Understanding Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory and Transformative Knowledge by Sohail Inayatullah, Brill, Boston, 2002, 366 pages, $53
Sohail Inayatullah takes us on a journey through Indian philosophy, grand theory and macrohistory. We
understand and appreciate Indian cyclical and spiral theories of history, and their epistemological
context. From other civilizations, we explore the stages and mechanisms of social change as developed by
seminal thinkers such as Ssu-Ma Ch’ien, Ibn Khaldun, Giambattista Vico, George Wilhelm Friedrick Hegel,
Oswald Spengler, Pitirim Sorokin, Michel Foucault and many others. They are invited to a
multi-civilizational dialog on the nature of agency and structure, and the escape ways from the patterns
of history. But the journey is centered on P.R. Sarkar, the controversial Indian philosopher, guru and
While Sarkar passed away in 1990, his work, his social movements, his vision of the future
remains ever alive. Inayatullah brings us closer to the heart and head of this giant luminary. Through
Understanding Sarkar, we gain insight into Indian philosophy, comparative social theory, and the ways in
which knowledge can transform and liberate.
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"The next generation of South Asians will consider themselves fortunate that scholars like Sohail
Inayatullah have helped to keep open a humane and plural vision of the future for them".
--Dr. Ashis Nandy, Director, Center of the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. Author of The Intimate
Enemy and Traditions, Tyranny and Utopias.
"A superb book. Deeply inspiring and provocative. The Sarkar-Inayatullah combination makes very good
reading indeed. Inayatullah introduces the fascinating world – in time, in space, and in social space
–of P.R. Sarkar".
--Johan Galtung, President of Transcend: A Peace and Development Network and author of over seventy
books on peace tudies, futures studies, international relations, Gandhi, and social theory. Formerly,
Professor of Peace, Political Science and Sociology at the Universities of Bern, Saarland, Hawaii and
"Dr. Sohail Inayatullah is the leading example of a new generation of global thinkers, actors and
visionaries. While firmly attached to and informed by the culture into which he was born, and
passionately and yet rationally committed to facilitating the future of South Asia, Sohail Inayatullah
is also a global -- it is not too much to say, cosmic -- figure as well, carrying in his very person the
tensions and hopes of a future which is at the same time both local and global.
--James Dator, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures
Studies, University of Hawaii. Secretary-General and President of the World Futures Studies Federation,
"In addition to the service he is rendering by bringing to a wider audience the thoughts of a very
important thinker, Sohail Inayatullah provides an extraordinary contribution to social theory with an
unusual combination of analytic rigor and boundary challenging imagination".
--Professor Michael Shapiro, University of Hawaii is the author of numerous books onpolitical and
social theory including, Reading the Postmodern Polity, Reading 'Adam Smith', Violent Cartographies and
Cinematic Political Thought, For Moral Ambiguity: National Culture and the Politics of the Family 2001.
"In this scholarly and inspiring work, Sohail Inayatullah brings to life the contributions of the
remarkable Indian visionary, theorist, and social activist Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar. Skillfully blending
his understanding of both Eastern and Western scholarly traditions, Inayatullah looks at history from
a non-eurocentric perspective that also takes into account the thinking of some of the best known
Western macrohistorians. This book is not only highly instructive; it also never loses sight of what
Sarkar called neo-humanism – the consciousness that we are part of an interconnected whole and that
a good society is one that manages to represent harmoniously the spiritual needs of its individuals".
--Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice & The Blade, Sacred Pleasure, and Tomorrow’s Children.
"Sarkar's writings on historical processes offer a refreshing alternative to the orthodox interpretations
of Toynbee, Hegel and Marx. He makes Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations seem parochial in
comparison. Dr.Inayatullah skillfully weaves Sarkar's comprehensive overview of cultural life-cycles into
a coherent whole, through which the full sweep and scope of the fundamental forces that shape history can
be rendered. Despite the magnitude of the canvas upon he paints, his is a work of systematic and focused
scholarship. This book should be required reading for anyone looking to understand macrotheories of social
change from an non-eurocentric, holistic, and synergistic perspective".
--Dr. Tim Dolan, Associate Professor of Political Science at Southern Oregon University and Director of
the Master in Management Program.
"Sohail Inayatullah is the world's leading scholar of Sarkar's thought. His latest book, Understanding
Sarkar, is sweeping in scope - quite literally a philosophical tour de force. By contrasting Sarkar's
ideas to some of the greatest minds in human history, Inayatullah has achieved a remarkable philosophical
integration that is both breathtaking in its vision and relevant in its possibilities for creating
societal change. Indeed, if you want a better grasp of Sarkar's comprehensive worldview, I can think of
no better source than Inayatullah. Brilliant".
--Roar Bjonnes, co-founder of Center for Sustainable Villages, writer, editor of Prout Journal, and
contributing editor of New Renaissance
"Dr.Sohail Inayatullah’s book offers an excellent entry point for those wanting to explore the fascinating
and challenging ideas of P. R. Sarkar. At the same time Understanding Sarkar provides those who have
studied Sarkar with wonderful new ways of seeing and connecting the vast expanses of his works. We owe
much to Dr. Inayatullah for this splendid effort".
--Craig Runde, Director of New Program Development, Eckerd College, St.Petersburg, Florida
"In a time when "global" is equated with "western", Sohail Inayatullah takes us through the door of Indian
thinking to a world view that is global in thetrue sense of the word. Going beyond naive Western idolization
of Asian philosophies and avoiding the pitfalls of dogmatic, sometimes fanatic, adherence to tradition faith
characteristic to many Eastern mentalities Inayatullah examines P.R. Sarkar's world in pursuit of a
universality that is yet to be realized within the potential of human civilization. Those, wishing freedom
from culturally ingrained mental habits, should consider this work as essential reading".
--Dr. Partow Izadi, senior scientist in evolutionary futures, global education and systems theory,
University of Lapland, Finland.
"This is a companion volume to Inayatullah and Galtung's masterly synthesis of macrohistory and
macrohistorians, that includes P R Sarkar. Here the practice as well as the theory of Sarkar enters the
grand sweep, enriching and legitimating the story. Their respective models have elements in common but
few contain all Sarkar's elements of spiritual practice, humanity, and humility - even if potentially
ferocious. He lived, fought and spread his theory into a movement. Isolated perhaps from the writings of
the other great minds, Sarkar seems to have an uncanny understanding of the emerging insights of genetics
on our social behavior (evolutionary psychology or neo-Darwinism) and of social construction".
--Alan Fricker, President, Sustainable Futures Trust, Wellington, New Zealand