Cultural Dynamics Book Review: Gandhi's Vision and Values: The Moral Quest for Change in Indian Agriculture
Romesh Diwan Cultural Dynamics 1999; 11; 366 DOI: 10.1177/092137409901100303 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Globalization is proceeding uninhibited creating colonial environments in a number of large countries (Diwan. the world’s 225 billionaires have a combined wealth of $1 trillion. There is therefore a search for alternatives that look beyond narrow economics into values. of course. There is an increasing space for alternatives. Gore (1992) makes a strong case that the western civilization and Earth’s ecological system are on a collision course because of the strategic threats caused by (i) population explosion. That’s what makes Vivek Pinto’s book. There are clear signals that the world economy is in stress. Millions are suffering. 1998c). 67). (ii) scientific and technological revolution. under review. Globalization is not working. 1992: 12). In 1998. ‘It is my contention . Sustainability Needs Gandhian Values The world today is going through a series of serious problems. both important and highly relevant. The basic question this book asks is: can the ethical and moral principles with which Gandhi experimented initially in Hind Swaraj and then in his agricultural communities. Yet. which equals the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people (UNDP. spiritual’ (Gore. It is now recognized that American Indians are sages and not at MADURAI KAMRAJ UNIV on June 18. With the financial meltdown in the Asian economies. non-violent and self-reliant society? The answer is. and (iii) ideology—our way of thinking. that the malaise affecting the Indian nation is primarily moral and only secondarily economic and political’ (p.366 Cultural Dynamics 11(3) VIVEK PINTO Gandhi’s Vision and Values: The Moral Quest for Change in Indian Agriculture. . for want of a better word. . one observes the rise and fall of economic orthodoxy (Diwan. 1998. 1998c). especially for Gandhian vision and values. Gore puts it succinctly: ‘The more deeply I search for the roots of the global environmental crisis. the more I am convinced that it is an outer manifestation of an inner crisis that is. overconsumption is accelerating unabated. . poverty-free. 1998a. New Delhi: Sage. The ideology promotes consumerist culture that glorifies the market: ‘The market is both the natural condition of mankind and the unique blessing of the American Eden . 2009 . serve as the basis for reconstructing a harmonious. as it was Gandhi’s. Ellul (1965) calls it propaganda. NATO is bombing Serbian Yugoslavia to destruction while Gorbachev is worried that it may lead to a ‘hot’ world war. yes and consistent with earlier analyses (Diwan.sagepub. Downloaded from http://cdy. 176 pp. 1995). In Vivek’s own words. 1998). 1997: 260–1). buying and selling are holy acts. Global inequality is growing. The major source of this problem lies in greed and overconsumption promoted by market ideology (Diwan. the source of human meaning’ (Frank and Weiland. . 1985).

duty to strengthen character. Therefore. simple sustenance. This is derived from Gandhi’s religious heritage and two personal experiences: (i) June 1893. ethics and morality derived from religious values. ‘Relation of Gandhi’s Religious Perspectives to Agricultural Issues: An Exploration of Theory and Practice. (ii) Tolstoy Farm made up of 1. Hence it must win. For Downloaded from http://cdy. This idea is discussed at length in Chapter 1. respect for the dignity of labour. vegetarianism. belief in nature cure and industry. and fearless thereby inculcating in them the conduct most suitable for satyagrahis. From these principles followed the daily conduct of simple life.100 acres near Johannesburg (30 May 1910–January 1913). truthfulness. (iii) Satyagrah (Sabarmati) Ashram. the village is the epicentre of civilization. where individuals are filled with a sense of their spiritual and social obligation to one another and society. discussed well in Indian Opinion (1903–14). The goals of the community were communal harmony. In the Gandhian view. service. 2009 . values that enhance spiritual well-being. it is a short book divided in four chapters. fearlessness in opposing injustice and a vow of poverty. manual labour. practitioners of Ahimsa. Gandhi had. The objective of the ashrams was not only to develop persons of character but also viable at MADURAI KAMRAJ UNIV on June 18. He has an ordinary knowledge of the world. He realized that the truth is on the side of the Indian community. floggings and hanging of Zulus. civilization is the creation of institutions and structures that not only satisfy basic material needs. pursuit of sociopolitical aims. 1909–1948. where he witnessed first hand British atrocities through ferocious use of machine guns. Segaon. so well depicted in the film Gandhi.Book Reviews 367 Based on Vivek’s PhD thesis. simplicity. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards his parents. The ashrams were run on high moral principles: brahmacharya. his wife. a farm near Durban (Natal 1904–14). especially a peasant. a great faith in the common man. The self-reliance on their own hands and feet builds their character and makes them true votaries of swaraj. A peasant earns his bread honestly. when he was physically ejected from a railway compartment at Maritzburg railway station. Kochrab to Ahmadabad (20 May 1915–1933). ‘Hind Swaraj: Context and Text for Gandhi’s Religiously Shaped Views on Agricultural Development’. He understands and observes the rules of morality. but also. equality. Wardha (April 1936). Ahimsa. and (iv) Sevagram Ashram. brotherhood. Gandhi described his struggle as a war between truth and falsehood.sagepub. maintaining good health. seeking right education. frugality and no private ownership of land. The civilization success lies in this conduct based on character. his children and his fellow villagers. therefore. self-sufficiency. Chapter 2. The relevant concepts then are: duty. and more importantly. This made him question intensely the notion of Britain as a nation of civilized people. and (ii) during mid-1906 when he volunteered in the military’s ambulance service for both Europeans and Zulus during the Zulu war. manual labour. entitled.’ describes Gandhi’s practices in four ashrams: (i) Phoenix settlement.

Gujarat. It asks such questions as: to whom did the proportional benefits of this strategy accrue. and the role of the state. trusteeship. many principles of constructive programmes have taken root in India and Vivek Pinto provides examples of three contemporary institutions: Sewa (Self-employed Women’s Association). 1985). The market economic system defines wealth in material terms only. bias in agricultural planning. 1997). Agricultural development has been geared to the big farmers with urban ties. The crisis that affects Indian agriculture is only symptomatic of the economy and politics of agriculture. A proper ‘test of every policy is not Downloaded from http://cdy. 1951–1974’. non-exploitation and equality (developed in Diwan and Lutz. There is also wealth of the third kind. irrigated land and a marketable surplus’ (p. ‘at its heart the predicament is moral’. The conclusion follows: development is possible only if moral values are directly integrated. specifically. regions and crops? What was the price of modernization? Were prices used for manipulative purposes? Did it polarize the countryside? Like many other scholars before.368 Cultural Dynamics 11(3) analytical purposes. These programmes are essential to remove poverty in the world today (Diwan. the author concludes: ‘there does exist a bias not only in investments. relational wealth (Diwan. There are other such activities currently taking place in India (Diwan. It summarizes Gandhi’s constructive programme whose key elements were to establish communal unity. Chapter 3 is ‘A Review of Planned Agricultural Development in India and a Gandhian Critique. The last chapter discusses. Thereby it distorts the production process. Rajasthan. it uses six concepts of Gandhian economics: swadeshi. price policy and sectoral terms of trade. aprigraha. It describes historically Nehru’s Macaulayite ideas that defined agricultural policies. near Udaipur. and the Self-imposed Land-use Plan in Seed. Contrary to public perception. terms of trade. bread labour. Ahmadabad. develop nonviolent unions and abolish social evils. but also with respect to price at MADURAI KAMRAJ UNIV on June 18. destroying family and community. namely. 100). These are looked at from the objectives of promoting equity and social justice. promote adult education. Sarva Seva Sanghs provide the operational and organizational structure for a constructive programme. ‘Development with a Human Face: Gandhi’s Constructive Program and Current Alternatives’. 1999a). The discussion is in terms of plan investments. I have summarized Gandhian economic policy (Diwan. Scholars now contend that in addition to material wealth there is also natural wealth. The analysis is taken forward by subjecting it to analysis through the lenses of the concepts of Gandhian economics outlined in the earlier chapter. 1999c). 2009 . 1999b). Baburao Hazare’s experiment at Ralegaon Siddhi. green revolution and land reforms. Maharashtra. estimates suggest that natural wealth is much larger than material wealth. which strata of farmers. Ahmadnagar district. remove untouchability. The path proposed for recreating Indian agriculture is formulated on Gandhi’s moral and ethical principles.

individual character and sensitivity’ (Hinduism Today. Romesh (1998c) ‘Rise and Fall of Economic Orthodoxy: Swadeshi a New Alternative’.sagepub. The Tribune (Chandigarh. Romesh (1997) ‘Gandhian Economics: Enoughness as Real Wealth’. Romesh (1998a) ‘Gandhi. in Trent Schroyer (ed..–Sept. Hindu. Diwan. Unlike that book. it is full of quotes from original sources and provides a wealth of information. such as confusing leftist ideas with Gandhian wisdom. Romesh (1999b) ‘Mahatma Gandhi.): 220–4. Gandhi Marg 20(4) (Jan. 1998). Vivek Pinto shows a clear grasp of these ideas and concepts. Overall. A Toes Book. Chinese. Asian Thought and Society. Romesh (1985) ‘On the Relevance of Gandhian Economics’. also in its electronic edn).–Dec. 27 Sept. 1998).–March): 421–44. the US. this book brings commonsense and wisdom to everyday problems in agriculture. Romesh (1996) ‘Review of “Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action” by Dennis Dalton’. Romesh (1995) ‘Globalisation: Myth and Reality’. No doubt. employment or growth. 86–91. pp. Diwan. in Philip O’Hara (ed. Diwan. India Post 220(5) (16 Oct. 1998b). India. Even in the US. London: Routledge. Diwan. Relational wealth adds to natural wealth and requires conduct based on ethical and moral values. It is a highly readable book and I have great pleasure in recommending it to the reader. 1996). corporate welfare is being documented (Time. Our global economy and society cannot be sustained without Gandhi’s vision and values. Vivek Pinto’s book is thus very timely. and all the more important in view of its essentiality for our current malaise (Diwan. an International Review 20(61–2) (Jan.): 291–312. Romesh (1998b) ‘Essentiality of Swadeshi’. His treatment of Swadeshi is a good one.) A World that Works: Building Blocks for a Just and Sustainable Society. Diwan. New York: The Bootstrap Press. pp. but how it strengthens family and community. Like Dennis Dalton’s book on Gandhi. 2009 .): 72–3. Diwan. Gandhi Marg 20(3) (Oct. There is growing questioning of capitalist and corporate values.). Diwan. The Hindustan Times (10 Feb.): 13–33. Amartya Sen and Poverty’. Diwan.Book Reviews 369 profit. the land of the brave and corporate sacred cows.) Encylopedia of Political Economy. Downloaded from http://cdy. Mayan and other earlier civilizations are asserting the necessity and importance of the values of their heritage for sustainability. where Gandhian ideas of Hind swaraj are neither understood or appreciated (Diwan. and the World: A Bridge to the Twenty First Century’. Indian Economics Association Conference Volume (Dec. REFERENCES Diwan. one can disagree with certain arguments and statements. at MADURAI KAMRAJ UNIV on June 18. 387–8. Inheritors of the American Indian. Romesh (1999a) ‘Gandhian Political Economy’.

Frank. Knopf. 2009 . Thomas and Matt Weiland (1997) Commodify your Dissent. Hinduism Today (1998) ‘Ethical Economics’.).com at MADURAI KAMRAJ UNIV on June 18.W. ROMESH DIWAN Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation. New York: W. UN Development Program (1998) Human Development Report. Ellul. Journal of Socio-Economics (forthcoming). Troy. Jaques (1965) Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. Al (1992) Earth In The Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Romesh (1999c) ‘Relational Wealth and the Quality of Life’. Norton. eds (1985) Essays in Gandhian Economics. New York: Plume edn. Vintage Books edn. (March): 36–7.370 Cultural Dynamics 11(3) Diwan. Time (1998) ‘What Corporate Welfare Costs You’ (9 Nov. 1973. NY Downloaded from http://cdy. New York: United Nations.sagepub. Diwan. New York: Alfred A. Romesh and Mark Lutz. Gore.

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