Mahatma Gandhi was a more radical revolutionary than Mao Zedong. His indictment of modern civilization represents a moral and spiritual point of view that is even more evident in his attitude towards politics. His view of politics was a consequence and not independent of his view of morality.
Immanuel Kant wrote in his essay ‘On the Discordance between Morality and Politics’: âI can easily imagine a moral politician as one who holds the principles of political expediency in such a way that they can coexist with morality: but I cannot post Imagine a political moralist who designs a system of morality in such a way that it is subordinated and subordinated to the interests of the statesman. “
In this Kantian sense, Gandhi could be viewed as a “political moralist”; he was certainly not a “moral politician.” His moral standpoint was absolutist in all areas. Looking at modern economics and its suitability as a path to morality, Gandhi felt the need for a conceptual change. He tried to combine Lincoln’s love of freedom with Lenin’s drive for equality without resorting to the barrel of a gun.
He was also influenced by the Marxist doctrine of neutrality and its emphasis on “exploitation of labor” and deeply infatuated by John Ruskin’s heterodox doctrine that a nation’s wealth is not in its production and consumption of goods, but in its people. Gandhi remarked: âI neither make a sharp distinction between economics and ethics. Economics that violate the moral well-being of an individual or a nation is immoral and therefore sinful. “
Basically, Gandhi was not an economist in the traditional sense. But economic ideas are part of his philosophy of life; they are reflected in his writings and speeches. For Gandhi, economics was a part of life. Only two life principles seem to govern all of his economic, social, political and other considerations, namely. Truth and non-violence.
Anything that cannot be satisfactorily tested on these test stones cannot be considered Gandhian. However, his economic thinking was based on a strong background. He studied the economic history of India under the early British rule of Romesh Chunder Dutt, which illustrated the intolerable suffering of the Indian people mainly from a high property tax on the peasants, the destruction of handicrafts, the recurrence of famine, and the annual drain of revenue to Britain described.
Gandhi was so touched that he cried when he read the book. After his return from South Africa, when he witnessed the unbearable poverty of the country, he oriented his lifestyle exactly to that of his compatriots and began to wear only a loincloth. For the same reason, he traveled all over India in third grade trains, interacting with common people to find out about their ailments. He also read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Marx’s Das Capital.
In addition, he was in constant contact with the various schools of thought in the world and fought against the most powerful empire in the world. The Gandhian economy is difficult to explain as a coherent system of thought, but its ethical principles can never be ignored. Much of his economic thoughts stemmed from what he believed to be ethically right or wrong.
In his words, âThe economy is untrue, it ignores or disregards moral values.â Interestingly, it is not unrealistic to look for parallels between the agnostic Adam Smith and the religious or spiritual Gandhi. To do this, we have to resort to Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, published some seventeen years before The Wealth of Nations. This outstanding work on moral philosophy can be seen as a forerunner and a foundation, without which his treatise on political economy would have no proper context.
Smith, the father of economics, pointed out that social morality results from the balance of self-interest and natural human sympathy for people who live in the same society. But Smith used the main idea to conclude that “we do not expect our dinner from the benevolence of the butcher, brewer, or baker, but rather out of consideration for their own interests.”
The theory suggests that each of us derives a personal moral compass by referring to âan impartial bystanderâ who exists as a âman in the chestâ. The âimpartial viewerâ is likely to be close to, but outside of, a person and observes that person’s actions and behaviors.
The analog nature of Gandhi’s “still small voice in his conscience” cannot be overlooked. Gandhi did not want to bring directly God or religion. Taking a completely humanistic vision, he said, âMan has two windows to his mind: through one, he can see his own self for what it is; through the other he can see what should be. “
Gandhi was the philosopher of a new age and the first man to provide a practical alternative economic system, integrated with morality and non-violence, against the prevailing economic system. He did not give a model for the development of the economy, but gave some canons on the basis of which we can decide what kind of economic composition is preferable
the Indian economy.
Reconstruction in rural areas is the main source of development. He spoke and dreamed of the revival of small and village industries, the abolition of untouchability, the ban on alcohol, Gram Swaraj and independent villages that would satisfy their needs. When the question of the use of non-renewable natural resources arises, the Gandhian economy encourages mastery over needs and advises paying attention to one’s own needs rather than greed.
So instead of fulfilling unlimited desires, attention should be paid to the welfare of the poor and the most vulnerable. Indeed, this is the essential part of the moral view of Gandhian economic thought. Rousseau was the first modern writer to claim that democracy could not be achieved if people were not allowed to exercise their sovereign power through the decentralization of power. The peculiarities of the Gandhian decentralization concept are two:
At first, Gandhi saw the decentralization of power as an essential consequence of non-violence; second, such decentralization would be possible in a non-industrial society with the self-sufficient village as the primary unit. It is the only way out of the unemployment problem. His theory of decentralization was the result of his keen and almost prophetic insight into the numerous political, social and cultural ills that the age of great industrialization had brought with it.
Decentralization cannot be limited to industries. It applies to the authority of the state. Gandhi saw decentralized political authority as necessary at every phase and at all times and for all times. According to Gandhi, if we want Swaraj, villages should be made independent of power and production through decentralization.
There is little in the concepts to suggest that the Gandhian world is an ancient world. On the contrary, one could argue that Gandhi was the first great philosopher of a post-industrial age and that his philosophy posed a great challenge to modern science.
He kept pointing out that machines should never replace humans. Of course, he wasn’t entirely against the use of machines. What he refused was “the machine madness”. He explained: âMechanization is good when the hands are too few for the work to be done. It is an evil when there are more hands available than are necessary for the work, as is the case in India. “
Gandhi adopted the traditional concept of varna-vyavastya (socio-economic order) but gave it an entirely new meaning and spirit. Those who object to the words varna and varna-vyavastya need not be alarmed at Gandhi’s use. We should be concerned not with words but with their content: (a) equal wages for all work; (b) lack of competition; (c) an educational system that takes full advantage of people’s hereditary abilities forms the essence of varnavyavastya. Gandhi’s economic thinking would not be complete without preoccupation with his “trusteeship” doctrine. It is a social and economic philosophy that aims to bring justice to society. It provides a means by which the rich would be the trustees who looked after the well-being of the people. Gandhi believed that even the rich people – the so-called capitalists – are people after all.
As such, they also have an element of good that every human being necessarily possesses. It should be made clear to the rich that the capital in their hands is the fruit of the labor of the poor. In fact, it is none other than the righteous practice of the doctrine of non-possession.
Thomas Aquinas was of the opinion that not only the state but the individual vigorously ensures justice. The concept manifests itself in our cooperative policy, the Community Development Policy and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Gandhi’s visualization of social relationships in his famous oceanic circles is durable compared to the concentric circle visualization of stoic society, which gives priority to the individual ego. Gandhi devised a system of assisted feeding of the centrally located center and the distant world, whereby both were willing to sacrifice themselves for one another.
What we need today is a new kind of economic development based on Gandh ideology. It is imperative that we adopt a new matrix of economic development in which progress is measured in terms of human performance, decent employment for everyone, the equitable distribution of income and wealth, environmental sustainability and the social well-being of the community will.
(The author is a retired IAS officer)