Gandhi’s ‘True’ Politics and the Integrity of the Good Life: Satya, Swaraj, Tapasya, and Satyagraha

In Mrinal Miri & Bindu Puri (eds.), Gandhi for the 21st Century: Religion, Morality and Politics. Springer Nature Singapore. pp. 2147483647-2147483647 (2023)
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Abstract

This essay will suggest that Gandhi’s true/real politics can be best understood in terms of the integrity of his ideas. This integrity refers to the fact that Gandhi was a man of integrity but more importantly to the fact that there was an integrity between his ideas and practice and between his ideas themselves. The continuities that we read in Gandhi—between politics and religion, politics religion and morality, the human being and nature and the past and present—can best be unpacked if one were to understand this integrity. This essay will argue that one way to understand it would be to see that Gandhi’s arguments in economics, politics, religion, and even aesthetics drew from his fundamental moral convictions. Accordingly, the first part of this essay will suggest that Gandhi’s politics was premised on his integrity, i.e. on the idea that a human being ought to live an undivided life integrated around and by a commitment to his/her fundamental moral beliefs. The second part of the essay will argue then that a truly meaningful philosophical critique of Gandhi’s politics would only be one which could demonstrate how and where Gandhi’s politics failed to remain integrated with his fundamental moral convictions, i.e. which demonstrated how the integrity between Gandhi’s ideas themselves and between his ideas and practice broke so to say. In this context, the second section of the essay will bring in and philosophically examine Ajay Skaria’s, (Skaria, 2016) argument that satyagraha as a religion of the question (always seeking the truth which the satyagrahi did not know) involved the use of force and the imposition of the thekana/proper on the other. The essay will discuss this critique with a view to examine if it demonstrates that Gandhi’s practice disrupted his integrity both of his character and that between his ideas.

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Bindu Puri
Jawaharlal Nehru University

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