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The Argumentative Indian Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

ISBN: 9780312426026 | 031242602X
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Picador
Pub. Date: 9/5/2006

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In sixteen linked essays, Nobel Prize--winning economist Amartya Sen discusses India's intellectual and political heritage and how its argumentative tradition is vital for the success of its democracy and secular politics.The Argumentative Indianis "a bracing sweep through aspects of Indian history and culture, and a tempered analysis of the highly charged disputes surrounding these subjects--the nature of Hindu traditions, Indian identity, the country's huge social and economic disparities, and its current place in the world" (Sunil Khilnani,Financial Times,U.K.). Amartya Senis 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 areDevelopment as Freedom andRationality and Freedom. His books have been translated into thirty languages. AWashington Post Book WorldBest Book of the Year InThe 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 millennia-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 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. "[A] profoundly wise and engaging collection of essays . . . While the pieces inThe Argumentative Indianare, as one would expect, enjoyably erudite and full of intriguing insights, they are not written in academic language . . . The book is formed from a series of elegantly written historical and moral-philosophical essays which together cohere to form a single original argument: that India is and has always been 'a joint construction in which members of different communities were involved.'"--William Dalrymple,The New York Review of Books "[A] profoundly wise and engaging collection of essays . . . While the pieces inThe Argumentative Indianare, as one would expect, enjoyably erudite and full of intriguing insights, they are not written in academic language . . . The book is formed from a series of elegantly written historical and moral-philosophical essays which t


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