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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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Mar 11, 2008
ISBN: 9780307389534
List price: $13.99
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I'm not an expert by any means on India, so this was a great introduction to its recent history and offered a lot of insight into the current psychology of India's leadership, its economic successes and challenges, and the rapid changes its social world is going through. The biggest weakness, I thought, was an incomplete investigation of caste. A lot of his explanation for India's political and social movements is based on caste, but I never felt like he fully explained what a caste really was.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really enjoyed its opening chapters and then stumbled on the formula. Some generalised contextualising and background and then drop in a dusted-down article written previously for a newspaper. I did not finish it.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Well written informative account of modern India; how it got to this point in history and what the future is likely to hold. Excellent source for sorting out the complexities of the largest democracy on the planet.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Really enjoyed this. Good intro to India for the uninitiated, even better guide to India for those that already have the basics. Fasdcinating and well written buy someone that has spent plenty of time ther, is warm to the country but is inherently a westerner and iunconvined by the Indian spedisal cse.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Although this book is now five years old, it is still widely referenced as the best overview of India's ongoing political, economic, and cultural transitions. Author Edward Luce was South Asia bureau chief for the Financial Times when he wrote this book; now he is Washington bureau chief with the same paper. The chapters focus on India's uneven economic transition; its government bureaucracy; the struggles of the lower castes for political power; the rise of Hindu nationalism; the culture of the dominant Congress party; the predicament of Indian Muslim communities; and the role of India in regional and global politics. Luce, who is married to an Indian woman and clearly loves the country, brings a Western perspective, so he knows what aspects of India will require more context for an American or British reader to understand. That's helpful. At the same time, Luce also doesn't hesitate to criticize. He's expressly states his dislike for Hindu nationalism (though, to be clear, he doesn't much like nationalism or fundamentalism of any kind). On economic matters, he seems unreflectively but not dogmatically neoliberal. He acknowledges environmental concerns - they are one of four great challenges he identifies for India - but he doesn't seem to have thought much about what it would take for India to develop sustainably. While the book isn't autobiographical, Luce's strong personality does come through often, both in the direct questions he asks various officials he interviews, and in his apparent inability to hold back a quip when one occurs to him. The four challenges he identifies for India in his last chapter are raising 300 million people out of desperate poverty; curbing environmental destruction (especially climate change); heading off the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and strengthening India's democratic institutions by curbing Hindu nationalism and reducing pervasive government corruption.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One of the tags I used for this book was 'current events'. That will change soon as the book was written in 2006 and published in 2007. If you want to read it I would advise you to read it soon otherwise it will just be a short history, although a rather good one.India is a democracy with a 24 party system. The political system and bureaucracy are corrupt and bribery is rampant. It is almost impossible to fire a government worker or indeed any worker. The poor everywhere get the short end of the stick.Nevertheless the system does work in its fashion. And corruption and bribery can be gotten rid of like they have in this country (snicker). But the Indian economy is improving and gradually expanding albeit slowly.The author is a financial journalist. This shows in the amount of economic information included in the book. The book is well-written and worth your time.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
My limited view of India was of a country of Bollywood movies, curry, Indian customer service call centers, poverty, hundreds of millions of people, slums and more poverty. This pretty readable book gave me a, well, broader view of India. It's a crazy place--incredible diversity with a democracy that seems to work. Some facts just stuck with me: less than 10% of India's 1.1 billion people work in the formal work force and 80% of them work for the government. The bureaucracy is monumentally corrupt--most workers don't even show up for work but still get paid. There are more than 600,000 Indian villages--most without electricity or running water. There is only a 65% literacy rate. Most do not go to school (the teachers don't show up)but the tech universities churn out thousands of brilliant engineers. The caste system is alive and well, mostly as an economic classifier. We think our Christian fundamentalists are a threat to US civil liberties? The Hindu nationalist movement makes them look like pussycats.In Spite of the Gods gives you an idea of the forces that have shaped India--religious, historic, economic, cultural. There are some good anecdotes, interviews and enough data to satisfy anyone. And, since India will surpass China in population this century, and it's a nuclear power, and its economy will become the 3rd largest pretty soon, maybe we should take a look at it a bit more closely. "Remember, India always wins," as the author says.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

I'm not an expert by any means on India, so this was a great introduction to its recent history and offered a lot of insight into the current psychology of India's leadership, its economic successes and challenges, and the rapid changes its social world is going through. The biggest weakness, I thought, was an incomplete investigation of caste. A lot of his explanation for India's political and social movements is based on caste, but I never felt like he fully explained what a caste really was.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really enjoyed its opening chapters and then stumbled on the formula. Some generalised contextualising and background and then drop in a dusted-down article written previously for a newspaper. I did not finish it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Well written informative account of modern India; how it got to this point in history and what the future is likely to hold. Excellent source for sorting out the complexities of the largest democracy on the planet.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Really enjoyed this. Good intro to India for the uninitiated, even better guide to India for those that already have the basics. Fasdcinating and well written buy someone that has spent plenty of time ther, is warm to the country but is inherently a westerner and iunconvined by the Indian spedisal cse.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Although this book is now five years old, it is still widely referenced as the best overview of India's ongoing political, economic, and cultural transitions. Author Edward Luce was South Asia bureau chief for the Financial Times when he wrote this book; now he is Washington bureau chief with the same paper. The chapters focus on India's uneven economic transition; its government bureaucracy; the struggles of the lower castes for political power; the rise of Hindu nationalism; the culture of the dominant Congress party; the predicament of Indian Muslim communities; and the role of India in regional and global politics. Luce, who is married to an Indian woman and clearly loves the country, brings a Western perspective, so he knows what aspects of India will require more context for an American or British reader to understand. That's helpful. At the same time, Luce also doesn't hesitate to criticize. He's expressly states his dislike for Hindu nationalism (though, to be clear, he doesn't much like nationalism or fundamentalism of any kind). On economic matters, he seems unreflectively but not dogmatically neoliberal. He acknowledges environmental concerns - they are one of four great challenges he identifies for India - but he doesn't seem to have thought much about what it would take for India to develop sustainably. While the book isn't autobiographical, Luce's strong personality does come through often, both in the direct questions he asks various officials he interviews, and in his apparent inability to hold back a quip when one occurs to him. The four challenges he identifies for India in his last chapter are raising 300 million people out of desperate poverty; curbing environmental destruction (especially climate change); heading off the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and strengthening India's democratic institutions by curbing Hindu nationalism and reducing pervasive government corruption.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One of the tags I used for this book was 'current events'. That will change soon as the book was written in 2006 and published in 2007. If you want to read it I would advise you to read it soon otherwise it will just be a short history, although a rather good one.India is a democracy with a 24 party system. The political system and bureaucracy are corrupt and bribery is rampant. It is almost impossible to fire a government worker or indeed any worker. The poor everywhere get the short end of the stick.Nevertheless the system does work in its fashion. And corruption and bribery can be gotten rid of like they have in this country (snicker). But the Indian economy is improving and gradually expanding albeit slowly.The author is a financial journalist. This shows in the amount of economic information included in the book. The book is well-written and worth your time.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
My limited view of India was of a country of Bollywood movies, curry, Indian customer service call centers, poverty, hundreds of millions of people, slums and more poverty. This pretty readable book gave me a, well, broader view of India. It's a crazy place--incredible diversity with a democracy that seems to work. Some facts just stuck with me: less than 10% of India's 1.1 billion people work in the formal work force and 80% of them work for the government. The bureaucracy is monumentally corrupt--most workers don't even show up for work but still get paid. There are more than 600,000 Indian villages--most without electricity or running water. There is only a 65% literacy rate. Most do not go to school (the teachers don't show up)but the tech universities churn out thousands of brilliant engineers. The caste system is alive and well, mostly as an economic classifier. We think our Christian fundamentalists are a threat to US civil liberties? The Hindu nationalist movement makes them look like pussycats.In Spite of the Gods gives you an idea of the forces that have shaped India--religious, historic, economic, cultural. There are some good anecdotes, interviews and enough data to satisfy anyone. And, since India will surpass China in population this century, and it's a nuclear power, and its economy will become the 3rd largest pretty soon, maybe we should take a look at it a bit more closely. "Remember, India always wins," as the author says.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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