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Beyond Eurocentrism: An Evolving Endeavour

Bidyut Chakrabarty

By Farah Godrej
Oxford University Press, New York, 2011, pp. 210, 00.00


Cosmopolitan political thought has recently received critical acclaim from several political theorists for a variety of reasons. Important among them is the concern to creatively interpret non-western socio-political ideas that, despite having western roots, cannot be comprehended meaningfully by employing western theoretical yardsticks. The reasons are located in the differently textured socio-economic and cultural circumstances that give birth to the so-called peculiar conceptualization of ideas. The argument is not for making a watertight compartment between our and their thought, but to suggest that non-western thought is a distinct genre and therefore it needs to be understood accordingly. Rather than following the familiar footsteps, cosmopolitan political thought seeks to re-conceptualize non-western political theory with reference to the context in which it is organically linked. This is where Farah Godrej's Cosmopolitan Political Thought makes a serious intervention in our approach to political thought in the non-western cosmos. The book is not merely a critique of eurocentrism in political theory; it is also a meaningful effort at conceptualizing non-western political thought by reference to its western and non-western roots. The approach here is not xenophobic, but cosmopolitan because cosmopolitan political thought is an offshoot of a variety of influences which are both western and non-western. The methodological and disciplinary resources that support the search for cosmopolitan political thought remain, as the author rightly points out, multifaceted and also eclectic in some sense. Cosmopolitanism is a creative conceptualization, drawn on the values of individualism, egalitarianism and universalism. Critical of efforts at essentializing discourses, the author also underlines the importance of western thinkers in providing 'resources for cosmopolitan theorizing’ (p. 9). And, at the same time, the so-called field data need to be utilized to frame a context-driven analysis of strands of ‘indigenous thought'. Theoretically, it is also a challenge to the well-entrenched Eurocentric bias in our approach to the myriad non-western socio-political reality. Hence the cosmopolitan project 'requires asking what resources are available in a tradition despite the pervasiveness of Eurocentrism, and how these resources may challenge Eurocentric mode of knowing' (p. 24). This is undoubtedly a very significant step at envisioning political theory beyond Eurocentrism. Godrej's book is surely a useful contribution to cosmopolitan political thought that has attracted serious attention from scholars of various ideological persuasions. What is critical in cosmopolitanism is the endeavour to carve out independent space for thinkers who with new normative tools enabled us to make sense of the non-western ...

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