I like to browse through airport bookshops in different cities. They offer a selection that ends up quite different from the ones that I end up visiting normally. Every once in a while, I came across a title that is very intriguing and just right to read on the flight back. At the end of a long day of travel and meetings, I am always game for something different and surprising.
One such book that I picked up recently was “To Uphold the World: The Message of Ashoka and Kautilya for the 21st Century” by Bruce Rich. The theme of the book was very intriguing. I read parts of the book on the flight back to Mumbai, and found it interesting enough to mention here. Here’s a bit about the book:
[Bruce Rich’s] search to found a civil and international order on principles that transcend the goals of pure economic efficiency and amoral realpolitik is inspired by the writings and lives of two of the greatest figures of ancient India—Ashoka and Kautilya. Ashoka provides a unique example of a world ruler—his empire at the time was arguably the world’s largest, richest and most powerful multi-ethnic state—who tried to put into practice a secular state ethic of non-violence and reverence for life, which he also extended to international relations. Kautilya, one of history’s greatest political geniuses, wrote the world’s first treatise on political economy, the Arthasastra, which proclaims accumulation of material riches as the chief underpinning of human society. Both addressed the questions of political realism and idealism, the role of force and violence in international relations, and the tension between economics and ethics. Through the retelling of mythical and historical accounts, Bruce Rich distils the message of Ashoka and Kautilya to help us uphold our world in the twenty-first century.