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From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia [Kindle Edition]

Pankaj Mishra
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world

     A little more than a century ago, as the Japanese navy annihilated the giant Russian one at the Battle of Tsushima, original thinkers across Asia, working independently, sought to frame a distinctly Asian intellectual tradition that would inform and inspire the continent’s anticipated rise to dominance. 

     Asian dominance did not come to pass, and those thinkers—Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire—are seen as outriders from the main anticolonial tradition. But Pankaj Mishra shows that it was otherwise in this stereotype-shattering book. His enthralling group portrait of like minds scattered across a vast continent makes clear that modern Asia’s revolt against the West is not the one led by faith-fired terrorists and thwarted peasants but one with deep roots in the work of thinkers who devised a view of life that was neither modern nor antimodern, neither colonialist nor anticolonialist. In broad, deep, dramatic chapters, Mishra tells the stories of these figures, unpacks their philosophies, and reveals their shared goal of a greater Asia.
    Right now, when the emergence of a greater Asia seems possible as at no previous time in history, From the Ruins of Empire is as necessary as it is timely—a book essential to our understanding of the world and our place in it.

Editorial Reviews


2013 Lionel Gelber Prize Finalist

“Pankaj Mishra has produced a riveting account that makes new and illuminating connections. He follows the intellectual trail of this contested history with both intelligence and moral clarity. In the end we realise that what we are holding in our hands is not only a deeply entertaining and deeply humane book, but a balance sheet of the nature and mentality of colonisation.”
—Hisham Matar

“After Edward Said’s masterpiece Orientalism, From the Ruins of Empire offers another bracing view of the history of the modern world. Pankaj Mishra, a brilliant author of wide learning, takes us through, with his skillful and captivating narration, interlinked historical events across Japan, China, Turkey, Iran, India, Egypt, and Vietnam, opening up a fresh dialogue with and between such major Asian reformers, intellectuals, and revolutionaries as Liang Qichao, Tagore, Jamal al-din al-Afghani, and Sun Yatsen." —Wang Hui, author of China's New Order and The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought and Professor of Chinese Intellectual History at Tsinghua University, Beijing

From the Ruins of Empire jolts our historical imagination and suddenly places it on the right, though deeply repressed, axis. It is a book of vast and wondrous learning and delightful and surprising associations that will give a new meaning to a liberation geography. From close and careful readings of some mighty Asian intellectuals of the last two centuries who have rarely been placed in this creative and daring conversation with each other, Pankaj Mishra has discovered and revealed, against the grain of conventional and cliched bifurcations of 'The West and the Rest,' a continental shift in our historical consciousness that will define a whole new spectrum of critical thinking."
—Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University

“In his brilliant new book Pankaj Mishra reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world's population from Turkey to China. These are the amazing stories of the grandfathers of today’s angry Asians. Excellent!"
—Orhan Pamuk


"Thoughtful, intelligent and rigorous."
—The Observer (UK) on Temptations of the West

Product Details

  • File Size: 2252 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374249598
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0071W4UH4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,638 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Asian Intellectuals Present Their Side of the Story September 30, 2012
"The West is becoming demoralized through being the exploiter, through tasting the fruits of exploitation. We must fight with our faith in the moral and spiritual power of men. We of the East have never reverenced death-dealing generals, nor lie-dealing diplomats, but spiritual leaders. Through them we shall be saved, or not at all. Physical power is not the strongest in the end... you are the most long lived race, because you have had centuries of wisdom nourished by your faith in goodness, not in mere strength." - Rabindranath Tagore, lecturing in Beijing in 1923

One of the ever-present scourges of expat life is arrogance. For many Westerners in Asian countries, even half a century after the collapse of colonialism, we retain a certain sense of moral superiority towards our hosts. We often feel their manners to be backwards; their habits of thought and social patterns keep them locked in a cycle of poverty; and that their own arrogance is holding them back from "truly" joining the modern (and by that we mean Western) world. Having lived nearly five years in Asia, I've often struggled to balance my own contrarian impulses, sympathy for Chinese (and other Asian) culture, and frustration with the less pleasant aspects of life here (as well as the ever-present temptation to make comparisons to my own place of origin) in the face of locals, both proud and self-hating, and other expatriates, both derisive and sympathetic. But until I read Pankaj Mishra's From the Ruins of Empire, I didn't realize just how deeply I'd failed to understand the Asian perspective on Western modernity, and just how that has skewed my entire outlook on the world.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Asian history and political philosophy January 2, 2013
By Gderf
This is an excellent introduction to Asian history and political philosophy. It traces the decline of Muslim and Chinese political influence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mishra explains the background for the intellectual and political awakening of Asia after the declines of the nineteenth century. It features the careers and political philosophy of the Persian Muslim, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and the Chinese writer Liang Quichao. Also featured prominently is Indian poet and political philosopher, Rabindraneth Tagore. Mishra well describes how these protagonists influenced philosophical development of later principles Sun yat-sen, Gandhi, Nehru, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi-min, Atatürk and others. A major theme is antipathy to the encroachments of Europeans in Asia, particularly the British. The book also depicts rising militant influence of Japan, starting with the Chino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars.

The book starts with a somewhat puzzling reference to battle of Tsushima Bay as inciting Western awareness of Asiatic power. W.E.B. Dubois announced a world wide eruption of colored pride. That idea is not adequately explained, but doesn't detract from the book's interest. We see the Muslim viewpoint in politics of Egypt, Persia, India and Turkey through the career and philosophy of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani. Missing is the 19th century Muslim view of modern trouble spots Bosnia and Palestine. Although al-Afghani is not classified as a terrorist his influence on Bin Laden and others is evidenced and it would have been interesting to see his views on early Arab reactions in what later became Palestine.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ruins of Empire October 12, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written and insightful examination of the economic, social and intellectual impact of imperialism on countries once colonized by the West.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work August 23, 2013
Pankaj Mishra is one of our great public intellectuals, but alas this is not a great book. Mishra sets out to frame the development of modern Asia by examining three prominent intellectuals who grappled with -- and rebelled against -- the dominance of their lands by the West. The culmination of his study is a fascinating rumination on the past, present, and future of Asia defined in opposition to the West. This is a bravura performance (contained in the last chapter). The problem is that to set up his more personal speculations, Mishra feels obliged to give us a series of potted histories of his subjects. Although he is good at spotting problems and synthesizing the literature (his observations on Japan are especially welcome), Mishra is neither a learned nor a particularly original historian. The bulk of the book is thus a somewhat dissatisfying Malcolm Gladwell-style history of modern Asian societies. The frame overwhelms the portrait and leads to a tantalizing but ultimately disappointing book.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book of historical research and analysis September 28, 2012
By C. Bohl
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
George Bush famously asked after 9/11, "why do they hate us"? This book answers that question and answers it brillantly, with passion and overwhelming examples of the human carnage inflicted by western imperialism throughout Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. If you want to truly understand why the world is in its current state this book is essential. It will forever change your understanding of history and of your country's place in the world. A great work of history.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Supeficial; Little Analysis
A moderately useful but rather limited book on the topic of the Asian intellectual response to western imperialism-colonialism. Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. Albin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent and frightning survey of modern Russia
Published 2 months ago by Jon Erik Saugen
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting diatribe on asian intelectualism
This is kind of a hard read, but the narrative it tells of asian history I found to be unique and full of incite. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rk
3.0 out of 5 stars Understanding anti-western sentiment
West is portrayed as materialistic and East as spiritual. But the criticism of materialism is misguided as it does not recognize it as a side effect of other factors, so critics... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andro Giorgadze
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Provides a new perspective particularly to those who have only been viewing current affairs and modern history from the western perspective. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Barry C Y Chan
5.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to the global context of the West's solipsism
As an admitted euro-centric reader of history this was a nice exposure to the view from the other side of the pacific all the way around to the Middle East. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sean Mullen
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed Asian perspective
Pankaj Mishra takes head on the inferiority Asians felt when dazzled and overpowered with Western science and technology. Read more
Published 7 months ago by S Srivastava
5.0 out of 5 stars revolution against the west.
Great details, connectected chronological event of how it started and where it had its impact to the uproar changing from western colonisation.
Published 9 months ago by Suthomok
4.0 out of 5 stars The other side of the story
This book exposes us to whole lines of thinking that are never (or rarely) discussed in American history classes or media. Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. Magee
5.0 out of 5 stars the Ruins of Empire.

A book that cannot be outdone by any other on the same topic.

An excellent book for content and style.
More or less what I expected. Read more
Published 9 months ago by KK
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