Give a critical exposition of the Gandhian conception of an ideal society?

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He has been described in political terms as a philosophical anarchist. His ideal society would be based on love, mutual co-operation, voluntary action, based on the theory of Karma.

Every individual becomes a Satyagrahi, seeker of Truth and lives a life of non-violence. The main feature of such a society may be stated as under :

(i) Minimum powers of the State:

Gandhiji regarded state as coercive by nature. It tended to destroy individuality. Thus, it worked as an obstacle in the way of individual’s realization of Truth. Any increase in the power of the state was evil. He said, “I look upon any increase in the power of state with the greatest fear. When a state gets maximum powers, the people have minimum self-confidence.

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They start depending on the state for every thing they need. It destroys the spiritual growth of the citizens. So, in the ideal society of Gandhiji, there would be no rigid state machinery. Society will consist of self sufficient, self-governing village communities. However on account of imperfect nature of the human beings minimum authority may be needed. Such authority will be decentralized and distributed.

The panchayats would exercise the fullest autonomy”. He pointed out, “The working of the government has to be carried on non-vi6lent lines. The police force will be there but the policemen will be the servants of the people not their masters.

They will have some kind of arms but will make only a sparing use of them. The nature of punishment will be reformatory. The prisons will be made into reformatories, hospitals and schools to reform, cure and educate the criminals.”

The autonomous villages will be combined together to form a sort of loose federation based on moral strength. The people shall practise self- discipline and restraint based on moral consideration.

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The policemen and civil services will act as servants of the people and not as their masters. In his ideal society i.e. Ram Rajya, “Justice will be prompt, perfect and cheap. There shall be freedom of speech, worship and press. These will be based on non-violence and truth.”

(ii) Varna System :

According to Gandhi, each member of the community should follow the traditional and hereditary calling of his forefathers. He wrote as follows:

“I believe that every man is born in the world with natural tendencies. Every person is born with definite limitations which he cannot overcome. From a careful observation of these limitations, the law of varna was deduced. It established certain tendencies.

This avoided all unworthy competition. While recognizing limitations, the law of varna admitted of no distinction between high and low. On the one had, it guaranteed to each the fruits of his labour and on the other hand, it prevented him from pressing upon his neighbor.”

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Under caste system, he found an elimination of competition and a proper training of natural tendencies. It should, however, be clearly understood that his caste system was different from the traditional Hindu caste system. Gandhiji did not admit the superiority of any caste over the other.

In his eyes all work was equally sacred and respectable. Work has to be undertaken as a means of livelihood not a means of amassing wealth. He also wanted that equal wages should be paid for all sorts of work. This caste system is to be based upon social justice. Disabilities on the basis of caste and creed are to be thoroughly washed out of the society.

(iii) Economic and Political Decentralization:

Gandhiji believed in decentralization of economy and distribution of political authority, Gandhiji was against western civilization in so far as it was based on technology, resulting in the exploitation of weaker people. The western civilization generated lust for material wealth and is responsible for artificial living.

It is not consistent with the ideals of simple living and high thinking. Instead of taking mankind forward towards peace and progress, it is leading to a blind alley. Civilization according to him does not lie in the accumulation of wealth.

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It lies in voluntary and deliberate reduction of wants. The western theory of socialism in his opinion is born in an atmosphere full of violence. It does not mean that Gandhiji was against socialism. He, in fact, wished that social and economic justice should be achieved through Satyagraha and not through force. He said that socialism of Godless people led nowhere. Gandhiji was a ruralist pure and simple. He wanted to strengthen rural economy.

He opposed large-scale industries and mechanization. He condemned western indus­trialism, commercialism and imperialism as diseases. In later years of his life, he, however, changed his stand a little bit and wanted that key industries must be developed on a large scale in order to cater to the needs of the villages where the real soul of India resides. Thus we find that Gandhiji wanted political centralization in the form of autonomous village Panchayats on one hand and decentralized village economy on the other hand.

(iv) Non possession and self-control:

Most of the evils in society arise from the possessiveness in man. Gandhi was against it. Man should limit his needs as far as possible and should be content with the bare necessities of life keeping the supreme goal of the realization of Truth in view. He should shun material pursuits.

Hoarding of more than what man needs means lack of confidence in God. Fear of tomorrow is the basis of private property but the fear of tomorrow also means absence of faith in Him. To sum up, we may say in the words of Gandhiji:

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“But we must keep the ideal of truth in view and in the light thereof, critically examine our possessions and try to reduce them. Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multipli­cation, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants.”

Gandhiji believed in the concept of economic equality. He wanted that all the individuals in the society should be guaranteed the satisfaction of their all natural and basic needs.

He believed in principle of, “To each according to needs.” In Hind Swaraj he advocated the return to simplicity and plainness of nature. Simple living and high thinking is the cardinal point of his philosophy of life.

(v) Trusteeship:

Gandhiji did not want to use force even against the capitalist class. He was against the institution of private property. He wanted the owners to change their attitude. Gandhi wanted to provide each individual with equal opportunity of rising to his full stature Inequitable distribution of wealth, therefore, is to be abolished.

Posses­sion of too much by some brings privation and hardship for millions. So he said, “I suggest that we are thieves in a way, if I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, from somebody else.

It is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that Nature produces enough for our day-to-day wants : and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in the world; there would be no man dying of starvation.

” Therefore, wealth in excess of one’s needs must be treated as a trust on behalf of the community and used for its good. There would be no ban on accumula­tion and earning of wealth through fair means but it would be retained not for one’s misuse but as a trust for welfare of the communities.

Although he realized that the capitalists were owning unearned wealth yet he was not prepared to dispossess the rich. It would be against the principle of non-violence.

“I do not want to dispossess anybody, I should then be departing from the role of non-violence but you and I have no right to anything that we really have until these millions are clothed and fed.

You and I who ought to know better must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary privations, in order that they may get nursed, fed and clothed,” said Mahatma Gandhi.

Violent dispossession of the rich would be harmful to the society as he said, “Society will be poorer, for it will be losing the gift of a man who has the capacity to accumulate wealth.”

For removing economic inequalities he did not approve the methods of socialization. Since that would mean concentration of power in the hands of the state which is another evil.

To solve this intricate problem, Gandhi suggested the theory of Trusteeship. According to this theory, the person possessing wealth should not possess it for himself but as a trust on behalf of society.

No distinction is made between private and public property. The rich man would be left in possession of his wealth. Out of it whatever he requires for his personal needs, he will use. For the remainder, he would act as a trustee.

To bring about this state of affairs, a high degree of moral develop­ment is required. Gandhi suggests that a truthful appeal should be made and the conscience of the rich should be awakened.

They should be made to realize their responsibility toward the society. Gandhiji believed that God was not the friend of those who coveted wealth of others and believed in the exploitation of the poor.

Monopolistic possession of wealth will lead to destruction. False non-human economics must be substituted by true human economics. He accepted the theory of spiritual socialism without which picture of his ideal society will not be complete.

Under, spiritual socialism, the lowest and the humblest section of society shall be entitled to the same amenities to which the rich are enticed. Such a socialism is to be achieved through political action but it is to be secured through love, non-violence and individual purification. He wanted in fact to establish a kingdom of Heaven.

(vi) Manual labour:

Gandhi insisted upon everybody doing manual work and thus providing his own needs by himself. No member of society can be regarded as an exception to this rule. He said, “More than nine tenths of humanity lives by tilling the soil.

How much happier, healthier and more beautiful would the world become, if the remaining one-tenth followed the example of the overwhelming majority, at least to the extent of labouring enough for their good.

And many hardships connected with agriculture, would be easily redressed, if such people took a hand in it. Again, individual distinction of rank would be abol­ished, when everyone without exception acknowledged the obligation of bread-labour. It is common to all the varnas.’

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