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

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,081 ratings  ·  197 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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Caroline
.

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
...more
Theresa Mannix
Oct 01, 2007 Theresa Mannix rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Arjun
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
Wilson Tomba
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
Satyaki Mitra
An extensively researched and comprehensive book which provides some fascinating insights into the workings of the Indian political and economic system. The book is filled with quotes and 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-intensive natur
...more
Murugan
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
...more
Deirdre
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
...more
Laura
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
Nathan
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
Diane Brown
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
...more
Mohan Ram
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
Alicia
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
...more
Raghu
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
...more
kareem
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
...more
Ved Prakash
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
Luvh
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
...more
Pankaj
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.
Rama
Mar 14, 2014 Rama rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
...more
Priya
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.
Kelly
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.
John
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
Grania
Fantastic summary of the contradictions of a developing world unbroken democracy, and unbroken civilisation. India is a huge nation of extremes difficult to summarise, and this book makes an excellent attempt at explaining the obvious disparity bewteen the engineering succeses of modern India, and the crushing poverty of the majority.
Nicky McHugh
I read this book while traveling through India (2014) and found it spot on it terms of some of the insights related to culture, economics, and politics. I did however wish there was an updated version. Luce as journalist works well here as he moves through various topics. I felt the personal stories actually detracted from his thesis and the book itself; and this is not a deep dive, nor is it intended to be a comprehensive tract on the state of India today. What it is, is a close look at a moder ...more
Gaurav
Fascinating. The coverage of history, and intertwined with the present. As an Indian, there were things I myself did not know, and Luce left me hungry for more information.

The gratifying feature was that Ed Luce, unlike most other writers, was not wary of presenting his own opinions.
Nishit Jain
More like 3.5 stars, this book serves as a very good introduction to Modern India for the uninitiated. However, if you've been following the development of India for a while, it doesn't have a lot of new things to say.
Umesh Kesavan
This book captures the essence of Indian polity,economy and society much better than the much hyped Patrick French's " India- a portrait"
Arati
An excellent account of social/political development in modern India (basically since the time I left India for the US).
Niranjan
A very fair sociopolitical assessment of India. Highlights both the positives and the huge opportunities India has in front of it. Totally agree with the quote - 21st Century is for India's to lose. I will recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a fair perspective on the India's current situation, a real view of both the ugly and the beautiful sides, the enormity of challenges the country faces from within and also recommendations on how India is also in a position to benefit from the hug ...more
Vikas Lather
I don't prefer writers who reduce vast legacy of India to absurd over mystification of India as some religious country of bag packs, Himalayas and Yoga - as if we have nothing more to offer as a diverse civilization, modern state and secular democracy. Edward Luce is among those few writers who are a fine exception to the above rule.

Edward has a flair for wit:
“Lalu Prasad put both his hands in front of the cow's face and said: 'This hand is for Lalu and this hand is for Ram Vilas Paswan [Lalu'
...more
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