“India and its contradictions” 

"This book is an answer to the negligence of the public debate in India, that, for the authors, has forgotten to discuss the big problems that the country has faced along the years, and, instead, it has only focussed on irrelevant issues and the illusion of economic growth."
Por Antonio López
Jun 8, 2022

The title of this book review is part of the full name of the book “An Uncertain Glory”, which we’re going to comment on. Let’s start by asking: what does it mean to have contradictions in one country, and, particularly, in a country like India? If you have an outstanding economic growth and a democratic political system, one would expect that those are the best conditions to improve the people’s lives of one specific country. 

That’s not the case in India (and many other countries, like the ones in Latin America), where, although there is economic growth, a democratic political system, and many more advantages, real development is not clear and uncertain.

This book is an effort to discuss the reality of India, through the presentation of its main challenges, contradictions and opportunities.

The authors of this book are two world-wide renowned economists, Jean Drèze, a currently honorary professor at the Delhi School of Economics, and Amartya Sen, professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University. Both of them are from India and through a genuine concern they discuss, along 10 chapters, what are the most important elements of the public debate about the development of India, which could give to the country a “certain glory”. 

This book is an answer to the negligence of the public debate in India, that, for the authors, has forgotten to discuss the big problems that the country has faced along the years, and, instead, it has only focussed on irrelevant issues and the illusion of economic growth. 

This economic growth has been an illusion because it hasn’t translated into real development for the majority of the Indian people. That’s why the authors argue that any kind of economic development in India should be discussed through the lens of social justice. 



Basically, the main contradiction of Indian economic development is that it coexists with a huge portion of undernourished children, lack of systematic health care, extremely deficient school education and half the home without toilets (forcing half of all Indians to practice open defecation). Also, there are still great challenges of women agency; being a woman in India (as in many places in the Middle East and even in Latin America) represents a disadvantage when trying to study and work. That is a condition that reinforces the inequalities that already exist because of class and race/caste. 

Inequality could be the overarching challenge of India.

The common denominator which allows you to understand the contradictions of this country. There is a great portion of the country that lives in (extreme) poverty, which defines a series of deprivations and scarcity affecting their freedom to live a dignified life. Then, if you add the caste and gender variables, you have a lot of people suffering from an enslaving life condition. 

This was a book that received great response among the academia and media.

As two commentators said, it is “a detailed, eloquent and challenging analysis of modern India and its problems.” and “a stinging indictment of India’s unequal boom.”. However, I may warn you that it’s not a very accessible book; there is a lot of data and numbers, which allow you to better understand the problems you’re reading, but, at some point, that could be tiring. 

Nevertheless, this book is worth reading because the narrative and the way the authors expose their arguments are brilliant; and you can learn a lot about the main challenges that a country can face (in this case, through the example of India) and you relate what you’re reading with the reality of your country. Hopefully, in the process, you can come up with ideas about what can be done to solve those problems whether in India, your country or in any other place in the world that shares the same reality. 

I totally recommend reading this book; it gives you new perspectives and allows you to understand that economics is worthless when it’s not translated into real wellness and sustainable development.  

Antonio López

Antonio López

Founder of The Bookish Man.
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