Gandhi in the Mirror of Foreign Scholars – edited by J S Mathur

Gandhi in the Mirror of Foreign Scholars
Edited by J S Mathur
National Gandhi Museum and Gyan Publishing House 2007
ISBN 81-212-0961-7 HB pp383 Rs 720

This substantial volume contains 49 essays, written over a period of 35 years, which first appeared in either The Journal of Gandhian Studies (the older ones) or Gandhi Prasang, a journal in Hindi and English, both edited by Prof. J S Mathur. The authors come from Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain, United States, Australia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, Ghana, Japan, and Finland and so the collection is an international one. Some of the authors are well known to readers of Gandhi literature such as Johan Galtung, Gene Sharp, E. F. Schumacher, Stanley Wolpert. The book contains several essays by the Nobel Prize winning economists Jan Tinbergen and Gunnar Myrdal.

The essays seem to cover two main issues: economics and development on the one hand, and peace, satyagraha and nonviolence on the other; a smaller number deal with more philosophical and multifaith issues. Gandhi is identified as an egalitarian but opinions differ on whether a core concept of his, namely trusteeship, can deliver this.

Myrdal praises his ‘integrated’ approach to economics, ie bringing in sanitation and health, nutrition, education, land ownership and so on. One of the essays I liked most is by William Stuart Nelson, a name I did not recognise. His essay is one of the most attractive expositions of Gandhian nonviolence I have come across. He was an African-American academic who visited India a number of times and was with Gandhi on
his tour of Noakhali in Bengal during the communal disturbances of 1947. He later gave strong support to Martin Luther King.

It is almost inevitable in a collection of essays that the quality will vary, and some disappoint with errors, but overall it presents a rich source of material by mainly non-Indian writers with expositions of many of Gandhi’s most important ideas.

George Paxton

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Categories: Reviews & Arts

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