Books & Culture, May/June 2008
Managing Pluralism, Indian-style
Lessons for the 21st century.
by Chandra Mallampalli
"Girls, when I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, 'Tom, finish your dinner—people in China and India are starving.' My advice to you is: Girls, finish your homework—people in China and India are starving for your jobs."—Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat
Thomas Friedman's admonition to his daughters shows how distant lands are being re-packaged to Americans in the 21st century. In The World is Flat, the New York Times columnist describes a leveling of the economic playing field, where members of previously poor or stagnant economies are gaining greater access to global wealth through the power of information. India factors prominently in the flattening process, not least because its growing middle class ranks high in math and computer skills and fluency in English. But outsourced jobs and call centers are not the only images tied to the new India. In The Clash Within, Chicago ethicist Martha Nussbaum details how hypermasculine Hindu militants raped Muslim women and destroyed Muslim shops in their genocidal fury in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, threatening India's sixty-year-old democracy. The key to this democracy, according to Harvard economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, is its ancient tradition of argument and reasoned debate. In The Argumentative Indian, Sen claims that Westerners have failed to appreciate this Asian tradition of public reason due to a preoccupation with falsely exotic notions of the East.
an interesting perspective on understanding how India deals with its pluralism by interacting with three books by an associate professor of history at Westmont College.
Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005; Picador, 2006).
Thomas Friedman, The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (Picador, 2007).
Martha Nussbaum, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (Harvard Univ. Press, 2007).