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Lecture 6

RE321 Lecture 6: RE321 Lesson 6 Gandhi's Social-Economic Thought Sarvodaya and the Constructive Program An Introduction

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Religion & Culture
Alexander Damm

RE321 Lesson 6: Gandhis SocialEconomic Thought: Sarvodaya and the Constructive Program. An Introduction Putting Sarvodaya in Context Close, organic connection among Gandhis principles of swaraj, satyagraha, and sarvodaya they form a whole Gandhi defines swaraj as a way of a traditional civilization or traditional society o The crux of which is nonviolence or Truth o Also known as the way of life of a nonviolent society Methods to attain swaraj are: 1. To protest modernity and oppression using satyagraha 2. A socialeconomic principle called sarvodaya or the welfare of all o A means to swaraj Gandhi came to this principle early in life, in South Africa o He was pushed towards it and pulled towards it Pushed towards sarvodaya Since his arrival in South Africa (1893), Gandhi felt that one of the unfortunate rules of life in modern civilization, certainly for the majority of blacks and Indians, was social and economic exploitation o Socially, colonial governments tended to privilege white subjects and weaken the rights and selfesteem of nonwhite subjects In South Africa, this discrimination appeared in laws such as the Asiatic Law Amendment Act (the Black Act) of 1906 o Economically, colonial governments tried to disadvantage blacks and Indians through these laws Moreover, modern civilizations fascination with mechanized, largescaled industry meant that it exploited economically most of its people, namely the poor classes, whose work afforded them hardly any financial security but afforded enormous profits to a small upper class This exploitation frustrated Gandhi and pushed him to consider whether a more equitable society was possible Pull towards sarvodaya In the midst of this frustration came the pull In 1906, the year of the Black Act, Gandhi happened to read a book by British author John Ruskin entitled Unto This Last o Critique of modern, industrial civilization with which Gandhi could identify o Ruskin also proposed that societies could reform themselves to promote the social and economic welfare of all Here, Gandhi felt that he had discovered a solution to the exploitative character of modern society o As he put it, this book was impossible to lay aside. I discovered some of the deepest reflection in itI determined to change my life in accordance with the ideals of the book. He went on the publish an abbreviated paraphrase of Ruskins book in his native Gujarati, so that more Indians could read it o He titled his paraphrase Sarvodaya: The Welfare of All
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