An original reconstruction of how the debates over peoplehood defined Indian anticolonial thought, and a bold new framework for theorizing the global career of democracy.
Indians, their former British rulers asserted, were unfit to rule themselves. Behind this assertion lay a foundational claim about the absence of peoplehood in India. The purported “backwardness” of Indians as a people led to a democratic legitimation of empire, justifying self-government at home and imperial rule in the colonies.
In response, Indian anticolonial thinkers launched a searching critique of the modern ideal of peoplehood. Waiting for the People is the first account of Indian answers to the question of peoplehood in political theory. From Surendranath Banerjea and Radhakamal Mukerjee to Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian political thinkers passionately explored the fraught theoretical space between sovereignty and government. In different ways, Indian anticolonial thinkers worked to address the developmental assumptions built into the modern problem of peoplehood, scrutinizing contemporary European definitions of “the people” and the assumption that a unified peoplehood was a prerequisite for self-government. Nazmul Sultan demonstrates how the anticolonial reckoning with the ideal of popular sovereignty fostered novel insights into the globalization of democracy and ultimately drove India’s twentieth-century political transformation.
Waiting for the People excavates, at once, the alternative forms and trajectories proposed for India’s path to popular sovereignty and the intellectual choices that laid the foundation for postcolonial democracy. In so doing, it uncovers largely unheralded Indian contributions to democratic theory at large. India’s effort to reconfigure the relationship between popular sovereignty and self-government proves a key event in the global history of political thought, one from which a great deal remains to be learned.
A brilliant demonstration of anticolonialism’s critical contributions to the history of democratic political thought. Sultan’s historically nuanced and theoretically insightful account of how the leading thinkers and activists of India’s anticolonial struggle confronted the fraught colonial legacies of democratic developmentalism and the problem of peoplehood makes an essential contribution to contemporary democratic theory.
A dazzling reconstruction of how the problem of peoplehood spurred conceptual innovations in Indian anticolonial thought. Sultan demonstrates, with style and rigor, that to answer the challenge of colonialism, Indian thinkers had to reinvent the very meaning of democracy.
An engaging, innovative, and wide-ranging account of the way in which anticolonial thought in India creatively reconceptualized the idea of popular sovereignty. It sheds new light on the theoretical relationship between democratic legitimation and development.
An indispensable intervention to the fields of postcolonial theory and democratic theory, Waiting for the People illustrates how the colonial construction of India’s backwardness gave rise to a very distinct dilemma for anticolonial thinkers and actors. Seeking to authorize their demands for independence in the name of the people, they found that the people had not yet arrived. Traversing a range of figures and periods in the history of Indian anticolonial political thought, Sultan tracks the innovative conceptual and institutional strategies advanced in response to this dilemma of colonial peoplehood.
With dazzling insight, Waiting for the People demonstrates how Indian anticolonial thinkers reimagined democracy and popular sovereignty. A sure-footed guide through the fault lines between political thought and practical politics, this highly original work shows us the global future of democratic government.
- 312 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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