The Great Derangement: An Assessment of Globalisation

There is, in today’s Guardian, a very intelligent review, written by Pankaj Mishra, of Amitav Ghosh’s assessment of globalisation entitled The Great Derangement and of Gideon Rachman’s Easternisation. The summary of Ghosh’s The Great Derangement particularly resonated with me because “derangement” is one of the words I’ve used in the past to sum up what Jean Gebser means by “mental-rational consciousness structure” now functioning in “deficient mode”. That just means deranged, after all.

Both books may be significant contributions to globalisation studies. They both also seem to address themes raised in The Chrysalis. But Ghosh’s The Great Derangement may be especially rewarding for students of Jean Gebser, since it seems to speak to globalisation in terms of the nature of the consciousness structure that shapes globalisation and underpins its ideology, which is a rare enough approach. My sense is that Ghosh, particularly, in writing of “derangement,” has seen the same defect in the mental-rational consciousness that informs Gebser’s diagnosis of its “deficiency” in his cultural philosophy.

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9 responses to “The Great Derangement: An Assessment of Globalisation”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I’m supposing that Paul Krugman’s The Great Unraveling and Ghosh’s The Great Derangement may complement one another. Both, taken together, may provide rewarding insights into Gebser’s diagnosis of the defective mode of the mental-rational consciousness and the fuller meaning of “chaotic transition” or “havoc”.

    I guess that’s my next project: compare and contrast Krugman and Ghosh.

    • donsalmon says :

      I don’t know – my sense is that, from what I’ve seen of ghosh’s writing (coupled with years of reading Krugman’s columns), my sense is that you might be wasting your time with Krugman, who in many ways embodies the worst of the defective mode.

      But if you want to see examples of it, it might be useful.

      • Scott Preston says :

        We’ll see about Krugman (I have his book and have started it) and what he understands by “unraveling” and how deeply he probes into this unraveling. Anyway, I’ll read as far into it as necessary to understand his meaning at least.

        Yes, Mishra ends his review in quite spectacular fashion, every word of which hits the mark, which is why I’m looking forward to reading Mr. Ghosh’s book, too.

  2. donsalmon says :

    Fantastic ending to Ghosh’s article:

    It is as though a vengeful Earth is mocking, in Ghosh’s words, the “Cartesian dualism that arrogates all intelligence and agency to the human while denying them to every other kind of being”. Ghosh is sceptical of recent climate change agreements; investing hope and initiative in figures of religious authority such as Pope Francis, he seems to echo Martin Heidegger’s warning: “Only a god can save us now.” But then his book is not prescriptive so much as a bold meditation on ethical and cognitive failure and an impassioned call to think the unthinkable in our new geological age of the Anthropocene. Western ideologues, as Havel pointed out, missed the real significance of the discrediting of communism in 1989, which was that “the era of arrogant, absolutist reason is drawing to a close”. That era has now finally ended with the discrediting of neoliberal capitalism, and The Great Derangement is a bracing reminder that there is no more vital task for writers and artists than to clear the intellectual dead wood of a vulgarly boosterish age and create space for apocalyptic thinking – which may at least delay, if not avert, the catastrophes ahead.

  3. mikemackd says :

    I have read a book written by Mishra, called “From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia” (2012, Penguin, London), wherein he refers to what anti-Imperialists such as Tagore, Gandhi, Liang Shu-Ming and others referred to as “The Machine” on land; a machine of power, enfolding nation-states and corporations, with “its mental slaves hypnotized into believing that they are free” (Tagore 1918 “Nationalism”, London, Macmillan and Company Limited, pp. 26-27); it’s the same metaphor Mumford used in his “The Myth of the Machine”.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    It is agony! words can not express. This remind me of the shameless-faced Iraqi bullies America brought to Iraq to rule in its name over a destroyed country save its oil that were put under the american control . A country that a big portion of its people sent to find refuge across the globe. It remind me of the year of shock and awe america and its allies inflicted on an already depleted country. How unjust and vulgarly oppressive civilization that wants to arrogate everything to themselves and deny them to every other kind of being. Intellectuals that bow down to power can not serve their people, on the contrary they are used as sedators to quiet the people from revolting against this flagrant aggression. Even imaginative thinking as the article mentions is abused and no longer plays the role of disclosing the real but is used as a tool of concealing the real. One only read the fictions to find how destructive and attention movers from the real. I can not write and not feeling what I am writing about. It is sad that the good intellectual people of the west are in a state of mental trance under the guise of freedom and benign domestic rule diverting their attention from the murderous,malign policies exercised by their governments against other countries. It is not the earth expressing its vengeance, but it is the creator showing humanity that the human can not continue ravaging and polluting the earth without the law of check and balance strikes. It is not easternization, it is westernizatin of the east in a move of standarizing the language of the globe, It is no longer the image of god that we are called to imitate but the image of the domineering elite of the west , not even the good people of the west.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, it is agony, in the original sense of the word as “anguish”. The agony was predicted — by Nietzsche, by Gebser. But this is also the sense in which Heraclitus intended his “war is the father of all things” to be understood. It could just as well be translated as “agony is the father of all things”.

      Normally, the meaning of war in Heraclitus is the word “Eris” (meaning “strife”). But one could also substitute here as synonym “agon” (“contest” or “conflict”). There’s quite a peculiar relationship, it seems, between the agonistic and the antagonistic that resembles the dialectic of thesis and antithesis that suggests what?

      That the new is always born of agony, and in anguish.

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