In recent years, postcolonial theory has emerged as the most influential scholarly explanation for the historical trajectory and social anatomy of the Global South. Its leading proponents—many of whom have become academic superstars—not only reject Enlightenment political and economic theories, especially Marxism, but accuse them of complicity in Europe’s imperial project. In this devastating critique, Vivek Chibber offers the most comprehensive response yet to postcolonial theory mounted on behalf of the radical Enlightenment tradition. Focusing on the hugely popular Subaltern Studies project, Chibber carefully examines this project’s core arguments about the specificity of the Global South and the deficiencies of Western thought. He shows that their foundational arguments are based on a series of analytical and historical errors, chief among which is a flawed understanding of capitalism‘s “universalizing” tendency. Once the real history of capital’s universalization is reconstructed, aspects of modernity that appear to be unique to the South turn out to be shared with the North—and the history of the Global South can be explained by the very theories that postcolonial theorists urge us to reject. Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital promises to be a turning point in contemporary social theory.
Read also: Subaltern Studies