Sub title: How to Live in a World We Don't Understand
From the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a book on how to benefit from disorder.
In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and his revelatory new book Antifragile offers a definitive solution: how to live in a world that is unpredictable, chaotic, and full of shocks, and how to thrive during periods of disaster. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. For what Taleb calls the 'antifragile' is beyond the merely robust; it benefits from shocks, uncertainty and stressors. Antifragile is about what to do when we don't understand. It is a new word because it is a new concept.
Many of the greatest breakthroughs in human endeavour come from the innovation by trial and error that is part of antifragility. And some of the best systems we know of, including natural selection and evolution, have antifragility at their heart. How did the disaster of the sinking of the Titanic bring us closer to safety? Why does the stress on bones make us stronger? Why should you write a resignation letter on your first day in the office?
Why should we detest the lack of accountability at the heart of capitalism? The most successful of us, the most daring and creative will take advantage of disorder and invent new, more powerful opportunities and advantages beyond our expectations. Irreverent and ambitious, Antifragile provides a blueprint for how to live-and thrive-in a world we don't understand, and which is too uncertain for us to even try to predict. Taleb's message is revolutionary: what is not antifragile will surely perish.
• ‘The hottest thinker in the world’ - Bryan Appleyard
• ‘A guru for every would-be Damien Hirst, George Soros and aspirant despot’ - John Cornwell, Sunday Times
Sub title: British Gardens in India
A deeply researched yet wonderfully readable history of Britain’s ‘garden imperialism’ in India
In this deeply researched yet wonderfully readable history of Britain’s ‘garden imperialism’ in India, Eugenia W. Herbert draws on a wealth of personal accounts and period illustrations, many of them little known, to track the evolution of imperial ideas of governance through colonial gardens.
The British created gardens in India not just out of simple nostalgia or homesickness, but also to put a visible stamp of ‘civilization’ on an alien, untamed land. Colonial gardens changed over time, from the ‘garden houses’ of the East India Company’s nabobs modelled on English country estates and the hill station gardens where English flowers could be coaxed into bloom to the neat flowerbeds, gravel walks, well-trimmed lawns and hedges of the Victorian sahibs. Every Government House, Civil Lines bungalow and cantonment was carefully landscaped to reflect current ideals of an ordered society. The British also made India part of the global network of botanical exploration and plant-collecting, and developed tea gardens and opium-poppy plantations to fill the coffers of the Empire.
More than sixty years after the British left, their garden legacy still lives on, reflected in the design of municipal parks and IT campuses, and in the tastes and practices of countless Indian home gardeners who take pride in their green lawns and flowerbeds full of English flowers.
The Origins of Sex:
Sub title: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
Nowadays we believe that consenting adults have the freedom to do what they like with their own bodies. We publicise and celebrate sex; we discuss it endlessly; we are obsessed with the sex lives of celebrities. We think it wrong that in other cultures people suffer for their sexual orientation, that women are treated as second-class citizens, or that adulterers are put to death. Yet until quite recently our own society was like this too. For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, and the church, the state, and ordinary people all devoted huge efforts to suppressing and punishing it. This was a central feature of Christian civilization, one that had steadily grown in importance since the early middle ages. In this brilliant, ground-breaking book, Faramerz Dabhoiwala describes in dramatic detail how, between 1600 and 1800, this entire world view was shattered by revolutionary new ideas - that sex is a private matter; that morality cannot be imposed by force; that men are more lustful than women. Henceforth, the private lives of both sexes were to be endlessly broadcast and debated, in a rapidly expanding universe of public media: newspapers, pamphlets, journals, novels, poems, and prints. The Origins of Sex shows that the creation of this modern culture of sex was a central part of the Enlightenment, intertwined with the era's major social, political and intellectual trends. It helped create a new model of Western civilization, whose principles of privacy, equality, and freedom of the individual remain distinctive to this day.
Patriots and Partisans
‘I am a person of moderate views’, writes Ramachandra Guha, ‘these sometimes expressed in extreme fashion’. In this wide-ranging and wonderfully readable collection of essays, Guha defends the liberal centre against the dogmas of left and right, and does so with style, depth, and polemical verve. The book begins with a brilliant overview of the major threats to the Indian Republic. Other essays turn a critical eye on Hindutva, the Communist left, and the dynasty-obsessed Congress party. Guha then explores the contemporary relevance of Gandhi’s religious pluralism, and analyzes the fall in Jawaharlal Nehru’s reputation after his death.
The essays in Part 11 of this book focus on writers and scholars. Guha explains why bilingual intellectuals, once so dominant in India, are now thin on the ground. He presents sensitive portraits of a magazine editor, a bookshop owner, a great publishing house and a famous historical archive.
Whether writing about politics or culture, whether profiling individuals or analyzing social trends, Ramachandra Guha displays a masterly touch, confirming his standing as India’s most admired historian and public intellectual.
Sub title: The First 5000 Years
Must we always repay our debts? Wasn’t money invented to replace ancient barter systems? Apparently not, according to Yale-bred anthropologist David Graeber. In a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom, Graeber radically challenges our understanding of debt. He illustrates how, for more than 5000 years—long before the invention of coins or bills—there existed debtors and creditors who used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. He argues that Madagascar was held to be indebted to France because France invaded it, reminds us that texts from Vedic India included God in credit systems and shows how the dollar changed European society forever in the sixteenth century. He also brilliantly demonstrates how words like ‘guilt’, ‘sin’ and ‘redemption’ derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—of how it has defined the evolution of human society, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.” —Paul Mason, The Guardian
"If you want to get a fresh perspective on the issue, take a look at a fascinating new book called Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber ... not just thought-provoking, but also exceedingly timely." — Gillian Tett, The Financial Times
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate... It is a meditation on debt, tribute, gifts, religion and the false history of money. Graeber is a scholarly
researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.” —Peter Carey, The Observer
India Grows at Night
Sub title: A Liberal Case for a Strong State
Indians wryly admit that ‘India grows at night’. But that is only half the saying; the full expression is: ‘India grows at night… when the government sleeps’, suggesting that the nation may be rising despite the state. India’s is a tale of private success and public failure. Prosperity is, indeed, spreading across the country even as governance failure pervades public life. But how could a nation become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies when it’s governed by a weak, ineffective state? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if India also grew during the day—in other words, if public policy supported private enterprise? What India needs, Gurcharan Das says, is a strong liberal state. Such a state would have the authority to take quick, decisive action; it would have the rule of law to ensure those actions are legitimate; and finally, it would be accountable to the people. But achieving this will not be easy, says Das, because India has historically had a weak state and a strong society.
From the Ruins of Empire
Sub title: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia
The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe. Foreign soldiers and merchants tore apart the great empires which had once formed the heart of civilization. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover a vast intellectual effort would be required.
Pankaj Mishra’s fascinating new book tells the story of a remarkable group of men from across the continent who met the challenge of the West. Incessantly travelling, questioning and agonising, they both hated the West and recognised that an Asian renaissance needed to be fuelled in part by engagement with the enemy. Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia. Sitting in the midst of ruins of the old empires which now seemed doomed to permanent partition by predatory foreigners, these thinkers created the ideas which in turn were to doom the new empires, and which lie behind the powerful Asian nations of the twenty-first century.
Sub title: India and the World of the Twenty-first Century
“Indian diplomacy,” a veteran told Shashi Tharoor many years ago, “is like the love-making of an elephant: it is conducted at a very high level, accompanied by much bellowing, and the results are not known for two years.” In this lively, informative and insightful work, the award-winning author and parliamentarian brilliantly demonstrates how Indian diplomacy has become sprightlier since then and where it needs to focus in the world of the 21st century. Explaining why foreign policy matters to an India focused on its own domestic transformation, Tharoor surveys India’s major international relationships in detail, evokes the country’s soft power and its global responsibilities, analyses the workings of the Ministry of External Affairs, parliament and public opinion on the shaping of policy, and offers his thoughts on a contemporary new “grand strategy” for the nation, arguing that India must move beyond non-alignment to “multi-alignment”. His book offers a clear-eyed vision of an India now ready to assume new global responsibility in the contemporary world. Pax Indica is another substantial achievement from one of the finest Indian authors of our times.
‘A comprehensive dissertation on the diverse fields of India’s endeavours since Independence . . . a timely book, very well written, a must read for students and professionals alike’—Jaswant Singh
‘This exceptionally lively and well-written survey of India's international relations challenges preconceptions that foreign policy must be dull’—David Malone
Pakistan on the Brink
Sub title: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan
With Bin Laden dead, Pakistan threatened by internal power struggles, relationships between the United States and Pakistan at an all-time low, and as the US and Britain begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan, what are the possibilities-and hazards-facing the world's most unstable region? Where is the Taliban now, and how do they figure in the future of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan? What does the immediate future hold, and what are the choices that Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West can make?
These are some of the crucial questions that Ahmed Rashid takes on in this follow-up to his acclaimed Descent into Chaos. Rashid correctly predicted that the Iraq war would need to be refocused into Afghanistan, and that Pakistan would emerge as the leading player through which American interests and actions would have to be directed. Now, as Washington and the rest of the West wrestle with negotiating with unreliable and unstable "allies" in Pakistan, there is no better guide to the dark future than Ahmed Rashid. He focuses on the long-term problems: the changing casts of characters, the future of international terrorism, and the actual policies and strategies both within Pakistan and Afghanistan and among the Western allies. As he has done so well in the past, Pakistan on the Brink offers sensible solutions and provides a way forward for all countries involved, while the world tries to bring some stability to a fractured region saddled with a legacy of violence and corruption.
“Rashid’s book should be required reading for . . . anyone who wants to understand the jihadi problem.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A major contribution to understanding the region and the events of recent years.”—The Observer (London)
What Money Can't Buy
Sub title: The Moral Limits of Markets
Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, outsourcing inmates to for‐profit prisons, auctioning admission to elite universities, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? Isn't there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life‐medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. In What Money Can't Buy, Sandel examines one of the biggest ethical questions of our time and provokes a debate that's been missing in our market‐driven age: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?