First published in 2000, Dipesh Chakrabarty's influential Provincializing Europe addresses the mythical figure of Europe that is often taken to be the original site of modernity in many histories of capitalist transition in non-Western countries. This imaginary Europe, Dipesh Chakrabarty argues, is built into the social sciences. The very idea of historicizing carries with it some peculiarly European assumptions about disenchanted space, secular time, and sovereignty. Measured against such mythical standards, capitalist transition in the third world has often seemed either incomplete or lacking. Provincializing Europe proposes that every case of transition to capitalism is a case of translation as well - a translation of existing worlds and their thought-categories into the categories and self-understandings of capitalist modernity. Now featuring a new preface in which Chakrabarty responds to his critics, this book globalizes European thought by exploring how it may be renewed both for and from the margins.
Comment: This book is a watershed in Indian history, labour theory and postcolonial theory. Chakrabarty begins by accepting the idea that history has already provincialized Europe. However, time and again we find the author acknowledging that the categories and ideals that European thought and the Enlightenment produced are both indispensable and at the same time inadequate to understand the modern political relations of non-European, ex-colonial lands. On the one hand, the familiar theories we use to understand the lives of the proletariat or bourgeois political relations were inadequate to explain their postcolonial existence in Bengal and India. Yet, on the other, these frameworks are simultaneously indispensable for theories about the proletariat in postcolonial Bengal to be accepted as knowledge. A quest, therefore, ensued to interpret the lives of the working class and bourgeoisie political relations in parts of the world that did not replicate the historical transition of Europe. This book challenges the monolithic understanding of historical progression and attempts to follow a different historiography (using Marxist insights) to understand political modernity in places with different histories.