The UnGandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma
This major study reconsiders the creation of the Gandhian legend through the myriad texts and images that helped spread it through both India and the Western world. In revealing how the picture of the Mahatma as saint-as-politician was founded on Indian nationalistic selectivity and limited Western representations of Gandhi, Claude Markovits shows how Gandhi's legend has obscured the facts of his public career. Gandhi's professional role in the public sphere, Markovits argues, was heavily influenced by his long and critical phase of maturation in South Africa, a period often dismissed as the precursor to his celebrated work in India. Markovits proposes that Gandhi's later Indian career, marked by his meteoric rise to prominence, was the result of his own radical self-reinvention as he negotiated the pitfalls of political life in order to create his influential political manifesto. In re-evaluating critical stages of Gandhi's career, and his sometimes ambivalent ideological positions, Markovits confronts the discrepancies between his early and late careers, closely rereading the Mahatma's varying intellectual positions as described both within his own writings and in those by commentators and biographers. Rather than seeing Gandhi as an upholder of traditional Indian values, Markovits stresses the paradoxical modernity of Gandhi's anti-modernism.
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It helped a lot for my his/civ assignment and also increased my knowledge
Hilarious in its Eurocentrism- the author thinks Gandhi was more influenced by Ruskin and Tolstoy than Raichandbhai Mehta- whom he'd actually met. The fact is Tolstoy and Ruskin appeal to highly sophisticated literary tastes. Gandhi only read (and translated) small portions from such authors. Raichandbhai Mehta- you can find his collected works on the web- is very readable for Indians and abounds in didactic and mythological tales. Hindus, in particular, find him a great introduction to the Jain portion of their heritage.
The book is quite comprehensive on the relevant literature available in European languages- all of which is superficial or has an axe to grind- while failing to look at the stuff which really matters, viz. the vernacular literature that propagated the 'Mahatma' mythology, the vast 'Gandhian novel' genre in every Indic language, the countless Religious discourses given by Seers of various communities- including Muslim sects- as well as the scurrilous lampoons upon Gandhi as well as reasoned attacks.
Gandhi was less an individual than an 'availability cascade' heavily promoted by industrialists to their own clear and proven benefit. Tata gave Gandhi 5000 pounds when he was in South Africa- this boosted the standing of his house immediately. However, at a later point, Gandhi and CF Andrews also intervened on the side of management during a strike at the Tata TISCO operation. Later, when it was a question of placating striking Bengalis, Subhash Chandra Bose was brought in. However, Gandhi remained the industrialist's favorite because he offered a cast iron guarantee not to rock the boat.
The real question a book like this should ask is why Gandhi went for voluntary registration back in 1908 after opposing compulsory registration. I think he thought he'd spotted some wonderful legal loophole. He hadn't. What he'd done was, in effect, was to say Registeration is a good and salutary thing. We just ask to do it voluntarily because otherwise we come across like stupid children who don't know what's good for them and have to be compelled to take their medicine.
Gandhi had simply made a stupid mistake. He then has to invent some nonsensical notion of Satyagraha so as to avoid admitting he'd made a boo boo.
The three bizarre features of his concept are
1) no merging of struggles. Even when the Chinese and the Indians were being arrested together- their causes must be kept separate. Later this would mean he could join the 'Khilafat' struggle because he didn't really want Khilafat (establishment of the Caliphate).
2) Only celibates can do true Satyagraha. For some reason this also means that he doesn't need to keep proper accounts like the Chinese Association (which broke up in acrimony) for monies received.
3) Satyagraha can't achieve anything durable save by means of Satyagraha. Force of arms can achieve something durable without further recourse to force of arms provided a credible threat of its use remains in place. This is not the case with Satyagraha because it is all ripeness and no fruit. If Satyagraha appears to have achieved anything, then, actually it hasn't, because it is no longer Satyagraha and something else has supervened. However, Satyagraha must always appear to be able achieve something durable. Otherwise people would develop the bad habit of beating the shit out of Gandhi.
Altogether, the doctrine of Satyagraha was exactly what the industrialists needed to mobilize the masses for things like Tariff Protection for themselves while also preventing those same masses from getting anything for themselves.
The issue on which Gandhi re-started Satyagraha was that of free admittance of educated Indians to Transvaal.
Gandhian Ethical thought stands comparison with that of Kant or Rawls or Levinas- not because Gandhi was good at logic- but because his Ethics cashes out as something equally stupid.
Perceptions of Gandhi
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Gandhi in History
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