Decolonising Capitalism: The "Bombay School" and the Comparative Political Economy of India and Ireland

  • Vikram Visana (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


One of the unfulfilled tasks of postcolonial history is to account for non-Western articulations of capitalist thought that do not over-simplify the colonial history of capitalism to a series of Marxist and Foucouldian binaries. Overcoming these dyads would recover the intellectual agency of indigenous critics of empire who were themselves capitalists.

Indigenous agency can be restored by recovering the political and economic thought of Indian intellectuals in their local and global contexts. This chapter will use the case study of western India, and its connections with Ireland, to show how a group of pioneering Indian intellectuals challenged the basis and policies of colonial capitalism in order to imagine an alternative capitalist future in which racial, religious, and cultural asymmetries between colonizer and colonized, but also between Indians themselves, were equalised.

This paper offers an alternative history of how Indian capitalism was theorised that emphasises South Asia’s regional specificity and rupture from any simplistic diffusionist model. I will analyse the economic thought of several key critics of colonial political economy from western India, collectively known as the ‘Bombay School’, between 1840 and 1920: Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Kashinath Timbrak Telang, and Dhananjay Ramchandra Gadgil. In focussing on these particular figures, I will elucidate how the commercial and cosmopolitan context of western India informed their re-articulation of globally circulating capitalist ideas. Finally, in making active comparisons with the political economy of Ireland, their ideas about a reformed capitalism resonated throughout the wider British world.
Period1 Nov 20192 Nov 2019
Held atCity University of New York, United States, New York
Degree of RecognitionInternational