When I set out to write this book, my first thought was that no one would want to read yet another book about Gandhi or King. But, after preliminary research, I realized that there was no single book that gave systematic treatment to both Gandhi and King against the backdrop of nonviolent resistance. This volume seeks to fill that gap in the literature by providing first a summary of the meaning of violence and nonviolence in politics and then a detailed comparative analysis of the life and work of Gandhi and King.
Gandhi and King are inspirations to many people. Holidays, statues, and movies are dedicated to their memory. Conferences, conventions, and colloquia are held even today examining their philosophies and seeking to establish their legacies once and for all. Indeed, I am inspired in this manner. Nevertheless, this book is not simply yet another "praise piece" on two of the most principled public people of the 20th century. While this book examines some of the high-minded, idealistic, perhaps even unrealistic, ideas of both Gandhi and King, it also provides hard-bitten analyses and critiques of both men in order to leave the reader with what I hope is a balanced summation of each man's legacy.
Gandhi and King were not always right. By their own admission, they made some dandy blunders. Neither is nonviolent political resistance always successful. But in both Gandhi's and King's case, they used nonviolence well enough to show the world that there was not only a high-minded alternative to violence, but one that is practical and effective—if done properly.