Gandhian economics

Gandhian economics

Gandhian economics is a school of economic thought based on the socio-economic principles expounded by Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi. It is largely characterised by its affinity to the principles and objectives of socialism, but with a rejection of class war and promotion of socio-economic harmony. Gandhi's economic ideas also aim to promote spiritual development and harmony with a rejection of materialism. The term "Gandhian economics" was coined by J. C. Kumarappa, a close supporter of Gandhi.

Gandhi's economic ideas

Gandhi's thinking on socio-economic issues was greatly influenced by the American writer Henry David Thoreau. Throughout his life, Gandhi sought to develop ways to fight India's extreme poverty, backwardness and socio-economic challenges as a part of his wider involvement in the Indian independence movement. Gandhi's championing of "Swadeshi" and non-cooperation were centred on the principles of economic self-sufficiency. Gandhi sought to target European-made clothing and other products as not only a symbol of British colonialism but also the source of mass unemployment and poverty, as European industrial goods had left many millions of India's workers, craftsmen and women without a means of living. By championing homespun "khadi" clothing and Indian-made goods, Gandhi sought to incorporate peaceful civil resistance as a means of promoting national self-sufficiency. Gandhi led farmers of Champaran and Kheda in a "satyagraha" (civil disobedience and tax resistance) against the mill owners and landlords supported by the British government in an effort to end oppressive taxation and other policies that forced the farmers and workers and defend their economic rights. A major part of this rebellion was a commitment from the farmers to end caste discrimination and oppressive social practices against women while launching a co-operative effort to promote education, health care and self-sufficiency by producing their own clothes and food.

Gandhi and his followers also founded numerous "ashrams" in India (Gandhi had pioneered the "ashram" settlement in South Africa). The concept of an "ashram" has been compared with the commune, where its inhabitants would seek to produce their own food, clothing and means of living, while promoting a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, personal and spiritual development and working for wider social development. The "ashrams" included small farms and houses constructed by the inhabitants themselves. All inhabitants were expected to help in any task necessary, promoting the values of equality. Gandhi also espoused the notion of "trusteeship," which centred on denying material pursuits and coveting of wealth, with practitioners acting as "trustees" of other individuals and the community in their management of economic resources and property. Contrary to many Indian socialists and communists, Gandhi was averse to all notions of class warfare and concepts of class-based revolution, which he saw as causes of social violence and disharmony. Gandhi's concept of egalitarianism was centred on the preservation of human dignity rather than material development. Some of Gandhi's closest supporters and admirers included industrialists such as Ghanshyamdas Birla, Ambalal Sarabhai, Jamnalal Bajaj and J. R. D. Tata, who adopted several of Gandhi's progressive ideas in managing labour relations while also personally participating in Gandhi's ashrams and socio-political work.

Implementation in India

During India's freedom struggle as well as after India's independence in 1947, Gandhi's advocacy of homespun "khadi" clothing, the "khadi" attire (which included the Gandhi cap) developed into popular symbols of nationalism and patriotism. India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was a socialist as well as a close supporter of Gandhi. While Nehru was influenced by Gandhi's aversion to the brand of socialism practised in the Soviet Union, he was also an exponent of industralisation and critical of Gandhi's focus on rural economics.

Gandhian activists such as Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan were involved in the "Sarvodaya" movement, which sought to promote self-sufficiency amidst India's rural population by encouraging land redistribution, socio-economic reforms and promoting cottage industries. The movement sought to combat the problems of class conflict, unemployment and poverty while attempting to preserve the lifestyle and values of rural Indians, which were eroding with industrialisation and modernisation. "Sarvodaya" also included "Bhoodan", or the gifting of land and agricultural resources by the landlords (called "zamindars") to their tenant farmers in a bid to end the medieval system of "zamindari". Bhave and others promoted "Bhoodan" as a just and peaceful method of land redistribution in order to create economic equality, land ownership and opportunity without creating class-based conflicts. "Bhoodan" and "Sarvodaya" enjoyed notable successes in many parts of India, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. Bhave would become a major exponent of discipline and productivity amongst India's farmers, labourers and working classes, which was a major reason for his support of the controversial Indian Emergency (1975–1977). Jayaprakash Narayan also sought to use Gandhian methods to combat organised crime, alcoholism and other social problems.

Modern interpretations

Gandhi's ideas have inspired socio-economic policies in post-colonial Africa and Asia, but have also been criticised as impractical and idealistic, especially on the macroeconomic scale. The main attempts at implementation have centred on microeconomic initiatives. The proximity of Gandhian economic thought to socialism has also evoked criticism from the advocates of free-market economics. To many, Gandhian economics represent an alternative to mainstream economic ideologies as a way to promote economic productivity without an emphasis on material pursuits or compromising human development. Gandhi's emphasis on peace, "trusteeship" and co-operation has been touted as an alternative to competition as well as conflict between different economic and income classes in societies. Gandhian focus on human development is also seen as an effective emphasis on the eradication of poverty, social conflict and backwardness in developing nations. Gandhian socio-economic ideas have gained the interest and attention of an increasing number of people across the world.


*cite book
last = Pani
first = Narendar
title = Inclusive Economics: Gandhian Method and Contemporary Policy
publisher = Sage Publications Pvt. Ltd.
year = 2002
isbn = 978-0761995807

*cite book
last = Sharma
first = R.
title = Gandhian economics
publisher = Deep and Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd.
year = 1997
isbn = 978-8171009862

*cite book
last = Narayan
first = Shriman
title = Relevance of Gandhian economics
publisher = Navajivan Publishing House
year = 1970
id = ASIN B0006CDLA8

External links

* [ Gandhian Trusteeship as an "Instrument of Human Dignity"]
* [ Review of "Gandhian economics"]
* [ Gandhian economics is relevant]

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