Mahatma Gandhi And Social Change – Philosophy Notes- For W.B.C.S. Examination.
মহাত্মা গান্ধী এবং সামাজিক পরিবর্তন – দর্শন শাস্ত্রের নোট- WBCS পরীক্ষা।
In his voluminous writings, Gandhi touched or dwelt upon myriad issues of interpersonal, intergroup and individual-group relations that affected society and called for reform and even revolutionary change in the structure, institutions, processes and value orientations of society. Although his perspective was Universalist in nature, his point of departure was the contemporary Indian situation.Continue Reading Mahatma Gandhi And Social Change – Philosophy Notes- For W.B.C.S. Examination.
Social change in India constituted his immediate goal and priority. In the pursuit of this objective, he fashioned a programme of social reconstruction that evolved from his experiences and experiments in various areas of social life in a kind of trial and error process. He was deeply conscious of the inertial drag of tradition as well as the natural propensities of man to pursue narrow and immediate interests and dominate his fellow beings.
The central feature of Gandhi’s thought is that it is man centred, not system centred. Its premise is the moral autonomy of man and the possibility of his lasting liberation from his own lower self and the impersonal and compelling dictates of the structure of society. The ideal social order is that which gives man the opportunity to realize his moral autonomy and encourages him always to exercise this autonomy in an enlightened manner that is conducive to individual and collective well-being.
The movement from the existing imperfect state of man and society towards perfection requires the inculcation of certain fundamental values by man along with the establishment of social instrumentalities, which will promote and ensure the perennial primacy of these values.
However, Gandhi postulates the inseparability of ‘ends’ (values) and ‘means’ (instrumentalities) that is the dialectical unity of cause and effect. Therefore, a logical discrimination between values and instrumentalities is not possible – nor even desirable – in his thought.
It is in this context that the basic issues of social change in his writings have to be identified. In other words, these issues cannot be classified into neat categories labelled ‘values’ and ‘instrumentalities’. Rather, they form a configuration that can only be analysed in terms of certain objectives, which need to be woven into the social fabric.
From this point of view, we may identify the basic issues of social change prescribed by Gandhi as the institution of human dignity and equality; the elevation of labour to a high dignity; the quest for self-reliance; the propagation of the principle of trusteeship; the pursuit of truth and ahimsa; the establishment of a socially purposive system of education; the recognition of tolerance as a primary value; the realization of the inseparability of ends and means; and the urge towards a rational and scientific view of life.
Before proceeding to a brief elucidation of these issues, it is necessary to point out that, in contrast to other modern thinkers, Gandhi distilled most of his ideas from a-secular premises. This is clearly seen, for instance, in his justification of equality and his prognosis for sustaining the egalitarian imperative.
Modern egalitarianism has been derived from a positivist theory of natural rights, or from the logic that it is not possible to determine relative primacy between the infinite hierarchies of classification, or from the irrationality of discrimination between incomparable individualities. Gandhi, on the other hand, eschews such abstract considerations and bases his concept of equality on the monistic premise of advaita philosophy that all sentient beings possess divinity as ultimately inalienable parts of the Supreme Being.
His belief in the Supreme Being, who manifested himself inter alia in an immanent moral law of the universe and was the ultimate reality, identical with the absolute truth, was the core of his thought. But his theism was rationally constructed and argued and it was devoid of mystical elements. Indeed, his calculus of good and evil was based upon secular and rational criteria and it is possible to argue that his references to the Supreme Being had a metaphorical quality inasmuch as they sought to enjoin socially constructive conduct. To him, religions were valuable not because they were built on the idea of communion with God, but because they gave strength to ethical principles and conduct. In other words, despite the a-secular foundations of some of them, his social ideas were rationalistic in their content and orientation.
To return to the issues of social change identifiable in Gandhi’s vision, the institution of human dignity and equality as the guiding principles and objectives for social reconstruction derived from his belief that every human being, by virtue of the element of divinity in him, must be recognized as having intrinsic worth and as deserving of the highest respect, and he should feel and be free to achieve his full potential.
Denial of dignity or equality to an individual was thus unacceptable, not so much for being offensive to formal human rights, as for its effect of crushing his spirit and denying the Supreme Being itself. The dismantling of the artificial barriers that categorized human beings according to descending scales of dignity and equality was a sine qua non for the ideal society and necessitated a conscious realization of the moral indefensibility of these categories on the part of those who were responsible for their sustenance and benefited from them. But it also required the assertion of the right to dignity and equality by the victims of their denial.
Gandhi extended the application of these concepts beyond individuals to group identities, such as religious communities, cultural and linguistic entities, regions, and other distinctive social collectives. His view that the oppressed and the underprivileged must struggle for their own liberation is evident in his social crusades against untouchability and for gender equality, for all through, he insisted that it was as much a duty for the untouchables and women to strive for their emancipation from social degradation and inequality as it was for the rest of society.
Although he was categorical in upholding the principle of merit, he did not reject the principle of positive discrimination outright and, in fact, recognized the urgent need for providing the conditions and wherewithal for the backward and the underprivileged to bring them on par with the privileged sections of society.
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