Review of Vivek Chibber's Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital

Carr, David Matthew
Date Written:  2014-06-21
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20267

A book review of Vivek Chibber's Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. Vivek Chibber challenges the post-Marxist framework of the Subaltern Studies group.



With Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital, Vivek Chibber challenges the post-Marxist theories of a major postcolonial historical research project known as Subaltern Studies. The project, whose first journal of the same name was published in 1982, is "the most illustrious representative of postcolonial studies in the scholarship on the Global South" according to Chibber. While the term "subaltern" initially indicated the group's debt to Gramscian theory, indeed most of the group emerged from a Marxist milieu, it became "a marker of a theoretical orientation, an adjective that characterized an approach to the analysis of colonialism, or imperial history, or even politics in general." Chibber notes that Subaltern Studies grew in importance and academic status, to the point that it was "by the end of the twentieth century, widely regarded as the face of postcolonial scholarship in area studies". While the movement was initially greeted as a local incarnation of "history from below" of the type that E.P. Thompson and others of the New Left were developing, it eventually went beyond a focus on the local and culture into a critique of Enlightenment universalism and Marxism. Both were seen as Eurocentric and insufficient as analytical tools for grappling with the development of capitalist dominance in India and other post-colonial regions.

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