Saturday, August 06, 2005

V.S. Naipaul in NY Times

Nice profile and interview. I highly recommend his non-fiction work on India (A Wounded Civilization, A Million Mutinies Now).

Naipaul understands that what is happening with Islam and terrorism is merely a sideshow to real world-changing developments in Asia. US leaders should not be distracted from more important long term issues like economic and technological competitiveness.

From the audio interview:
"The economic development of India -- and China -- will completely alter the world... nothing that's happening in the Arab world has that capacity... mischief, just mischief, whereas what is happening in India and China will bend the world.''


Anonymous said...


Just to let you know, I have (as always) enjoyed your past few posts IMMENSELY. The perspective and information I find here, I cannot find anywhere else. How do you manage do theoretical physics, start hot start ups and pick out some of the best articles out there in helping understand current economic situation/trends in the world?

Amen to the central thrust of your article (though I don't agree with a lot of what Naipaul says). While the West is busy (frankly obsessed) over the GWOT, Asia is doing business and marching on. Note that there is significant terrorism in India as well. Note how Wen and Hu vist countries and sign deals, while our president lectures about the GSAVE/GWOT.

I agree with Gates who said something to the effect that when he sees the competition out there in Asia, he fears for the kids in the US. While the kids in the West spend the weekend playing the latest games, middle-class kids in India are busy studying for the big exams to get into the engineering and medical schools. Although most don't suceed, I think the intense pressure enables them to handle challenges more easily than their western counterparts. I am not saying it is better, I am just pointing out the difference, and the kind of competition we are up against.

I find most people, including experts, miss this point (perhaps you don't because you have Asian (Korean?) heritage); they think it is all about 'cheap labour' in Asia. Agreed not everyone there is a genius, but the average competency is significantly better. How can companies go wrong with cheaper AND better labour?


Steve Hsu said...


I also don't agree with everything Naipaul says (although, unlike you, I have only limited knowledge on which to base those juedgements), but still find him very stimulating and a fine writer. I can claim some prescience in his case - about seven years ago (after discovering his work), I asked an Indian colleague (another theorist) whether Naipaul had won the Nobel prize in literature. My colleague seemed surprised and said no, but a few years later Naipaul did win it. I don't like his fiction as much as his non-fiction, though. When I get some time I want to read Maximum City, which seems to have some things in common with Naipaul's early writings on India (where, for example, I first learned about Shiv Sena, among other things).

Some of my colleagues kid me about my focus on globalization on this blog, wondering why I don't write more about physics. But, I think globalization is one of the most fascinating phenomena to think about at the moment - a once in a few-centuries equilibration. Who knows where it is headed? Why let economists have all the fun? :-) I think physicists would find the idea of equilibtration (as in thermodynamics) a natural framework with which to think about the entry of China and India and the former Soviet states into the world economy.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment of the importance of globalization. Very well put!

Naipaul is a very fine writer. It is interesting to see so many good writers in English from India, most with a distinctive 'Indian' style.

Did you know Agni is fire in Sanskrit, and hence the English words ignite, ignition, igneous. I learnt it from Jeopardy, of all places!This flexibility of the English language is what makes it the language of the world.

You greatly overstimate my knowledge. :) It helps that I have lived in two very different cultures (and language too). It is sad that only about 20% of Americans have a passport. Ideally, everyone should spend a few months in a very different society.

Now I had better go and earn my paycheck!



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