Gandhi's Concept of Action and Identity Politics

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Narendar Pani


Asian Philosophy, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, Volume 20, Number 2, p.175–194 (2010)



The paradox of Gandhi being treated as an ivory-tower idealist despite being one of the most successful political leaders of the twentieth century, can be traced to his using a method to understand social processes that is fundamentally different from the dominant tendency to reduce reality to an underlying system. The fact that his method did not fit into the ideological systems that dominated the twentieth century contributed to it being ignored. This paper seeks to revisit the Gandhian method by first identifying the limitations of viewing democracies entirely in terms of systems. It then goes on to explore Gandhi?s alternative view of reality as a mass of actions. It finally uses this philosophical method to understand a rather violent example of identity politics, namely the destruction of the Babri Masjid in the Indian town of Ayodhya.


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