The Non-Rational City

City dwellers, by and large, think of their environment in material terms: streets and traffic, buildings they live and go to work in or use for entertainment; infrastructure services (or the lack of them) that support urban living, parks and other public spaces. These are the tangible, ‘rational’ components of the city, whether planned or unplanned, with which they relate on a daily basis.

Unusual Viewpoints

The book reviewed is a publication of the French Research Institutes in India & South Asia Institute, New Delhi. The contents of the book are therefore the work of various researchers – compiled and edited by Evelin Hust and Michael Mann, both senior scholars based in Germany. Both the editors have had a long association in conducting research in the South Asia region with a special emphasis on development issues in India.

Shifts and Ambiguities

In many ways, the volume under review is a strange one. For one thing, it is a volume that seeks to track writings by ‘Left intellectuals’ in India over the last few decades – that is, precisely in the period when Left wing thinking has seen its most serious ever crisis worldwide and has become somewhat out of tune with the times. However, that is in itself no reason this important body of scholarly and political writing should not be taken seriously.

In India, Everyone!

Who wants democracy? A terribly simpleminded question many might say. In an Indian democracy everyone must. But as Javeed Alam, a prominent political theorist shows in this simply, yet elegantly written book the answer to his basic question is not quite that simple. Using data compiled from a study by V.B. Singh and Subrata Mitra, Professor Alam statistically illustrates some of his always interesting, often profound findings.

Nehru: Dreamer or Warrior*

Biography, according to Lytton Strachey, is “the most delicate and humane of all the branches of the art of writing”. It is also a difficult art particularly when the story told is that of Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who strode the world like ‘a gentle colossus’ until very recently, and whose life was an open one, openly lived almost in ‘the glorious privacy of light’.