Thursday, January 28, 2010
Here’s my latest column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In it, I discuss some conditions for the emergence of prosperity.
People create wealth only if they are free.
Imagine a skyscraper; call it the
. Now imagine, hanging next to this skyscraper, a giant wrecking ball. It starts to swing. The wrecking ball pounds the skyscraper. The building is probably sturdy enough to remain standing and functional if it suffers only one or a few hits. But if the wrecking ball keeps swinging relentlessly, the Prosperity Tower eventually collapses. Prosperity Tower
From the rubble, enterprising and energetic people -- entrepreneurs, financiers, architects, construction workers -- begin rebuilding the
. They complete a few floors when the wrecking ball again starts to swing. It destroys the nascent building. Prosperity Tower
Hoping against hope, these or other energetic and enterprising people again undertake a rebuilding effort. As before, they complete the early stages of the construction and then the wrecking ball again swings into its awful action, demolishing the fruits of their efforts.
Eventually, the mere threat of a swinging wrecking ball will discourage anyone from attempting to rebuild the
. Even if the wrecking ball itself currently hangs idle, its history of swinging into action whenever the Prosperity Tower begins to reach skyward ensures against the tower's construction. Prosperity Tower
Government too often works like a wrecking ball. Taxation robs producers of the fruits of their efforts and regulation substitutes the centrally imposed and politically inspired commands of the few for the decentralized, richly textured and voluntary plans of the many. Economic prosperity is battered. Too much such battering turns the
into ruins. Prosperity Tower
For prosperity, freedom is necessary but not sufficient. For a skyscraper to reach to the heavens, not only must its skyward path remain free of swinging wrecking balls; also, individuals must possess the creativity, trust and gumption necessary to build the tower. No matter how minimal the threat of swinging wrecking balls, a skyscraper will not arise without positive and creative actions by individuals.
Entrepreneurs must envision the use and possibility of the skyscraper; architects must design it; investors must see its promise, as well as see the trustworthiness of the builders; suppliers must produce and make available reliable amounts of millions of different building materials; contractors, subcontractors and hundreds of construction workers must each contribute their own unique skills and their individual initiatives toward the project.
The amount of creativity, cooperation and effort required to build a skyscraper is so vast as to be beyond description. Yet each fragment of this creativity, cooperation and effort is contributed by an individual -- an individual who could choose to refuse to contribute. If too many individuals make this choice, no skyscraper will be built.
The necessity of creative individual human actions is often overlooked in the Western industrialized world. I've heard too many of my fellow economists blithely predict that pro-freedom changes in the constitutions and statutes of places such as the former Soviet Union and Haiti will quickly create prosperity.
But when the wrecking ball stops swinging, the
doesn't automatically arise as a force of nature. Prosperity requires also a culture and a set of norms that promote commerce, enterprise and industry. Prosperity Tower
It's true that such culture and norms are likely to emerge when freedom reigns, but in places where people have long been unfree, the culture and norms necessary for economic growth do not materialize instantaneously with pro-freedom changes in the constitution and statute books. Such cultural change takes time.
People long unfree do not immediately learn those intricate norms and rules necessary for civilization -- for example, the norm of recognizing that strangers who speak different languages and who worship different gods are nonetheless people with whom mutually advantageous trade is possible.
Without such norms and rules, and without the desire for material gain, merely stopping the wrecking ball of government intervention from swinging will not cause the
to arise. Prosperity Tower
The publishing scenario in contemporary
is conceptually exciting and linguistically diverse. India is perhaps the only country in the world which publishes books in 37 languages. It ranks third in the publication of English books, immediately after the India and the USA . Nearly 1,00,000 new titles are published every year out of which approximately one-third are in the English language. UK
The National Book Trust,
is pleased to announce that the 19th New Delhi World Book Fair will be held from 30 January to India 7 February 2010 at Pragati Maidan, . The theme of the Fair is “Reading for Common Wealth” to be presented in the form of an International Rights Exhibition of the Books on Sports in India on the occasion of the hosting of the Commonwealth Games by New Delhi in October 2010. New Delhi, India
Venue: Hall Nos.1 to 14, Pragati Maidan,
( New Delhi ) India
Duration: From 30 January to
7 February 2010
Compare Book Prices http://www.bookase.com/
It's a free service, allowing you to easily compare prices of any book among major online bookstores worldwide, and find a price which is 30% - 80% off the market list price BookAse.com firstname.lastname@example.org
from Anthropology.net by Tim Jones
TAC have made available a 25-minute promotional film produced and directed by Zafar Hai on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism in India, and narrated by no less a luminary than Michael York.
Featuring many historic locations and exotic sights such as temples, this film is aimed more at the visitor to India keen on exploring her multi-faceted past, much of which has survived intact to the present day, and which can often be found resting gracefully amongst the modern cities that have sprung up in what has become one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.
has long been attracting traders and merchants from afar, from the Romans, the Chinese and Europeans and many more, bringing back a cornucopia of spices and luxury goods with them, further relating tales of the incredible lands and peoples that had greeted them. India
Major religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, plus a host of others, have long roots in India, aspects of which are celebrated in one of the world’s richest traditions in architecture, statuary, sculpture and art, conceived and executed by some of the most skilled, innovative and adept craftsmen of their day.
The film itself presents India in a subtle and serene focus, rather than going for a glitzy all-singing-all-dancing shindig, which at once emphasises the spiritual character of its heritage from a meditative perspective, whilst allowing the eyes to feast on a sumptuous riot of colours, shapes and forms, accompanied to a soundtrack of the diverse music, dance and resplendent costumery we have come to associate with these oriental lands, boasting a civilisation going back over 5,000 years.
Of course, India’s past hasn’t always been bathed in peaceful solitude, riven like most major nations of the present day, by conflicts down through the ages, and in her case, more recently subject to the predations of British imperial rule, artifacts of which are still in evidence today, not the least of which is the influence of the English language on millions of people alive today, which indirectly has led to the birth of one of the greatest cricketing nations on Earth.
As we hear later in the presentation, the recent history of India might have been entirely different had Nelson not stopped Napoleon Bonaparte in his tracks in Egypt – we can only wonder for instance, how French cuisine would have coped with the influx of what has in effect become Britain’s national dish of late, the ubiquitous curry, or whether the French population today would be a nation of tea-drinkers. Perhaps too,
would have become a second Calcutta instead of a proxy Paris . London
But even where conflict ruled in the past, as visited upon India by the Moguls, who conquered far and wide, ( at about 14 minutes in) a flowering of creativity mixed with a liberal mix of religions and cultures sprang up thereafter, and as we see from the film, some of the surviving architecture would alone make for a worthwhile trip. In any case, if you want a whistle-stop tour round scenic
, this is an ideal film to watch, but for the full experience of course, you’ll need to visit India in person, and preferably for an extended tour. India
‘Timeless India’ is here brought to us by the Archaeology Channel, who have over the past 10 years provided we the online viewing public with a fantastic archive of footage from all over the world, delving here into the past, stopping too in the present as efforts to rescue and preserve crumbling and damaged sites are documented. All these films are freely accessible at the TAC website.
To continue their outstanding project, the Archaeology Channel relies heavily on the kindness of strangers – or more specifically, paid-up members – for financial support, so if you’d like to help out you can do so either by becoming a member, or ensuring that you renew your membership on an annual basis. Details of how to participate in the Membership programme can be found here. image of
from here. Web links: Archaeological Survey of India - Archaeology of India, Sources of History of India (Indianetzone.com) History of India (Wikipedia) Incredible India (India Ministry of Tourism) Indian History (WebIndia123.com) Varanasi
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The Indian Supreme Court and the quest for a 'rational' Hinduism
Ronojoy Sen (The Times of India,
) New Delhi
Ronojoy Sen (The Times of India,
South Asian History and Culture, Volume 1, Issue 1 January 2010, pages 86 – 104 - informaworld.com view references (19)
Another significant effect has been the marked disinclination of the Court to accept more recent religious groups as a 'proper' religion or even religious denomination. Consequently, the religious practices of these groups have not been able to pass the essential practices test. Of course, given the all-encompassing definition of Hinduism in Yagnapurushdasji it is unlikely that any sect within Hinduism is ever going to get the court's approval as a separate religion. This was quite clearly illustrated in the case of Ramakrishna Mission, which was accorded a 'religious minority', that is, separate religion status by Calcutta High Court only to have it changed to a religious denomination status by the Supreme Court.
Before looking at regulation of religious institutions I will briefly touch on two cases from the 1980s where the Court had to make a decision on the claim of an established group for a religious denomination status, and second, the Court had to decide whether a religious practice was essential or not. The first case involved the followers of Sri Aurobindo and the second concerned the group known as Ananda Margis.69 In S.P. Mittal v. Union of India,70 the legitimacy of the Auroville71 (Emergency Provisions Act) Act of 1980 was challenged. One of the questions before the Court was whether the Aurobindo Society qualified as a religious denomination and hence came under the protection of Article 26. After discussing the meaning of religion and quoting extensively from Aurobindo's writings as well as secondary sources, Justice R.B. Misra, writing for the majority, ruled 'there is no room for doubt that neither the Society nor Auroville constitutes a religious denomination and the teachings of Sri Aurobindo only his philosophy and not a religion'.72
The inconsistency of the majority position was pointed out by Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy in his dissenting opinion. Reddy argued that religion cannot be 'confined to the traditional, established, well-known or popular religions like Hinduism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism and Christianity'.73 According to Reddy, religion and religious denomination must be interpreted in a 'liberal, expansive way'. He referred to Shirur Mutt where it was stated that the different sects under Hinduism could be designated as religious denominations. In keeping with this view, Reddy wrote, 'But this fact stands out prominently that whatever else he was, he truly was a religious teacher and taught and was understood to have taught new religious doctrine and practice.'74 However, Reddy maintained that Auroville was not a place of worship but a township.
A year after the Supreme Court ruled that Aurobindo was not a religious teacher, the Court decided that the Ananda Margis were a religious denomination. However, in Jagadishwaranand v. Police Commissioner,
,75 the Court refused to accept the tandavadance as an essential practice of the Ananda Margis. […] Calcutta
In A.S. Narayana Deekshitulu v. State of A.P.,84 the petitioner was a chief priest (archaka) of Thirumala Tirupathi, one of the richest temples in
. The petitioner contended that the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act of 1987, by abolishing hereditary succession among archakas, prescribing regulations for appointment of archakas and taking away their right to a share of offerings made to the deity infringed Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. The Court dismissed the petition and upheld the Act with a few minor qualifications. However, in the course of the judgement Ramaswamy (like Mukherjea in Shirur Mutt and Gajendragadkar in Yagnapurushdasji) went in for an elaborate discussion on the nature of religion in the Indian context. Quoting from texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita and using modern thinkers and writers such as Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Radhakrishnan, Shankar Dayal Sharma and even Richard Dawkins, Ramaswamy attempted to construct a notion of religion significantly different from Shirur Mutt. India
Taking the cue from Aurobindo's distinction between 'true religion', which is spiritual, and 'religionism', which is narrow and focused on ceremonies, Ramaswamy proposed:
The importance of rituals in religious life is relevant for evocation of mystic and symbolic beginnings of the journey but on them the truth of a religious experience cannot stand. The truth of a religious experience is far more direct, perceptible and important to human existence. It is the fullness of religious experience which must be assured by temples, where the images of the Lord in resplendent glory is housed …. It is essential that the value of law must be tested by its certainty in reiterating the Core of Religious Experience and if a law seeks to separate the non-essential from the essential so that the essential can have a greater focus of attention in those who believe in such an experience, the object of such a law cannot be described as unlawful but possibly somewhat missionary.85
Ramaswamy drew a parallel between a 'higher' or 'core' religion and the concept of dharma. According to him, it is dharma rather than conventional religion that is protected by the Constitution. How then is dharma to be understood in terms of the Constitution? 'Dharmais that which approves oneself or good consciousness or springs from due deliberation for one's own happiness and also for welfare of all beings free from fear, desire, cherishing good feelings and sense of brotherhood, unity and friendship for integration of Bharat. This is the core religion which the Constitution accords protection'.86 This extraordinary position was supported by Justice B.L. Hansaria, the other judge on the Bench, in a separate judgement: 'The word religion, as presently understood, is comprised of rituals, customs, and dogmas surviving on the basis of fear and blind faith; whereas dharma encapsulates those great laws and disciplines that uphold, sustain, and ultimately lead humanity to the sublime heights of worldly and spiritual glory'.87
The idea of a higher religion, according to Ramaswamy, was fundamental to the essential practices doctrine and the secular Constitution. He stated:
In secularizing the matters of religion which are not essentially and integral parts of religion, secularism, therefore, consciously denounces all forms of super-naturalism or superstitious beliefs or actions and acts which are not essentially or integrally matters of religion or religious belief or faith or religious practices. In other words, non-religious or anti-religious practices are anti-thesis to secularism which seeks to contribute to some degree to the process of secularization of the matters of religion or religious practices.88
Ramaswamy found congruence between the 'secularization' of religion and the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution: 'The religious freedom guaranteed by Articles 25 and 26, therefore, is intended to be a guide to a community-life and ordain every religion to act according to its cultural and social demands to establish an egalitarian social order.'89
The unusual redefinition of religion and religious freedom in Narayana was far removed from what Mukherjea in 1954 had proposed inShirur Mutt. The distinction between 'essential' religion and 'superstition' had been articulated by Gajendragadkar. But the conception of religion as dharma which can foster an egalitarian society and a unified nation was certainly a novel position so far as the Supreme Court was concerned. The introduction of dharma could represent, following the suggestion of a legal scholar, a move towards the creation of 'postmodern Hindu laws'.90 Indeed, the Court's conception of the role of dharma had striking similarities with the idea ofdharma as articulated by Deen Dayal Upadhyaya (1916-1965), whose Integral Humanism is considered to be the 'guiding philosophy' of the BJP:
Nowadays the word 'secular state' is being used as opposed to theocratic state. The adoption of this word is mere imitation of the western thought pattern. We had no need to import it …. There is some misunderstanding arising out of this. Religion was equated with Dharma and then secular state was meant not be a state without Dharma. Some said ours is a state (without Dharma), whereas others trying to find a better sounding word called Dharmanikshepa (indifferent to Dharma state). But all these words are fundamentally erroneous. For a state can neither be without Dharma nor can it be indifferent [to] dharma ….91
The foregoing discussion of the case law on the definition of religion and the essential practices doctrine enables us to make a few hypotheses about the nature of the Court's intervention in the place of religion in the public sphere. The post-colonial court is at the vanguard of the state's project to reform and rationalize religion. The essential practices doctrine can plausibly be traced to B.R. Ambedkar's famous statement in the Constituent Assembly during debates on the proposed codification of Hindu law: 'The religious conceptions in this country are so vast that they cover every aspect of life from birth to death …. There is nothing extraordinary in saying that we ought to strive hereafter to limit the definition of religion in such a manner that we shall not extend it beyond beliefs and such rituals as may be connected with ceremonials which are essentially religious' (italics added).92 With the adoption of the essential practices doctrine, the Supreme Court seems to have taken up this project in right earnest. Though appropriation of the role of interpreter of religious doctrine is most unusual for courts in secular constitutional polities, in the Indian context this role has been facilitated by the lack of a unitary ecclesiastical organization for Hinduism. This has given the opportunity, as Galanter points out, to the judiciary to embark on an 'active reformulation of Hinduism under government auspices in the name of secularism and progress'.93This leads the Court, especially the more activist judges, to insist on religion without what the Court in its wisdom designates as superstition and irrationality. This attitude comes through even in cases not strictly related to the freedom of religion clauses such asZiyauddin Bukhari v. Ramdass Mehra,94 a case involving the application of Representation of People Act.
However, it is important to note that while Amebdkar was an outspoken critic of traditional Hinduism, many of the Supreme Court judges approach Hinduism and indeed religion from a different angle. Many of the judges, unlike Ambedkar, were inspired by a Vedic rationalist Hinduism, a Hinduism purged of its alleged 'irrational' rituals and practices. This is apparent from the authorities that are cited in the Court's construction of Hinduism and Hindu practices. Some of the names that figure prominently in the judicial discourse are Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan - namely personalities identified with a reformist and universal Hinduism. Vivekananda's distaste for popular Hindu practices finds an echo in the Court rulings. For instance, this was what Vivekananda had to say about Hindu practices: 'The fact is that we have many superstitions, many bad spots and sores on our body - these have to excised, cut off, and destroyed - but these do not destroy our religion, our national life, our spirituality. Every principle of religion is safe, and the sooner these black spots are purged away, the better the principles will shine, the more gloriously.'95 The use of sacred texts by the Court to ascertain the legitimacy of a practice is similarly skewed towards the canonical and rationalist versions of high-culture texts such as the Vedas and Upanishads.
The dominant figures of the Hindu reformation also played a key role in the agenda of temple reform. Admittedly, corruption, embezzlement of funds and mismanagement of property were major factors prompting state intervention in temple management. In addition, the experience during British rule of devolving temple management in the hands of semi-autonomous temple committees in Tamil Nadu had not been a happy one. But there is no reason to believe that the state would be any better at running temples. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta points out, 'State takeover of temples violates the freedom of communities to manage their affairs. It is also an imprudent policy. Having politicians and civil servants sit on the board of these temples is not a recipe for either healthy politics or healthy religion. It is often claimed that religious endowments are corrupt and need regulation. But it is not clear that the state will be any less corrupt.'96 Notwithstanding such administrative concerns, however, judges like Gajendragadkar and Ramaswamy spoke a language very similar to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and his idea of 'pure' Hinduism. According to Radhakrishnan, 'At the moment, however, temples present an air of dull acquiescence and tedious routine. To attempt to abolish temples, which are so passionately loved and affectionately revered, is vain. But we must improve the tone and the atmosphere …. Worship in temples must be of the purest form.'97 Many of the court judgements echoed Radhakrishnan.
If figures like Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan made frequent appearances in Court judgements, there were also some notable absences. This is perhaps best illustrated in the marginalization of Vivekananda's teacher and guru, Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Ramakrishna, who can be located in the Bhakti tradition and was characterized by mysticism and unreason (pagalami), was a sharp contrast to his disciple Vivekananda, who established a Hindu monastic order to achieve social and religious reform. The contrast between these two figures is vividly expressed, as Sumit Sarkar has noted, in the disparities between the Dakshineswar temple (where Ramakrishna lived for over 30 years) and the Belur Math founded by Vivekananda. Sarkar writes, 'The temple [Dakshineswar], like any major Hindu sacred site, is thronged with crowds which cut across class divides, noisy, colorful, not over-sensitive to dirt …. Belur Math is much more of an upper middle class devotional-cum-tourist spot: almost aggressively hygienic, it is full of guards and notices warning visitors from bathing in the river or spoiling the lawns.'98
This study in contrast in a way admirably captures the approach of the Supreme Court and its essential practices doctrine. The essential practices doctrine can then be seen as the Court's attempt to discipline and cleanse religion or religious practices that are seen as unruly, irrational and backward by putting the state in charge of places of religious worship. But as Dhavan and Nariman point out, 'Religious faiths have to be run by their followers and not by bureaucrats. The followers have to emerge from the faith and not be appointed by the State or statute.'99 The Court has systematically appealed for legitimation to authoritative figures associated with Vedic rationalism as well as privileged canonical texts that are located within this tradition. By doing so the Court has not only narrowed the 'institutional space for personal faith'100 but also marginalized popular religion by, in Ashis Nandy's words, treating it as 'parts of an enormous structure of irrationality and self-deceit, and as sure markers of an atavistic, regressive way of life'.101
The essential practices doctrine, as developed by Gajendragadkar, sought to cleanse religion of superstition and irrationalities. It was based on the premise that the state must protect only the 'essential and integral part' of religion. While it was certainly desirable that the state play a role in passing laws that abolished social practices such as untouchability and the bar on the entry of the lower castes into temples, the Supreme Court permitted the state to become deeply involved in administering religious institutions and even regulating rituals and modes of worship. Beginning with Durgah Committee, the Court gave sanction for an elaborate regulatory apparatus for religious institutions. The involvement of the state in religious institutions flew in the face of the Nehruvian assumption that the domain of religion would gradually shrink. Instead of religion disappearing from the public sphere, the state became the principal agent of Hindu reform. The court rulings have, thus, furthered the reformist agenda of the Indian state at the expense of religious freedom and neutrality. The Court has also become an ally - often inadvertently - of the Hindu nationalists in their aggressive demands for homogenization and uniformity. [Another version of this chapter has appeared in Articles of Faith: Religion, Secularism, and the Indian Supreme Court (
: OUP, 2010).] Bibliography Delhi
- 1. Constituent Assembly Debates (1967) Lok Sabha Secretariat ,
- 2. Derrett, J. D. M. (1968) Religion, Law and the State in India Faber & Faber ,
- 3. Dhavan, Rajeev (
November 26 1994) The Ayodhya Judgment: Encoding Secularism in the Law. Economic and Political Weekly
- 4. Dhavan, Rajeev and Nariman, Fali Kirpal, B. N. (ed) (2000) The Supreme Court and Group Life: Religious Freedom, Minority Groups, and Disadvantaged Communities. Supreme but not Infallible: Essays in Honour of the Supreme Court of India
Press , Oxford University New Delhi
- 5. Engineer, Asghar Ali (ed) (1990) Babri-Masjid Ramjanambhumi Controversy Ajanta Publications ,
- 6. Galanter, Marc (1997) Law and Society in Modern India
Press , Oxford University New Delhi
- 7. Mehta, Pratap Bhanu Diamond, Larry, Plattner, Marc F. and Costopoulos, Philip J. (eds) (2005) Hinduism and Self-Rule. World Religions and Democracy Johns
Press , Hopkins and Baltimore London
- 8. Mehta, Pratap Bhanu Banchoff, Tom (ed) (2008) On The Possibility of Religious Pluralism. Challenges of Religious Pluralism in a Global
Press , Era Oxford University Oxford
- 9. Menski, Werner F. (January 2004) From Dharma to Law and Back? Postmodern Hindu law in a Global World.
Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics — Working Paper No. 20 Heidelberg
- 10. Mitra, Subrata K. O'Sullivan, Noel (ed) (1997) Religion, Region and Identity: Sacred Beliefs and Secular Power in a Regional State Tradition of India. Aspects of India: Essays on Indian Politics and Culture
AjantaPublications , Delhi
- 11. Mudaliar, Chandra Y. (1974) The Secular State and Religious Institutions in India: A Study of the Administration of Hindu Public Religious Trusts in Madras Franz Steiner Verlag ,
- 12. Nandy, Ashis (2001) The Twilight of Certitudes: Secularism, Hindu Nationalism and other masks of Deculturation. Time Warps: Silent and Evasive Pasts in Indian Politics Permanent Black ,
- 13. Presler, Franklin A. (1987) Religion Under Bureaucracy: Policy and Administration for Hindu Temples in
Press , India Cambridge University Cambridge
- 14. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli (1947) Religion and Society Allen and Unwin ,
- 15. Rankin, George C. (1946) Background to the
Press , Indian Law Cambridge University Cambridge
- 16. Sarkar, Sumit (1993) An Exploration of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Tradition Indian Institute of Advanced Study , Shimla
- 17. Tribe, Laurence (1988) American Constitutional Law Foundation Press ,
- 18. Tripathi, P. K. Sharma, G. S. (ed) (1966) Secularism: Constitutional Provision and Judicial Review. Secularism: Its Implications for Law and Life in India N.M. Tripathi ,
- 19. Vivekananda, Swami The Collected Works of Swami Vivekananda pp. 1971-1973. Advaita Ashrama ,
from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas
A hundred years ago, civil resistance as a political force was not much more than a minor curiosity. Although it had theoretical roots in the ideas of Thoreau, Tolstoy and Ruskin, in the realm of worldly application Mohandas Gandhi’s work for the rights of Indians in
was about the only feather in its cap. Today, that is no longer so. The idea of civil resistance today has a history, a dignity, an allure, a vocabulary (agitations in the Philippines in the eighties gave rise to the term “people power”; the Czech writer Vaclav Havel produced a famous essay called “The Power of the Powerless”; the peaceful transfer of power in Prague in 1989 threw up the term "velvet revolution"). […] South Africa
One of the key emphases of Civil Resistance & Power Politics is that it understands civil resistance not as an ideal of moral action and non-violent “conversion” of the adversary through “truth-force” as Gandhi saw it, but simply as a strategy of practical politics. Moral transformation of the adversary is not essential to successful civil resistance. As the second half of the book’s title indicates, civil resistance is often a response to “power politics” – the negligence, manipulation, and active oppression demonstrated by those in power. But it seeks to counter that with a power politics of its own. Its morality is restricted to non-violence; beyond that it may legitimately be all calculation and pragmatism. We should neither romanticise the idea of civil resistance, nor believe, despite some of the more stirring stories around it, that it infallibly reaches its projected ends.
Indeed, as the scholar Judith M. Brown argues in a clear-eyed review of Gandhi’s civil resistance campaigns, mass action strategised by the most celebrated practitioner of the method, even though it significantly changed the terms of imperial engagement with the colonised, could not really be said to have brought an end to empire, as some hold. Other political and economic circumstances, such as the Second World War and Britain's own faltering interest in the idea of empire, were just as influential in tilting the balance of history in favour of Indian independence.
Gandhi certainly radically enlarged the terms of protest and negotiation available to the disenfranchised, and laid down a frame where any person, even a child, could join the movement as a political actor. Yet even here, Brown shows, his local campaigns directed towards a specific end, such as the farmers’ agitations in Champaran and Bardoli, were much more successful than his pan-Indian campaigns, where it became harder to exercise discipline all the way down the line. Among the lessons we learn from Gandhi’s example is that civil resistance does not usually yield instant results: it shifts the balance of power step by step. We learn also that much depends on the timing of civil protest, and on the adversary’s willingness to engage. During the Quit India campaign of 1942, for instance, the Raj’s attention was directed towards the World War, and Congress leaders engaged in programs of civil resistance were summarily rounded up and thrown into jail. The movement was not a success. So, as the career of even the most successful exponent of civil resistance shows, skilful strategy (and not just moral rigour) can immeasurably help improve the efficacy of civil resistance. […]
Most importantly, mass commitment, as Gandhi realised, makes for campaigns that cannot be crushed easily and without loss of face and authority, and provides a kind of safety in numbers. […] The merit of this anthology is in the way it takes the reader forward from civil resistance as a beautiful and moving idea to civil resistance as, if you will, prosaic practice. Even as it seeks to reshape history itself, civil resistance has much to learn from its own history, and, as this book demonstrates, much history today to learn from. […] And here are two old posts: "On the Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi" and "On Vaclav Havel's To The Castle And Back". [A shorter version of this essay appeared last weekend in Mint Lounge] [Gandhi: A Sublime Failure S. S. Gill]
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Savitri - a Brief Introduction (Four Talks) Mangesh Nadkarni
India's Spiritual Destiny Mangesh Nadkarni
Hindu Muslim Unity Dr Mangesh Nadkarni
The problems of human unity in Sri Aurobindo's light (Sri A. B. Patel memorial lectures) M. V Nadkarni
Indian renaissance and future of the world: from R.Y. Deshpande's book "Sri Aurobindo ... Journal of Humanities and Peace R.Y. Deshpande
SRI AUROBINDO AND THE NEW MILLENNIUM R.Y. Deshpande
India. A different perspective.: Changing India looking at itself Pradeep MaheshwariGandhi Aurobindo and Radhakrishnan on Bhagavadgita A.N. Mishra and Geeta Satpathy Susmit Pani
Indian Idea of Political Resistance: Aurobindo, Tilak, Gandhi, and Ambedkar Ashok S. Chousalkar
The Hindu Personality in Education: Tagore, Gandhi, Aurobindo William Cenkner
Swaraj: Thoughts of Gandhi, Tilak, Aurobindo, Raja Rammohun Roy, Tagore and Vivekananda Amulya Ranjan Mohapatra
Netaji Subhas Confronted the Indian Ethos (1900-1921): Yogi Sri Aurobindo's " Terrorism " , Poet Tagore's " Universalism " , and Mahatma Gandhi's " Experimental Non-Violence " Adwaita P. Ganguly
Among the great;: Conversations with Romain Rolland, Mahatma Gandhi, Bertrand Russel, Rabindranath Tagore, Sir Aurobindo Dilip Kumar Roy
Gandhi and Aurobindo Bankim Chandra Chatterji
The metaphysical bases and implications of Indian social ideals in traditional India, Gandhi and Aurobindo (University of Hawaii) John M Koller
Law of karma: As perceived by Mahatma Gandhi, Aurobindo, Swami Vivekanand, Radha Krishnan Nirmala Jha
Indian idea of freedom: Political thought of Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghose, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rabindranath Tagore Dennis Gilmore Dalton
Sri Aravinda aura Mahatma Gandhi ke darsanom ka samikshatmaka adhyayana Pratibha Srivastav
Social and political orientations of Neo-Vedantism: Study of the social philosophy of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Bipin Chandra Pal, Tagore, Gandhi, Vinoba and Radhakrishnan S. L Malhotra
Modern Vedanta: Ghandi's philosophy compared with the philosophies of Vivekananda, Raman Mahershi, Tagore, Aurobindo Ramatirtha, Radha Krishanan and Deen Dayal Upadhaya P. K Das
Hinterlands and Horizons: Excursions in Search of Amity (Global Encounters) Margaret Chatterjee
Social and political evolution of man as visioned by Sri Aurobindo Samar Basu
Glimpses of Vedantism in Sri Aurobindo's political thought Samar Basu
The UNO, the world government, and the ideal of world union as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo Samar Basu
Glimpses of Vedantism in Sri Aurobindo's political thought Samar Basu
The UNO, the world government, and the ideal of world union as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo Samar Basu