Conventional wisdom says that integration into the global marketplace tends to weaken the power of traditional faith in developing countries. But, as Meera Nanda argues in this path-breaking book, this is hardly the case in today’s India. Against expectations of growing secularism, India has instead seen a remarkable intertwining of Hinduism and neoliberal ideology, spurred on by a growing capitalist class. It is this “State-Temple-Corporate Complex,” she claims, that now wields decisive political and economic power, and provides ideological cover for the dismantling of the Nehru-era state-dominated economy.
According to this new logic, India’s rapid economic growth is attributable to a special “Hindu mind,” and it is what separates the nation’s Hindu population from Muslims and others deemed to be “anti-modern.” As a result, Hindu institutions are replacing public ones, and the Hindu “revival” itself has become big business, a major source of capital accumulation. Nanda explores the roots of this development and its possible future, as well as the struggle for secularism and socialism in the world’s second-most populous country.
Nanda reveals that rising secularization is not quite triumphant, but in fact matched by a rising tide of religiosity. India is one of the largest and most productive countries in the world; it’s high time we paid attention to the religious trends that are consuming it. The God Market provides an excellent tour of just what is going on, and how it resembles (and differs from) the American and European experience with religious nationalism and fundamentalism. She explains what this means for the contemporary secularization thesis, but also what it means for India and the world. Hinduism is on the rise. And we will have to confront it. And for that, we have to understand it. Nanda provides the ideal guide.
Anyone eager to learn more about what secularization is and should be, about the impact of globalization on India, or about Hinduism as a marketing/economic force with major political and social power, will do well to read Meera Nanda’s The God Market. Her writing is lucid and engaging, grounded in the cultural complexities of a world-wide “marketplace.” An insightful, worthwhile read.