27 February, 2021

In A Pendulous State

In this magisterial account, Jaffrelot privileges thematology over chronology to examine Pakistan’s maladies, its resilience and the roots of its conflicted nationhood.

Reuters (From Outlook 17 August 2015)
In A Pendulous State

As Christophe Jaffrelot pointed out at the release of his book, books about Pakistan have become something of a cottage industry. Most of them, moreover, paint a doomsday picture of the state as moving rapidly from chaos to collapse.

What distinguishes this work from other commentaries on the country is its magisterial completeness. It is at once an Encyclopaedia Pakistannica, a compre­h­en­sive textbook, a penetrating historiographical exegesis, an insightful sociological study, and a profoundly multi-disciplinary examination of a hugely complex polity. The unique feature of this work is that instead of reciting the story in chronological order, the author exp­lores the country’s history through the­mes that unveil the relevant facts, dates and all, but woven around the ideas and ideologies that are explored.

Above all, what stands out is that while pointing to the obvious—the ‘instability’ of Pakistan—it rescues this view from the humdrum by underlining the astonishing ‘resilience’ of the nation. For...

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