Mahatma’s new career in recent years

Thomas Weber’s new collection of essays is essential reading for a Gandhi student

GN Bureau | April 23, 2018


#Mahatma Gandhi   #Book Review   #Thomas Weber  

The Mahatma, His Philosophy and His Legacy

There has been a great resurgence of Gandhism in the last couple of decades – at least in some parts of society. In the new century, there have been at least four well-received popular movies featuring Gandhi or Gandhism substantially. There have been at least as many blockbuster and widely read biographies. This interest in Gandhi will only increase as the nation prepares for the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations later next year. Once can surmise that more and more people, especially youth, are turning to Gandhi for help in navigating our baffling times. For a Gandhian, this should be good news.

Thomas Weber, one of the pre-eminent Gandhi interpreters in our times, has a more nuanced view. In his latest publication, in Orient BlackSwan’s acclaimed Gandhi Studies series, he says, “Perhaps Gandhi has taken on a new career, but it is a different one to the one I first encountered in India [in 1975].” Thus, “one could say that Gandhian activism, once the main occupation of the Gandhian community, seems to have been replaced by an academic interest in Gandhi.”

In other words, “there is a trend to giving us a less activist and more bureaucratic Gandhi. … Once, committed Gandhi disciples dedicated their lives to service. This is fairly typical in newly-formed organisations. After the passing of the leader, the organisations tend to become bureaucratic and sources of employment. This is a fairly well-established general trend. Given that Gandhism faces new realities, can it be fostered so that there is still a viable and meaningful Gandhi establishment in India?”

In this essay, ‘Gandhi Today: In the Field and in the Academy – An Outsider’s Observations’ (originally published in Gandhi Marg in 2012), Weber with an amiable tone gives a nearly comprehensive list of all that has gone wrong – or changed – with Gandhi’s afterlife in post-liberalisation India. He has several suggestions to offer, for consolidating the ever-expanding but rarely deepening field of Gandhi research and scholarship. Among them is pulling together the Gandhi archive, currently spread over different archives, and consolidating the material at a central hub which would have a Gandhian ambience. The Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad took several initiatives in that direction in recent years including the launch of the Gandhi Heritage Portal and a resident fellowship programme.

The book under review, a collection of essays published in various journals – mostly the venerable Gandhi Marg, has three sections: the life and times of Gandhi, his philosophy, and his legacy. For Gandhi scholars, there are rare gems here. ‘Why Gandhi Didn’t Go to Finland (or America or China)’, for example, is a little-known but highly valuable case study “providing us with further insight into his thinking, into what was important for him”.

The same holds for the essay on Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr (50th anniversary of whose assassination was observed on April 4) or the essay on Gandhi and Gene Sharp (who died in January this year) – especially the latter, as it provides a more nuanced reading of Sharp’s nonviolent tactics which have been credited for the Arab Spring and other popular ‘revolutions’ of recent times.

The Mahatma, His Philosophy and His Legacy is not one of those ambitious grand works that evoke epithets like magisterial, but it humbly serves a serious student of Gandhi better than most of them.

feedback@governancenow.com

(The book review appears in the April 30, 2018 issue)

Comments

 

Other News

Vande Bharat halts midway near Tundla

In a major embarrassment to the railways, the much touted Vande Bharat Express developed a technical snag at Chamraula, 15 kms from Tundla junction.   Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the train on Friday from New Delhi station.    The train was

PM flags off India’s first semi high-speed train

Indian Railways entered a new era as prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the country’s first semi high-speed train, Vande Bharat Express, from the New Delhi railway station. The new train is also seen as a success story of the NDA government’s ‘Make in India’

Estonia eyes on more e-Residents from India to open startups

Riho Kruuv, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia talks to Vishwas Dass on key issues like the importance of e-Residency programme of the Government of Estonia and why Estonia is becoming a preferred investment destination for Indian startups and budding entrepreneurs. The Ambassador says Estonia offer

Happily working away!

There’s no dearth of self-help books. They come in a multitude of single-topic and hybrid varieties: habit change, management, habit change in management, spirituality, spirituality in management...you get the drift. Happiness at Work: Mindfulness, Analysis, and Well-Being, by R Anand, adds to the li

Budget and Modi’s ‘neo middle class’ strategy for elections

Those who have gained the most from the latest budget are the ones who are going to have the most crucial impact on the Lok Sabha election results. Who are they? They are hiding in plain sight. They have come to work in metros and cities, probably in recent years. They crowd inter-state bus terminals to ta

Gandhi’s essence

For a novice reader, MK Gandhi presents a formidable challenge. The starting point is usually the autobiography, with its well-known anecdotes which most of us

Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter