Gandhi is revered as a historic leader, the father of Indian independence, and the inspiration for nonviolent protest around the world. But the importance of these practical achievements has obscured Gandhi’s stature as an extraordinarily innovative political thinker. Ramin Jahanbegloo presents Gandhi the political theorist—the intellectual founder of a system predicated on the power of nonviolence to challenge state sovereignty and domination. A philosopher and an activist in his own right, Jahanbegloo guides us through Gandhi’s core ideas, shows how they shaped political protest from 1960s America to the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond, and calls for their use today by Muslims demanding change.
Gandhi challenged mainstream political ideas most forcefully on sovereignty. He argued that state power is not legitimate simply when it commands general support or because it protects us from anarchy. Instead, legitimacy depends on the consent of dutiful citizens willing to challenge the state nonviolently when it acts immorally. The culmination of the inner struggle to recognize one’s duty to act, Jahanbegloo says, is the ultimate “Gandhian moment.”
Gandhi’s ideas have motivated such famous figures as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. As Jahanbegloo demonstrates, they also inspired the unheralded Muslim activists Abul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, whose work for Indian independence answers those today who doubt the viability of nonviolent Islamic protest. The book is a powerful reminder of Gandhi’s enduring political relevance and a pioneering account of his extraordinary intellectual achievements.
[Jahanbegloo’s] elaborations on Gandhian thinking are nuanced and engaging, and serve as important responses to the political dilemmas posed by the struggles over democracy in the Middle East today… Directing Gandhi’s thinking toward contemporary concerns in this manner is a fruitful line of inquiry, and Jahanbegloo’s considerations are insightful.
More than ever, the world needs Gandhi today. Especially, in the face of Islam and Muslims being portrayed as synonymous with terrorism populist ideological responses of political Islam to Western hegemony have proved counterproductive. [Jahanbegloo] exhorts Muslim leaders to draw upon not only Gandhi but upon the non-violent contributions of people like [Abdul] Ghaffar Khan and [Maulana] Azad. For [Jahanbegloo], Gandhi’s formulations of self-examination, self-criticism and self-purification and their adaptations by leaders like Ghaffar Khan and Azad provide useful tools for taking Western models of conflict resolution towards more nuanced models of non-violence and peace.
Jahanbegloo offers a stimulating account of the theory and practice of Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance to injustice. In this short work, the author not only follows Gandhi’s Indian campaigns but also takes readers on brief excursions of Gandhian resistance to injustice elsewhere, particularly in the U.S. and South Africa. Especially welcome is his discussion of Maulana Azad and Ghaffar Khan, two Muslim advocates of communal harmony and Indian independence who were associates of Gandhi. Jahanbegloo pits a Hobbesian theory of the sovereignty of an omnipotent state that claims legitimacy for itself against Gandhi’s theory of the individual’s duty to resist injustice. He sees Gandhi’s arguments negating Hobbesian claims to legitimacy and leading to larger claims to nonviolent civil resistance. The Gandhian Moment is a solid, clearly written addition to the Gandhian literature.
Jahanbegloo has written a tightly focused examination of Gandhi’s philosophy and politics, emphasizing his central reliance in advocating nonviolence to challenge injustice and tyranny. Motivated by the need to end colonial rule in India, Gandhi drew on Hindu thought to assert the primacy of moral duty over individual rights. Yet he rejected Hindu chauvinism and promoted pluralism and inclusion to reach out to other communities in India, especially Muslims. As well as carefully analyzing Gandhi’s shaping of separate principles into a coherent view, Jahanbegloo demonstrates the continuing impact of Gandhian thought outside India, particularly upon Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights leadership, Nelson Mandela’s successful challenge to apartheid, and the spread of nonviolent demonstrations against repressive regions throughout the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Perhaps surprising to American readers, Jahanbegloo highlights Muslim leaders in the Indian independence movement who integrated Gandhian nonviolence into Islamic thought, contrary to recent claims that Islam is inherently violent or terrorist… This complex and serious analysis will interest readers willing to think rigorously about political philosophy and options for change in today’s world.
A stimulating and imaginative exploration of Gandhi’s nonviolence both as a method of resistance and as the basis of a new kind of national and global political order. It demolishes many a myth about Muslim societies and insightfully shows Gandhi’s relevance to them.
Jahanbegloo’s rediscovery of Gandhi makes a compelling case for the power of love to transform collective action against injustice and oppression. An eloquent and highly original contribution to Gandhi’s political philosophy that is becoming increasingly relevant in struggles against autocratic regimes around the world. A required reading for thinkers and activists alike.
Straddling political philosophy and activism, Jahanbegloo’s work situates Gandhi in today’s global political arena, where many of the Mahatma’s ideas and practices have assumed a fresh new meaning. There have been one or two books that have tried to place Gandhi in such a global context, but Jahanbegloo is, to my knowledge, unique in focusing on Gandhianism as a critique of modern, state-centered sovereignty. This represents an extraordinarily fruitful line of inquiry.
- 208 pages
- 5 x 7-1/2 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Foreword by the Dalai Lama
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