How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions

Francis Wheen

The new book from the multiple-award nominated biographer of KARL MARX. Combine the intellect of Will Hutton, the campaigning vigour of Naomi Klein and the wit of Michael Moore and you have the ingredient of the next non-fiction polemical bestseller.

In 1979 two events occurred that would shape the next twenty-five years. In Britain, an era of weary consensualist politics was displaced by the arrival of Margaret Thatcher, whose ambition was to reassert ‘Victorian values’. In Iran, the fundamentalist cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set out to restore a regime that had last existed almost 1,300 years ago. Between them they succeeded in bringing the twentieth century to a premature close. By 1989, Francis Fukuyama was declaring that we had now reached the End of History.

What colonised the space recently vacated by notions of history, progress and reason? Cults, quackery, gurus, irrational panics, moral confusion and an epidemic of mumbo-jumbo. Modernity was challenged by a gruesome alliance of pre-modernists and post-modernists, medieval theocrats and New Age mystics. It was as if the Enlightenment had never happened.

Francis Wheen, winner of the George Orwell prize, evokes the key personalities of the post-political era – including Princess Diana and Deepak Chopra, Osama Bin-Laden and Nancy Reagan’s astrologer – while charting the extraordinary rise in superstition, relativism and emotional hysteria over the past quarter of a century. From UFO scares to dotcom mania, his hilarious and gloriously impassioned polemic describes a period in the world’s history when everything began to stop making sense.

Reviews of How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions

    • ‘Wheen wears his considerable learning about Marx’s career with the lapidary lightness of a fine columnist, and can be as witty and quotable as his subject.’ Terry Eagleton, Observer
    • ‘Has such a passionate energy and commitment that made me cheer as I read it … Wheen’s study is great fun, a bravura performance – well done yourself, I want to tell him.’ Tom Paulin, Guardian
    • ‘Unmitigated delight.’ Niall Ferguson, Mail on Sunday