The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct 15, 2013 - History - 432 pages

A Nobel Laureate offers a dazzling new book about his native country

India is a country with many distinct traditions, widely divergent customs, vastly different convictions, and a veritable feast of viewpoints. In The Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen draws on a lifetime study of his country's history and culture to suggest the ways we must understand India today in the light of its rich, long argumentative tradition.
The millenia-old texts and interpretations of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, agnostic, and atheistic Indian thought demonstrate, Sen reminds us, ancient and well-respected rules for conducting debates and disputations, and for appreciating not only the richness of India's diversity but its need for toleration.

Though Westerners have often perceived India as a place of endless spirituality and unreasoning mysticism, he underlines its long tradition of skepticism and reasoning, not to mention its secular contributions to mathematics, astronomy, linguistics, medicine, and political economy.

Sen discusses many aspects of India's rich intellectual and political heritage, including philosophies of governance from Kautilya's and Ashoka's in the fourth and third centuries BCE to Akbar's in the 1590s; the history and continuing relevance of India's relations with China more than a millennium ago; its old and well-organized calendars; the films of Satyajit Ray and the debates between Gandhi and the visionary poet Tagore about India's past, present, and future.

The success of India's democracy and defense of its secular politics depend, Sen argues, on understanding and using this rich argumentative tradition. It is also essential to removing the inequalities (whether of caste, gender, class, or community) that mar Indian life, to stabilizing the now precarious conditions of a nuclear-armed subcontinent, and to correcting what Sen calls the politics of deprivation. His invaluable book concludes with his meditations on pluralism, on dialogue and dialectics in the pursuit of social justice, and on the nature of the Indian identity.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - danoomistmatiste - LibraryThing

Halfway thru this book and here are some thoughts. Hard to put a single description on this one, but here is a weak attempt. A very interesting collage of articles running the gamut and trying to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - prasenjeet - LibraryThing

I bought this book because I was curious what Amartya Sen (a noted economist had to say) on India's history and philosophical traditions. Apart from a few good points he makes about India's ... Read full review


The Argumentative Indian
Inequality Instability and Voice
Tagore and His India
Our Culture Their Culture
Tryst with Destiny
Class in India
India and the Bomb
Secularism and Its Discontents
India through Its Calendars
Index of Names
General Index
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About the author (2013)

Amartya Sen is Lamont University Professor at Harvard. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998 and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1998–2004. His most recent books are Development as Freedom (Knopf, 1999) and Rationality and Freedom (Harvard University Press, 2002). His books have been translated into thirty languages.

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