James Crabtree
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A colorful and revealing portrait of the rise of India’s new billionaire class in a radically unequal societyIndia is the world’s largest democracy, with more than one billion people and an economy expanding faster than China’s. But the rewards of this growth have been far from evenly shared, and the country’s top 1% now own nearly 60% of its wealth. In megacities like Mumbai, where half the population live in slums, the extraordinary riches of India’s new dynasties echo the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers of yesterday, funneling profits from huge conglomerates into lifestyles of conspicuous consumption.

James Crabtree’s The Billionaire Raj takes readers on a personal journey to meet these reclusive billionaires, fugitive tycoons, and shadowy political power brokers. From the sky terrace of the world’s most expensive home to impoverished villages and mass political rallies, Crabtree dramatizes the battle between crony capitalists and economic reformers, revealing a tense struggle between equality and privilege playing out against a combustible backdrop of aspiration, class, and caste.

The Billionaire Raj is a vivid account of a divided society on the cusp of transformation—and a struggle that will shape not just India’s future, but the world’s.

Background

Reviews

“A lively and valuable blend of the empirical and the anecdotal……. The best parts of Mr. Crabtree’s book, however, aren’t his observations on the civic state of India (although these are certainly valuable and wise). They are his reportage, in which he relates his encounters with several of the men who are emblematic of the billionaire raj……”

“Crabtree’s vivid portrayal of the corruption of politics is very informative, and thought-provoking….. Crabtree has given us the most comprehensive and eminently readable tour of economic India, which, as he shows, cannot be understood without a knowledge of how political India works.”

“Mr Crabtree makes a muscular argument about the interlinkage of democracy, business and development….. The analysis really sings when Mr Crabtree finds new ways to capture the collision of profits, politics and public opinion. His account of India’s cut-throat network-TV industry, through the eyes of a star presenter, is thrilling.”

“The book is chock-full of profoundly revealing vignettes from various corners of India’s endlessly diverse society and economy. Mr. Crabtree introduces us to local political fixers, national anti-corruption crusaders and even India’s equivalent of Bill O’Reilly (complete with a demagogic catchphrase: ”The Nation Wants to Know!”). The chaotic and complex nation that emerges does not appear to be under the rule of billionaires or anyone else.”

“In crisp language designed for a general reader, “The Billionaire Raj” provides an overview of just how India became the world’s most coveted market after its independence from British rule.”

Endorsements

“James Crabtree has written a lucid, detailed, and at times epic account of the new India, opening our eyes to the economic and social transformation that has quietly occurred there in recent years, behind the facade of the headlines. A must read for all those interested in the political and economic destiny of the subcontinent.”
Robert D. Kaplan
Author of The Return of Marco Polo’s World
“James Crabtree, once a hugely-admired star foreign correspondent, has transformed himself into a brilliant writer and analyst of the Indian super rich. This timely, fascinating and eye-opening book is also—a rarity for a book about money—wonderfully witty and beautifully written.”
William Dalrymple
Author of The Last Mughal
“James Crabtree distinguished himself as the most insightful journalist writing for the Financial Times from India. It is not surprising therefore that he has now written a book that offers a splendid overview of the issues that have been raised concerning India’s spectacular growth since the reforms began in 1991. It is bound to become a classic.”
Jagdish Bhagwati
Co-author of Why Growth Matters
“Who are the Indian nouveau riche and what do they want? James Crabtree’s The Billionaire Raj will prove the defining work on these questions. It is a must-read for anyone interested in wealth, inequality, India, or the evolution of capitalism.”
Tyler Cowen
Author of The Complacent Class
“A fascinating look into the world of the Indian business elite—the ‘Bollygarchs’—and their political entanglements. James Crabtree deftly explores the changing balance between big money and democratic accountability, shedding considerable light on whether the country will sustain the miracle that is the Indian democracy or go the way of populism and authoritarianism, as so many others have.”
Dani Rodrik
Author of Straight Talk on Trade
“Crabtree’s stylish writing and sharp insights bring to life the extremes of country changing with bewildering rapidity, and one the world will find increasingly hard to ignore. The Billionaire Raj is an essential guide if you want to understand modern India, as you must.”
Edward Luce
Author of In Spite of the Gods
“A wonderful book! It artfully weaves together lively stories of India’s billionaires while retaining a balanced perspective on the the big picture of the rise of India. It is not easy to write contemporary history but Crabtree manages to get to the heart of the matter—the problem of India’s state capacity and the need to reform the institutions of governance.”
Gurcharan Das
Author of India Unbound