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Vivek Chibber’s Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital was hailed on publication as “without any doubt … a bomb,” and “the most substantive effort to dismantle the field through historical reasoning published to date.” It immediately unleashed one of the most important recent debates in social theory, ranging across the humanities and social sciences, on the status of postcolonial studies, modernity, and much else.
This book brings together major critics of Chibber’s work to assess the efficacy of his argument from differing perspectives. Included are Chibber’s own spirited responses and reformulations in light of these criticisms. With contributions by Partha Chatterjee, Gayatri Spivak, Bruce Robbins, Ho-fung Hung, William H. Sewell, Jr., Bruce Cumings, George Steinmetz, Michael Schwartz, David Pederson, Stein Sundstøl Eriksen, and Achin Vanaik.
“Chibber makes a strong case for why we can—and must—conceptualize the non-Western world through the same analytical lens that we use to understand developments in the West.”
“With its focus on cultural identities and mixtures, postcolonial theory ignored the larger context of capitalist relations and thus limited its scope to Western academia where it excelled in the game of growing and profiting from the liberal guilt feeling. Chibber’s book simply sets the record straight, bringing postcolonialism down from cultural heights to where it belongs, into the very heart of global capitalist processes. The book we were all waiting for, a burst of fresh air dispelling the stale aroma of pseudo-radical academic establishment.”
“In this scrupulous and perceptive analysis, Vivek Chibber successfully shows that the ‘universalizing categories of Enlightenment thought’ emerge unscathed from the criticisms of postcolonial theorists. He shows further that—perhaps ironically—Subaltern Studies greatly underestimates the role of subaltern agency in bringing about the transformations that they attribute to the European bourgeoisie. Chibber’s analysis also provides a very valuable account of the actual historical sociology of modern European development, of Indian peasant mobilization and activism, and much else. It is a very significant contribution.”
“In this outstanding work—a model of clarity in its architecture and argumentation—key theorists of the ‘Subaltern’ and of postcoloniality have met their most formidable interlocutor and critic yet. Chibber’s critique of postcolonial theory and the historical sociological studies associated with it is, at the same time, a vigorous and welcome defense of the enduring value of certain Enlightenment universals as an analytical framework to both understand and radically change the world we live in.”
“Vivek Chibber has written a stunning critique of postcolonial theory as represented by the Subaltern Studies school. While eschewing all polemics, he shows that their project is undermined by their paradoxical acceptance of an essentially liberal-Whig interpretation of the bourgeois revolutions and capitalist development in the West, which provides the foundation for their fundamental assertion of the difference of the East. Through a series of painstaking empirical and conceptual studies Chibber proceeds to overturn the central pillars of the Subalternists’ framework, while sustaining the credibility of Enlightenment theories. It is a bravura performance that cannot help but shake up our intellectual and political landscape.”