In Spite of the Gods

India often conjures up images of endemic poverty, superstition and entrenched social structures. A country doomed to perpetual backwardness. If so, think again. India is now a burgeoning economic and geopolitical giant. The country has the 21st century stamped on it more visibly than any other nation after China and the United States.


India has been an expanding force since at least 1991, explains journalist Edward Luce, when it let go of much of the protectionist apparatus devised under Nehru after independence in 1947 from Britain, as part of a philosophy of ‘swadeshi’ (or self-reliance) that’s still relevant in India’s multiparty democracy. From his vantage as the Financial Times ‘s South Asia bureau chief, Luce illuminates the drastically lopsided features of a nuclear power still burdened by mass poverty and illiteracy. He explains how this is linked to government control of the economy, an overwhelmingly rural landscape, and deep-seated institutional corruption.


While describing religion’s complex role in Indian society, Luce emphasizes an extremely heterogeneous country with a growing consumerist culture, a geographically uneven labour force and an enduring caste system. The account includes a sharp assessment of America’s promotion of India as a countervailing force to China in a three-power ‘triangular dance’.  This is a really useful book for understanding the country set to become the world’s most populated.


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383 pages in Doubleday

First published 2007

ISBN 978-0385514743


Edward Luce

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