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Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (Public Planet Books)by Arjun Appadurai
Synopses & Reviews
The period since 1989 has been marked by the global endorsement of open markets, the free flow of finance capital and liberal ideas of constitutional rule, and the active expansion of human rights. Why, then, in this era of intense globalization, has there been a proliferation of violence, of ethnic cleansing on the one hand and extreme forms of political violence against civilian populations on the other?
Fear of Small Numbers is Arjun Appadurai’s answer to that question. A leading theorist of globalization, Appadurai turns his attention to the complex dynamics fueling large-scale, culturally motivated violence, from the genocides that racked Eastern Europe, Rwanda, and India in the early 1990s to the contemporary “war on terror.” Providing a conceptually innovative framework for understanding sources of global violence, he describes how the nation-state has grown ambivalent about minorities at the same time that minorities, because of global communication technologies and migration flows, increasingly see themselves as parts of powerful global majorities. By exacerbating the inequalities produced by globalization, the volatile, slippery relationship between majorities and minorities foments the desire to eradicate cultural difference.
Appadurai analyzes the darker side of globalization: suicide bombings; anti-Americanism; the surplus of rage manifest in televised beheadings; the clash of global ideologies; and the difficulties that flexible, cellular organizations such as Al-Qaeda present to centralized, “vertebrate” structures such as national governments. Powerful, provocative, and timely, Fear of Small Numbers is a thoughtful invitation to rethink what violence is in an age of globalization.
Argues that the many forms of ethnic violence around the world, both internal and transnational, need to be seen in the context of globalization.
About the Author
“Arjun Appadurai is already known as the author of striking new formulations which have greatly illuminated contemporary global developments, notably in Modernity at Large. In this new book, he tackles the most burning and perplexing problems of collective violence which beset us today. The book is alive with new and original ideas, essential food for thought not just for scholars, but for all concerned with these issues.”—Charles Taylor, author of Modern Social Imaginaries
“In this book, Appadurai follows up Modernity at Large with a look into the seamy side of globalization. Analyzing the growing inequalities and endemic violence of the past decade, he still sees signs of hope in less noticed trends of ‘globalization from below.’ These are important new thoughts from an influential thinker of our times.”—Partha Chatterjee, Director, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York
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