cover image The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age

The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age

James Crabtree. Crown/Duggan, $27 (369p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6006-9

In this eye-opening rumination on wealth, power, and those who seek both, Crabtree, a former India correspondent for the Financial Times, ventures deep into the shadowy heart of India’s “black-money” economy. From the cantilevered skyscrapers of Mumbai’s billionaire elite to a neglected Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad, Crabtree brings a reporter’s precision and flair to his story, arguing that the rise of the “Bollygarchs” and the takeover of Indian politics by huge sums of private money has led to a boom-and-bust cycle in India’s industrial economy. Weaving in interviews with politicians, central bankers, and industrial tycoons, he concludes that a lack of state capacity in India—the famously byzantine business licensing system, as well as low levels of investment in infrastructure—has contributed to rent-seeking and crony capitalism on the one hand and populist politics with a Hindu nationalist tinge on the other. An inside look into the corridors of power, this is an invaluable commentary on Indian democracy and the forces that threaten it. Agent: Toby Mundy, Toby Mundy Assoc. (July)