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

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  7,522 ratings  ·  424 reviews
In sixteen linked essays, Nobel Prize--winning economist Amartya Sen discusses India's intellectual and political heritage and how its argumentative tradition is vital for the success of its democracy and secular politics. The Argumentative Indian is "a bracing sweep through aspects of Indian history and culture, and a tempered analysis of the highly charged disputes surro ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Picador (first published 2005)
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Soumi Dasgupta-biswas each book deals with different subjects..Argumentative Indian deals with identity of Indian nationality and future of Indian culture in the present gl…moreeach book deals with different subjects..Argumentative Indian deals with identity of Indian nationality and future of Indian culture in the present global scenario....(less)

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David Sasaki
Aug 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Revaz Ardesher
After all my dramatic agony and breathless complaining, I am glad I endured. The Argumentative Indian is neither easy nor fun to read. The first three pages of every chapter and sub-chapter are essentially wordy justifications of why the topic is deserving of discussion in the first place.

Throughout the book I was constantly thinking, Amartya, homeboy, stop talking about what you're going to talk about and just get to it. Sen himself is quite the argumentative Indian and sometimes the book reads
Jun 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Amartya Sen is a renowned Economist and a Noble Laureate, he is not much of a historian and this book stands testimony to that.

The comments on the back of the book claim a lot about this being the best account of Indian history that must be read by every Indian. I beg to disagree. I strongly feel that Dr.Sen should focus on Economics and leave history to historians.

The book is supposed to be a collection of essays on Indian culture, History and Identity. However there is a lot of repetition in a
Nandakishore Varma
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
I started this book with great hopes. Dr. Amartya Sen was about to say something about our tradition, and what he wanted to say seemed to concur exactly with what I have understood, namely: Indian culture is a varied one, and cannot be limited to the single dimension that the right wingers are currently trying to limit it to. We have an argumentative tradition, where all facets of an issue are given equal importance, and arguments (both for and against) are given commensurate weightage. Fine! Al ...more
Saadia B. || CritiConscience
The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen is a book which talks about public reasoning and how it is closely linked to the roots of democracy. The book comprises of 16 essays written on various themes over a period of time and then compiled together as this book.

India, the largest democracy in the world, is being criticised for the on going Hindutva movement which threatens the acceptance of non-Hindus, particularly Muslims. The BJP’s powerful role in the mainstream Indian politics have further s
Aydin Mohseni
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
I read this book in preparation for a coming trip to India, along with "English August", and English translations of the "Bhagavad Gita" and "Ramayana".

It was, simply put, an articulate promotion for the value of the history of acceptance of heterogeny in India as part of the author's larger ideological framework and as a pointed criticism of the contemporary Hindutva movement, with beautiful threads of Indian history and culture woven in throughout.

The book got me wanting both to learn more ab
Jaspal Rana
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
There is an old adage that a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until finally, he knows everything about nothing. I found this statement to apply to Mr. Amartya Sen perfectly. Let me confess that this is the only book by Mr. Sen I have had the opportunity of reading. And I have to say - the experience was disappointing. What I had hoped to be an informative, well-researched account of Indian philosophies and schools of thought turned out to be an amateur interpret ...more
Anshul Thakur
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
My ending note should be written first. If you like reading such books, not for the sake of reading it, but for trying to develop a view, for understanding, don’t read this book without the company of a pen and a notebook to take notes. I made that mistake and realized that I should have done this when I started...
It seems, we not only fight with each other, but think of foreigners with disdain. This was closely observed by Alberuni, the great Iranian scholar back in his days “depreciation of fo
Jerry Jose
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This often debated and allegedly misattributed quote says a great deal about modern schools of free speech and tolerance. In this collection of essays, Nobel winning Economist Amartya Sen celebrates the long history of argumentative tradition in Indian subcontinent, and its contemporary relevance in often neglected modern cultural discussions. And of all the things one could worry about or contemplate on, in this
Siddharth Nishar
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book sets out to defend the secular, plural and liberal imperative against sectarian (mostly Hindutva) arguments based in history and specious reasoning.

This is also the perfect example of the kind of book to not write.

One, the content is limited to a very few arguments arrived at from various considerations but not examined from various perspectives. Examples of Ashoka and Akhbar contributing to the secular tradition, Buddhism spreading far and wide, global import and export of ideas, the
David Dinaburg
Time spent browsing message boards, gobbling tweets, combing through comment sections, and parsing truth from exaggerated facebook posts adds up quickly—the simple volume of text probably adds a dozen or more book-lengths to most people’s yearly reading list. That the text is proffered in nugget-sized chunklets is not the only siren song of social networking systems—there is an ever-present promise of interactivity. You can comment, even if you don’t comment. It deftly skirts the dead-text probl ...more
Ashok Krishna
No other author that I have ever known could stay true to his/her words and convictions throughout the course of the book as Mr.Amartya Sen can. He begins the book with the following words: ‘Prolixity is not alien to us in India.’ And, he goes on to prove his point with page after page of words that come back at you like the ocean waves – repetitive and superfluous. Prolixity may not be alien to us in India, but brevity definitely seems to be an alien concept to Mr.Sen.

To begin with, the title:
Sheela Lal
Jul 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
** I didn't read the entire book because I just couldn't stomach the thought of finishing a poorly edited and research set of essays. My comments reflect the 1/3 I was able to get through**
1. The essays do not have a cohesive thread throughout. I understand that Sen put them all together in one book, but if he had edited them to reduce redundancy, that would have made it easier to read.
2. The history is basic. He doesn't delve into anything more than what Westerners already know about India - H
May 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Pity those who never got to know about sensible right wing. Our nobel laureate goes on with his center-left position throughout the book, word 'hindutva' occurs at numerous places.
Lets start with secularism, his holiness enumerates many of Hindutva's problems with secularism, all fine but he completely misses the points discuss on what secularism should function like. Leave alone discussing about govt control of hindu temples, HE got a problem with Hindu right wing's patriarchal position w.r.t.
Savitha Rengabashyam
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Argumentative Indian is one of my all time favourites. I picked up this book just because I wanted to read a Nobel Laureate and I was very impressed indeed. Though the book is a heavy read, after the first 50 pages or so you get the hang of the language and the author's thought process and it becomes highly compelling. This book was one which made me look at Indian culture (a phrase I think is quite loosely and wrongly used and more often than needed) and identity with fascination. It's one ...more
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
If you laid all the economists in the world end to end, the old joke goes, you would never reach a conclusion. So it's all the more remarkable that it is as a practitioner of the "dismal science" that Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize in 1998. Sen is a man of conclusions; he is also brilliant at marshalling, with both extensive research and empirical evidence, the arguments that justify his conclusions. The Argumentative Indian -- a collection of 16 essays, many reworked and expanded from lecture ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
This is a very engaging collection of essays and lectures that Prof. Sen delivered on various occasions.
Assimilating a wide range of subjects including history, philosophy, religion and politics, I consistently experienced a certain level of coherence in Sen's thoughts. He unambiguously advocates for promotion and propagation of a liberal thought-process that focusses more on celebrating what we are and what we have, than lamenting on what we could've been or didn't.
You can feel the presence of
Prashanthini Mande
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I particularly liked the essay about Rabindranath Tagore, the man who wrote our national anthem, who stood strongly against patriotism and nationalism. It was quite interesting to find out how glaringly opposite ideologies Gandhi and Tagore, the spearheads of our freedom, had. While Gandhi was all about nationalism, Tagore believed in freedom of thought.

Read the full review on my blog!
Varad Deshmukh
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Argumentative Indian, by Amartya Sen, is a great experience through its essays divided into 4 parts.

Part I

The book stresses the importance of different cultures that have co-existed in Indian history. The thriving of these cultures has been often championed by active healthy debates and arguments to resolve issues and develop a tolerance and respect towards each other. Dr. Sen points out that such debates were often supported by monarchs like the Mughal Emperor Akbar and Emperor Ashoka. He
Anand Rai
Jan 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
It's a collection of essays written over time and then Sen decided to put all of them into one single book. Although he cautions us about the repetative nature of the book, it still becomes overwhelming. Amartya Sen's obsession with Ashoka and Akbar is very annoying. His over obsession with Hindutva too exposes his political bias but since Mr. Sen is a personality like James Moriarty of Arthur Conan Doyle's Fame Sherlock Holmes, no body has seen him, nobody knows much about him and nobody critic ...more
Sumukh Shankar Pande
An interesting read. Dr. Sen presents liberal ideas, backing them up with cogent arguments and a smatter of history. An incredibly exasperating aspect of this book is that it repeats itself far too often. I lost count of the number of times he mentioned Akbar and Ashoka's multiculturalism. I understand that this book is a collection of essays, but surely some editing would not be amiss.

Dr. Sen warns of the dangers of the Hindu Nationalist movement, and talks at length about the 'Indian Identity
Sam Marlowe
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Amartya Sen is the titular talkative Indian, who in his undying quest to unravel the tradition of reasoning in the Indian sub-continent comes up with a book elaborating on the said tradition or that is what the first chapter tells you. When you move on to subsequent chapters you are in for a confusion about what the book is really going to be about while it still leaves some room for speculation until page 356. In short, the book is a collection of a number of his essays which lack coherence as ...more
Rajat TWIT
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Hugely disappointed from the book. Redundancy of information, negligence of many important issues and over-emphasis on some particular issues ruined the whole expectation of having a great read. May be i was expecting a lot or may be because i am a TWIT, but this book gave me lot of "tch, tch" moments!!
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read this because it was recommended to me by so many people I respect. But I must say, I'm left rather unimpressed. The volume of essays is not at all cohesive. And most of the information conveyed is not particularly revelatory. I also take issue with Sen's tendency to pander to the British, downplaying even their role in engineering famines in Bengal. Deeply disappointing read.
Kiran Jeenkeri
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
"The Repetitively-Argumentative-With-Only-A-Few-Points-to-Prove-Economist" would be a more suitable title. The book neither reflects the 'great argumentative tradition' of India, add the author puts it, nor is it an authentic account of Indian history, as the reviews do.
Me liking or disliking a book has more to do with personal emotions rather than true merits of a book or the ideas contained in it. I'm in no way capable of judging how good an economist Amartya Sen is. But as a fellow human, I understand that he is a wonderful human being.

Dec 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Not worth reading... biased arguments all throughout..
Neeraj Bali
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sen establishes that India’s tradition for heterodoxy and argument is not restricted to male elites but cuts across gender, class and caste. The flow of his argument and richness of the sources convinces easily. Very early in the treatise, he also reveals his opposition to the Hindu right-wing thought. This is where things begin to come unstuck a bit.

I do not differ from him on the Hindutava world view. I believe that respect for pluralism is essential for our well-being and there is room for al
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
The book overall is a slightly difficult read courtesy Dr Sen's very academic writing style (copious amounts of footnotes, long paras establishing why the topics discussed are important, etc.). Although, takeaway for me are brilliant chapters on social and cultural issues in India's context which not only bust lots of myths but also bring out the deep subject matter expertise of Dr. Sen which is thoroughly enjoyable and insightful to read.
Reshal Suryawanshi
Mar 08, 2016 rated it liked it
The Argumentative Indian – Is a collection of 16 essays, many reworked and expanded from lectures incorporating Indian history, literature and sociology. Author Mr. Amartya Sen, Noble Prize Winning economist, had solemnly played role of historian too. The book is not an easy reading. Language is explicit and complex. It demands your patience! I will not suggest this book to neophyte reader.

Book is a discussion of Indian heterodoxy, secularism and argumentative nature. In first section he discuss
Jashan Singhal
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Premise of the book -Indians have been historically argumentative in nature, and the author explore how this attitude of heterodoxy has shaped the political, economic and cultural scenario of contemporary India. It is basically a collection of incisive and insightful essays that Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen had written over his career.

What I liked about the book?
1. His balanced standpoint when it comes to Indian culture and western influence. He believes that we shouldn't see Indian cultur
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Amartya Kumar Sen is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory, and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members.

Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceiv

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