The Constraints of Chibber’s Criticism

A Review of Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital by Vivek Chibber

In: Historical Materialism
Author: Benita Parry1
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  • 1 Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of Warwick
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A position joining critical theory with the Marxist critique of imperialism informs the following discussion on the perceived shortcomings of Chibber’s study in its avowed claim to disavow postcolonial theory. Chibber’s insistence on reading Subaltern Studies as postcolonial theory is unsustainable in that it fails to address the epistemological premises of a theory adopted and not initiated by the project. Whereas Chibber does ably contest assertions made by Subaltern Studies concerning the special conditions of India halting capitalism’s universalising drive, his concentrated but narrowly-focused and repetitive criticism disregards prior work contiguous to his own specialism as well as disciplines other than the social sciences. Thus the explanatory power of Uneven and Combined Development in understanding the internal conditions of societies conscripted into capitalism is cast aside, as are the resources of Marxist cultural criticism in writing a metanarrative of these consequences in all of their aspects: economic, social, cultural and experiential – omissions that paradoxically are to the fore in postcolonial theory.

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