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.
A burgeoning economic and geopolitical giant, India has the 21st century stamped on it more visibly than any other nation after China and the U.S. It's been an expanding force since at least 1991, explains journalist Luce, when India 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 (now former) Financial Times's South Asia bureau chief, Luce illuminates the drastically lopsided features of a nuclear power still burdened by mass poverty and illiteracy, which he links in part 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 labor force and an enduring caste system. This lively account includes a sharp assessment of U.S. promotion of India as a countervailing force to China in a three-power "triangular dance," and generally sets a high standard for breadth, clarity and discernment in wrestling with the global implications of New India.