To Uphold the World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India

To Uphold the World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India

by Bruce Rich
     
 

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In 1991, Bruce Rich traveled to Orissa and gazed upon the rock edicts erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka over 2,200 years ago. Intrigued by the stone inscriptions that declared religious tolerance, conservation, nonviolence, species protection, and human rights, Rich was drawn into Ashoka's world. Ashoka was a powerful conqueror who converted to Buddhism on the…  See more details below

Overview

In 1991, Bruce Rich traveled to Orissa and gazed upon the rock edicts erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka over 2,200 years ago. Intrigued by the stone inscriptions that declared religious tolerance, conservation, nonviolence, species protection, and human rights, Rich was drawn into Ashoka's world. Ashoka was a powerful conqueror who converted to Buddhism on the heels of a bloody war, yet his empire rested on a political system that prioritized material wealth and amoral realpolitik. This system had been perfected by Kautilya, a statesman who wrote the world's first treatise on economics. In this powerful critique of the current wave of globalization, Rich urgently calls for a new global ethic, distilling the messages of Ashoka and Kautilya while reflecting on thinkers from across the ages—from Aristotle and Adam Smith to George Soros.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What do a political philosopher and an Indian emperor from the third century have to teach the modern world? “A global system, grounded on reverence for life, nonviolence, toleration,” argues Rich (Mortgaging the Earth). In the Arthashastra, the world's first treatise on economics and governance, statesman Kautilya laid out a realpolitik thesis that became the basis of the great emperor Ashoka's empire, which “presided over the high point of the first economic globalization.” Ashoka tempered Kautilya's Machiavellian maneuverings with his embrace of dhamma—a Buddhist ethic of nonviolence and compassion. Ashoka's monolithic pillars and rock edicts proclaiming his principles of governance and listing protected animals and plants still survive all over India and as far west as Afghanistan. The book's message is inspiring and wise, but factual errors and minor mistranslations—there is a deer park at Sarnath, but the word itself does not mean “deer park”; Chanakya (son of Chanak), Kautilya (the wily one) and Vishnugupta are all names that refer to the author of Arthashastra, so it is meaningless to refer to Chanakya as the “mythical name”—provide jarring notes. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
The reader is drawn powerfully into a long-gone world . . . with ingenious political analysis . . . [It's] a highly readable book.—Amartya Sen

"It is my hope and prayer that readers today may be inspired by this tale."—His Holiness the Dalai Lama

"I am in awe of what Bruce Rich does in this wonderful book—reaching back through the millennia to provide an inspiring account of the ethical consciousness so urgently needed today. A wise and profound book that could hardly be timelier."—James Gustave Speth, former Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and former Administrator, United Nations Development Program

"In Bruce Rich's brilliant and accessible study, Ashoka emerges as a figure from whom all political and spiritual leaders can learn much. Rich engagingly and skillfully presents ancient India's political issues in a way that actually illumines contemporary debates. A fascinating account."—Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and author of The Left Hand of God

"The only era when change was as profound as it is now was roughly 2,400 years ago, a time of defining prophets and the unification of the West, India, and China. No one then contributed more for the good than Ashoka. No one ever has brought Ashoka and his relevance so much to life as Bruce Rich in this wonderful volume."—Bill Drayton, Founder and Chair, Ashoka

"Bruce Rich finds in ancient Indian wisdom the roots of a new global ethic for the 21st century. Compelling, deeply researched and insightfully argued, Rich’s is a book that deserves a wide and thoughtful readership."—Shashi Tharoor, author The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone and Nehru: the Invention of India

"Bruce Rich's imaginative and engaging work, linking the world of Ashoka and Kautilya to some of the fundamental predicaments of our age, has many merits, not the least of which is forcing us to rethink conventional ideas about modernity and globalization. A timely and critical contribution to the literature on global governance, the book should command considerable appeal across a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. It will find a wide audience especially in courses in international relations and world order studies." —Don Babai, lecturer in international political economy and research associate, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

"This book will be popular in undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in international relations theory, globalization, political theory, and global ethics, among others. Rich is a master at bringing ideas to life, and placing them in both a historical and modern context. As always, his work will provoke and inspire students." —Tamar Gutner, director, International Politics Program and International Economic Relations Program, American University

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807095539
Publisher:
Beacon Press
Publication date:
03/01/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Bruce Rich is Washington DC based attorney who has served as senior counsel on international finance and development issues for major environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rich has published extensively in environmental and policy journals, as well as in newspapers and magazines such as The Financial Times, The Nation and The Ecologist. He is the author of Mortgaging the Earth, a widely acclaimed critique of the World Bank and reflection on the philosophical and historical evolution of the project of economic development in the West. He has been awarded the United Nations Environment Program 'Global 500 Award,' the highest environmental prize of the United Nations, in 1988, and also won the World Hunger Media Award in that year for the best periodical piece on development issues.

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