[Marxism] Fwd: The specter that is haunting Vivek Chibber: combined and uneven development | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 3 16:10:03 MST 2016

It would appear that Trotsky’s theory of combined and uneven development 
informs not only Anievas and Nisancioglu’s “How the West Came to Rule” 
but four articles I recently read that are critical of Vivek Chibber’s 
“Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital”. This might lead one to 
believe that no matter how failed a project the Fourth International 
was, Trotsky’s ideas remain current especially for scholars grappling 
with the Eurocentrism of Political Marxism, a tendency that includes 
Vivek Chibber as one of its most truculent spokesmen.

Vivek Chibber stormed on the scene in 2013 with the publication of 
“Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital”. It created the same 
kind of stir as Alan Sokal’s Social Text hoax in 1996 that was greeted 
by virtually the entire left, including me. We saw him as our Marxist 
savior against postmodernist obfuscation. Not two years after the hoax, 
I discovered that Sokal had never read Richard Lewontin and writing 
partner Richard Levins, who were included in the very issue that Sokal 
sought to discredit.

It is entirely possible that the bloom has also begun to fade from the 
Chibber rose. For the Marxist wing of the postcolonial academic 
discipline, many see him as an interloper who did more damage than good. 
Indeed, the complaint heard from all four of his critics considered here 
is that he was not very knowledgeable about his subject. To start with, 
his polemic was directed against Subaltern Studies that his writings 
suggest to be the dog wagging the tail of postcolonial theory when in 
fact postcolonialism appeared on the scene a full decade before 
Subaltern Studies and actually was responsible for it gaining 
recognition. Furthermore, there was a reductionist element to his attack 
on Ranajit Guha, Partha Chatterjee, and Dipesh Chakrabarty that despite 
abetting his polemical zeal gave short shrift to the complexity of their 


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