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In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,509 Ratings  ·  225 Reviews
Social Science. Luce shows that India is an economic rival to the United States in an entirely different sense from China. There is nothing in India like the manufacturing capacity of China, despite the huge potential labor force. An inept system of public education leaves most Indians illiterate and unskilled. Yet, at the other extreme, the middle class produces ten times ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 16th 2007 by Doubleday (first published August 24th 2006)
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May 20, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world

Warning - this review contains many spoilers

In Luce’s book, India is a land of a few brilliant high flyers on the one hand, and poverty-stricken masses on the other. The high flyers have brought success to their homeland, but he barely touches up their achievements, instead the book concentrates on the wrongs experienced by the bulk of the population. I found the book quite a hotch-potch of information , but fascinating nonetheless.

Problems with the bulk of the poplulation

*There is fantasticall
Jun 24, 2012 Arjun rated it liked it
I'll be frank - each part of the book is factual and correct. Yet, it misses the mark as whole. Reading Mr. Luce's biography, I had expected he is a westerner (for want of a better word) who also understands the spirit of what drives India as a nation. After reading his book, I have realized yet again, that living in India with a mindset of a non-Indian makes you a good factual historian but not someone who can put a finger on India's nerve. Most of his book is spent on the corruption and indivi ...more
Theresa Mannix
Oct 01, 2007 Theresa Mannix rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in India, of course.
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 corru ...more
Satyaki Mitra
An extensively researched and comprehensive book which provides some fascinating insights into the workings of the modern Indian political and economic system. The book is replete with quotes of conversations with not just local and national politicians but also judges,entrepreneurs,social activists and so on, some of these conversations in the interviews(that are sprawling throughout the book) are exceedingly interesting.
The wide ranging discussions on India's economy like it's capital-intensiv
Jun 28, 2010 Murugan rated it did not like it
Here's my review on this bad book on amazon.

"I am sure at the end of this review most of you will stamp me as fanatic who 's not willing to see the shortfalls of India. However, please consider my observation before making your decision. I was disappointed in this book because it has no point! Am not sure he established why india is successful or if it was inspite of the gods. In my opinion, this was a feeble attempt by a journalist who was not qualified to comment on either one of the topics. M
Wilson Tomba
Mar 11, 2013 Wilson Tomba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engagingly written and a very good primer for all those interested in India. If after finishing this book you feel hungry for more, I'd recommend you pick up a more scholarly account of Indian History such as this one:
India After Gandhi The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha
Feb 01, 2009 Deirdre rated it really liked it
Suppose you threw a dinner party and your guests represented the entire population of the world. You only have 22 seats at your table, so some gusts must share. Because of its dangerous nature, you decide that the US gets one whole seat to itself. India gets almost four of your remaining chairs and China takes up the next four and a half. By contrast, England must share its seat with five other nations.

Clearly when you take up that many plates, you should be paid some respect. Yet other than ta
May 04, 2007 Raghu rated it really liked it
This book by Edward Luce, a British journalist who served many years in India, is a very insightful study of the complexities and contradictions of today's India and its development. It doesn't get carried away by India's burgeoning IT sector or its middle class or its pharmaceutical and other sectors which are doing well in a globalized world. It balances it with disturbing facts such as the following:
that only 0.1% of India's workforce is employed by the IT sector; that only 0.7% India's workf
Jan 17, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
I'm traveling to India in March and knew next to nothing about India when I started this book. I came away with a much better understanding of the conflicts and dichotomies India grapples with as exponential development continues: Hindus and Muslims, Brahmins and Dalits, rapid urban development and abject rural poverty, democracy and corruption. For the most part, I found Luce informative and engaging. The material could be dry, but I appreciated that he spiced it up with anecdotes and vignettes ...more
Aug 22, 2010 Nathan rated it did not like it
Edward Luce remains obstinately superficial throughout this book, approaching India as a mass statistic or collective social trend, rather than an organic, dynamic country. It can be a little slow and, I think, reductive, though that's not to say his observations don't have any truth to them. Much of his observations, are, however, pretty obvious, or have been made elsewhere. This is a broad and studied book, but not engaging, as Luce almost completely ignores the social atmosphere of India (a s ...more
Mar 06, 2016 Adeline rated it really liked it
I am not going to lie - I have never been a huge fan of politics or everything that goes on here in the name of governance. I loathe reading newspapers, paying attention to vehement debates on TV and forming a political opinion of any sorts. But it is nice to know I've caught up (at least somewhat) with all the political science I've ignored thus far by reading this book.
And it is indeed enlightening. To compare a relatively new country like America and India seemed rather obvious in my head be
James Eckman
Dec 26, 2015 James Eckman rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in modern India
Shelves: non-fiction
While a few years old, it's still a good read on the subject since it covers the development of post-colonial India and not just current events. If you haven't read any general history on modern India, this would make a good start.

Most of the problems in covered in this book are still there and there seems to be little change. The level of corruption mentioned in the book seems insane, but 1800's America had similar levels. On the other hand, the Indian voting system is more modern and efficien
Diane Brown
Jul 14, 2014 Diane Brown rated it really liked it
This was a great book to read. Written in a style that comments on India but very easy on the reader, mostly avoiding economic and political jargon. Luce, writes about India from his perspective as a journalist and having lived and married in that country. Some of the text highlights interviews he has had with opinion shapers in India

He explores the Ghandi-Nehru political dynasty and legacy on Indian politics, governance style and social dynamic in an informative way, as well as India's growing
Rajesh Kurup
Oct 11, 2010 Rajesh Kurup rated it really liked it
I would recommend this book to people who are interested in learning more about the current state of India and it's recent rise. Luce, a journalist with the Financial Times who has extensively covered India and South Asia gives a good, broad overview of many topics.
As an Indian-American, I can certainly appreciate the enormous complexity that is India and I think that Luce breaks India down into bite-sized pieces.
His major topics include the intrusion of the state into Indian life and commerce
Mohan Ram
Jul 30, 2012 Mohan Ram rated it really liked it
A comprehensive take on contemporary India, that also attempts the most difficult task of trying to analyse why India is India! Found it eminently readable, very perceptive with its insights and written with a combination of affection and frustration that all of us can relate to. The tone remains optimistic about India's future in the twenty-first century but there is also abundant sprinkling of caution - it is up to India to lose! All Indian bureaucrats and politicos should get a complimentary ...more
Michael Connolly
Oct 13, 2012 Michael Connolly rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, india
The author is a reporter for the British newspaper, the Financial Times, who is married to an indian woman.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was a proponent of a traditional, rural India.
The main political party in India is the Congress Party, whose most famous leader was Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru was a proponent of British culture. Nehru was born a Brahmin, but did not support the caste system. His support of Fabian socialism and disdain for capitalism came in part from his dislike of the bania castes of money
Dec 19, 2013 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book that attempts to grasp the multi-tentacled creature that is modern India. It's written in a relaxed manner, with insightful commentary on many topics, including India's challenged economy, state-approved corruption, Hindu nationalism, and the upcoming AIDS pandemic.

I especially appreciated the first chapter on India's economy. It's hard to understand India's claim to global power status when millions upon millions of its people continue to live in crushing poverty.

What is the answ
Feb 16, 2009 kareem rated it really liked it
my cousin from delhi gave me this, and i read it while traveling in india.

it's a great overview of where india is and is poised to go in the 21st century. luce explains india's dynasty politics (nehru/gandhi) and religious context to help the reader understand how india's bureaucracy, system of government, conflict with pakistan, treatment of muslims, relationship with china and the US, and current economic drivers will play a role in india becoming the next great superpower.

his conclusion is t
Ved Gupta
Feb 09, 2015 Ved Gupta rated it it was amazing
I was not very excited when I picked up this book (title hinted towards religious philosophy in India) but surprisingly this book turned out to be spell-bounding work on contemporary India. Even though Edward Luce has much of his background in financial reporting, he captured the philosophy and details of rising India quite beautifully. Edward Luce knows how India works and how the society moves here. The book is full of interviews with small and big names varying from Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandh ...more
Sep 24, 2007 Luvh rated it really liked it
Well-researched and well-presented. Luce's style is engaging, and he turns a wry joke.
The book comes at a good time as the West has never been more coo-coo for cocoa puffs about India. Most of these warm feelings are about India's relatively recent IT (and overall economic) revolution. To a lesser extent they are also about our resurgent (or maybe just surgent) interest in India's spiritual traditions. Luce disavows both narratives in the preface, and it's the realism of his approach that made t
Theo Sottero
Jan 15, 2016 Theo Sottero rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Kim and I were going to India and I wanted to learn more about the political history and social structure of the country. It was comforting to see some of the things I observed during our trip discussed further in the book. Also, it helped me to pay attention to things I may not have noticed otherwise and helped start a number of conversations about modern day India with friends we met there.
Rudrangshu Das
Mar 07, 2016 Rudrangshu Das rated it really liked it
I was initially reluctant to read a book on India written by a Brit, as I thought it would be unfairly biased. I still decided to give this book a shot seeing that it was quite popular. I was pleasantly surprised. As other reviewers have mentioned this is a thoroughly researched book, full of facts about my country I was previously unaware of. Edward Luce also keeps his opinions under restraint, never letting them cloud the facts and this is one reason I liked the book. The book though at times ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Dr.J.G. rated it did not like it
The official description on the site, which may or may not represent the book or the author, and might very well be an editorial comment, goes :-

"India remains a mystery to many Americans, even as it is poised to become the world 19s third largest economy within a generation, outstripping Japan. It will surpass China in population by 2032 and will have more English speakers than the United States by 2050. In In Spite of the Gods , Edward Luce, a journalist who covered India for many years, make
Jun 11, 2008 Pankaj rated it really liked it
A poignant perspective by the editor of the financial times of the enigma that is India. How the country functions and how it grows is as big a mystery as how they get a deity of Lord Ganesha to drink milk. Nonetheless, the book offers some very interesting insight into the strengths and apparent weaknesses holding India. In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India is as much of a testament to India's potential as a referendum on its weaknesses.
Mar 14, 2014 Rama rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Clearly a book intended to introduce the mess that is India to non-Indian audience; nothing new is to be gleaned from it.

A condescending tone permeates proceedings for the most part, with only the India-China-US relations bit having the capability to incite interest. As a financial journalist, Edward Luce tends to wear numbers as the cloak of well-intentioned objectivity - this does not mean anything other than the predictable favoring of the market economy, the population-related issues, the c
Oct 12, 2007 Priya rated it liked it
Very thought provoking analysis of India. While being critical, the Author's love for the country seems to come right through.
The amount of history he covers is vast and sometimes he touches very fleetingly on subjects leaving you hungry for more. There are times when I felt, he generalised issues by stretching them over the entire country. To be fair, he does assert India's multifacetedness many times.
All in all a good read.
May 13, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-and-loved
Mistitled here. It's not the "strange" rise of modern India, just "the rise of modern India." I don't usually dig nonfiction, but this was at once both an entertaining and illuminating look at modern India from an outsider who clearly knows the place well and loves it dearly. He's boiling the ocean, without a doubt, but it's a good primer. Just one person's perspective, but a well-researched, well-reasoned one.
Sumirti Singaravel
Of all the books which purports to portray India in its recent times, this one by Mr.Luce does a greater justice to the subject at hand and the land it intends to portray. The essays on the Indian bureaucracy(which most often than not is bureau'crazy') and the unbiased account of the plight of untouchables and the raise of middle class makes the whole reading worthy. Definitely an admirable work.
Apr 10, 2016 Vishwas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, india
This book is a great account of contemporary India, written with panache. The author mingles his professional research and personal vignettes to put together a thoroughly readable book that touches upon different aspects of the political economy of India. The fact that I read this close to 10 years after it was published is one that I am not proud of - should have read this book a lot earlier. Some of the details and fact are not quite relevant today as they perhaps were when the book was publis ...more
Mar 17, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book. It's an analysis of India that is insightful, accessible, and entertaining. Mr. Luce has compiled an extraordinary amount of information from research and interviews of important personalities from all walks of Indian life. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the stories and details, and at other times found myself shaking my head in disappointment at the honest but painful presentation of India's difficulties. Mr. Luce's tone and analysis are honest, but noticeably co ...more
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