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The Indian Ideology [Paperback]

Perry Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Nov 2013
Today, the Indian state claims to embody the values of a stable political democracy, a harmonious territorial unity, and a steadfast religious impartiality. Even many of those critical of the inequalities of Indian society underwrite such claims. The Indian Ideology suggests that the roots of the current ills of the Republic go much deeper, historically. They lie, in the way the struggle for independence culminated in the transfer of power from British rule to Congress in a divided subcontinent, not least in the roles played by Gandhi as the great architect of the movement, and Nehru as his appointed successor, in the catastrophe of Partition. Only an honest reckoning with that disaster, Perry Anderson argues, offers an understanding of what has gone wrong with the Republic since Independence. The 'Idea of India', widely diffused not only in the official establishment, but more broadly in mainstream intellectual life, side-steps or suppresses many of these uncomfortable realities, past and present. For its own reasons, much of the left has yet to challenge the upshot: what has come to be the neo-Nehruvian consensus of the time. The Indian Ideology, revisiting the events of over a century in the light of how millions of Indians fare in the Republic today, suggests another way of looking at the country.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; Reprint edition (4 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781682593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781682593
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 354,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Perry Anderson brings together a set of arguments that will be received with disquiet by the scholars and ideologues who have constructed a celebratory, self-righteous consensus about the Indian Republic. Instead of writing off the unspeakable violence and egregious injustice in our society as aberrations in an otherwise successful model, Anderson points to serious structural flaws and the deep seated social prejudices of those who have administered the Indian State in the decades since Independence. It is important to read this book seriously, with equanimity and an open mind, instead of flinching and turning away from it." Arundhati Roy

About the Author

PERRY ANDERSON is the author of, among other books, Lineages of the Absolutist State, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism, Considerations on Western Marxism, English Questions, The Origins of Postmodernity, Spectrum and The New Old World. He teaches history at UCLA and is on the editorial board of New Left Review.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cutting Away The Occluding Myths 8 Aug 2013
Having read the first essay - "Gandhi Centre Stage" - in one sitting, the experience was like the one described by Stendhal of "a pistol shot in the middle of an opera. Things can never be the same again..". It cannot be comfortable reading for many Indians of my generation, brought up in the living mythology surrounding Gandhi in India, and later, post his assassination in 1948, growing up in the London of the late 1950s. The essay requires a rigorous unflinching look at the past. I look forward to reading the remaining two essays when I receive my copy of the book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This publication by Perry Anderson goes a long way in making sense of the deep historical fault lines that existed in the pre-partition British India and how these lead to partition. Anderson makes you understand how British created, for the first time, a United India, which had never existed before. And how this one entity of "United India" controlled from Delhi in a unitary structure, a tightly run federation could not have survived without the British power. With British withdrawal this continent needed a new constitutional arrangement, a framework like European Union, a confederal formula to extend that unity into future but the warring interests represented in Congress and Muslim League could not develop a consensus on power sharing leading to partition. A brilliant step by step analysis coupled with personality analysis of the main characters like Gandhi.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A potboiler 31 Dec 2013
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distinguished marxist scholar needful of funds? No penetrating insights in this conventional retelling of the story of India since independence
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Has to be Read by Anyone Interested in India 13 April 2014
By Romi Mahajan - Published on
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Perry Anderson has done us a service by writing "The Indian Ideology" though for many of us, the book is painful to read. The essential set of issues he dissects (and at time desicates) is how indeed modern India came to be a state which at once boasts of it's arrival on the world scene and, sotto voce, admits that on most indices of human development, it's citizens are as wanting as any in the world. Anderson places much of the blame here on the venal Congress party and the horrible bequests of the British like "first past the post" electoral systems. He also very rightly points out that what he calls "confessionalism" i.e. religion suffuses the entire body politic of the country.

Where the book is painful is his evisceration of Pandit Nehru. While he is critical of Gandhi, he does let up on the Mahatma because the man was really in a different world, not described at all by the material plane.

No review can do justice to this tour-de-force, but if I were Anderson, I would have done a few things differently. While Nehru was calculating and weak in many instances (and horribly power hungry in other), he still stands our as giant among India's PMs. Anderson rightly lauds Ambedkar-- a wonderful move in a time of an incredibly Right-ward tendency in India and among HIndus-- but mostly at the expense of Nehru. While understandable, I wonder if the excoriation went too far.

What worries me most (and this is not Anderson's problem to bear) is that Gandhi and Nehru are under attack in today's India, for the wrong reasons. You can be assured that Anderson's work will be used by the forces of Hindutva in ways that would make this incredibly astute, intellectual, and left-wing scholar cringe.

Whatever your thoughts, however, this book has to be read. The more uncomfortable it makes you, the better.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The degenration of a democracy - a cautionary tale 27 May 2014
By Sceptique500 - Published on
Two years after publication, only two reviews of this book have been posted on Both seem to be from people with a background in India. This is regrettable. Not only is this book lucid, incisive, and well written - a pleasure to read. It resonates with lessons for the world beyond Indian borders: it highlights adjacent possible developments in many modern countries.

Religion (the increasing role of religious sentiment), regionalism (the fracture of the national states in a mosaic of locally based factionalism vying for spoils form the center), and hidden repression (the increasing of state surveillance to quench opposition) are forces shaping India, but also countries where the political discourse of economic and social development as well as income distribution have been effectively silenced. India may be, in some ways, post-modernism in the making.

Democracy, secularity, and unity are the three pillars of the "Indian ideology." The book traces its intellectual origins, its establishment in the new Republic, and its evolution, or its transmogrification until today. The fresco is not flattering and the outcome, so far, less than heartening - if hidden in plain view of the international community. About one third of the country life under martial law, the basic parameters of economic and social development (education, health, women's status) are dismal, and the political system has not only become criminal and corrupt, but also semi-feudal, with dynasties taking up a good part of the political space and cooperating on the basis of collective egoism (pg. 168). All the while, it has failed to shake off the explicit dirigisme of the Raj (doubled as socialism), reinforced by the pervasive role of caste.

There have been highlights: the country has held together despite its infinite diversities. India is slowly breaking away from the rigid caste system, and it is beginning to address the issue of rural poverty (NREGA). The Supreme Court has taken on a novel role of pro-active conscience of the Constitution, and not just its interpreter (it has done so in a rather haphazard and frantic way).

Foreign relations do not figure prominently in the analysis. Understandably so. Having established itself as one of the leaders of the Non-Alignment movement, India has practiced equidistance between the blocks of the Cold War as a way to concentrate politicians' minds on solipsism (except for managing its position in respect of Pakistan). Its foreign policies were little more than vague nods to the prevailing winds of change.

The world is now at India's doors. On the one side it will no longer be able to avoid comparisons with countries like China (Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India), Mexico, or Brazil. It will faced international competition from them as its comparative advantage of speaking the English language fades (e.g. IT, and engineering). Whether India will want to be a "first tier" country in a multi-polar world, or whether it will content itself in the role of a swing-vote country (as today) is anyone's guess. Many of the hidden forces that will drive the country are exposed in this excellent book - a reason more to read it carefully.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will challenge everything you believe about 'Independence' movement. 9 May 2014
By Sanjay S - Published on
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Anderson's writing is impressive; fluid, engaging, and garnished with funny sarcasm. I would say this book (which is a set of three long essays) challenges you to rethink the romantic notions of the allegedly multicultural and democratic struggle for India's 'independence'. To do this, the author focuses on the various decisions taken at various points by the two most visible players of the anti-colonial struggle, namely, Gandhi and Nehru. The decisions are dismantled to reveal the problematic ideology that under-girded them. The ideology that Anderson illuminates is a toxic mix of Hindu nationalism combined with pretentious caste-blindness of the Indian National Congress. The BJP that emerged in eighties is thus shown to be just a more rabid variation of the Congress party. Ambedkar emerges as the one true visionary in this book. His quote, "Turn in any direction you like, caste is the monster that crosses your path," kept coming back to me as I read through this fascinating polemic.

To conclude, this book will challenge everything savarna Indians have been brought up to believe about Gandhism, Independence, Partition, and post-colonial India. It provides a radical new framework for interpreting the current big issues of India, such as occupation in Kashmir and Northeast, and the evolution (not in a good way) of contemporary Indian political scenario.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I think Professor Anderson missed quite a few points. ... 18 Aug 2014
By Srilata Gangulee - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think Professor Anderson missed quite a few points. Upon his recommendation I read Kathryn Tidrick's Gandhi. Wish Dr. Tidrick read more of Indian philosophy and the 19th century Indian thinkers before she wrote this book.
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