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From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia Hardcover – 4 Sep 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; First American Edition edition (4 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374249598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374249595
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.1 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 817,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Ruins of Empire A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world. Full description

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cynthia.campbell@oslo.online.no on 7 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are so used to learning our history from a from a British, or at least European side that it is fascinating to learn something of how great minds from other cultures saw the same events and ideas. This book is clearly and well-written, and I find that I have learnt a great deal from it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This has been a mind-altering read. Far from being an anti-imperial rant, it is a careful compilation of the writings of three observers of European expansion into the east, chiefly British, French, Dutch and US. The annihilation of the Russian fleet by Japan in 1905 showed that Europeans were not invincible, and led to serious questioning of the West's colonising ways. Jamal al-Din al Afghani was born in Persia, Liang Qichao was Chinese and Rabindranath Tagore was Bengali, and all became well-known writers and critics of the "white man's" imperial pretensions. While the West spoke darkly of the "Yellow Peril", the East referred to the "White Disaster". Anyone interested in our troublous times could find this book enlightening.
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Amazon.com: 47 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Three Asian Intellectuals Present Their Side of the Story 30 Sept. 2012
By China Author Forum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"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.

Mishra's book isn't a piece of postcolonial critique, or an exploration of contemporary Asian thought on the role of Asia in the world today, but a gripping narrative of the life and thought of several prominent "Asian modernists" who foresaw a different path for their cultures than Westernization or traditionalism. The three characters that the book centers around- Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Liang Qichao, and Rabindranath Tagore- are held up as representatives of the possibility for the development of "parallel modernities" in the Islamic, Confucian/Sinic, and Hindu civilizations, respectively. Around these three characters, many other figures emerge, some famous- Mohandas Gandhi, Sun Yatsen, Mao Zedong- some less well-known outside of their nations, and some who are understood quite differently in their home nations than they are outside (such as Aurobindo Ghose, better known as a spiritual guru and inspiration to new-age writers than an Indian nationalist, and Sayyed Qutb, a man unfairly - in Mishra's eyes - labeled as the intellectual godfather of global jihad.

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Asian history and political philosophy 2 Jan. 2013
By Gderf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
At the end of his career, al-Afghani expressed regret that he had appealed largely to royalty, like Abdulhamid II, for support of his ideas, rather than to the common people.

Liang Qichao was, arguably, the most interesting political philosopher in the book. Liang moved away from revising Confucianism. His took influence from the West in the form of Social Darwinism. Liang and his mentor Kang Yowei were instrumental in the formulation Chinese political discourse leading to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, to replaced by the republic under Sun Yat-sen and later, the PRC. Empress Cixi exiled Kang and Liang then instituted reforms, too late to save her dynasty. Along with exile in Japan, politically and militarily emerging after the Meiji reformation, Liang visited America, making prescient observations like a later day Tocqueville. Liang influenced both communist Mao and his rival Chiang Kai-shek, who espoused a revised Confucianism.
Al-Afghani's legacy was carried on in Egypt by Saad Zaghoul, PM who initiated the Wafd Party and Sayyeed Qutb and by Muhammad Iqbal and others in India. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood is seen as a reaction to Zionism a modern symbol of Western dominance of Asians. We see the futility of Wilson's Fourteen Points along with snubbing of he Asian nations at the Paris Peace Conference. Later leaders Gandhi, Nehru, Sukarno, Lee Kwan Yew and others, as well as terrorists Osama Bin Laden, were greatly influenced by the Asiatic philosophers of the previous century. Kim Il Jong is not mentioned. Among modern intellectuals, it seems that philosophers Edward Said or Noam Chomsky should be included.

Mishra shows impressive knowledge of a wide variety of Eastern philosophy. Although the extent of influence of Mishra's candidates is not made entirely clear, there is much of interest in his book. The book concludes with the rise of many Asian nations, predicting that Western dominance is a short lived historical phenomenon. Mishra states his modern interpretations in an epilogue. He says that the war on terrorism is misguided, as it should be related to the condition of the world's poor. The idea that globalization will enable the billions in China and India to enjoy an American life style is an absurd and dangerous fantasy. It's a realistic deviation from populists like Jeffry Sachs who think that a few billion dollars can eliminate world poverty.

This book is all the better because it depicts a history relatively unknown in the West, featuring protagonists that I was not familiar with. For myself, Pan Islamic and Pan Asiatic philosophy is a bit much to assimilate from a single book.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A great book of historical research and analysis 28 Sept. 2012
By C. Bohl - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Need A Powerful Read? This Is It! 21 Sept. 2012
By Reid Read's - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author of this book,FROM THE RUINS OF EMPIRE: THE INTELLECTUALS WHO REMADE ASIA, has written a very important and powerful work. Just the bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

Well written, intellectually provocative and connected to present and future global trends this book is a must read for all those who want to understand and influence where the world is going in the 21st Century.

The only challenge I had with the book is the fact that Egypt is on the African continent. The references he makes to books about the Bandung Conference in the 1950's shows that there was and is a tie between the Asian and African freedom movements. He also helps us understand why the movements have diverged and why Asian nations like China have progressed since they took their freedom and why many African nations have regressed. The issue of culture is VIP in this book and in the shaping of our world.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ruins of Empire 12 Oct. 2012
By Gerard J LaVan - Published on Amazon.com
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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