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Review Essay

India and Ideology

Why Western Thinkers Struggle With the Subcontinent

In This Review

The Indian Ideology

The Indian Ideology
By Perry Anderson
Three Essays Collective, 2012, 194 pp. $49.75 Purchase

The Indian Ideology. By Perry Anderson. Verso, 2013, 192 pp. $19.95. 

According to Perry Anderson’s new book, The Indian Ideology, India’s democracy -- routinely celebrated as the world’s largest -- is actually a sham. It is fatally compromised by its origins in an anticolonial struggle led by the “monolithically Hindu” Congress party, which Anderson holds largely responsible for the bloodiness of the partition of the British-ruled subcontinent in 1947. Anderson describes India’s most famous leader, Mahatma (“Great Soul”) Gandhi, as a crank and a “stranger” to “real intellectual exchange.” Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s political disciple and India’s first prime minister, was a mediocrity. And both of these upper-caste maladroits were considerably inferior to their sharpest critic, B. R. Ambedkar, the leader of the Dalits (low-caste Hindus) and the main framer of India’s constitution. 

In Anderson’s telling, Nehru, who inherited the colonial “machinery of administration and coercion,” entrenched

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