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The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future Hardcover – Jun 14 2007

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A bit surprised Dec 2 2008
By Paul Scott - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am a bit surprised by all of the misplaced animosity towards this book. I think Nussbaum is a very intelligent human being and I agree whole heartedly with most of her positions. I don't think she is portraying Hindus in any particular way. She clearly points out an intellectual trend that is on the rise (actually being revived) in India. I'm giving the book two stars only because I think the book is poorly written and seems to be a rehash of stuff other people have written before and written better. You can tell that her opinions are all second hand and I was truly convinced of this when she commented on the 600 hour Television series Ramayana which I am pretty sure she never watched (It seems unlikely to me that she would). Not to mention the series didn't seem at all full of any sort of propaganda (I unfortunately saw all of it). She could have done so much more such as looked more carefully at the rise of the movement, looked at it in a historical context, or many other ways. But then again I don't think she is exactly an expert on India and is perhaps poorly qualified to do so. The section on the constitution (her expertise) is very good however but certainly not worth the price of this book. I suggest one go elsewhere for infirmation on this subject.
53 of 82 people found the following review helpful
A remarkable book June 21 2007
By Aaron P. Rester - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Having studied Indian history and the Hindutva movement for many years, I must disagree entirely with the first reviewer. Nussbaum's descriptions of the violence in Gujarat, and the state and national government's complicity in it, are well backed-up by official sources, interviews with prominent Indian public figures, and the Sangh Parivar's own texts. Moreover, the point of the book is not to provide a history of this dark incident in India's recent past -- though it does so ably -- but to understand what motivates people to inflict such violence on their own neighbors and countrymen. In doing so, Nussbaum displays a remarkable empathy for Hindutva activists and sympathizers without condoning actions and beliefs that she sees as deplorable. Believing (as did her heroes Tagore and Gandhi) that understanding and caring about one's fellow human beings is essential to a nations's political and ethical well-being, she argues that Gujarat represents "a failure of the moral imagination" that allows humans beings to recognize the humanity of others, and that the furious pace of economic development in India should be matched by the development of humanist ideals that have been abandoned in the last two decades.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
An unpleasant read Oct. 25 2010
By Wayne A. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Given the credentials of the author I expected something a bit more professional, objective, and informative--scholarly, if you will--especially since there is not much material on the subject of disturbing social and political reactionary trends in the Indian/Hindu world. I also expected much better writing.

Instead, this is an extremely subjective and overly personalized account characterized by inadequately worked out ideas and unconvincing psychological and anthropological speculations. This leads me to believe the author was frequently working outside of her areas of expertise. In an earlier attempt at a review of this book (it's hard to review something that has too many problems)I expressed the belief that she was viewing the non-Western world through the fog of the American Culture War, which is a peculiar and modern form of Eurocentrism. Her repeated attempts to suggest links between what is happening in India and what is happening in the United States are forced and, incredibly, even naive. They are also one-sided.

My sense is that the author is trapped in the cognitively dissonant political/intellectual world where the Progressive agenda is constantly battling with Multiculturalist program. She doesn't seem to understand that the Progressive agenda is often seen as the true Western Cultural Imperialism in socially conservative developing nations. She tries to resolve this by replacing the idea of Clash of Civilizations with, effectively internal Culture Wars. However, if the internal Culture War--the Clash Within--is between Progressives working largely with Western ideas of rights, and traditionalists of various extremes, then we're right back to a Clash of Civilizations. This is so obvious it's amazing the author didn't catch it. But the author's thinking is probably so compartmentalized and, again, Eurocentric, she probably has a very large blind spot.

All in all an extremely unsatisfying book. I learned more about the current problems with American academia than I did about modern India.
41 of 65 people found the following review helpful
a badly written book with no redeeming value Sept. 25 2007
By Mark bennett - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a difficult book to review because it is very bad in so many different ways. Its a book full of ignorance. Its a book where the author plays favorites based on her politics and her romantic daydreams about a place. Its a book where emotion and political biases take the place of fact. Finally the writing style of the book is so self-indulgant and amaturish that no editor should have accepted it and no publisher should have published it.

First, I am no particular fan of the BJP or their ideology. I'm not interested in defending India either. India has good and bad in it like every country. And it has problems like every country.

The problems in the book start in the introduction which is a useful window into the self-loathing of many in the American elite. She explains her hatred for herself and how through identifying with the cause of the downtrodden in America, she is somehow liberated from what she is. America was not a big enough stage for self-hate and so she decided to extend her ideas into another culture (India). But in the end for all her talk, she comes across in the book as a reborn Victorian Imperial woman come to India to wag her finger in displeasure and to set its injustices right.

She claims to have written this for Americans to show them the supposed voice of the "real india" that is being suppressed. Strange thing is, the only real voice in the book is her own. Its more her telling her friends in America what to think about India than telling them about India.

The second problem with her book is that she an absurd romantic attachment to all things she considers Bengali. She incessentaly promotes Tagore over and over in the pages of the book. She tells us how much India needs a Tagore. But her attraction and promotion of him seem tied up in her belief of the superiority of Bengali underdogs within India. She tries to transform him into something he never was in life. She seems in the end to want to teach Hindu India to hate itself in the same way she admits she hates her own American WASP background.

Finally, the book itself is terribly written. Its written in a rambling amaturish style with the author looking down from the judge's seat at the people of India. The many errors and misunderstandings about India in the book are easily attributable to the fact that she is less writing what she knows than writing what people are her are telling her. Aside from her romanic daydream superficial fasicnation with Bengal, I really wonder what she knows about India.

And then there are the interviews. The style of writing used for the interviews is absolutely despicable. If she likes the person, they are a radiant almost superhuman entity bringing the reader wisdom. But if she doesn't like the person, she is sure to tell you how sinister they look, how they are obviously troubled persons in need of a course of mental therapy. She almost wants us to feel sorry for them in the same way that a nurse or a teacher feels sorry for a child that fails.

In the end this book has nothing useful to say about India. It amounts to the disorganized ramblings of an American with almost no self knowledge of India. What it does have to say is fatally flawed by bias and the author's theories/biases. In the last few years there have been many decent books published on India. Find one of them and don't bother with this one.
28 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Very biased book July 26 2007
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This extremely biased book has one message: THe Hindu BJP party of India is a threat to democracy, to women, to history, to Islam and to everything and it alone is responsible for all the ills of India today, for all the communal violence and even for causing Muslim terrorism.

It is interesting that the author does not include Pakistan in this study in a comparison, given the fact that Pakistan have historically so much in common and their partition was artificial in some ways. If Pakistan had been included the authors claim that Hindutva wishes to 'erase' the Muslim history of India would have an interesting parrellel in Pakistan where all history of its pre-Islamic past, its Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist past, have disappeared.

The 'Hindu nationalists' are blamed for causing many more deaths in communal violence than ever took place and in every case where Hindus have been murdered en masse in India, such as a train carrying Hindus to Ayodha that was burned by Muslim mobs, these crimes are ignored by the author and the book claims that these are 'Hindu propoganda' and that the 'fire was most likely caused by accident'. It is interesting this extreme bias, that when thousands of people die in riots, the Hindus die by 'accident' and the Muslims are killed by 'Hindu fascists'.

The claim that democracy is under 'threat' in India does not hold water at all. It was a Congress party leader, Indira Gandhi, who suspended democracy in the 1980s and slaughtered Sikhs, the Hindu party, when it was in power in the 1990s, always relinquished power democratically.

The truth is that this book is based on a western perception of India that has no understanding of Indian history of the 1000 year Mughal-Islamic colonialism that suppressed and enslaved Hinduism in India, and by ignoring this past it is easy to claim the BJP has 'erased' the Muslim history of India, simply because it refuses to glorify the enslavement and colonialism visited on India by outsiders. Oddly Pakistan is simply ignored.

Seth J. Frantzman