Joan Valerie Bondurant
This could quite well be the best book ever written about Gandhi’s philosophy of conflict: satyagraha. Bondruant’s book is systematic and thorough. She lived in India for years and even got a chance to interview Nehru and many of Gandhi’s other colleagues about the nonviolent action they were mutually involved with, which eventually brought about Indian Independence. This book was first written either in 1953 or 1958. But this edition was revised in 1988 and includes new, important commentary and afterthought by the author.
The book is everything the other reviewer said, and more. Because the author takes such a systematic approach, I can’t imagine a better introduction to Gandhi’s philosophy of conflict. But the truly unique and most vitally important aspect of this book, in my opinion, is due to the author’s orientation. Her field is political science. She was a researcher who held a high position at the University of California at Berkeley. And she claims that Gandhi’s philosophy made a contribution to political science that no system of political theory has ever adequately dealt with before. In that sense, she says, that Gandhi’s greatest contribution to the world may have been overlooked. And this, I think, is what makes this book one of the most important books of the 20th century.
Toward the back of the book the author compares Gandhi’s philosophy with all the various major schools of political thought: the classical liberal democratic theory of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Marxist theory, various versions of anarchist theory, and so on. Bondurant claims that all these political philosophies are lacking in one significant area: they can’t tell us how people who are locked out of the system can influence the system they are locked out of.
Consequently, these systems are prone to ever-escalating corruption and gradual takeover by long-running establishments with power and money who commandeer the system and prevent necessary societal change. Gandhi’s philosophy, satyagraha, figured out a way around that. And Bondurant claims that that makes him the most important *new* contributer to political thought in the entire field of political science. And *THAT* is the most important aspect of this book, in my opinion, even though if you took that section of the book out, it would probably still be the best book for learning about Gandhi’s philosophy of conflict: satyagraha.
I have done some reading in the field of conflict resolution and it is obvious to me that Gandhi understood the dynamics of conflict better than anyone before him. He was the Einstein of social understanding, political science, conflict dynamics, and nonviolence. And although he certainly deserves to be loved and revered, it’s a pity that his de facto canonization seems to have led people to gloss over his actual accomplishments and his monumental contributions to world philosophy. Gandhi, I think I can say without being guilty of hyperbole in the slightest degree, figured out how to save mankind from itself. And I’m not sure that even Gandhi’s greatest admirers fully understand this. But they will if they read this book!
This book is the key with which we, mankind, can unlock the chains of destructive conflict that we are too often inseparably linked to, and which will lead to our mutual self-destruction unless we can free ourselves.
Learn how to break the ancient and ongoing chain of destructive conflict. Read this book!