaj Mishra (born 1969) is an Indian essayist and novelist.
- Writing about Kashmir was a strange and painfully isolating experience, but an absolutely crucial one. It made me see that, whether you are Indian or American, black, brown, or white, it is best not to get morally intoxicated by words like “secularism” and “liberalism” or to simply assume that you stand on the right side of history after having professed allegiance to certain ideological verities. Rather one should try to perceive the scramble for power, the clash of interests, that these resonant claims to virtue conceal; one should ask who is using words like “secularism” or “liberalism” and for what purposes…
- On how a journalistic assignment in Kashmir shaped his views in “’The Liberal Order Is the Incubator for Authoritarianism’: A Conversation with Pankaj Mishra” in Los Angeles Review of Books (2018 Nov 15)
- As a writer I am more interested in describing the past accurately than in outlining the future; we need a new past if we are to make sense of our intolerable present or work to change it…
- On his approach as a writer in “Empire's Racketeers” in Boston Review (2018 Nov 7)
- …Supremacy of all stripes—racial, ethnic, national—works in insidious ways, burrowing deep inside impeccably liberal minds…
- On domination and supremacy in “Empire's Racketeers” in Boston Review (2018 Nov 7)
- Even equality is a deeply problematic concept. It has its origins in Christianity, where it is conceived as equality before God. When you transfer that into a competitive commercial society, it becomes elusive, even deceptive. Really, the drama of the modern world is the collision between the promise of equality and the fact of structural inequality…
- On the concept of equality in “The Village Interview: Pankaj Mishra” in The Village (2017 Mar 14)
- Governments around the world say they’re engaged in a war against the coronavirus. [...] This kill-or-die idiom is more than casual rhetorical overkill. Many governments are symbolically but very deliberately calling, in this time of fear and uncertainty, for general conscription along military lines. This is so they can, while pointing to an insidious foreign enemy, aim their firepower against some of the most valuable institutions of domestic public life. They have been very successful so far.
- The public broadcaster’s critique of the government was stinging in part because Johnson enjoys a high degree of support among Britain’s privately owned, overwhelmingly pro-Tory press. Nor does Modi, assured of craven public broadcasters, expect much criticism from the Indian media, which has been described, only semi-humorously, as veritably North Korean in its devotion to the supreme leader.
- In addition to economic and military mobilization, wartime measures typically encourage a high degree of political, social and intellectual conformity. The general idea is that, in the face of an existential challenge from a vicious enemy, criticism of the government ought to cease. The media tends to become more patriotic, as do former political partisans. Such was the case in the United States during the early stages of its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, when most journalists and even Democratic politicians rallied around the Republican George W. Bush administration. . The trouble is that the "war" against Covid-19 is actually not a war at all. And no one should feel obliged to sign up for it. The loss of, and separation from, loved ones, and the fear and anxiety that is devastating many lives is not an opportunity to fantasize about heroism in battle. The pandemic is, primarily, a global public health emergency; it is made potentially lethal as much by long neglected and underfunded social welfare systems as by a highly contagious virus. A plain description like this is not as stirring as a call to arms — and doesn’t justify the more extreme actions governments have taken against critics during the crisis. It does, however, open up a line of inquiry that journalists ought to pursue, now as well as in the future.
- Awakening late to the pandemic, authoritarian or authoritarian-minded leaders have turned it into an opportunity both to shore up their power and to conceal their stunning ineptitude. To fail to see through their manufactured fog of war, as many in the media are doing, can only further endanger the long-term moral and political health of their societies.