Imprints of the Populist Time
Ranabir Samaddar
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Orient BlackSwan

The crisis of liberal democracy in the neoliberal world—marked by massive labour flows, migrations, and informal conditions of work—has led to the emergence of new forms of claim-making and a new sense of rights even as governments try to garner popular support and legitimacy through strategies termed as ‘populist’ gestures. Today, populism is integral to the daily discourse of politics and discussions of democracy, governance, and people.

Imprints of the Populist Time investigates populism as a historical phenomenon, examining its dynamic nature and role as a set of specific political practices. Lending a postcolonial perspective to the global study of populism, Ranabir Samaddar examines the trajectory that West Bengal politics took following the end of Left Front rule in 2011.

Through a fragmented narrative structure that builds on commentaries on contemporary events ,which highlight the recent history of populism in West Bengal, the volume explores how populism works around the ‘crisis of representation’ in democracy by centring the subaltern and constructing a ‘people’; the problematic figure of the ‘citizen’; popular engagements with the Constitution; the city as a crucial site of contemporary populism; the role of gender in populist governance; and the counter-intuitive economic logic of the populists.

The volume studies various modes of populism—elections, the language of populist politics, and the rampant ‘illegalism’ in populist conduct, and asks key questions: Has there ever been any democracy without populism, or any nationalism without its populist articulation? Can we think of the popular and the people without the populist? Is populism a form of subaltern resistance to neoliberal depredations?

Scholars and students of Indian politics, political historians, journalists, policy makers, and informed readers will find this volume riveting.

Ranabir Samaddar is Distinguished Chair, Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata. He is an eminent political thinker and one of the foremost theorists in the field of migration and forced migration studies. Author of several well-known books and distinguished papers, his writings on migration, labour, colonialism, and the nation-state have signalled a new turn in critical postcolonial thinking.

Publishers’ Acknowledgements


I. The Black Hole of the Origin of Populism

1. Classes, People and Populism
2. The Figure of the Citizen has Always been a Problem
3. The Constitution and the Popular

II. Power, Politics and the Populists in West Bengal

4. The Verdict of Elections, the Verdict of Politics: 2016 Ballot for Bengal
5. Civility, Politics and the Language of the Bengal Populists
6. A New Model of Power and Populist Resistance: West Bengal vs the Rest
7. The Economic Sense of the Bengal Populists

III. Imprints of the Populist Time

8. Populists and a Footloose Society
9. Global Populisms
10. Populists as a Subject of the Global Time of Chaos
11. Primitive Accumulation, Urban Dystopias and Protests: A Discussion



Book Review | Published in The Telegraph, Kolkata, 17 February 2023.
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