The Gandhian Moment

The Gandhian Moment

With a Foreword by the Dalai Lama
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Gandhian Moment
    Book Description:

    The father of Indian independence, Gandhi was also a political theorist who challenged mainstream ideas. Sovereignty, he said, depends on the consent of citizens willing to challenge the state nonviolently when it acts immorally. The culmination of the inner struggle to recognize one's duty to act is the ultimate "Gandhian moment."

    eISBN: 978-0-674-07485-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Dalai Lama

    Mahatma Gandhi has been a source of inspiration to me ever since I was a small boy growing up in Tibet. He was a great human being with a deep understanding of human nature. He made every effort to encourage the full development of the positive aspects of human potential and to reduce or restrain the negative. Therefore, I find it most encouraging to know that his life, in his deeds and words, continues to be a source of inspiration today in our rapidly changing world.

    I have been deeply inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s adoption of ahimsa, or nonviolence, in...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-22)

    Everyone knows the central ontological question: “Why is there being rather than nothing?” There is another, more obscure philosophical question, however, that the human race has similarly been unable to answer: “Why is there violence rather than nonviolence?” Why is there so much violence in the world today? Terrorism, religious and ethnic rivalries, environmental deterioration, economic crises, and unending international hostilities—all of which point to a world of global challenges and multiple threats. It is clear that in a world plagued by violence, we urgently need strong ethical thinking that insists on living up to fundamental principles in interactions...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Principles of Gandhian Politics
    (pp. 23-52)

    Gandhi is without a doubt the most original political thinker of the twentieth century. There are two aspects to this originality: one, Gandhi’s originality can be appreciated when one recognizes his divergence from classical political theory; two, Gandhi appears as an original figure from the point of view of the vast political and philosophical traditions of India.

    Gandhi’s originality as a political thinker is best demonstrated by his deep concern with politics not as a struggle for power, but as a spiritual quest for truth. It is true that Gandhi was not primarily a theorist of politics but a practitioner...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Critique of Modern Civilization
    (pp. 53-69)

    A study of Gandhi’s critique of modern political thought would be incomplete without an understanding of his critique of modern civilization. According to Gandhi, modern civilization was responsible for a dangerous centralization and concentration of economic and political power. This went hand in hand with a culture of self-interest, exemplified by the quest for wealth and selfish pleasures and represented by the maxims of “might is right” and “the survival of the fittest.”¹ Gandhi believed that widespread violence was the natural consequence of these features of modern civilization. For Gandhi, the message was clear: the flourishing of humanity depended on...

    (pp. 70-93)

    Gandhi was not a philosopher or a theoretician of politics in the strict sense of the term. His political ideas grew and developed as he struggled with the practical problems of power and authority that confronted him throughout his life. But his ideas were not simply ad hoc; they were rooted in stable ethical commitments and his steady belief that politics should not be separated from spiritual values. Politics without spirituality, according to Gandhi, would breed corruption, greed, competition, a mania for power, and the exploitation of the weak and poor. For Gandhi, political power was not an end in...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Gandhi’s Reception in India
    (pp. 94-134)

    The dispute between Gandhi and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar is well known to specialists on contemporary Indian history. However, what is not often mentioned by historians is that Gandhi acknowledged Ambedkar as the most capable and talented representative of the Dalit group (untouchables) and that he personally intervened for Nehru to choose him as law minister after independence.¹ Perhaps Gandhi did so, despite his disagreements with Ambedkar, because he believed in Ambedkar’s political capacities as a true freedom fighter and an integral builder of democracy. Back in 1930, Ambedkar was a rising leader of the untouchables in the Indian public...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Gandhi and Beyond
    (pp. 135-156)

    The statement above is as true today as it was when Indian radio broadcast it during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to India in March 1959. And few people exemplified the importance of Gandhi’s legacy as clearly as King himself. Along with the South African struggle against apartheid, briefly discussed below, the civil rights campaign led by King is one of the great achievements of nonviolent protest in the decades after Gandhi’s death.

    King traveled to India in 1959 in search of the roots of the nonviolent social movement that led to Indian independence, studying Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and meeting...

    (pp. 157-162)

    The past two years will remain momentous in the history of Gandhian nonviolence for people in the Middle East and around the world. Despite their geographic and cultural diversity, nonviolent movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen exhibited a remarkable similarity to Gandhi’s and King’s campaigns for checking power and opposing violence in India and in the United States decades ago. Never before have people in the region mobilized in such vast numbers to shake off the chains of their autocratic regimes. This raises the hopeful prospect that nonviolent campaigns for democracy might be the essential paradigm of change...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 165-176)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-184)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 185-188)
  15. Index
    (pp. 189-196)