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Partha Chatterjee, a pioneering theorist known for his disciplinary range, builds on his theory of "political society" and reinforces its salience to contemporary political debate. Dexterously incorporating the concerns of South Asian studies, postcolonialism, the social sciences, and the humanities, Chatterjee broadly critiques the past three hundred years of western poli Partha Chatterjee, a pioneering theorist known for his disciplinary range, builds on his theory of "political society" and reinforces its salience to contemporary political debate. Dexterously incorporating the concerns of South Asian studies, postcolonialism, the social sciences, and the humanities, Chatterjee broadly critiques the past three hundred years of western political theory to ask, Can democracy be brought into being, or even fought for, in the image of Western democracy as it exists today? Using the example of postcolonial societies and their political evolution, particularly communities within India, Chatterjee undermines the certainty of liberal democratic theory in favor of a realist view of its achievements and limitations. Rather than push an alternative theory, Chatterjee works solely within the realm of critique, proving political difference is not always evidence of philosophical and cultural backwardness outside of the West. Resisting all prejudices and preformed judgments, he deploys his trademark, genre-bending, provocative analysis to upend the assumptions of postcolonial studies, comparative history, and the common claims of contemporary politics.


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Partha Chatterjee, a pioneering theorist known for his disciplinary range, builds on his theory of "political society" and reinforces its salience to contemporary political debate. Dexterously incorporating the concerns of South Asian studies, postcolonialism, the social sciences, and the humanities, Chatterjee broadly critiques the past three hundred years of western poli Partha Chatterjee, a pioneering theorist known for his disciplinary range, builds on his theory of "political society" and reinforces its salience to contemporary political debate. Dexterously incorporating the concerns of South Asian studies, postcolonialism, the social sciences, and the humanities, Chatterjee broadly critiques the past three hundred years of western political theory to ask, Can democracy be brought into being, or even fought for, in the image of Western democracy as it exists today? Using the example of postcolonial societies and their political evolution, particularly communities within India, Chatterjee undermines the certainty of liberal democratic theory in favor of a realist view of its achievements and limitations. Rather than push an alternative theory, Chatterjee works solely within the realm of critique, proving political difference is not always evidence of philosophical and cultural backwardness outside of the West. Resisting all prejudices and preformed judgments, he deploys his trademark, genre-bending, provocative analysis to upend the assumptions of postcolonial studies, comparative history, and the common claims of contemporary politics.

47 review for Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joma

    Good God, Chatterjee is a horrible writer. The editors of this volume at Columbia University Press should be ashamed. "If I am permitted to adopt, somewhat insincerely (but only partially so), a position of externality in relation to the space-time of Western political theory and take a panoramic view of its progress since the beginning of the modern age, I would end up with the impression that there is an elemental sameness in all of modern political theory over the last three hundred years" (2) Good God, Chatterjee is a horrible writer. The editors of this volume at Columbia University Press should be ashamed. "If I am permitted to adopt, somewhat insincerely (but only partially so), a position of externality in relation to the space-time of Western political theory and take a panoramic view of its progress since the beginning of the modern age, I would end up with the impression that there is an elemental sameness in all of modern political theory over the last three hundred years" (2). Just say "If I were to weigh in, I would say that there is an elemental sameness in all of modern political theory over the last three hundred years." "Rather, it is precisely to identify these marks of difference, to understand their significance, to appreciate how by the continued invocation of a “pure” model of origin—the institutions of modernity as they were meant to be—a normative discourse can still continue to energize and shape the evolving forms of social institutions in the non-Western world, that I prefer to retain the more classical sense of the term civil society rather than adopt any of its recent revised versions" (83). I don't even want to begin revising this but good lord. I've said this before (this is the fifth book from Chatterjee that I've been assigned in my tenure at uChicago) but Chatterjee is the brown foucault (which is not a compliment). I do find the use of disassociating civil society from political society from the state to be helpful, but good lord, someone edit this mess to make it legible. ____________ Edit. Okay, wait, I changed my review from 2-3 stars because chapter 10 is actually pretty good. Honestly, the entire book could have just been this chapter as a 27-page essay and nothing of substance would have been lost.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anyusha Rose

    This is a fantastic book. The prose is extremely readable, poetic and structured in an engaging style. Its analysis is far-reaching and interesting; even when the author relives old debates and political concerns - for example, a section on why non-Western societies cannot be understood through traditional paradigms of development/modernity - it is an absolute pleasure to read. Chatterjee was part of the original Subaltern Studies cohort underneath Ranajit Guha, and perhaps because of this, the This is a fantastic book. The prose is extremely readable, poetic and structured in an engaging style. Its analysis is far-reaching and interesting; even when the author relives old debates and political concerns - for example, a section on why non-Western societies cannot be understood through traditional paradigms of development/modernity - it is an absolute pleasure to read. Chatterjee was part of the original Subaltern Studies cohort underneath Ranajit Guha, and perhaps because of this, the insight he gives into the subject area is more unusual than stances taken by Varma, Bhatia et al. He gives a revised overview of the Marxist arguments that tend to dominate scholarly discourse on Indian social stratification, and in this suggests a more nuanced version of past and contemporary India and the tensions that characterise its society. The first part of this book looks at Tagore and as his biography and personal fight against Ghandian nationalism are discussed, Tagore becomes a metaphor for postcolonial society. It is an unusual, and clever way to explore a topic that does at times seem undermined by intellectual radicalism that fails to fully understand the complexities of its subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Excellent set of essays on political theory and national and social politics in India. The opening essay about the normative in political theory and uses of the “exception” was my favorite. Later essays flesh out his distinction between civil society/political society but it was unclear to me at first; probably should have read his other book about the topic first.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rahul Gaurav

    more practical n realistic (from the old historical India to the contemporary one) than being simply Utopian!!however political theory part didnt strike well..(perhaps too elaborated).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Debasree Sarkar

  6. 4 out of 5

    Supriy Ranjan

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anuradha

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Feldman

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eavan Wong

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chao

  13. 5 out of 5

    Khageswar Nath

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joe Philip

  15. 5 out of 5

    melissa

  16. 5 out of 5

    Addi

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sidney Luckett

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  19. 4 out of 5

    Subir

  20. 5 out of 5

    Blake

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marte Nubdal

  22. 5 out of 5

    Celinakok

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan Niaz Raiyan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nikita

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ayeshna Dutta

  26. 4 out of 5

    Blue Lotus

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aditi

  28. 5 out of 5

    Farhan M

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phạm N.

  31. 5 out of 5

    Saptarshi

  32. 4 out of 5

    Samrat

  33. 5 out of 5

    morning Os

  34. 5 out of 5

    hoffnarr

  35. 5 out of 5

    Tobold

  36. 5 out of 5

    Yangmeijiu Guo

  37. 5 out of 5

    Hieyoon Kim

  38. 5 out of 5

    Divyeh Raghuvanshi

  39. 5 out of 5

    Mustafiz

  40. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  41. 5 out of 5

    Jason Chin

  42. 5 out of 5

    Austin Zeiderman

  43. 5 out of 5

    Rishabh Tiwari

  44. 5 out of 5

    Syed Reazur

  45. 5 out of 5

    Hafsa

  46. 4 out of 5

    Piyush

  47. 4 out of 5

    Seongpil

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