Social science theory, the concepts and argumentative architecture through which scholars make sense of the vast processes of modernity—industrialization, étatisation, secularity, individuation—generated the first wave of theoretical concepts in the crucible of European history. Social science inquiry in India had no way of avoiding these concepts, Kaviraj argues, but it could not escape a sense of unease at the misfit between the assumptions built into these theories and concepts and the historical world it investigated. In the last decade, a serious discussion about these theoretical questions has emerged: one moving from dissatisfaction with individual primary concepts—like secularity, the state, citizenship, industrialization, labor—to a more generalized discontent regarding the nature of theorizing itself. Gopal Guru and Sunder Sarukkai’s book The Cracked Mirror contributes centrally to this discussion at two levels: it questions the way in which social scientists have taken for granted the way they have thought about untouchability; at the same time, it raises with an undeniable sharpness the question of theory itself. What is the activity called theorizing? What is it meant to do? What are the criteria of success in this activity—besides the fluent and repeated use of concepts taken from the latest Western intellectual debates?
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Sudipta Kaviraj; Why Is the Mirror Cracked?. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2013; 33 (3): 380–391. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2378157
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