As comprehensive and knowledgeable as Hiro’s earlier Inside India Today (1977; reissued 2013).

THE AGE OF ASPIRATION

POWER, WEALTH, AND CONFLICT IN GLOBALIZING INDIA

An insider’s economic report on the perils and scandals of India’s precipitous drive into a market economy over the last decades.

Since 1991, India’s New Industrial Policy—reducing the “license raj” and encouraging private companies in banking, insurance, telecommunications, and air travel—has enriched many and impoverished many in the world’s largest democracy. London-based author Hiro (A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East, 2013, etc.) looks at the impact of globalization both on villagers and on the institutions involved, thus encompassing both the small and big pictures. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, has led with the neoliberal pro-investment “Gujarat Model,” since 2001, despite being darkly tarnished by the spate of anti-Muslim violence that broke out in Godhra, North Gujarat, in 2002. Running on the slogan “India Shining,” the BJP underscored a new era of “illicit gains” by politicians and the “exponential growth in sleaze, which was related to the acceleration in deregulation and privatization.” Recently rehabilitated, Modi trounced the traditional Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of the Congress Party in 2014, ensuring a continued policy of swadeshi, or self-reliance, regarding the global economy, becoming the darling of the United States and feeding the deep chasm between the haves and have-nots. Hiro pointedly explores the miraculous growth of the satellite town of Gurgaon—at least in terms of land and property values, as it still lacks in basic public services and infrastructure (the sad but all-too-familiar “Dickensian underbelly” that is the byproduct of globalization). In subsequent chapters, Hiro examines India’s need for massive loans from Western banks, encapsulated in the Tata Group story; the incredibly powerful Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley; the “scandalous neglect of India’s agriculture”; the rise of slums; and the continued role of the Maoist Naxalites and the grass-roots efforts to combat corruption.

As comprehensive and knowledgeable as Hiro’s earlier Inside India Today (1977; reissued 2013).

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62097-130-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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