ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Society and Its Discontents

Translating Passive Revolution in India and South Africa Today

For all their evident differences, what makes contemporary India and South Africa together so compelling is the coincidence of neo-liberal forms of capitalism generating intense inequality and "surplus" populations, liberal and popular expressions of democracy, and amplifying nationalisms--all entangled with gender power, and shot through with race (South Africa), caste and communalism (India). Partha Chatterjee's concepts of political and civil society, and his claims about a new phase of passive revolution, seem to provide a neat ready-made comparative frame and have significant appeal in South Africa today. Yet this schema provides no resources for coming to grips with Hindutva, or with proliferating articulations of nationalism in South Africa. This article focuses on the concept of passive revolution, and suggests how substantially different understandings and translations of passive revolution might enable mutually illuminating comparative understandings.

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