Pronounced "arthashastra". Written in approximately 300 BC, by Kautilya, the Arthasastra, literally :"The book of material prosperity" (sastra is the common Sanskrit word for book) is an anthology of the political wisdom and statecraft of ancient India. It has been described as the sanskrit equivalent of Macchiavelli or Clausewitz. Kautilya, also known as Vishnugupta or Chanakya, was an enigmatic figure who successfully undermined the Nanda dynasty and set up Chandragupta, first of the Mauryan dynasty on the imperial throne of Magadha.

Topics in the book include: party politics, spies, economics and taxation, civil servants, international relations, diplomacy, colonialism and the balance of power. The theory of the strong state centres around careful management of the four instruments of existence, dharma, artha, kama and moksha, corresponding to Law, Resources, Relations and Deliverance.

There is a strongly realist slant to the book, since although Kautilya was (or pretended to be) religiously devout and a believer in virtue, what he wrote could be described as "Crooked Wisdom" (his own term). "Straight Wisdom" consists of information on how to live a virtuous life in harmony with spiritual obligations - take for example many religious texts in the flavor of "The Imitation of Christ". "Crooked Wisdom" is advice and principles needed when straight wisdom isn't enough in a "fallen" world where people do bad things all the time - e.g. Macchiavelli's "The Prince".

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