Gandhi's Political Philosophy: A Critical Examination

Gandhi's Political Philosophy: A Critical Examination

Gandhi's Political Philosophy: A Critical Examination

Gandhi's Political Philosophy: A Critical Examination

Excerpt

During the past two centuries Western political philosophy has exercised massive intellectual influence over the rest of the world. Its influence derives from several interrelated sources of which three are most important. First, since Western political philosophy had the unique advantage of having been practised more or less continuously for over two and a half millennia by some of the most talented men, it has developed unparalleled analytical rigour, been constantly fertilised by new experiences, has addressed itself to an unusually large variety of questions and fostered acute methodological self-consciousness not to be found in any other tradition of political philosophy. Second, for the past two centuries the West has politically and economically dominated the rest of the world and used its economic and political power to spread its ways of life and thought. Its ideas travelled with its goods, were sometimes supported by its bayonets and acquired enormous prestige and respectability. Almost every non-Western country was and with a few exceptions still is a supplicant at the Western court, and its spokesmen could hardly expect to be understood, let alone taken seriously, unless they spoke its standard language in an approved accent. As the West economically and politically united the world under its hegemony, its vision of man and society became the only universally acceptable currency of political discourse.

Third, since the West substantially recreated the non-Western world in its own image and fashioned the shapes and forms of its political life, its political philosophy was not wholly irrelevant to the latter. The relevance was, of course, considerably limited for, while the imported institutions and ways of thought changed the traditional social order and culture, they also underwent a profound mutation. However, the fact that its categories and modes of thought informed and helped explain at least some aspects of their political life rendered the Western political philosophy intelligible and acceptable to the non-Western countries.

All three factors were important. No amount of political and economic power would have given it such influence if the Western political philosophy had not possessed considerable intellectual strength and vitality. During the colonial struggle for independ-

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