By Amit Roy
A BOOK by Raghuram Rajan, a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India and tipped by some as a possible successor to Mark Carney at the Bank of England, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2019.
The Third Pillar: The Revival of Community in a Polarised World (William Collins UK), by Rajan, 56, currently a Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is one of six titles in the running for the £30,000 prize.
Rajan has said of his book: “It is fair to say that capitalism is failing our democracies today. I explain in this book why this is happening at a time of record-low unemployment, and what we should do about it. Reinvigorating the third pillar, the community, is critical to rebuilding a system that works for all so that democracy does not fail capitalism.”
Being shortlisted represents a remarkable achievement for Rajan, who won the prize in 2010 for another of his books, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy.
He was the 23rd governor of the Reserve Bank of India between September 2013 and September 2016 but did not seek a second term, apparently after differences with prime minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Between 2003 and 2006, Rajan was the chief economist and director of research at the International Monetary Fund.
He has said he has not applied for the job of Bank of England governor and is quite happy where he is at Chicago University, but has been tipped for it anyway by the Financial Times.
So has Baroness Shriti Vadera, chairman of Santander UK, who is, incidentally, one of the eight judges for the business book award.
This year’s shortlist was revealed on Monday (16) by Kate Smaje, senior partner at McKinsey, at a lunch held at the Royal Society of Arts in London.
She said: “This year’s authors probe critical challenges that every business is struggling with – among them the use and abuse of data, the role of talent in an era of AI and specialisation, and how to spur more inclusive capitalism.”
The winner will be announced in New York on December 3. Those who don’t win walk away with a £10,000 cheque each.
According to the synopsis, “the ‘third pillar’ of the title is society”.
In giving a summary of the author and his book, the judges said: “In The Third Pillar, he offers a magnificent big-picture framework for understanding how three key forces – the economy, society and the state – interact, why things begin to break down, and how we can find our way back to a more secure and stable plane.
“Rajan offers a way to rethink the relationship between the market and civil society, and argues for a return to strengthening and empowering local communities as an antidote to growing despair and unrest.”
The other five books shortlisted this year are: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado Perez; Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein; Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, by Christopher Leonard; The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, by Shoshana Zuboff; and The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution, by Gregory Zuckerman.
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, said: “This year’s shortlist covers the most important trends in modern capitalism. The judges praised the range and depth of the books which tackles issues including gender inequity, the data-driven economy, the quant revolution in financial markets and Koch Industries, one of America’s most powerful and most private companies.”
South Asian authors have done well in the past. Apart from Rajan, Liaquat Ahamed won for The Lords of Finance in 2009, and Abhijit V Banerjee and Esther Duflo for Poor Economics in 2011.
Young Eastern Eye readers with good ideas for a business book are being encouraged to put in for the Bracken Bower Prize which is run by the same stable.
“The £15,000 award, now in its sixth year, will go to the best proposal (of no more than 5,000 words) for a business book by an author, or authors, under the age of 35,” the organisers said.
Two Pakistani origin authors have won in the past – Saadia Zahidi in 2014, and Mehran Gul, who won in 2017.
The closing date is September 30.