How Does the Subaltern Speak? | Jacobin
Jonah Birch: At the core of postcolonial theory is the notion that Western categories can’t be applied to postcolonial societies like India. On what basis is this claim made?
Vivek Chibber: This is probably the single most important argument coming out of postcolonial studies, and this is also what makes it so important to engage them. There has been no really prominent body of thought associated with the Left in the last hundred and fifty years or so that has insisted on denying the scientific ethos and the applicability of categories coming out of the liberal enlightenment and the radical enlightenment — categories like capital, democracy, liberalism, rationality, and objectivity. There have been philosophers who have criticized these orientations, but they’ve rarely achieved any significant traction on the Left. Postcolonial theorists are the first to do so.
What separates them from the West are the cultural forms in which these aspirations are expressed, but the aspirations themselves tend to be pretty consistent.