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

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

Amartya K. Sen, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 (409pp) ISBN 978-0-374-10583-9

As India's multicultural society confronts violent sectarianism at home and a range of destabilizing forces internationally, these illuminating essays from Nobel Prize–winning economist Sen (most of which began as articles or lectures over the past decade) offer a timely and cogent examination of the country's long history of heterodoxy and public discourse. With sparkling erudition and crisp prose, Sen reminds readers of a capacious cultural legacy that has nourished a plethora of religious communities (including Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Parsee, Sikh and Baha'i), as well as a venerable line of atheist and materialist thought, while fostering ancient advances in science and mathematics, and inclusive theories of governance. Challenging the notion of the West as sole originator of liberal values, the book—which ranges over subjects as diverse as India's ancient calendars, nuclear arms policy, relationship with China, gender and class inequality, representations in the Western imagination and the competing national visions of Tagore and Gandhi—bears forcefully on contemporary debates over multiculturalism, secularism and postcolonial identity. Sen's lucid reasoning and thoroughgoing humanism, meanwhile, ensure a lively and commanding defense of diversity and dialogue. (Oct.)