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Paperback Pickings

Complete confusion at Number Ten

The complete yes minister & the complete yes prime minister (Penguin & BBC, Rs 295 each) by Jonathan Lynn & Antony Jay

collects two of the finest products of the British tradition of political satire: the diaries of the Right Hon. James Hacker as he blunders his way up to premiership from the ministry of administrative affairs. Played unforgettably on television by Paul Eddington, Hacker, together with Sir Applebey and Bernard Woolley, embody not only the spirit of a certain kind of British comedy, but also a perspective to Conservative politics in the Eighties. This is from the editor’s preface: “At all times we have striven to maintain a chronological day-to-day account...There is a slight risk of historical inaccuracy in this approach, because Hacker himself was deeply confused for most of his time in office and it could be argued that the diaries ought to reflect this confusion. But if we had allowed the diaries to reflect this confusion in full, the events that they relate would have become as incomprehensible to the reader as they were to him.”

 

A 2020 vision: a brief history of the future (of money and banking in India) (A.K. Das, price not mentioned) by Anjan Kumar Das is a rather idiosyncratic book (breaking into bad verse at unexpected moments) which attempts to create “genuine interest in the vital topics of money and banking in the minds of the financially ‘lay’ but otherwise literate and thinking person”. The book promises to end with a “wish-fulfilling climax” which is also an “oxymoron”.

 

India working: Essays on society and economy (Cambridge, Rs 950) by Barbara Harriss-White describes the working of the Indian economy through its most important social structures of accumulation: labour, capital, the state, gender, religious plurality, caste and the economic organization of physical space. Drawing extensively on her own fieldwork in India, Harriss-White challenges the prevailing notion that liberalization releases the economy from political interference, and leads to a postscript on the economic base for fascism in India. “In India’s intermediate economy there is no sign yet of a big unifying project for capital of the sort necessary to a fascist State. Nonetheless, the seedlings of fascist institutions, ones with distinctively Indian characteristics, can definitely be found sprouting in the economy, as well as in politics.” There is an excellent appendix, compiled by Pauline von Hellermann, on the roles of religious minorities in the Indian economy.


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