In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India (英語) ペーパーバック – 2008/3/11
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As the world's largest democracy and a rising international economic power, India has long been heralded for its great strides in technology and trade. Yet it is also plagued by poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and a vast array of other social and economic issues. Here, noted journalist and former Financial Times South Asia bureau chief Edward Luce travels throughout India's many regions, cultures, and religious circles, investigating its fragile balance between tradition and modernity. From meetings with key political figures to fascinating encounters with religious pundits, economic gurus, and village laborers, In Spite of the Gods is a fascinating blend of analysis and reportage that comprehensively depicts the nuances of India's complex situation and its place in the world.
“Superb. . . . The blend of anecdote, history, and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”
—William Grimes, The New York Times
“Sophisticated and sympathetic. . . . Richly evocative. . . . Engaging. . . . [Luce's] sharp-witted prose brings today's India to life with insight and irreverence.” —The Washington Post
“[Luce's] research is formidable. . . . [In Spite of the Gods] is stunning in its breadth.” —The New Yorker
“Indispensable. . . . [Luce] is a keen observer.”
—The Wall Street Journal
He describes in great detail the political, cultural, economic and religious aspects of India in a sympathetic, sophisticated, mostly fair and constructively critical manner. India has many positives: a vibrant democracy, world class engineering schools, an economic boom with an expanding middle class that is secular and diverse. This has to be weighed against the negatives: corrupt, unimpressive, sometimes criminal politicians, large swathes of illiteracy, high poverty rate and religious extremism.
Gurcharan Das has written a wonderful book about India's economic renaissance (India Unbound) where he states that if you draw a line from Kanpur to Madras, all the areas west of that line will encounter prosperity far sooner than states east of that line. Luce describes various anecdotes that validate Das's statement and gives the reader an idea why Das will likely be proven right.
I do have some criticisms. Luce spills a lot of ink describing India's religious, class, and caste systems. He reveals a bias against Christians. He describes most Christians as recent converts from Dalits or the untouchables. This is not entirely accurate and he probably acquired his jaundiced view by too long a stay in North India. Luce has visited Kerala and he must have known that Christianity started in Kerala very early; most historians agree that Christianity came to Kerala at least in 300 AD and some strongly believe that it started in 33 AD. These converts or Syrian Christians were not Dalit converts. It is astounding that he fails to mention that the most powerful woman in India is an Italian Catholic, the current President is a Muslim, a former President was a Dalit, and the current Prime Minister is a Sikh - all this in a country that is 81% Hindu. India has a Muslim female Supreme Court justice. He omits to say that many of India's film stars and cricket players are Muslim. Finally, the last section ends with a boring tedious laundry list of "things to do, miles to go and people to see".
All said and done I highly recommend this book. Luce has done a commendable job.
Comparisons with China, as regards to India's economic development, are inevitable. This book continues on this popular theme. However, one aspect, and the reason I bought and chose to read this book, is missing. The title suggests that India's growth has been 'in spite of the Gods.' It's been a matter of pride to many Indians and a source of embarrassment to some that India has been and being peddled as a 'spiritual' nation to others.
While any nation's growth cannot be rightly accredited to any Gods, in case of India they might have been only stumbling blocks. (We've been just tripping over the idols.) China doesn't probably have as big an impediment. (Probably India's image is its own enemy.) Where then is an argument for this? Luce's book, because of a misleading title, has been a let down in only that aspect . (In his defense, Luce through his title was probably only making a statement without intending to provide any further evidence. His point was indirectly about India's development.)
Luce's only involved himself with the economic and social factors contributing to India's recent success. He did his homework very well and presents a book which is fun to read. Get it.