The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen

I’m sensing a pattern this year …. I keep picking up these books that have this huge hype and hoopla around them, get disappointed and feel bad about leaving them unfinished. This is one more added to that alarmingly fast growing list. But having read quite a sizable portion, I’m going to go ahead and review it anyway. 10310 To prevent myself from ranting away without control I am going to just put it down as 3 points

1. History does not begin and end with Akbar and Ashoka 

The first essay is good since it outlines the history of argumentative tradition in India. But that is it. He then continues to refer to the first essay in all the essays that follow. Every other historical reference he makes is either Akbar or Ashoka. Out of some 1000s of kings who ruled India across history, he talks about only 2. For someone who knows even a little history, it is boring.

2. Culture does not begin and end with Bengal 

This should have been “The Argumentative Bengali” ! Why add “Writings on Indian culture” with the title when all we have is pages and pages of Tagore followed by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen, etc. ? Do not mislead the readers so !!

3. The overwhelming bias in the writing 

Numerous essays are devoted to the critique of a political party’s ideology. First of all, I would expect the scholarly work of an academic to be objective.Even if he is going to take sides so blatantly, equating donations made by NRIs to “religious fundamentalism” is taking it a bit too far and it speaks to a deep seated bias.

Bottomline : Do not fall prey to the hype like I did – just skip it !


2 thoughts on “The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen

  1. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a book that you didn’t like unfinished. More people should do it. Afterall, you wouldn’t finish listening to an album you didn’t like or – intentionally – sit through a film or TV show you thought was dreadful, so why do the same with a book? Life is too short to not enjoy yourself.


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