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The Argumentative Indian

Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

Amartya Sen

Picador

A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year
 
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 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.

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Praise for The Argumentative Indian

"This is a book that needed to have been written. . . . It would be no surprise if it were to become as defining and influential a work as Edward Said's Orientalism."--Soumya Bhattacharya, The Observer (London)
 
"The product of a great and playful mind at the peak of its power, The Argumentative Indian is the most stimulating and enjoyable book about the idea and identity of India to be written for years."--William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books
 
"An intellectual tour de force from an economist who can lay equal claim to the designations of sociologist, historian, political analyst, and moral philosopher . . . Breathtaking in its range and scholarly eclecticism."--Shashi Tharoor, The Washington Post Book World
 
"Masterfully tying Indian concerns to broader social and philosophical questions, Sen addresses the many aspects of Indian identity."--Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Amartya Sen

  • Amartya Sen was born in 1933 and grew up in Santiniketan and in Dhaka (now the capital of Bangladesh). As a student in India and then at Trinity College, Cambridge, he "seriously flirted, in turn, with Sanskrit, mathematics and physics before settling for the eccentric charms of economics," as he has written. Now Lamont University Professor at Harvard, he was Master of Trinity College from 1998 to 2004, and has taught at many other universities in Britain, the United States, and India. When Professor Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998, he was the first Asian to be so honored.
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The Argumentative Indian

Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

Amartya Sen

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Picador

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