In Lineages of Political Society the eminent political theorist Partha Chatterjee reveals the emergence of a new theory of postcolonial democracy. As against earlier ideas about the nature of democracy—which grew predominantly out of notions and practices in the West—Chatterjee powerfully argues that the theory now in evidence is not merely a record of the imperfections and immaturity of democracy in the non-Western world. On the contrary, it has devised concepts and analytical tools 2to understand the formation of new democratic practices. In doing so, it has also shown up histories of modern political institutions which are not part of the genealogy of Western democracy.
In the course of making these arguments Chatterjee revisits several themes introduced in his acclaimed earlier work, The Politics of the Governed (2004). To those themes he now adds historical depth and contemporary empirical detail. And although most of the examples in Lineages of Political Society are drawn from India, the arguments within it afford comparisons with countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Chatterjee also here clarifies the location of his work in relation to liberal political theory, understandings of contemporary capitalism, and theories of nationalism and populism. In several chapters he joins the lively and ongoing debate over his concept of “political society”.
This work will seem indispensable to anyone wishing to understand the nature and history of democracy, its practices and functionings within the contemporary non-West, and the major expansion in political thought being brought about by one of the world’s most fertile political philosophers.
Partha Chatterjee has been a founding member of “Subaltern Studies” and director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC), Kolkata. He is presently professor of anthropology at Columbia University and honorary professor at the CSSSC. His many books include Empire and Nation: Essential Writings 1985–2005 (2010), A Princely Impostor? The Kumar of Bhawal and the Secret History of Indian Nationalism (2002), and The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (1993).