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The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names 'Kauṭilya' and 'Vishnugupta', both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC), who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names 'Kauṭilya' and 'Vishnugupta', both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC), who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire. The text was influential until the 12th century, when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1904 by R. Shamasastry, who published it in 1909. The first English translation was published in 1915. Roger Boesche describes the Arthaśāstra as "a book of political realism, a book analysing how the political world does work and not very often stating how it ought to work, a book that frequently discloses to a king what calculating and sometimes brutal measures he must carry out to preserve the state and the common good." Centrally, Arthaśāstra argues how in an autocracy an efficient and solid economy can be managed. It discusses the ethics of economics and the duties and obligations of a king. The scope of Arthaśāstra is, however, far wider than statecraft, and it offers an outline of the entire legal and bureaucratic framework for administering a kingdom, with a wealth of descriptive cultural detail on topics such as mineralogy, mining and metals, agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine and the use of wildlife. The Arthaśāstra also focuses on issues of welfare (for instance, redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that hold a society together.


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The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names 'Kauṭilya' and 'Vishnugupta', both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC), who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names 'Kauṭilya' and 'Vishnugupta', both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC), who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire. The text was influential until the 12th century, when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1904 by R. Shamasastry, who published it in 1909. The first English translation was published in 1915. Roger Boesche describes the Arthaśāstra as "a book of political realism, a book analysing how the political world does work and not very often stating how it ought to work, a book that frequently discloses to a king what calculating and sometimes brutal measures he must carry out to preserve the state and the common good." Centrally, Arthaśāstra argues how in an autocracy an efficient and solid economy can be managed. It discusses the ethics of economics and the duties and obligations of a king. The scope of Arthaśāstra is, however, far wider than statecraft, and it offers an outline of the entire legal and bureaucratic framework for administering a kingdom, with a wealth of descriptive cultural detail on topics such as mineralogy, mining and metals, agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine and the use of wildlife. The Arthaśāstra also focuses on issues of welfare (for instance, redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that hold a society together.

30 review for Kautilya's Arthashastra/The Way Of Fianancial Management And Economic Governance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    THE SCIENCE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE The Arthashastra is the most comprehensive treatise on statecraft of classical times, and perhaps of all time. The Arthashastra is written mainly in prose but also incorporates 380 shlokas, which adds a vital poetic flourish to this otherwise down-to-earth classic. The text of this extraordinarily detailed manual contains fifteen books which cover numerous topics viz., the King; a complete code of law; foreign policy; secret services; civic responsibilities, and THE SCIENCE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE The Arthashastra is the most comprehensive treatise on statecraft of classical times, and perhaps of all time. The Arthashastra is written mainly in prose but also incorporates 380 shlokas, which adds a vital poetic flourish to this otherwise down-to-earth classic. The text of this extraordinarily detailed manual contains fifteen books which cover numerous topics viz., the King; a complete code of law; foreign policy; secret services; civic responsibilities, and so on. In trying to understand Kautilya's analysis, we have to keep in mind the fact that in the Kautilyan view, the king encapsulates all the constituents of a state, he has expounded the theory in terms of the king - any king. In other words, what Kautilya calls the 'interest of the king' would nowadays be termed 'National Interest'. A Note About The Translation This translation by Rangarajan is a good reference book if you are coming back to Arthashastra for reference, but not particularly good for a first reading. It is too well catalogued and too practical for that. The verses should be read in the order Kautilya arrayed than in this re-arranged fashion that helps to make much better sense of ti, but somehow takes away the spirit. The translation also contains a useful Index of Verses (By Textual Order) — it is meant to assist in finding out in which Part and Section a particular verse of the text has been included. The Branches Of Knowledge Traditionally, in classical Indian texts, the four branches of knowledge are considered to be: 1) Philosophy, 2) The Three Vedas, 3) Economics, and 4) The Science of Government Kautilya tells us that these are, indeed, the four fundamental branches of knowledge because one can know from these four branches of study all that is to be learnt about Dharma [spiritual welfare] and Artha [material well-being]. {1.2.8-9} Artha, literally wealth, is thus one of four supreme aims prescribed by Classical Indian tradition. However, it has a much wider significance and the material well-being of individuals is just a part of it. The ‘Artha’ of Arthashastra is an all-embracing word with a variety of meanings.  In accordance with this, Kautilya's Arthashastra maintains that the state or government of a country has a vital role to play in maintaining the material status of both the nation and its people. The Arthashastra is thus 'the science of politics' with a significant part dedicated to the science of economics. It is the art of government in its widest sense — the maintenance of law and order as also of an efficient administrative machinery The subjects covered include: administration; law order and justice; taxation, revenue and expenditure; foreign policy; defense and war. Its three objectives follow one from the other: promotion of the welfare of the subjects leads to acquisition of wealth which, in turn, makes it possible to enlarge the territory by conquest. The Instruction Manual The Arthashastra is essentially a treatise on the art of government and is, by nature, instructional. It seeks to instruct all kings and is meant to be useful at all times wherever dharma is held to be pre­eminent. And because it is instructional, it is basis is the practice of government. The majority of the treatise is a Manual of Instruction for kings and officers of the state. There are three distinct parts in this manual: 1. The Manual of Admi­nistration describes the organization of the apparatus of the state and prescribes the duties and responsibilities of every key official, either for maintaining order or for collecting revenue. There are, naturally, parts devoted to budgetary control, enforcement of civil service dis­cipline and the public's civic responsibility. 2. The Code of Law and Justice covers both civil and criminal law and is, basically, a Penal Code; the extensive and graded penalties and fines prescribed in it have the twin aims of deterring transgressions and collecting revenue for the state. 3. The third part is a Manual of Foreign Policy , the pri­mary aim of which is acquisition of territory by conquest. These three manuals correspond to the three objectives of the state - wealth, jus­tice and expansion — A stable and prosperous state, which only a just administration can secure, is a prerequisite for accumulation of wealth which is then used to augment the territory. Justice —> Wealth —> Expansion —> More Wealth, and so on... ... as long as Justice is not compromised. Which is why the prime focus of The Arthashastra is good administration that ensures the perpetuation of justice and prosperity in the kingdom. Against Reductionist Arguments Before we move on, we should face the unfortunate fact that both Kautilya the author and his masterwork the Arthashastra are much misunderstood. Popularly known as Chanakya, he is maligned and often ridiculed as a teacher of unethical, not to say immoral, practices and as an advocate of the theory that 'the ends justify the means.' 'Chanakyan' has entered Indian vocabulary as the equivalent of 'Machiavellian'. Most people know little of what Kautilya actually said in the Arthashastra. The only thing they can recall is the superficial aspects of the ‘mandala’ theory, based on the principles: 'Every neighboring state is an enemy and the enemy's enemy is a friend.' This is, no doubt, almost always valid. Nevertheless, to reduce Kautilya's theory on foreign policy to just these two observations is to do him a grave injus­tice. Indeed, the theory deals with not just three states, but with a twelve. Here is a sample of how much more nuanced that simple understanding could be, with a little effort: This popular view is not only simplistic but untrue. A through reading of the treatise is required to appreciate the range and depth of the Arthashastra. It is a pioneering work on statecraft in all its aspects, written at least one thousand five hundred years ago. Even the condemnation of Kautilya as an unethi­cal teacher and the equivalence established with Machiavelli (itself based on gravely erroneous conception of that great master!) is based on ignorance of his work. Kautilya’s is always a sane, moderate and balanced view. He placed great emphasis on the welfare of the people. His practical advice is rooted in dharma. But, as a teacher of practical statecraft, he advocated unethical methods in the furtherance of national interest, but always with very strict qualification. But these are often ignored or just plain unknown to the majority. Just as Kautilya's important qualifications to his advocacy of unethical methods is often ignored, so is the voluminous evidence in the Arthashastra of his emphasis on welfare, not only of human beings but also of animals. Welfare in the Arthashastra is not just an abstract concept. It covers maintenance of social order, increasing economic activity, protection of livelihood, protection of the weaker sections of the population, prevention of harassment of the subjects, consumer protection and even welfare of slaves and prisoners. In short, the Arthashastra is a mixture of both what we applaud today and what we consider to be reprehensible. Kautilya has a great deal to say about civic responsibility; the obligation of every householder to take precautions against fire is mentioned; so is a prohibition on cutting trees in public parks. Consumer protection and vigilance against ex­ploitation of the people by government servants are aspects which we consider good. Equally, some of Kautilya's suggestions will be seen by us as unethical. What is essential is that we understand both aspects and use them to learn history as well as to apply to the modern situations. The Kautilyan Conception of The State Dr. Kangle, in his magisterial work on Kautilya, notes that 'the kind of state control over the economy Arthashastra presupposes is not possible without an efficient administra­tion. We, therefore, find in it a description of an elaborate administra­tive machinery.' A ruler's duties in the internal administration of the country are three-fold: raksha or protection of the state from external aggression, palana or maintenance of law and order within the state, and yoga­kshema or safeguarding the welfare of the people. These duties also meant that the King needed an elaborate support system. The highly centralized Kautilyan state was to be regulated by an elaborate and intricate system as laid out by Kautilya. While at first glance we might think that this high centralization is repulsive, we should also appreciate the difficulties of the time. Most of the empires of the world relied on tight centralization to ensure some degree of success. Also, in Kautilya’s eyes, everything was in the service of one goal: Justice. The extensive responsibilities of the state for promoting economic wellbeing and preserving law and order demand an equally extensive administrative machinery.  Any text on Arthashastra thus has to contain details of the organization of the civil service as well as the duties and responsibilities of individual officials. Thus we can see how The Arthashastra was bound to be an elaborate manual that dealt with every minute aspect of administration and daily life. The Arthashastra is a through discussion on the science of living, along with being a valuable historical document on the conduct of administration. It is thus supremely valuable for the historian but also for a modern political scientist or sociologist or economist or administrator. A Modern Kautilya All this shows us how close to modern life and administration the Kautilyan ideas come. Reading ancient books is the best way to rid ourselves of modernist fantasies — except for communication and transport, in the basic institutions, we are still where we were. and it is these two things (advance in communication & transport) that has made our institutions slightly more efficient, but also a lot more complex and thus just as bad at dealing with real things, while giving the illusion of a lot of activity. The same thing can be said of the role of technology in daily life as well. We can get more things done because we can, but precisely because we can, there are always more things to do. The Red Queen’s laugh reverberates through our modern lives and modern states. Reality And The Ideal The picture of the ideal Kautilyan state that emerges from our discussion above is one of a well-run state, prosperous and bustling with activity. But if we are to comprehend clearly Kautilya's teachings and apply them judiciously to the modern world, we also have to be aware of the essential characteristics of the work. The treatise is about an ideal state - not that such a state actually ever existed or is even likely to exist now or in the future. To the extent any of the six constituent elements of a state - the ruler, the ministers, the urban and the rural population, the economic power and the military might - differ from the ideals Kautilya has set out, to that extent the advice given by him has to be modified. I cannot imagine that much would change if a modern Kautilya were to write an Arthashastra today, except that he would have a broader, faster reach, and a better chance of enforcing things. But the basics of what he wants to do would not change much, nor would the how, only the means/instruments of effecting them would be easier., But unless those means are not available to the people, their range also increases, and hence real control would remain as difficult today as it was then. The Illusion of Governance? This realization should lead us to wonder why Kautilya attempted such an elaborately and minutely planned state architecture — we should consider the possibility that perhaps this level of intrusion into daily life was required, at least at the planning level, precisely because real control was so impossibly difficult? Maybe the Plan was needed for any semblance of governance? This reminds me strongly of Kafka’s Castle administration and their reliance on the awe of the villagers. Maybe the illusion of minute micro-managed and all-pervasive governance can cover up for the inability to really govern? Isn’t it the same today? The Best in the Market We have seen that the Arthashastra is an exhaustive and detailed inventory of everything a state should do and everything every minor official should do. A more detailed secular constitution of governance and daily life cannot be imagined. With this legacy, it is no wonder that the much less ambitious Indian Constitution is still the longest in the world, the most detailed and most concerned with trying to micro manage the nuts and bolts of administration. We have also seen how the problems that Kautilya tried to tackle are more or less the same as what modern states fail spectacularly at, even when aided by more gee-whiz technology. And this immutability of problems and of solutions is precisely why the level of detail that Kautilya goes into is still valuable for government officials, administrators and citizens. A better guidebook has not hit the market yet.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alok Mishra

    Wonderful, viable and ever-relevant! You cannot subdue this treasure into oblivion any day!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Frank O'donnell

    This work is most commonly likened to Machiavelli, although it predates 'The Prince' by several centuries. With a similar attitude to statecraft to that of Machiavelli, this offers a far more comprehensive and detailed manual for realist power aggrandisment. It also differs from Machiavelli in its genuine concern for the welfare and economic prospects of domestic citizens, where Machiavelli dismisses such issues outright and instead advises that a king merely rule through fear. I would recommend This work is most commonly likened to Machiavelli, although it predates 'The Prince' by several centuries. With a similar attitude to statecraft to that of Machiavelli, this offers a far more comprehensive and detailed manual for realist power aggrandisment. It also differs from Machiavelli in its genuine concern for the welfare and economic prospects of domestic citizens, where Machiavelli dismisses such issues outright and instead advises that a king merely rule through fear. I would recommend this over Machiavelli as an introduction to classical realist thought, as it offers the more complete guide to how a ruler interested in power aggrandisement should govern both domestically and externally following realist principles.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ajay

    To be honest. This book took me more than 2 months. Loved it. Took my time to understand what has been written. Brilliant book, i must say.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vidur Kapur

    A fascinating read. The Arthashastra is one of the earliest works of political realism to have been written, along with Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War and is perhaps the most elaborate of these. Elaborate is an apt description, given that the treatise describes all sorts of weird and wonderful ways in which seditious ministers can be identified, and enemies can be toppled and weakened. Many of these involve some quite inventive uses of spies. For Kautil A fascinating read. The Arthashastra is one of the earliest works of political realism to have been written, along with Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War and is perhaps the most elaborate of these. Elaborate is an apt description, given that the treatise describes all sorts of weird and wonderful ways in which seditious ministers can be identified, and enemies can be toppled and weakened. Many of these involve some quite inventive uses of spies. For Kautilya, "the king, the minister, the country, the fort, the treasury, the army and the friend are the elements of sovereignty.” Sovereign states are, in turn, self-interested actors that will invariably act to increase their relative standing: “the possession of power and happiness in a greater degree makes a king superior to another; in a lesser degree, inferior; and in an equal degree, equal. Hence a king shall always endeavor to augment his own power and elevate his happiness." (cf. Mearsheimer's 'offensive realism'). Who are the "friends" that Kautilya writes of? As it happens, the concept "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" originated in The Arthashastra: The king who, being possessed of good character and best-fitted elements of sovereignty, is the fountain of policy, is termed the conqueror. The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror's territory is termed the enemy. The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror)… In front of the conqueror and close to his enemy, there happen to be situated kings such as the conqueror's friend, next to him, the enemy's friend, and next to the last, the conqueror's friend's friend, and next, the enemy's friend's friend. It is important to note here that Kautilya was describing a 'pre-Westphalian' state of affairs in India circa 300 BC. However, the complex web of alliances described by Kautilya in this Circle of States/Kings (rajamandala) might be said to be rather applicable to contemporary Middle Eastern geopolitics! (Though, given the United States' support for militant groups in nearby Afghanistan, the logic of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" doesn't always work out so well.) Some also see elements of Kautilyan political strategy being deployed by the Republic of India even today; friendships with Afghanistan and Japan are cultivated, as they are seen as allies against Pakistan and China respectively. In other domains, India maintains its famed stance of 'non-alignment', in keeping with Kautilya's advocacy of "neutrality" in certain circumstances. Meanwhile, Kautilya does not advocate for the Mauryan Empire of which he was part to expand out of South Asia. Again, this is in keeping with an India which has rarely expanded beyond its frontiers (excepting the Cholas' expansion into an already Indianized Southeast Asia in the 11th Century AD). Morality does not really enter into the equation in The Arthashastra, except in some rare instances, demonstrating that the preservation of the State is not an end in itself. As Kautilya writes: "in the happiness of his [the King's] subjects lies his happiness; in their welfare his welfare; whatever pleases himself he shall not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he shall consider as good." All the more reason, then, for the King to carry out the business of the state, "as the root of wealth is activity, and of evil its reverse.” At the end of the day , says Kautilya, "wealth and wealth alone is important, inasmuch as charity and desire depend upon wealth for their realisation.” Though, just as Kautilya recommends fair and just treatment of conquered peoples not so much out of concern for their welfare, an ulterior motive may exist when it comes to concern for the welfare of the people of the kingdom, for "the king who is well educated and disciplined in sciences, devoted to good Government of his subjects, and bent on doing good to all people will enjoy the earth unopposed." [My italics] Ultimately, the primary justification given for a strong kingdom - and the actions necessary to preserve and expand it - may stem from an ancient Indian proverb: matsya nyaya ("the law of the fishes", in which the big eat the small). "In the absence of governance, the strong will swallow the weak. In the presence of governance, the weak resists the strong.” As Thomas Hobbes would essentially argue two millennia later, Kautilya writes that "without government, rises disorder".

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rohit Harip

    This book is bible/Quran/Geeta of diplomacy. what chanaya had written 2000 years ago in this script is absolutely relevant today in every aspect of administration. His thoughts about foreign policy,administration,economic reforms and policies are completely well articulated and relevant even today. Indians dont need to look at any kisinger or western thinker like aristotal or Socrates about guidelines of polity.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shinde

    Exhaustive and exhausting. If only we had someone like Chanakya/Kautilya in charge of Indian Economy now!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ashok Krishna

    Arthashastra - a book that I had wanted to read ever since I read 'The Art of War' and learnt this to be a similar treatise but on political details. Gifted to me by a friend during September '10, it has taken me almost 5 years to finish reading this book. A worthy reference material for anyone who wants to have a glimpse into how things were in the past. An exhaustive treatise of politics, diplomacy and war, this proves that the past was neither golden as we think with an assumed nostalgia, nei Arthashastra - a book that I had wanted to read ever since I read 'The Art of War' and learnt this to be a similar treatise but on political details. Gifted to me by a friend during September '10, it has taken me almost 5 years to finish reading this book. A worthy reference material for anyone who wants to have a glimpse into how things were in the past. An exhaustive treatise of politics, diplomacy and war, this proves that the past was neither golden as we think with an assumed nostalgia, neither were the people so backward in science and technology as we perceive them to be. Past is a mixed bag. Ideal laws, contradictory realities, preferential and protective treatment for the upper-castes, Brahmins especially, looking down upon women on every areas, government running brothels and liquor shops, kings striving to be just and ethical, cruel methods to get rid of one's enemies, pleasant ways to rule one's subjects - you will get to learn in all in this book. Read it if you want to peek into the past through the eyes and ideals of Kautilya!

  9. 5 out of 5

    James Violand

    Other than providing a perspective on governing a petty kingdom in the Subcontinent between 200 BC and 200 AD, there is hardly anything worthwhile to say about this book. Kautilya has recently been promoted to a semi-Machiavellian status. This is undeserved. Some of his advise is laughable: Making seige of a city? How do you assure its fall? Why, simply infiltrate your troops with the defenders! I guess Kautilya's novelty will wear off and he will be relegated to the dustbin of history. I only w Other than providing a perspective on governing a petty kingdom in the Subcontinent between 200 BC and 200 AD, there is hardly anything worthwhile to say about this book. Kautilya has recently been promoted to a semi-Machiavellian status. This is undeserved. Some of his advise is laughable: Making seige of a city? How do you assure its fall? Why, simply infiltrate your troops with the defenders! I guess Kautilya's novelty will wear off and he will be relegated to the dustbin of history. I only wish I had the time back that I had wasted reading him.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paden

    Don't think I'd do justice by reviewing it. Think would recommend it to read for yourself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    René

    The Arthashastra is apparently one of the first books on political theory and was written in the 3rd century BC. The book itself is doesn't solely focus on political issues, but talks about statecraft, economy, military stragety and other topics. The book itself is a very dry read, at least it was to me. The content was interesting enough though and showed a lot of insight into the ancient empires of India. It was especially intereting to me, knowing almost nothing about indian history to find ou The Arthashastra is apparently one of the first books on political theory and was written in the 3rd century BC. The book itself is doesn't solely focus on political issues, but talks about statecraft, economy, military stragety and other topics. The book itself is a very dry read, at least it was to me. The content was interesting enough though and showed a lot of insight into the ancient empires of India. It was especially intereting to me, knowing almost nothing about indian history to find out how complex those old states were. This was probably the most interesting part of the book to me. It is hard to recommand this book to anyone. People who are interested in political theory or military strategy might be better of with other works. Those that want to learn about the history of the Mauryan Empire might also be better off with other works. In the end I'd recommand it to people who are interested in the topics of this work, meaning political theory, statecraft, economics and military theory AND who are also interested in the history of those things and want to see how ancient civilisations handled it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Amazing detail and thoroughness in this treatise on statecraft in ancient India. I took this on after being intrigued by how the circular perspective of foreign policy compared with the more typically binary views in western academia. Rather than simply a state and adversary, Kautilya’s framework involves enemies and neutral/middle states as “spokes” on a “wheel,” to be viewed dynamically.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anindita, A Bohemian Mind at Work

    Found what I needed.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karn Satyarthi

    Two ends, common but critical, determine the course of the Arthashastra: an obsession with the promotion of national interest and the wellbeing of the Janapada (population). The Arthashastra is beyond doubt one of the most important works written on statecraft. It is notable that a text of such profound depth was lost to India since the 12th century AD and was serendipitously discovered and revealed to the world by R. Shamasastry in 1904. Subsequently the work of scholars like Dr. R. P. Kangle ha Two ends, common but critical, determine the course of the Arthashastra: an obsession with the promotion of national interest and the wellbeing of the Janapada (population). The Arthashastra is beyond doubt one of the most important works written on statecraft. It is notable that a text of such profound depth was lost to India since the 12th century AD and was serendipitously discovered and revealed to the world by R. Shamasastry in 1904. Subsequently the work of scholars like Dr. R. P. Kangle has greatly enhanced our understanding of the masterful work comprising 4968 sutras and 380 shlokas. The version under focus is the one translated by Mr. L.N. Rangarajan an IFS officer of the 1956 batch. This translation has broken new ground in making the classic accessible to first time readers. The key interventions that Rangarajan has made include a reordering of the text to group relevant material under appropriate heads. He has also erred on the side of comprehensibility over literary exactness. The Arthashastra derives its relevance from two key features of the text. The first one is explicit, i.e. the prescriptive or theoretical value of the work. The second is implicit, although Kautilya has gone to great lengths in avoiding any mention of contemporary kings or historical incidents to preserve the timelessness of the work nevertheless his prescriptions do paint a picture however incomplete of the times he lived in. At a theoretical level the key achievements of the Arthashastra lie in its analysis of Foreign Policy, Statecraft and Economics. The importance of foreign policy for the Kautilyan state is very pithily stated in verse [6.2.1] where he says, “The welfare of a state depends on an active foreign policy” (Rangarajan 1992, p. 505) Foreign policy analysts have often reduced Kautilya’s ideas on foreign policy to the catchy maxim- “A neighbour is always an enemy and an enemy’s enemy is a friend”. Notwithstanding the fact that a sizeable portion of Kautilyan ideas on foreign policy are based on geographical determinism, there is much more to his ideas than just mechanistic geopolitics. What makes Arthashastra’s ideas on foreign policy unique is its anticipation of mainstream realist concepts like relative power, balance of power ,pivotal deterrence, psychological warfare (mantrayuddha) and the anarchic international system (rajamandala) by at least 2 millennia. Kautilya’s treatment of economics is mostly action oriented. He deals with economic administration extensively however his work on economic theory cannot be clubbed with the physiocrats of 18th century or the much more profound Adam Smith. Kautilya lays great stress on the economic basis of state capacity [2.12.37]. He was perhaps the first thinker to have recognised international trade as a means to enhancing welfare of the general population, Kautilya also hints towards concepts such as comparative advantage, efficiency wages and the role of imports as a way to enhance consumer surplus. However without a mathematical exposition Kautilya’s work on economics cannot be treated as a part of modern economic theory. The truly revolutionary thought in Kautilya’s writings on economics is his acknowledgement of services and manufacturing as greater means to aggregate wealth than agriculture. Kautilya can also be considered a proto theorist of rational choice because of his belief in cold calculated logic. His advice on handling famines is strikingly similar to the ones advocated by Amartya Sen. In fact an emphasis on materialism is where Kautilya departs from the Dharmashastra which incidentally is the pedestal (in terms of social acceptance) Kautilya aspires to. A lot of what Kautilya has written is conceptual and not historical in nature however if we sift the text carefully enough we might find enough material to construct a broad brush picture of the Kautilyan society. The license with which Kautilya rejects the ideas of noted philosophers like Bharadwaja, Pishuna, and Vishlaksha indicate that scholars followed a healthy argumentative tradition on issues of academic significance. It is also clear from Kautilya’s discussion on defence and territorial expansion that the boundary of military expression was congruent with the borders of the larger Indian sub-continent, this signals a broader strategic unity of the Indian subcontinent. Kautilya’s writings on women indicate that their legal position vis-a-vis the Kautilyan state was remarkably better than in Aristotelean Greece [2.23.4-5]. Kautilya also seems to bypass the left-right dichotomy that occupies a lot of our current political space. Kautilya for example sees no contradiction between being prepossessed by the interest of the king while at the same time being deeply empathetic about the wellbeing of the general public. The weaknesses if any in the Arthashastra are a result of its own intensity. In trying to create a perfect system of law that codifies all aspects of public and personal life Kautilya has taken on a task that is a little too much even for a man of his intellect. It is for this reason alone that the Arthashastra, to some, is pulled down by its own weight; Kautilya has the tendency to get pedantic to the extent of being banal. Kautilya has also been criticised for being too open about subverting the authority of enemy kings using methods like espionage and even assassination but considering that all modern powers adopt such methods it is only being disingenuous to consider them immoral. At worst Kautilya is being amoral and is firmly separating the business of government from morality in private life. Minor infirmities aside, Kautilya’s Arthashastra remains one of the most useful handbooks on political theory ever written. It gives us a lot to ponder over at many levels. The principles and processes that bind the volume remain as relevant today as they were in the 4th century BC. Our rulers will do well to remind themselves of the central tenet of the Arthashastra: “In the happiness of his subjects lies the king’s happiness; in their welfare his welfare [1.19.34].”

  15. 5 out of 5

    yash kalani

    Machiavelli got nothing on my boy Chanakya.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thangaraj Kannan

    Ancient book on how to govern. A rare literature whose content is still relevant to today's world. Discusses various things about, how the king should be, the ways to administer his kingdom, how to keep his kinsmen satisfied, military rules, covert operations, marriage laws etc. Definite read for all administration personnel.

  17. 5 out of 5

    PTS Books Club

    Chānakya(c. 350–283 BCE) was an adviser to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta (c. 340–293 BCE), and was the chief architect of his rise to power. Kautilya and Vishnugupta, the names by which the ancient Indian political treatise called the Arthaśāstra identifies its author, are traditionally identified with Chanakya. Chanakya has been considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science. In the Western world, he has been referred to as The Indian Machiavelli, although Cha Chānakya(c. 350–283 BCE) was an adviser to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta (c. 340–293 BCE), and was the chief architect of his rise to power. Kautilya and Vishnugupta, the names by which the ancient Indian political treatise called the Arthaśāstra identifies its author, are traditionally identified with Chanakya. Chanakya has been considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science. In the Western world, he has been referred to as The Indian Machiavelli, although Chanakya's works predate Machiavelli's by about 1,800 years. Chanakya was a teacher in Takṣaśila, an ancient centre of learning, and was responsible for the creation of Mauryan empire, the first of its kind on the Indian subcontinent. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915. Two books are attributed to Chanakya: Arthashastra and Neetishastra which is also known as Chanakya Niti. The Arthashastra discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail. Neetishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakya's in-depth study of the Indian way of life. Chanakya also developed Neeti-Sutras (aphorisms - pithy sentences) that tell people how they should behave. Of these well-known 455 sutras, about 216 refer to raaja-neeti (the do's and don'ts of running a kingdom). Apparently, Chanakya used these sutras to groom Chandragupt and other selected disciples in the art of ruling a kingdom. Arthashastra is divided into 15 books: 1 Concerning Discipline 2 The Duties of Government Superintendents 3 Concerning Law 4 The Removal of Thorns 5 The Conduct of Courtiers 6 The Source of Sovereign States 7 The End of the Six-Fold Policy 8 Concerning Vices and Calamities 9 The Work of an Invader 10 Relating to War 11 The Conduct of Corporations 12 Concerning a Powerful Enemy 13 Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress 14 Secret Means 15 The Plan of a Treatise

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kamal Jindal

    still related to contemporary india.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ajith

    The review is concerning this particular translation more than a review of Kautilya's prowess. The translation provides much needed order and structure to this ancient text. The translator Rangarajan, after an in-depth study of the Arthashastra, recompiles the verses into meaningful chapters , constructs a flow which is agreeable to the modern mind and also does not lose the beauty of the poetry of the original. Many of the tedious parts of the text, i.e. lists, punishments, weights , measures, d The review is concerning this particular translation more than a review of Kautilya's prowess. The translation provides much needed order and structure to this ancient text. The translator Rangarajan, after an in-depth study of the Arthashastra, recompiles the verses into meaningful chapters , constructs a flow which is agreeable to the modern mind and also does not lose the beauty of the poetry of the original. Many of the tedious parts of the text, i.e. lists, punishments, weights , measures, duties and responsibilities of different civic officials etc are all neatly compiled into tables for quick and easy understanding. Places where a visual representation would be useful are well identified and appropriate diagrams provided. Eg: battle formations, Fort/battle camp architecture etc. Finally , the text itself does not read like an ancient and irrelevant treatise, but is highly relatable to today's world and is in a way surprising and eye-opening for the fact that human society is very much the same for nearly 2000 years in its behavioral aspects and its dynamics as a society even though aspects like technology and morality have progressed. Arthashastra (especially Rangarajan's translation) is highly recommended for every one interested in studying the dynamics of a society and for those who have the curiosity to understand the running of a kingdom in ancient India.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shweta Kher

    Just another book that I read, being a part of my 'curriculum'. A series of compilation of treaties by a great scholar, 'Kautilya', which dates back to nearly 2,500 years ago. It deals with the most practical subjects of governance and administration, law and order. This book is just mind boggling.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sabah

    Chanakya, here has dwelt upon the system of running the government which inturn you realize that our system runs on the same line out and out... In all, a good read!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kannav Bhatia

    It is a good read, but requires lot of patience and interest. Mostly, it is the mix of Duties of King, Dharma of King and Governance.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek Sharma

    A gem on economics! I can see why Kautilya is called the father of it!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Achuta

    Lengthy book.... lots and lots of repeated concepts throughout. Should admire the translator and reorganiser L N Rangarajan for the hard work. Felt pretty boring sometimes. But where it gets interesting it feels like important parts are left out due untranslated sources. I wonder how Kautilya wrote such a book on governance in those times. Lots of unjust methods like today’s politics. Notes should have been at page bottom instead of ate the end of the book. Repeated concepts should be replaced wit Lengthy book.... lots and lots of repeated concepts throughout. Should admire the translator and reorganiser L N Rangarajan for the hard work. Felt pretty boring sometimes. But where it gets interesting it feels like important parts are left out due untranslated sources. I wonder how Kautilya wrote such a book on governance in those times. Lots of unjust methods like today’s politics. Notes should have been at page bottom instead of ate the end of the book. Repeated concepts should be replaced with left outs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tarachand SP

    This book contains complete knowledge of Kautilya era in this book before 2400 years itself the passport system has been clearly mentioned. all varieties of agriculture rules regulations the percentage of tax everything has been mentioned clearly in this book with the vast knowledge of Chanakya on his Kingdom

  26. 4 out of 5

    Varun Sharma

    Exhausting and dry read, but a good collection of ideas on politcs, economics, military strategy and diplomacy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Neerja

    Authentic and detailed. I have used this book as a reference in my own writing

  28. 4 out of 5

    musclebai

    a good summary of the actual book.interesting political and arts of war.some social norms are however not in tune with our times

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mohd Junaid

    Arthashastra is a Good Book

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anmol Sarma

    As if taking a cue from the success of Art of War themed self-help books, distilled Kautilyan teachings re-purposed for the modern corporate have become popular of late. Not wanting to be given truisms of some random author’s reading into Kautilya, I went to the original source. While I couldn’t find any universally applicable ancient wisdom, reading the Arthashastra was enjoyable. Rather than the simplified, whitewashed and sometimes politically colored descriptions of ancient India of history As if taking a cue from the success of Art of War themed self-help books, distilled Kautilyan teachings re-purposed for the modern corporate have become popular of late. Not wanting to be given truisms of some random author’s reading into Kautilya, I went to the original source. While I couldn’t find any universally applicable ancient wisdom, reading the Arthashastra was enjoyable. Rather than the simplified, whitewashed and sometimes politically colored descriptions of ancient India of history books, the Arthashastra is a contemporary insider’s account of ancient Indian society or at least an idealized conception of it. But given its nature, the book is filled with lists and tables and permutations and gradations. Skimming through these and focusing on more subjective descriptions makes for a very interesting reading. Would recommend.

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