Elementary Aspects of the Political studies the rise of modern politics in India between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries in the encounter between colonial modern, classical Indian, Indo-Persian and regional vernacular ideas. It unpacks the modern conception of the political into four elementary aspects – Self, Action, Idea and People – and shows how each element is structured around a conceptual instability, rendering its very elementary status questionable.
Thus, the political self is split by the tension between renunciation and realpolitik; action is driven by the contradiction between labour and nishakama karma, each with its distinctive means-end configuration; the idea torn by its troubled relationships with the economic and the spiritual; and the people forever strung between being pure structure, namely the political party, and being pure fiction, namely the protagonist of theatre, novel and poetry.
The book invites us to go beyond postcolonial and decolonial criticism and produce new political theory, inspired by ideas and experiences of the non-European world.
This book will be of interest to scholars and students of history, philosophy, political science, postcolonial theory, cultural and literary studies.
Prathama Banerjee is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi.
Part I. The Self
1. Renunciation and Antisocial Being
2. Philosophy, Theater, and Realpolitik
Part II. Action
3. Karma, Freedom, and Everyday Life
4. Labor, Hunger, and Struggle
Part III. Idea
5. Equality and Spirituality
6. Equality and Economic Reason
Part IV. People
7. People as Party
8. People as Fiction