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Capitalism: A Ghost Story

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From the poisoned rivers, barren wells, and clear-cut forests, to the hundreds of thousands of farmers who have committed suicide to escape punishing debt, to the hundreds of millions of people who live on less than two dollars a day, there are ghosts nearly everywhere you look in India. India is a nation of 1.2 billion, but the country’s 100 richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of India’s gross domestic product.

Capitalism: A Ghost Story examines the dark side of democracy in contemporary India, and shows how the demands of globalized capitalism has subjugated billions of people to the highest and most intense forms of racism and exploitation.

136 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2004

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About the author

Arundhati Roy

112 books11.1k followers
Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer who is also an activist who focuses on issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays.

For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.

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Profile Image for Kevin.
289 reviews919 followers
June 5, 2023
Stories find artists, but it takes a radical artist to listen to the ghosts of the dispossessed...

The Good:
--I read this early on in my explorations of real-world economics, and since then I’ve followed up on several loose-ends. However, Roy’s message was clear from the beginning; real-world economics is political economy (i.e. power relations), and her artist's prose brings out the social struggle that is conveniently obscured by certain stats stripped of context.
--Thus, this book is an on-the-grounds view of real-world global capitalism in a non-Western (Global South) country (India) which did not benefit directly (or indirectly) from centuries of colonial loot, deindustrialization/dependency of competitors, slave/"coolie" labour, settler migration/genocidal dispossession, etc. The analysis might not be systematic (thus, I've tried to supplement), but it paints a harrowing picture of key trends for you to test your conceptions against:

1) Jobless growth: the phenomenon where economic growth (esp. today driven by global Finance capitalism flooding in and out of markets in miliseconds) is not tied to decent jobs (let alone social development in health/community/ecology, etc.). This is characterized by destructive extraction and land-grabs (i.e. minerals, dams) which causes mass displacements, slums, precarious work, debt dependency, etc.
...We need to supplement with systematic theory: Marx's concept of capitalism's surplus/"reserve army" of labour needs to be expanded to global history. The European working class actually saw their life expectancy drop(!) from the rise of capitalism due to "the Enclosures" privatization of the Commons ("primitive accumulation"), rapid urbanization and "dark satanic mills" without public sanitation/social services, brutal work-houses and anti-vagabond laws to enforce capitalist wage-labour discipline, etc. Perilous Passage: Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital
...The West thus benefited greatly from settler migration, dispersing their "reserve army" to avoid social revolution; this allowed the European working class to recover (and eventually bargain for real-wage gains) while the settlers dispossessed indigenous lands. The infamous British colonialists Cecil Rhoades:
I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread! bread!’ and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism … My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and mines. [Emphasis added]
...Meanwhile, colonialism violently de-industrialized the Global South to feed Global North's capitalist industrialization, creating a much larger "reserve army" of labour in the South ("modern mass poverty", esp. in India/China/Southeast Asia). The migration option for the South's reserve army was restricted due to racism; the relatively-much-fewer who were allowed by immigration control had the status of "coolie" indentured labour to substitute slave labour in plantations/mines/railroad building.
-big picture structure: Capital and Imperialism: Theory, History, and the Present

2) Capitalist propaganda (i.e. public relations): perception management is crucial to selling jobless growth. The middle-class is the obvious target, where they are promised a share in the growth. Note: during Neoliberalism (when industrial growth faltered, switching to financial bubbles), this becomes “there is no alternative”; during Nazism/Global Trumpism/cruel cultural nationalism, this becomes scapegoating (more overt divide-and-conquer):
-And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future
…Roy dives into this sprawling network:
a) Corporate philanthropy as a social cover for global corporate governance (i.e. private, far away from participatory democracy), via corporate NGOs/Foundations.
b) The Invisible Fist of the US foreign policy and its connections with corporate governance (ex. Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission) and US-dominated education system (the most extreme examples being Pinochet/Chicago School of Economics, Suharto, Magsaysay).
…More on capitalist propaganda: Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies
…More on US foreign policy:
-Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations
-The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World
-The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump
-Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II

The Missing:
--While Roy still tops my list of fiction authors who have impressive nonfiction, you can see I had to supplement with more systematic theory on imperialism:
-accessible overview: The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions
-accessible + next-level theory: The Agrarian Question in the Neoliberal Era: Primitive Accumulation and the Peasantry
-magnum opus: Capital and Imperialism: Theory, History, and the Present
-The Veins of the South Are Still Open: Debates Around the Imperialism of Our Time
-Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism: note: Chang's reformist “US enlightened capitalism” is highly convenient given his home country South Korea’s rapid industrialization was aided by the US war contracts dropping more bombs in Vietnam than dropped in WWII: Drums of War, Drums of Development: The Formation of a Pacific Ruling Class and Industrial Transformation in East and Southeast Asia, 1945-1980.

…2 common responses to critiques of global capitalism:
1) Free Market fundamentalism: that’s not “capitalism”, that’s “corporatism”:
--This is useful propaganda targeting the Western middle class. However, capitalism was built by the State, i.e. State-backed "Enclosures" privatizing the Commons to create the land market, where the dispossessed formed the labour market; State-backed colonial ventures to secure the raw materials for capitalist industrialization (which also required State-backed financial markets: The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy). Thus, "state capitalism" (rather than State vs. capitalist markets)...
...The State provides the security forces to preserve these capitalist markets/property rights (which the best propaganda assumes as "human nature"), both at home (police/prison system) and abroad (military/global financial + trade + intellectual property regime). This is why pro-capitalists only whine about State spending on social services, but omit State spending on police/military!
--Pro-capitalists also portray a utopic "free market" as a harmonious, stable equilibrium that does not require State subsidies/bail-outs, which fails to appreciate the boom/bust history and logic of real-world capitalism; useful capitalist crises theories:
a) Existential ecological crises:
-Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World
-Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System
b) Imperialism and crises: what happens when cheap raw materials + inflation control + reserve labour that the West takes for granted is disrupted?! (see list on imperialism above).
c) Financial crises: The Bubble and Beyond

2) “It’s still better than socialism/communism/Stalinism/Maoism/Leninism/1,000,000,000,000,000 zillion deaths”:
--Once again, global historical context is forever absent, but it’s even more concerning when Western progressives/“democratic socialists” fall too far into this and end up soft-peddling imperialist interventions (AOC's "what Venezuela really needs right now is more democracy": https://youtu.be/MkLC3XyqrEY )
i) Before we do country vs. country comparisons, do they have comparable starting points?
ii) Next, what threats did they face? Socialist revolutions faced imperialism's counterrevolution: sanctions (US, monopolizing world grain production, enforced a total trade embargo 1950-1972 to starve post-revolution China!), invasions/coups/funding reactionary groups), capital flight by disposed elites, etc.
iii) What were the contradictions of decolonization's rapid industrialization (which the West achieved through centuries of colonial loot, slave/coolie plantations, dark satanic mills, military industries, etc., both directly and indirectly)?
--For more history: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...
-The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World
-Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism

--Furthermore, I’ve copied a point I’ve made elsewhere: The most frequently cited example of communism’s failure is the famine deaths of 1959-61 China under Mao. Isolating historical events knowing Western audiences have zero context (in this case, the deprivation of pre-revolution China) is nuanced propaganda. Now, there is a neighboring country (India) with:
i) A similar historical context (large population of agrarian economy ravaged by colonialism, see: Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World)
ii) Conveniently went a separate route of industrialization (capitalist markets + parliamentary democracy) in the same time frame.

--Consider the comparison made in Hunger and Public Action; note: these 2 economist authors are ideologically liberal (economically), thus pro-capitalist (with reforms)! However, they are honest enough with their empirical research where some social conditions they simply cannot ignore (perhaps because they are situated in the Global South, i.e. India):

1) China’s dramatic rise in life expectancy occurred prior to its 1979 market liberalization’s economic growth:
In fact, it seems fairly clear that the Chinese growth rate was not radically higher than that of India before the economic reforms of 1979, by which time the tremendous surge ahead in health and longevity had already taken place. In the pre-reform period, agricultural expansion in particular was sluggish in China, as it was in India, and the dramatic reduction in hunger and undernourishment and expansion of life expectancy in China were not ushered in by any spectacular rise in rural incomes or of food availability per head. […]

This is indeed the crucial point. The Chinese level of average opulence judged in terms of GNP per head, or total consumption per capita, or food consumption per person, did not radically increase during the period in which China managed to take a gigantic step forward in matters of life and death, moving from a life expectancy at birth in the low 40s (like the poorest countries today) to one in the high 60s (getting within hitting distance of Europe and North America). [p.208]

2) China’s focus on social support (i.e. social needs, i.e. socialist policies):
As far as support-led security is concerned, the Chinese efforts have been quite spectacular. The network of health services introduced in post-revolutionary China in a radical departure from the past—involving cooperative medical systems, commune clinics, barefoot doctors, and widespread public health measures—has been remarkably extensive. The contrast with India in this respect is striking enough. It is not only that China has more than twice as many doctors and nearly three times as many nurses per unit of population as India has. But also these and other medical resources are distributed more evenly across the country (even between urban and rural areas), with greater popular access to them than India has been able to organize.

Similar contrasts hold in the distribution of food through public channels and rationing systems, which have had an extensive coverage in China (except in periods of economic and political chaos, as during the famine of 1958-61, on which more presently). In India public distribution of food to the people, when it exists, is confined to the urban sector (except in a few areas such as the state of Kerala where the rural population also benefits from it, on which, too, more presently). Food distribution is, in fact, a part of a far-reaching programme of social security that distinguishes China from India. The impact of these programmes on protecting and promoting entitlements to food and basic necessities, including medical care, is reflected in the relatively low mortality and morbidity rates in China. [p.209]

3) Despite China’s Great Famine, how do life-expectancies compare?
Finally, it is important to note that despite the gigantic size of excess mortality in the Chinese famine, the extra mortality in India from regular deprivation in normal times vastly overshadows the former. Comparing India's death rate of 12 per thousand with China's of 7 per thousand, and applying that difference to the Indian population of 781 million in 1986, we get an estimate of excess normal mortality in India of 3.9 million per year. This implies that every eight years or so more people die in India because of its higher regular death rate than died in China in the gigantic famine of 1958-61. India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame. [p.214-215]
...Note: furthermore, stellar radical political economist Utsa Patnaik disputes the famine death methodologies used on China's famine cited by the liberal authors, which I summarize in reviewing Hunger and Public Action.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
August 2, 2019
A fast-paced collection of anti-capitalist articles and essays, Capitalism: A Ghost Story reckons with the violence of neoliberal rule. Addressing everything from the current state of the Kashmir conflict to the resurgence of right-wing extremism, the pieces gathered here chart with great dexterity the recent social history of India; collectively they develop a searing critique of the nation's institutionalized racism and classism, along with a denouncement of Western imperialism and complicity. Roy's a sharp thinker who laces her analysis with caustic wit, and though the collection's slight on content, it's worth checking out as an introduction to the writer's nonfiction.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,413 followers
March 23, 2017
Since reading Leslie Chang's Factory Girls and Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, I've been haunted by the way capitalism seems to be establishing itself in developing nations. In a nutshell: China and India seem to have vaulted right over the part of capitalism that's supposed to be about giving everyone an equal shot at economic success and moved directly into the part that's about the vast gulf between the insanely wealthy and the rest of us. I picked up Capitalism: A Ghost Story in the hope that it would provide some insight into this issue, and it certainly did, but I was a little embarrassed at how simple (and in retrospect, obvious) the answer is: When the U.S. was establishing its economy, we didn't have corporations the way we do now. And now that we do, there's no way they're going to leave money on the table in developing nations. We're going to get in there, so we're responsible for the situation directly via the actions of our own corporations, as well as indirectly by setting the example other nations are following. The first and longest essay in this collection (also titled "Capitalism: A Ghost Story") makes this clear and outlines how disastrous it has been for the vast and largely poor country of India. It also examines the foundations formed by U.S. corporations and how they've been used to give big business a major role in governance. That was eye-opening, to say the least.

The rest of this brief book is comprised of shorter essays, the most compelling and unforgettable of which deal with the situation in Kashmir. In one essay Roy nearly gets arrested for daring to refer to Kashmir as a disputed area, which goes a long way toward illustrating the problems she's describing here.

I was a big fan of Roy's novel The God of Small Things but only recently became aware of the extent of her political writings. That she's used her success with her novel to become a voice for the marginalized is admirable and brave. I've clearly only scratched the surface here, but I'll be checking out her other books on these topics, as well as making time for her new novel that's (finally!) coming out later this year.
Profile Image for Praj.
314 reviews811 followers
September 6, 2016
Roy brings nothing new to this book. It comes across as a collage of newspaper articles, a copy-paste of Roy’s own previous socio-political writings with may be slight references from the Foreign Affairs Journals or a Forbes Magazine. The befitting description would be this rather intriguing anecdote, during Roy’s book lecture held in 2012 at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Post her speech, a student, looking at Marxist books on sale outside the venue, summed up the evening: “Dude, I am a hardcore Capitalist. I don’t believe in dismantling capitalism. But what she was talking about is not Capitalism, it was crony Capitalism. And that’s a scourge.”

The above sentence, the very reason of me purchasing Roy's literary reserve.
Profile Image for Fug o' Slavia.
13 reviews31 followers
April 5, 2015
Buy this book for the person in your life who thinks ethical capitalism exists and is a fan of the Gates Foundation
Profile Image for Z. F..
298 reviews93 followers
May 17, 2022
A short, fearless collection of essays on the interplay between neoliberal capitalism, imperialism, xenophobia, violence, censorship, and the surveillance state in modern India, with a particular focus on the "low-intensity" war waged between the Indian military and Maoist insurgents in Kashmir. (There are also, naturally, frequent cameos by the U.S. government and American corporate entities.) Roy is not especially interested in providing the historical background to this rather dense web of names and organizations, which can make some of the threads difficult to follow if Indian current affairs aren't your strong suit. On the other hand, I think Roy's intention here is less about educating her readers or arguing a specific point and more about creating a visceral sense of the apocalyptic devastation which post-industrial capitalism has unleashed in India and around the globe—as well as the dystopian culture of repression and complicity which allows it to continue unchecked.

On that level the book is very much a success: a whirlwind of almost unbelievable (and yet all-too-believable) details which add to up to a truly bleak and horrifying whole. In fewer than 100 pages Roy effectively evokes the weight and sprawl of the neoliberal death machine, and her willingness to name names and hold absolutely everyone (including herself) to account is impressive, especially given the backdrop of police abductions, wrongful imprisonment, covert executions, and mass graves she does it against. She even retains a weary trace of optimism, applauding both the resiliency of the Kashmiri people and the audacity of the much-ridiculed American Occupy protesters, whom she credits with starting an anti-capitalist dissent movement in "the heart of the empire." One can only imagine she's been cheered by the subsequent, increasingly vast protest movements here and elsewhere, as well as the general leftward shift on the part of millennials and gen Z.

This was published in 2014 and was no doubt already severely dated by the time I read it in 2021 (though it does provide a little context for the ongoing Indian farmer strikes which have managed to break into the news cycle even here in the myopic U.S.). But I'm afraid I'm not naïve enough to speculate about whether those seven years have improved the basic situation Roy describes; I only wonder in what ways it's gotten worse.
Profile Image for Dmitri.
202 reviews157 followers
February 26, 2021
After reading Roy's "The Doctor and the Saint" on the Ambedkar and Gandhi debate, I anticipated great things to follow. There most certainly will be, but unfortunately this is not one of them. This is a sustained diatribe on military, industrial, crony capital, foreign funding, world banking, land grabbing, strip mining, Muslim mobbing, Dalit crushing, Hindu nationalization and privatization.

Many of the issues are progressive strong points, yet the shrill tone of these essays tries one's patience. Roy's not wrong about any one thing, but the shotgun approach somehow misses the target. Yes, NGO's are trojan horses (although some do good), foundations co-opt conservatives (but fund the arts), corporations run the world (while the lower classes sleep). But what is to be done?

Of course these are big problems. Concentration of wealth and power in the few is worldwide, and worsening. Roy offers no solution beyond dark intimations of civil war or revolution. With her deep knowledge of modern India, impeccable pedigree of political activism, and formidable writing talents I expected more. In the long run her empathy and insight can be put to better use.
Profile Image for Sara Salem.
178 reviews249 followers
January 8, 2015
Arundhati Roy is always great but somehow expected more from this. Perhaps it is meant for an audience who doesn't know about the problems with capitalism or in Kashmir.
Profile Image for Antonomasia.
977 reviews1,220 followers
December 11, 2015
You'd be better reading a review of this short book of essays from someone who lives in India, or who's actually been there. These are basically notes for myself, habitually posted as a GR review.
(I also tend to agree with the reviewer who said this epic title would have better suited a weightier tome than 100 pages of short essays.)

Some problems are, it seems, the same in many countries.
- According to government rhetoric, poor people can't do anything right. (Rural Indians are told to move to the cities, in the manner of Norman Tebbit's 'on yer bike' exhortation to 1980s Britons. Then they're told they're creating a problem in the cities, they don't know how to behave, they're criminal and squalid.)
- Major media outlets are in the pocket of big business. (The name isn't Rupert Murdoch, but the principle's the same.)
- The gap between rich and poor is growing. (Only in India there are a lot more very poor people, and the situation sounds more like a chasm. Okay, there's a chasm between a homeless person on the streets here and an emigre Russian oligarch, but there's some service provision and welfare - increasingly patchy though it is - that gives the homeless Brit half a chance of a leg up.)
- Military hardware is named after aspects of mythology. (The Mahabharata, not Greco-Roman.)
- Aggressive corporations sponsor arts events, subtly making potentially critical members of the middle class feel the company isn't quite as bad as all that.

Things I've read about in plenty of New Internationalist articles, about plenty of different places:
- Corporations and billionaires are buying up land.
- Natural resources are being privatised, increasing potential future tension about access to water as the climate changes
- Protestors are abused in custody.
- Confrontational journalists get barred from areas of conflict.
- Microlending can get aggressive to its borrowers too.
- Corporate philanthropy can be a subtle means to control radical academic research.

In a way, what I've presented there is a cynical agreeing with friends who don't read a lot of political non fiction because it says the same things repeatedly. But I found it worthwhile reading for the specifics, a bit more in depth than a short news article, and not on the most common topics such as the outsourcing of jobs to India, or particular crimes, and it's a view from inside, without that subtle gawping that even 'responsible' TV news often has; a significant proportion of what I've heard about contemporary India comes from Goodreads posts by members who live there, but obviously they're primarily here to review books rather than explain the country. (And seeing all those posts has made me want to understand a little more about it.)

Some of the specific issues that Arundhati Roy looks at in depth:
- Prolonged trouble in central India in jungle areas. Corporate encroachment on poorer farming areas, people being forced out. Maoist guerillas; locals who protest about anything else may get accused of being in league with them.
- Dominance of NGOs in certain public services and areas of campaigning. Feminist activism is dominated by philosophies popular with western or western influenced NGOs, a structure which came about because the post-independence left wing and peasant activist groups of the 60s and 70s were very patriarchal in attitude, and didn't make room for women who wanted equality and active involvement – these women were instead welcomed by NGOs and the structure has more or less remained. There are grassroots groups of poorer women activists, but the more radical / communist ones are not supported by the NGOs.
- Dalit advancement is becoming corporatised because business is more likely not to be bothered about ancient Hindu scriptural traditions that kept Dalits down.
- Sudden biometric digitisation of a population that has always included a lot of entirely unregistered people could criminalise many. And the government is proceeding with this project, that gives a lot of money to IT companies, before ensuring universal sanitation and clean water.
- “Is the most successful secessionist movement in India the secession of the middle and upper classes into outer space?” Though later she says that middle class protestors cannot be brutalised or 'disappeared' to the extent of lower castes: there seems to be hope in this, if the middle classes can press for a better society for all, but Roy sees the danger as people being distracted from that by smaller issues.
- Pointing out huge economic equalities and a need for restructuring is seen as far more radical and dangerous than identity politics, which she feels are in some ways employed as a distraction or partial concession to pacify people.
- Hints, not elaborated, about an official hostility to Muslims, and that fundamentalism is spoken of as a big threat whilst corporate malfeasance is swept under the carpet.
- Conflict in Kashmir and imprisonment and execution of a couple of opposition leaders / fighters.
- An environment which - from a British perspective, this will probably sound crass to some, I'm sorry - is a strange mixture of a suspiciously glossy C21st corporate reality, with abuses, massacres, and levels of absolute poverty that sound more C19th here.
- At some point in the past I'd got the wrong-headed idea that I kind of understood the caste system via reading, and listening to school classmates from Indian families. The discussion in this book makes clear that it's more complex and more different from Western class than I'd assumed then.

There's quite a lot of material in this small book which I simply don't have the background to give a real opinion on. (But you have to start somewhere, right?) In particular the discussion of events in Kashmir is very detailed and I haven't heard sufficient other perspectives on those incidents. Roy is as I understand it, essentially a Marxist, and I'm basically a social democrat. (But her views are partly because of where she's lived and what she's seen. Anyway, what would be the economics of doing social democracy with a European-style welfare state in India? Is it even feasible? Maybe that's an essay I'd have liked to read.) When Roy mentions, in not entirely flattering tones, an award that sets the standard for what is and is not acceptable approaches to activism, and later appears to have been in favour of the Black Panthers without criticising their more violent side, I wonder if I'd agree with her about that award if I knew more about it, or about the detail of some of the other issues. What she does do though, is highlight the range of inequalities that still exist in India, alongside an economic boom and the popular tagline 'the world's largest democracy'.
Profile Image for Shadin Pranto.
1,191 reviews265 followers
October 1, 2019
অরুন্ধতী রায় শোনাচ্ছেন ধারালো নখ,দন্তযুক্ত এক বিভীষিকার কাহিনি। আদতে এই অভিশাপ মঙ্গলের নাম, কল্যাণের কথা বলে বেড়ায়। শান্তির বার্তাবাহকের রূপ নিতেও তার জুড়ি মেলা ভার। অরুন্ধতী রায়ের এই তমসাচ্ছন্ন বিভীষিকা হলো পুঁজিবাদ। এনজিওর নামে, ব্যবসায়ের ছলে, বিভিন্ন ফাউন্ডেশনের ছদ্মবেশে বিশ্বব্যাপী আগ্রাসন চালায় পুঁজিবাদ। তবে এই বইতে পুরো বিশ্বকে মুখ্য করেন নি অরুন্ধতী রায়। ভারতের উন্নয়ন, লোকহিতকর কাজের নামে সরকার ঘাড়ে কীভাবে সওয়ার হয়েছে পুঁজিবাদ তারই বয়ান এই পুস্তক। ভারতের পুঁজিবাদী ব্যবস্থাকে অত্যন্ত তীক্ষ্ণভাবে ব্যবচ্ছেদ করেছেন অরুন্ধতী রায়।

ম্যান্ডেলা গণতন্ত্রের, শান্তির বার্তাবাহক। অথচ তিনিই জেল থেকে মুক্তি পেয়ে তাঁর রাজনৈতিক দলের কর্মপন্থা থেকে সমাজতন্ত্রকে ঝেঁটিয়ে বিদায় করেন। ইন্দোনেশিয়ার কুখ্যাত স্বৈরাচার জেনারেল সুহার্তোকে ম্যান্ডেলা প্রদান করেছিলেন দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকার সর্বোচ্চ উপাধি!

ফিলিপাইনে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের নানা কুকীর্তির সহচর ছিলেন ফিলিপিনো প্রেসিডেন্ট র‍্যামন ম্যাগসেসে। অথচ সেই ম্যাগসেসের নামে প্রচলিত পুরস্কার পেয়ে ধন্য হয়েছেন ভারতের আন্না হাজারে, কেজরিওয়াল আর কিরণ বেদির মতো ব্যক্তিত্ব। উল্লেখ্য, বাংলাদেশেও এই পুরস্কার পেয়েছেন প্রথম আলো'র সম্পাদক, ব্রাকের প্রতিষ্ঠাতা এবং পরিবেশ আন্দোলন কর্মী রিজওয়ানা চৌধুরী বন্যারা।

ভারতে অনেক অঞ্চলেই দারিদ্র্যতা চরমে।অনেকে ঋণে জর্জরিত হয়ে বাধ্য হয় আত্মহত্যা করতে।এখানে অরুন্ধতী রায় গ্রামীন ব্যংকের মুহাম্মদ ইউনূসেরও সমালোচনা করেছেন। টাটা, মহিন্দ্রার মালিকরা হার্ভাড এবং কর্নেল বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে মিলিয়ন মিলিয়ন টাকা দান করে।তাদেরই দেশে লোকে দারিদ্রসীমার নিচে বাস করে। এসবের তীব্র সমালোচনা করেছেন অরুন্ধতী রায়।

পুঁজিবাদ এক অন্ধকারের নাম। পুঁজিবাদ মানে অসভ্যতার পানে যাত্রা করা। পুঁজিবাদ মানে ধনীর পোঁয়াবারো, গরিবের সর্বনাশ। আর সর্বনাশকে ত্বরান্বিত করছে পশ্চিমা মদদপুষ্ট বিভিন্ন এনজিও এবং ভারী ভারী নামওয়ালা ফাউন্ডেশন। তাকে পুষ্ট করে করপোরেটগুলোর চাঁদায় বেঁচে থাকা রাজনৈতিক দলগুলো। যারা গদিতে বসে ছড়ি ঘোরায়। তুর্কিনাচন নাচায় জনতাকে। বিভিন্ন কালা কানুন করে, রাষ্ট্রীয় শক্তিকাঠামো ব্যবহার করে সংরক্ষণ করে পুঁজিপতিদের স্বার্থ। তাতে সায় দেয় ব্যবসায়ী, খনিওয়ালা, অস্ত্রওয়ালাদের মালিকানাধীন গণমাধ্যম।যাদের আমরা আদর করে ডাকি, 'রাষ্ট্রের চতুর্থ স্তম্ভ' বলে!
Profile Image for Lea.
442 reviews78 followers
July 31, 2014
Incredibly depressing, but well worth the (brief) time and effort invested in reading, this should be considered a must-read. I was going to post a few quotes in my review, but there is something quotable on virtually every page. Very enlightening and troubling.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
1,767 reviews433 followers
January 22, 2015
Arundhati Roy is a fine essayist, and in this collection of work exploring the underbelly of India’s entry to global power status, its ‘gush up’ economic model and its brutal war in Kashmir she conjures up images and evokes the crimes of the new world order in the ‘world’s largest democracy’ to great effect. In doing so, she walks a fine line between presenting contemporary, voraciously capitalist India with its huge inequalities of wealth, its brutal suppression of dissent and its self-aggrandising élite as ludicrous and a blight on humanity. The chilling thing about almost all of the case that runs through the collection is that every piece was written before Modi and the BJP took power as a populist, ultra nationalist, narrowly communalist party of the right.

Close to a half the book (there are only 96 pages, plus end notes) is taken up with the title essay, which frames the growth of India’s major corporations and their enormous concentration of wealth in a small number of hands in the history of New World capitalism – the growth of US major corporation in the late 19th century – and then the role of those robber baron families in the support for a global system that sustains a neo-liberal, US-centric world – the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations. It is a compelling case based in the maintenance of a global system that favours the wealth of the few and the debt of the many, and parallels in many ways Phillip Mirowski’s fabulous Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste , acting almost as a localised case study of the neo-liberal movement he exposes. Elsewhere, she investigates the extent to which anti-corruption campaigns become critiques of the state that facilitate privatisation. There may not be much economics here, but there is an impressive amount of political economy.

Alongside that, the other strand is an analysis is the Indian state’s on-going was against the poor, the tribal peoples collectively (the Adivasi) and in Kashmir. These accounts are grim and harrowing, and fit with her earlier work on anti-dam campaigns and work for justice for the poor in a system that maintains their down-trodden status. We see the way that any form of rural resistance to corporate greed is repackaged as Maoist ‘terrorism’, how Kashmir is militarised but that this cannot suppress the wilful resistance and kindness of the people and how any attempt to provide an independent voice for these peoples is stamped out. Within this group of much shorter essays there are two that consider the fate of men charged with master-minding the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament; this is a tale of judicial corruption (it would be too polite to call it ineptitude), manipulation of legal system by the state and its lackeys in the police force and also by a media complex that is interwoven with the régime of power. The upshot was the execution of a man for whom there was no clear evidence of his involvement, except that he had former involvement in Kashmiri radical politics.

Running through all of these pieces is a sense of a state that serves only the interests of its élite (which is what states do) but that does so in a way that denies basic principles of equality and inclusion that is the professed basis of liberal (bourgeois) democracies. Therein lies the major problem with the collection; the sense that runs through it. This is a collection of independent essays; each in itself elegantly crafted and evocative of a sense, of a place, of a politics, of an emotion but barely held together. There is an introductory piece that traces poetically some of the themes and may well have been specific to this collection, but it is hard to tell – there are no acknowledgements of original place of publication and more frustratingly no dates of original publication (a few digits at the end of each piece would have done it - surely, Verso, it's not that hard), so when there is a reference to being “in Kashmir ten days ago” (p70) we have no reference points, no hooks or events on which to hang the discussion. This lack of a time-based reference is a problem in collections of journalism and essays, and even more so here were we know, or can infer, that all of these pieces were probably written some-time between the end of 2011 and the middle of 2013, but the absence of reference points and what seems to have been a decision to reprint them unchanged means that the collection as a whole lacks coherence and in places jars.

This is a minor problem over all: the essays convey a sense of oppression, a self-serving élite contemptuous of the vast mass of the people amongst whom they live, willing to use state power to brutalise those people and keep them in the servitude of poverty. In closing the collection with a transcript of a talk to the People’s University linked to Occupy Wall Street reader should be dragged out of a smug complacency that these systems of oppression exist only in India: Roy has exposed a specifically Indian form it may take, but its vampire squid tentacles may be found most everywhere else. Despite some frustrating moments, this is a wonderful collection of essays that no doubt really annoys the Indian state and its hangers on – what better reason to take notice.
128 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2015
God, what a manifest of unsubstantiated data and conspiracy theories. I concede, the situation in India is probably far from being any good, and inequality is definitely a huge problem, but to dump everything on capitalism? I'm sorry but this sounds very similar to the revolutionary propaganda that brought Russia 70+ years of utter misery.
Profile Image for Andy.
123 reviews11 followers
March 27, 2018
Not really like anything I've read before. this essay is like if a pop political history book and a longform poem had a baby.

It was sort of all over the place, but everything evoked the same feeling and operated in the same general topic (recent Indian politics and history). Not a bad read though.
Profile Image for Subashini.
Author 5 books160 followers
June 17, 2017
Brief and eye-opening. My main issue was that it was too short. I flipped the page for more and was like, What.

It's a collection of linked essays and she writes about complex political issues with clarity. Sometimes this can come off a little basic but it's a solid primer for people who want to know more about the politics that inform her second novel. This is essentially the nonfiction version of it.

I found the sections on the increasingly far-right Indian security state & Kashmir especially useful.
Profile Image for Sarah Beaudette.
132 reviews7 followers
June 2, 2016
After FINALLY reading the work of art that was The God of Small Things, I was willing to follow Roy to the ends of the earth, including a nonfiction rant about capitalism. In GoST I loved Roy's precision and economy; you leave the book with the impression that every single image might have taken her an hour to get just right. And so unique. It wasn't a swing hanging from the tree, it was two thin arms reaching down to hold hands. She makes you want to see the world the way she does.

I mention these things about GoST only because I was surprised that Capitalism evinced none of them. The book might have been a good essay, but it felt like Roy spent maybe three months cobbling together what another reviewer described as something like newspaper articles and snippets surrounded by inscrutable commentary in Dickensian sentences.

I *think* I agree with Roy politically, (maybe?) but the book felt like it was missing its first three chapters of foundation. I really tried to follow her, and it's true that a lot of the atrocities she's describing in India are travesties that need to be written about, but I wish she'd had a stronger central thesis that helped me tie all the pieces together. Yes yes yes it's all bad, but which parts are you suggesting are endemic of capitalism, and how, and whats the history of that, and vs. which traits of which alternatives? Corruption: tell me why all of these terrible things are a result of capitalism rather than a nasty vein of human nature that for a million different reasons was allowed to run rampant in India. Roy is undoubtedly smarter than 99.5% of the world's population, and that's why I wanted to read about her ideas about capitalism. For me, the evidence was there but the explanation was missing.

If you're going to charge me $9.99 for a book (as opposed to a long form blog post), I think you owe me a little hand-holding, a little history, a lot of context. Or an explanation of why you don't owe me any of these things because I'm not thinking about the exchange of goods and ideas in the right way.
Profile Image for Alison.
357 reviews5 followers
June 13, 2014
This was pretty damn amazing. Eye opening, enraging, informative, and well-written, Roy destroys modern India as well as subtle worldwide issues such as the creeping corporate takeovers of government and services (her takedown of the rise of NGOs is terrific and utterly depressing, and I truly did not understand the concept of corporate foundations and she elucidated that perfectly - but also left me depressed). She speaks with power and presence and writes with clearheaded anger.

My only quibbles would be one that's on me and one that's on her: I spent much of my reading time of this book on Google researching the many, many things I did not know about India. I do think more basic knowledge would make the book go more smoothly for other readers. The second quibble is that the book is really just a collection of essays, and the tone shifts pretty wildly between them, as well as the scope. The first chapter is just knock your socks off, balls-to-the-wall takedown. The second chapter is about a very specific political situation that just couldn't compare. It's uneven and a bit disappointing, but the really amazingly good parts of the book outweigh the lesser chapters. The second section of the book focuses on Kashmir and again is terrific, so, it's hard to knock on the book when really it is a book about India specifically, but Roy just gave us even more earlier on.
Profile Image for A.H. Haar.
65 reviews29 followers
August 9, 2015
It is difficult for me talk about writers I like, even more so when their words are as powerful as these.

Arundhati Roy comes in with this book like a wrecking crew, but with finesse and craft. Everything I loved about her work in The God of Small Things is here, even in a non fiction politico-economic commentary. I guess what I mean is that this book, though it is about things like politics and GDP, is yet compelling and glorious to read. Even the comments in the footnotes were worthwhile.

In Capitalism: a Ghost Story, Roy frames the evils of free market capitalism against India's current economy, within its relationship to Kashmir, Pakistan, and the United States. But first she gives a brief and chilling history lesson of where free market capitalism comes from and the role that Corporate Philanthropy and Endowed Foundations play in politics and economies across the globe. I wont go into it here, because its too big. All I know is you should read this. Especially if you're from the U.S. and you chafed at the title or subject of this book.

I'm not kidding. READ IT.
Profile Image for Nancy.
853 reviews20 followers
October 9, 2016
Arundhati Roy is a courageous and cutting writer. Although most of us know her from her Booker Prize Winning novel, I've read that her political writing is even better. I thought I would start out with this small book of essays, and the accolades are worth it. Like many political books nowadays, the facts that Roy lays out about her native India are chilling, whether she is discussing poverty, inequality, climate change, corruption or religious wars. The only failing in this book was myself, the reader. I just don't know enough about Indian politics and therefore I was lost with a few of these essays. But I'll definitely pursue her writing further.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,650 followers
April 6, 2019
This is a bleak polemic against capitalism, but mostly against non-profits and foreign aid in India. It is a good read, but it is more a lament than a history or analysis.
Profile Image for Rianna.
84 reviews25 followers
November 14, 2021
The first (and longest) essay in this book was brilliant and eye opening - I scribbled in every margin and have told nearly every person I’ve talked to this week about things I learned. Highly highly recommend it. The rest of the essays are fast paced and more about India’s specific political and capitalist climate, which were informative but not as gripping. Still, really appreciate Roy’s voice and seeing what true activist writing is like.
Profile Image for Kate Savage.
669 reviews120 followers
December 20, 2021
If I'm going to be reading non-fiction, then please let it be Arundhati Roy essays. She is brutal, brilliant, and also funny amid all the horror. And so good at sentences.

It was also good for me to be reminded to think more about India, consider global policy from that perspective.
Profile Image for Ryan Bell.
55 reviews27 followers
May 3, 2017
Powerful, hard hitting description of the consequences of unfettered capitalism, combined with American-inspired imperialism running roughshod over the Indian subcontinent. Arundhati Roy is a courageous woman with an incisive insight into global inequality, its causes and solutions. Amazing collection of essays.
Profile Image for naviya .
259 reviews6 followers
October 7, 2020
- given that my indian cbse history/pol sci education was completely useless,, this was a great introduction to some of the social/political/economic intricacies of india
- we never talk abt the lower castes, the poor, the adivasis in a way that isnt self serving to the upper middle class that dont have to deal
- side note: india's education system is fucked
- she touches on how capitalism/industrialization/militarization/nationalism all relate to each other in a way thats super accessible and still retains it's nuance
- at the end of the book, she poses her demands which is something ive never seen done so explicitly and concisely in a non-fic before,,, i wish there was additional reading to tie in each of those demands with the previous essay but not necessary for my comprehension of the book
- time to read all her other books!!
Profile Image for Joy.
154 reviews
April 9, 2021

"Not everybody likes the idea of their cities filling up with the poor. A judge in Bombay called slum dwellers pickpockets of urban land. Another said, while ordering the bulldozing of unauthorized colonies, that people who couldn’t afford to live in cities shouldn’t live in them. When those who had been evicted went back to where they came from, they found their villages had disappeared under great dams and dusty quarries. Their homes were occupied by hunger and policemen. The forests were filling up with armed guerrillas. They found that the wars from the edge of India, in Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, had migrated to its heart. People returned to live on city streets and pavements, in hovels on dusty construction sites, wondering which corner of this huge country was meant for them."

"There's a lot of money in poverty, and a few Nobel Prizes too."

"Poverty, too, like feminism, is often framed as an identity problem. As though the poor had not been created by injustice but are a lost tribe who just happen to exist, and can be rescued in the short term by a system of grievance redressal (administered by NGOs on an individual, person-to-person basis), and whose long-term resurrection will come from Good Governance. Under the regime of Global Corporate Capitalism, it goes without saying."

"Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises-War and Shopping-simply will not work."

"The NGO-ization of the women’s movement has also made Western liberal feminism (by virtue of its being the most funded brand) the standard-bearer of what constitutes feminism. The battles as usual, have been played out on women’s bodies, extruding Botox at one end and burkas at the other. (And then there are those who suffer the double whammy, the Botox and the burka.) When, as happened recently in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burka rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. Coercing a woman out of her burka is as bad as coercing her into one. It’s not about the burka. It’s about the coercion. Viewing gender in this way, shorn of the social, political, and economic context, makes it an issue of identity, a battle of props and costumes. It’s what allowed the US government to use Western feminist liberal groups as moral cover when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Afghan women were (and are) in terrible trouble under the Taliban. But dropping daisy cutters on them was not going to solve the problem."

"I stood outside Antilla for a long time watching the sun go down. I imagined that the tower was as deep as it was high. That it had a twenty-seven-story-long tap root, snaking around below the ground, hungrily sucking sustenance out of the earth, turning it into smoke and gold.

Why did the Ambanis choose to call their building Antilla? Antilla is the name of a set of mythical islands whose story dates back to an eight-century Iberian legend. When the Muslims conquered Hispania, six Christian Visigothic bishops and their parishioners boarded ships and fled. After days, or maybe weeks, at sea, they arrived at the isles of Antilla, where they decided to settle and raise a new civilization. They burned their boats to permanently sever their links to their barbarian-dominated homeland.

By calling their tower Antilla, do the Ambanis hope to sever their links to the poverty and squalor of their homeland and raise a new civilization? Is this the final act of the most successful secessionist movement in India: the secession of the middle and upper classes into outer space?
As night fell over Mumbai, guards in crisp linen shirts with crackling walkie-talkies appeared outside the forbidding gates of Antilla. The lights blazed on, to scare away the ghosts perhaps. The neighbors complain that Antilla’s bright lights have stolen the night.

Perhaps it’s time for us to take back the night."

Profile Image for Kathy.
Author 1 book222 followers
February 20, 2022
If you are looking for an introduction to the topics discussed in this book, this is not the place to find them (nor does it pretend to be). This is informative, with an extension bibliography, but if you don't know much about the politics or history of India going in (read: like me), a lot of this will go over your head while the rest terrifies you.
I wrap up my thoughts about this book in this video.
Profile Image for LOKENDRA PUSHPAJ.
14 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2019
The book shows you the dystopian era that has already been dawned without our conscience, acknowledging it. Arundhati portrays a far-left view on the power that right-wing uses by the cohesion of government, military, and large co-operations. She explains how the major industrialist of India has the power to mold a story so as to support their capitalist endeavors. How the Maoists have been used by the government to put forward the corporatocracy.

She also questions Anna - Hazare's Lokpal Bill and how under the cloak of corruption it was forwarding completely and almost draconian capitalist agendas along with forming an administration that was above the government. She also points out the issue of Kashmir in a way that not shown by the media.

At last, she also questions the hanging to Afzal Guru and it's repercussions.

All the text in the book is supported by various news articles, essays, interviews, and videos that can be found at the end of the book.

Profile Image for Boni Aditya.
313 reviews885 followers
June 9, 2021
Having seen arundhathi Roy, the activism and reading her works have, led me finally to find a great analogy to describe her and people like her.

They are Barbariks of the modern world.

These people always revel in taking the anti position of the greater side. They don't really care about good or evil, let alone greater good or evil.

They only have one view, the strong and the weak. They always fight the stronger side, even if that side is good. They always take anti-establishment stance, and thus they chase fame, they crave for recognition.

Barbarik a powerful warrior in Mahabharat war, chooses to fight for the side that is weaker and hence destroying the stronger side and then weakening it. He then chooses to fight for the weaker side which was previously the stronger side, and thus killing everybody, including the good, bad and ugly in the war.

Arudhathi Roy is simply crazy! She has gone senile, with no ability to sense the greater good as opposed to permanent evil.

Somehow for every evil in the world, Capitalism has become the villain. What a load of bull shit this book has been.

The funny part is that she is only chasing after Capitalism because it is the dominant force in the world. Guess what she would have done if Socialism was the major force in the world. She would write a book ranting about socialism and its evils.

At the end of the day Arudhathi Roy does not accomplish anything but sell a few books filled with these rants. Reality does not conform to her weird notions about the world.

I am never reading another book written by her. She is a pseudo intellectual at best.

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