Applications of Gandhian Concepts in Psychology and Allied Disciplines

By Kool, Vinod | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Applications of Gandhian Concepts in Psychology and Allied Disciplines


Kool, Vinod, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Vinod. Kool

The paper highlights the significance of Gandhian concepts in research in psychology and its related fields. To illustrate the application of Gandhian ideology, a test of non-violence is described here with its psychometric properties. Further, two unexplored research issues having a bearing on clinical psychology and psychiatry have been delineated. Firstly, a call for addressing the mental health problems of non-violent protesters numbering over one billion spread all over the world has been made. And secondly, there is a need for understanding the neurological basis of non-violent form of behavior, for example, the role of oxytocin, to increase the legitimacy of non-violence as adaptive behavior.

Introduction

Michael Nagler, [sup][1] Professor of Classics at the University of California at Berkeley, stated that "non-violence is a science. It has precise rules and we have to learn them…" (see Kool, Perspectives on Non-violence , 1990, p. 138). Writing further in the same chapter of this book, he argued that the laws of non-violence are more robust than that of any other science. For example, he contended, "Gandhi tried to do for non-violence what astronomer Hubble is said to have done for the universe with his famous constant" and created "something to the basis of everything" (p. 138, ibid).

Non-violence is a form of behavior that should have been studied by psychologists long ago, but it has been neglected in the history of psychology. While the founding father of modern psychology, William James, [sup][2] believed that we must study such behavior, the apathy toward this significant field of psychology continued for a long time, until the American Psychological Association established its Peace Division 48 at its annual meeting at Boston in 1990. I happened to chair a session of this Peace Division convention.

According to Daniel Mayton, [sup][3] "non-violence, as an active behavior, falls clearly within the domain of psychology, however, till date only a handful of psychologists have written about non-violence (e.g., or researched or researched non-violence)". [sup][4],[5],[6] Since Mayton made his comment, a few more publications have enriched this field, including the official Journal of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, published by the Peace Division 48 of the American Psychological Association. For a more up-to-date list of publications, the reader is referred to Encyclopedia of Peace Psychology. [sup][7]

While, there is considerable disagreement over defining what is (or is not) non-violence, there is consensus that non-violence in any form involves reduction and control of, or, active intervention to avoid, or refrain from, violence. Some critics argue that such a definition of non-violence is limited in nature, because it excludes the practice of empathizing with the adversary to broaden the base of non-violence. In the literature on non-violence the former is described as negative non-violence and the latter as positive non-violence. [sup][8] Given the fact that science like psychology do not have objective and measureable concepts as we typically find in physical sciences, a few gutsy scholars like Nagler can challenge and evolve the scientific spirit of non-violence - should a science be understood as a source of enterprise based on experimentation - as envisaged by Gandhi in his "Experiments with Truth." If the function of a theory of science is to objectively observe and predict the nature of events, Gandhi's non-violence meets the criteria set by Nagler. [sup][1]

On Measuring Non-Violence: Kool and Sen's Test of Non-Violence

Gandhi believed that violence could never be eroded from the face of this earth, albeit he emphasized relentlessly the curbing of violence using both positive and negative modes of non-violence, that is, building and promoting non-violence versus simply retaining it. …

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