Selling Gandhism for Modernisation
YOGENDRA SINGH, OLD WINE IN NEW SKINS: MODERNIZATION OF INDIAN TRADITION, Thompson Press (India) Ltd, Delhi 1973, Rs 13.
The importance of 'official' sociology—and this book is an eminent example of it, having been financed by the Government of India through the National Book Trust "for the benefit of the students"—lies not so much in deciphering the intentions of the author as in analysing the trend it represents.
The burden of this book is to present Gandhr's philosophy as "a total alternative world-view to the two of the most basic world-views of the contemporary times: that of hedonistic liberalism of the so called modern free world, and second, that of hedonistic collectivism (Marxism) of the socialist societies"1 in the form of a system based on morality reached by an ideal method of self-restraint, rejection of modern industry, the notorious thesis of 'trusteeship' in property and so on, in spite of the fact that "Gandhism has become a mere sect instead of being a cultural force with a dimension of mass mobilization"!2
It should not surprise us that the author should choose Gandhi with his "vagueness, eclecticism and evasion of class issues," peculiarly fitted to a society, which, while moving on to newer and more intense forms of exploitation, still maintains precapitalist forms of appropriation and distribution. As Pavlov and Ulyanovsky have noted, this is no unique phenomenon restricted to India, but a general feature of ex-colonial countries pursuing the capitalist path of development, hostile both to laissez-faire liberalism and to socialism. The/have pointed out that "all the prevailing South Asian ideologies have in principle justified the existing system of the redistribution of the product and only in exceptional cases have tried to change it in some way. In a new historical situation when the most accute social conflicts are already mediated by the invasion