Is Gandhian Philosophy Relevant in Todays' Times?
As the foundation of the Gandhian or nonviolent social order is religious or spiritual, economic and political questions are seen from the moral or humanistic perspective. The welfare of human beings, not of systems or institutions, is the ultimate consideration. Materially, it centres on the following concepts and ideals:
1. Political decentralisation, to prevent massive concentrations of political power in the hands of too few; rather, to distribute it in the hands of many. The Gandhian political order takes the form of a direct, participatory democracy, operating in a tier structure from the base village-level tier upward through the district and state levels to the national (and international) level.
2. Economic decentralisation, to prevent massive concentrations of economic power in the hands of too few, and again, to distribute it in the hands of many. Therefore villages, which are anyway geographically decentralised, become the basic economic units. However, where unavoidable, certain industries may be organised on a more centralised basis, and their ownership and control come under the umbrella of the State.
3. The minimisation of competition and exploitation in the economic sphere, and instead, the encouragement of cooperation.
4. Production on the basis of need rather than greed, concentrating where India is concerned first on the eradication of poverty (and on the worst extreme of poverty).
5.Recognition of the dignity of labour and the greater purity of rural life.
6.The practice of extensive self-reliance by individuals, villages, regions and the nation.
7. Absence of oppression on the basis of race, caste, class, language, gender or religion.
8. A deep respect for mother nature, necessitating an economic system based upon the preservation rather than destruction of the natural environment.
The twin cardinal principles of Gandhi's thought are truth and nonviolence.
For Gandhi, truth is the relative truth of truthfulness in word and deed, and the absolute truth - the Ultimate Reality. This ultimate truth is God (as God is also Truth) and morality - the moral laws and code - its basis. The ultimate station Gandhi assigns nonviolence stems from two main points. First, if according to the Divine Reality all life is one, then all violence committed towards another is violence towards oneself, towards the collective, whole self, and thus "self"-destructive and counter to the universal law of life, which is love. Second, Gandhi believed that ahimsa is the most powerful force in existence. Had himsabeen superior to ahimsa, humankind would long ago have succeeded in destroying itself. The human race certainly could not have progressed as far as it has, even if universal justice remains far off the horizon. From both viewpoints, nonviolence or love is regarded as the highest law of humankind.