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The Western civilisation revolves around materialism and massive consumerist culture through multimedia, information technology, modern education, globalised networking and liberal market economy with international corporate norms and functioning. Gandhi calls this civilisation as immoral and merely a nine days wonder. Western civilisation itself has now started realising its limitations and inherent follies while Gandhi had predicted and analysed them about a hundred years ago. Just look at the visionary nature of Gandhis understanding of the national and global affairs not only in his own time but also much beyond of what anyone else can see and visualise! The fundamental pillars of a civilisation reside in its character building, moral strength, cultural diversity, equality among its citizens, least power to the State, decentralisation of political and economic power, suitable education, near full employment, social security and balanced development and education system. One civilisation must not impose its nature and salient features upon other civilisations through domination and exploitation. A civilisation must be nonviolent. Without nonviolence, by definition, a civilisation cannot be called as such. Civility is a must for any civilisation and it must not be borne on sleeves only. It must be truly human.

Gandhis critique of Western civilisation is not a blindfolded exposition of a bias of his own predilections. Otherwise, his ideas could not have become ever more relevant even for the Western world today.1 Gandhi had said that the Western civilisation is a nine days wonder and it is on the path of self destruction.2 As such, Gandhis relevance is ever increasing and widening in scope not only for relatively poorer developing and emerging populations but also the apparently developed countries of the comity of nations and present-day globalising international civil society. This subject of the Gandhian critique in this context needs more methodical and deeper study in a proper structural format for the purpose of better understanding. OBJECTIVE The major objective of this write up is to understand the nature of modern Western civilisation according to Gandhi. Another aspect is to grasp the meaning of civilisation and its interconnections with media, information technology (IT), education and other areas of existing life patterns such as globalisation etc. Therefore, keywords in this essay may be regarded as civilisation, education, globalisation, civilisational

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

domination and exploitation, just world order and a cohesive order, right not might, and civility of human behaviour. INTRODUCTION The Western civilisation is modern mechanised industrialising technologically developed civilisation with primarily democratic and free capitalist globalising market economy. Even India has largely adopted its main features such as its education, living style, political and economic institutions of a parliamentary democracy and mixed and capitalist economy alongwith continuous upward movement towards present-day globalisation. Mahatma Gandhi never wanted such a civilisation to be adopted in India of his dreams. Yet he knew that his ideal dream would not be practicably realised by his own country because India was not ripe for such a realisation and its realistic execution.3 Gandhi had therefore settled for the existing parliamentary democratic and economic system in our country until the time when India ripens into a nation ready to adopt the highest ideal of Gandhi in the form of an ideal society where the brute force of the State would not be needed due to pervasive and universal permeation of the rule of truth and nonviolence. For Gandhi that state is best which governs the least. Yet for Gandhi, all large scale industries, if needed at all, must be nationalised for the benefit of the wider population. ELEMENTS OF WESTERN CIVILISATION Modern or Western civilisation is more dependent on its outward projections such as its glamour, ostentatious ways, mechanisation, top heavy technology, irreligion and Satanic nature, superficial standards of knowledge in terms of its external requirements of automation, efficiency, education and use of modern information technology (IT) along with globalising values and ethics of a civil society, good governance (?) and ever widening canvass of dependence on Internet and Intranet.4 The main elements and features of this Western civilisation in the Gandhian framework of philosophy are: i. Western life style and clothing such as trousers, shirts, skirts, jeans, Tshirts, shoes, tinned food, Internet, sleeping late night, rising late in the

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

morning, non-vegetarianism, regular use of alcohol and intoxications etc. ii. Massive use of brute force of State diversely through modern media, ever modernising conventional armaments like Drona of United States, nuclear armaments and biological and chemical armaments as well as spying via satellite communications. iii. Technology and its recurring obsolescence in terms of ever new forms of technology becoming obsolete almost daily. For example, a laptop bought today will become obsolete and old fashioned within a years time. Then even its essential technological parts will also not be available from its company as well. iv. v. vi. In this sense also technology becomes ever enslaving and exploitative for the common masses. It is nearly impossible to ignore this technology in ones daily life. Governments and nations and civil society start fully depending on the modern Western technological networking beyond which there is no respite. These networks can cause to make and unmake governments in different countries of the world. vii. viii. ix. x. Labour saving technology leading humanity to utmost comfort and least possible of manual labour. More opportunities for increasing unemployment instead of ever more employment for common masses in poorer and emerging nations. Concentration of wealth and capital in fewer hands. Rising ecological threats as a result of Western technological interference with Nature. For example, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from air conditioners and modern transportation systems leading to recurring depletion of ozone layer resulting in increasing instances of ultraviolet radiation and skin cancers. This is just one example. There are, in effect, endless list of such instances in almost every area of human life today.

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

xi. xii.

Western civilisation is such that one needs to be patient and it will be self destroyed. It is like a Frankenstein. It is leading to several dilemmas of development such as population explosion and need for education and upliftment of the poor what should come first? Population control or development efforts?


There is very close relationship between Western civilisation and modern technology. This technology is seldom for an individual. It is always for massive consumption through influencing the minds and psychology of the masses the world over.


Despite above mentioned elements of Western civilisation, it is still believed that the current process of globalisation is permanent and continuous for bringing about a new and just world order! Is it really possible?

xv. xvi.

Western civilisation is blind to larger human values vis--vis its need for modern technology. The Western civilisation is also leading to social and political disruptions through its utter materialism and ever growing quest for armaments and domination of other cultures and civilisations of the world.

FUNDAMENTALS OF GANDHIAN CRITIQUE Cornerstones of the political philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi lie in the Panch Yama of Patanjalis Yogpardeep. The principles of truth, nonviolence, non-stealing, nonpossession and celibacy are the panch yama. It is on these five principles that entire edifice of Gandhis social, political and economic philosophy is based with the central theme of the place and role of the individual in every relevant sphere of life. From beginning till the end, in all his writings, individual is the main concern. It is this quest for an individuals peaceful and just life that Gandhi has devoted his philosophy of life to. Preserving and protecting an individuals interests versus modern Western mechanisation, industrialisation and technologicalisation is of grave importance to Gandhi. Technology must be labour-involving instead of labour saving.

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

The Western civilisation is, on the other hand, primarily based on modern mechanical and technology superconductors and chips and nanotechnology. In this technological world, an individual is losing ones identity and existence by becoming a slave to such modern Western trends of development. This is not acceptable to Gandhi although he appears to be ready to agree to certain dilutions in this matter especially when he finds a number of modern Western contexts as a necessity for India to pursue as a newly independent country and even otherwise in the international market, economy and polity.5 Therefore, Gandhi is not an impractical person. Instead he is highly mundane and down to earth practical idealist. GANDHIS VIEW ON MECHANISATION When Gandhian philosophy is studied, one often comes across several contradictions relating to various differing statements that Gandhi made from time to time. Gandhi says that whenever such contradictions arise anent his views and philosophy, it is better to believe in the later ones than the earlier opinions.6 As regards machinery and mechanisation, Gandhi says, It is machinery that has impoverished India. He further says, I cannot recall a single good point in connection with machinery. For him, The workers in the mills become slaves.7 On the other hand, Gandhi also says, Mechanisation is good when hands are too few for the work intended to be accomplished. It is evil where there are more hands than required8 Gandhi further says, The supreme consideration is man. The machine should not tend to atrophy the limbs of man. For instance, I would make intelligent exceptions. Take the case of Singers Sewing Machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented Replying to a question whether he was against all machinery, Gandhi said, How can I be when I know that even this human body is a most delicate piece of machinery? The spinning wheel is a machine; a little toothpick is a machine. What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such.9 At another place, Gandhi has said that: I entertain no fads in this regard [his avowed opposition to machinery and capital intensive technology] All that I desire is that every able-bodied citizen should be provided with gainful employment. If

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

electricity and even automatic energy could be used withoutcreating unemployment, I will not raise my little finger against it. If the Government could provide full employment to our people without the help of Khadi hand-spinning and hand-weaving industries, I shall be prepared to wind up my constructive programme in this regard.10 GANDHIS VIEW ON WESTERN EDUCATION In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi provides a vehement criticism of modern Western civilisation, education and massive industrialisation. As such, especially in Chapter XVIII entitled Education, he says: What is the meaning of education? It simply means a knowledge of letters. It is merely an instrument, and an instrument may be well used or abused. The same instrument that may be used to cure a patient may be used to take his life, and so may a knowledge of letters. We daily observe that many men abuse it and very few make good use of it; and if this is a correct statement, we have proved that more harm has been done by it than good. The ordinary meaning of education is a knowledge of letters. To teach boys reading, writing and arithmetic is called primary education. A peasant earns his bread honestly. He has ordinary knowledge of the world. He knows fairly well how he should behave towards his parents, his wife, his children and his fellow villagers. He understands and observes the rules of morality. But he cannot write his own name. What do you propose to do by giving him a knowledge of letters? Will you add an inch to his happiness? Do you wish to make him discontented with his cottage or his tot? And even if you want to do that, he will not need such an education. Carried away by the flood of western thought we came to the conclusion, without weighing pros and cons, that we should give this kind of education to the people. Now let us take higher education. I have learned Geography, Astronomy, Algebra, Geometry, etc. What of that? In what way have I

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

benefited myself or those around me? Why have I learned these things? Huxley has thus defined education: That man I think has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will and does with case and pleasure all the work that as a mechanism it is capable of, whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working order ... whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the fundamental truths of nature .... whose passions are trained to conic to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience ... who has learnt to hate all vileness and to respect others as himself. Such a one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education, for he is in harmony with nature. He will make the best of her and she of him. If this is true education, I must emphatically say that the sciences I have enumerated above I have never been able to use for controlling my senses. Therefore, whether you take elementary education or higher education, it is not required for the main thing. It does not make men of us. It does not enable us to do our duty. Moreover, I have not run down a knowledge of letters in all circumstances. All I have now shown is that we must not make of it a fetish In its place it can be of use and it has its place when we have brought our senses under subjection and put our ethics on a firm foundation. And then, if we feel inclined to receive that education, we may make good use of it. As an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is not necessary to make this education compulsory. Our ancient school system is enough. Character-building has the first place in it and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last.

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

And it is worthy of note that the systems which the Europeans have discarded are the systems in vogue among us. Their learned men continually make changes. We ignorantly adhere to their cast-off systems. They are trying each division to improve its own status. Wales is a small portion of England. Great efforts are being made to revive a knowledge of Welsh among Welshmen. The English Chancellor, Mr. Lloyd George is taking a leading part in the movement to make Welsh children speak Welsh. And what is our condition? We write to each other in faulty English, and from this even our M.A.s are not free; our best thoughts are expressed in English., the proceedings of our Congress are conducted in English; our best newspapers are printed in English. If this state of things continues for a long time, posterity will - it is my firm opinion - condemn, and curse us. Is it not a painful thing that, if I want to go to a court of justice, I must employ the English language as a medium and that when I become a barrister. I may not speak my mother tongue and that someone else should have to translate to me from my own language? Is not this absolutely absurd? Is it not a sign of slavery? Am I to blame the English for it or myself'? It is we, the English-knowing Indians that have enslaved India. The curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us. Nai Taleem or Basic Education Another feature of Gandhian philosophy of education concerns Gandhis stress on his New or Basic Education in 3Rs reading, writing and arithmetic along with the principle of learning and earning through regular practice including extra-curricular activities for children, adolescents, youth and adults alike. Gandhis experiments in his Tolstoy Farm -- at Phoenix in South Africa in 1904 - 1913 -- are replete with this feature of basic education involving daily manual work and vocational training also.11 Hygiene; manual work; learning and earning; extracurricular activities; reading, writing and arithmetic; vocational training; and character building are to be given top priority. The essence of this philosophy of education rests in self-sufficiency, confidence and character

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

building of an individual and the nation alike. One must begin from the smallest unit of humanity. Constructive Programme Another significant facet of Gandhian philosophy of education is seen in his Constructive Programme and also in his magnum opus, namely, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule. In his Constructive Programme, Gandhi lays focus on discipline of a civil disobedient nonviolent soldier, communal unity, removal of untouchability, training for promotion of khadi and other village industries, village sanitation, adult education, women as equal partners, economic equality, patriotism, prohibition, bravery and honesty. This constructive programme has to be put in its right Gandhian perspective of local, regional, national, international and global contexts. Eleven Vows Gandhi points out eleven vows as absolutely necessary rudiments for proper education in ethical values, imbibing Indian culture, personality development and character building. He has taken up these so-called eleven commandments from Patanjalis ancient work Yogapradeepta. These eleven vows are satya (truth), ahimsa (nonviolence), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-possession), brahmcharya (selfcontrol, self-discipline and celibacy), sharirshrama (bread-labour), aswada (palate control), sarvtra bhayavarjana (fearlessness and bravery), sarva dharma samantva (equality of all religions), swadeshi (using locally available resources and produced goods), sparsha bhavana (removal of untouchability). The first five vows, among these eleven, are also known as the panchyama of Patanjali. SOME OTHER ASPECTS OF WESTERN CIVILISATION Gandhi is very critical of the immoralities inherent in the Western civilisation such as utter materialistic thinking and behaviour leading to braking of families and socially ostracised old aged persons. There are so many other aspects and dimensions of modern Westernised behaviour and tendencies in this world of knowledge bloom and Internautian culture of a free world. Such Western civilisation is moving towards complete doom and destruction of social cohesiveness and order. Even ethical standards are becoming more commercial and

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation

technological than personal and social in nature. New money churning educational and other professions finance, management and information technology are emerging with their own ethics of the corporate world. Where does the individual stand in this world of the web of Aridnaes Thread? In addition, the modern Western modes of transportation spreading all over the world are also becoming carriers of ever new type of diseases and viruses like immune deficiency syndrome etc. How really inhuman civilisation is the widespread Western civilisation today? Yet, its comfort and glamour attract us and we remain stuck in its web. CONCLUSION Main perspectives of Gandhis critique of the Western civilisation have been discussed here. The focus of this essay is primarily on what Gandhi has to say in this matter. This is the major frame of reference in this research paper. However, the Gandhian type of Indian civilisation is possible in the twenty-first century only when individuals and nations alike keep away from absolute personal aggrandizement of political and economic power in the interest of public welfare oriented political will, proper intention and societal commitment. In the interest of mere human survival, one has to end certain practices and start anew with what Mahatma Gandhi has suggested in his Hind Swaraj. Ethical principles and character building provide the real bases to every human action on individual, national and international planes. The direction of not only the Indian education but also global education system has to be set right through root and branch transformation. What if materialism of the West and spiritualism of the East meet! Otherwise there cannot be any respite from the continued onslaught of the Western civilisation all over the world.

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation


References and Notes

Anurag Gangal, Gandhis Critique of Western Civilisation


* Professor and Head of Department, Political Science and Director, Gandhian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, India. S. C. Gangal and Anurag Gangal, Contemporary Global Problems: A Gandhian Perspective, Vinod Publishers, Jammu, 1995, pp. 2-3, 2-28. 2 M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Twentieth reprint, 2008, p. 33. 3 Ibid, pp. 25-36. 4 Ibid, p. 33; Anurag Gangal, Contemporary Issues: Gandhian Relevance, Pothi Publishers, Hyderabad, 2010, pp. 50-60. V. A. Patil and D. Gopal, Politics of Globalisation, (Authors Press, Delhi: 2002), pp. 01 11. The term globalisation was first coined in the 1980s, but the concept stretches back decades, and even centuries, if you count the trading empires by Spain, Portugal, Britain and Holland. The resolve of Western states to build and strengthen international ties in the aftermath of World War II laid the groundwork for todays globalisation. It has brought diminishing national borders and the fusing of individual national markets. The fall of protectionist barriers has stimulated free movement of capital and paved the way for companies to set up several bases around the world. . Supporters of globalisation say it has promoted information exchange, led to greater understanding of other cultures and allowed democracy to triumph over autocracy. Critics say that even in developed world, not everyone has been a winner. The freedoms granted by globalisation are leading to increased insecurity in workplace.. Many see globalisation as a primarily economic phenomenon, involving the increasing interaction, or integration, of national economic systems through the growth in international trade, investment and capital flows, one can also point to rapid increase in cross-border social, cultural and technological exchange as part of the phenomenon of globalisation. The sociologist, Anthony Giddens, defines globalisation as a decoupling of space and time, emphasising instantaneous communication, knowledge and culture shared around the world simultaneously. See pp 01 02. World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development IBRD) or World Bank, United Nations (UN) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) etcetera are a few major international organisations regulating the process of globalisation. Mahatma Gandhi places an individual at a prime spot in the social, political and economic setup in society. There is a widespread misconception that Gandhi stresses de-emphasis of individual self in pursuit of higher goals. David P. Brash and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Sage, California: 2002), p. 05. Individuals self-knowledge is the highest goal and the best instrument to bring inner, national and global peace and development for Gandhi. G. N. Dhawan, The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi (Navajivan, Ahmedabad: 1957), Chapters 03 07 and pp. 312 351.

M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Twentieth reprint, 2008, pp. 25-38. Harijan, 16 November 1939. Ram K. Vepa, New Technology: A Gandhian Concept, New Delhi, 1975, p. 70. M. K. Gandhi, From Yervada Mandir, Navajivan, Ahmedabad, 1933, pp. 96-97. 6 Harijan, 29.04.1933, p.2. Hind Swaraj, Ibid, p. 4. 7 Hind Swaraj, Ibid, pp. 80-84. 8 Op. cit. n. 5. 9 M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Twentieth reprint, 2008, pp. 7-9. 10 Ram K. Vepa, Op. cit. n. 5. 11 Gandhi, An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth, Part III, Chapter V; Part IV, Chapters XIX XXIII and XXXII; Harijan, 18 September 1937.