Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was the supreme leader of the Indian nationalist movement which he had led for about thirty years, between 1917 and 1947. He was a thinker in so far as he had challenged most of the assumptions and doctrines of his times, and in their places, provided possible and plausible alternatives.

It is really difficult to project Gandhiji in any particular frame. He was more than Plato, one can possible call him Socrates; he was more than Aristotle, one can call him a Buddha; he was more than a Mill or Marx, one can call him a Guru Nanak. Gandhiji was a liberal among the Marxists, and a Marxist among liberals; he was 2 democrat among the individualists and an individualist among the socialists. He was an idealist among the realists, and a realist among the idealists. He had combined in himself the virtues of all the known ideologies, past and present.

Gandhi as a Critic of Western Civilization

Gandhiji was a critic of Western Civilization. His complaint against western materialism is that destroys the very essence of spiritualism. He regarded the western type of man as an atomistic individual, with all flesh and no Soul.

As against the state that existed in the West, Gandhiji advocated what he called, the Ramrajya; Was against the western style of managing things through the centralizing forces, he stood for a decentralized polity. As against materialism, industrialization and capitalism, he mude a strong plea for Swadeshi, cottage industries and the theory of Trusteeship.

State, Decentralization, Cottage Industries, Trusteeship

Gandhiji is not an admirer of the type of the state that exists in the Western Society. For him, the Western state represented 'violence in a concentrated form'; it is a soulless machine. Accordingly, Gandhiji, as a philosophical anarchist, admitted the state, but very unwillingly, only when it is most needed.

Anarchist is one who is opposed to every type of state; anarchism is a theory of lawlessness: without state, without government, without law.

Gandhism stands for a non-violent state based on

  1. (i) the consent of the people.
  2. (ii) the near unity in the society. Gandhiji advocated decentralization of power: both political and economic. The spirit of Gandhian democracy is the spirit of decentralization. Decentralization means devolution of power at each level beginning from individual/ local unit and reaching the apex. The essence of decentralization, according to Gandhiji, is that all powers flow from below and go up, in ascending order.

So considered, political power, in the Gandhian scheme, is vested in the individuals: the centre of all activity, the repository of Swaraj; from individual, power is transferred to the village: from village, the power goes to the higher unit, and ultimately, ends up with the central/national government which, practically performs only the coordinating functions. Thus what is or what can not be done by the individual is done by the village, what is not done by the village is done by the local/ regional government; what is not done by the regional/provincial government is done by the central/ national government. The spirit of the Gandhian Ramrajya is that it is a self-regulating system where everyone is one's own ruler, and not a hindrance to one's neighbours.

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