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Why and How Did Gandhi’s Politics Merge the Traditional and the Modern?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 877 words Published: 16th Mar 2021

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Despite beginning his fight for freedom with a firm anti-colonial and anti-modern stance, Gandhi gradually began to use modern, Western models and ideas to promote his traditional Indian values. Due to his prolonged struggle for Indian liberation from British colonisation, Gandhi realised that the most effective way to achieve independence was to defeat modernity by exploiting Western perspectives of Indian culture and their modern forms of technology, resulting in his increasingly “dialectical” views and practices.

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Western culture was already deeply embedded in Gandhi’s India, so Gandhi decided to merge traditional and modern techniques to achieve independence. Gandhi blamed British colonialism for resulting in India’s adoption of British schooling systems as well as western medical and judicial institutions, its dependence on western goods which ultimately caused the “degeneration” of Indian tradition. He therefore decided that the only way for Indians to reconnect with traditional Indian values and resist Western modernity was through the rejection of British ideology and practices. Gandhi subsequently encouraged Indians to use Indian languages as opposed to English and promoted the Indian weaving industry by urging fellow Indians to refrain from buying cloth manufactured by the British. However, his support for the reassertion of Indian tradition and values meant that he also unintentionally embraced the modern, Western idea of “degeneration” to advocate a “moral rebirth for India”. Furthermore, Gandhi deliberately exploited the contemporary Western aversion to femininity in men to draw attention to his traditional style of dress and publicise the Indian liberation movement. _____ writes that Gandhi created a “deliberate childlike femininity” and merged it with “indigenous gendered cultural forms”, establishing a starkly traditional appearance that so contrasted with Western masculinity and modernity. Gandhi’s “semi-nakedness” not only ensured that he always stood out from the crowd but personally disgraced the British people’s view of a civilised man, further boosting his publicity. Thus, Gandhi played on the Western responses to his traditional style of dress whilst renouncing the use of British goods and services in India, thereby effectively merging traditional and modern techniques to advocate for Indian freedom.

Despite his outspoken criticism for modern technology as a whole, Gandhi utilised the media along with certain other elements of technology to promote nationalism and showcased the Indian struggle for freedom in the global context. Indeed, it was his traditional dress that caught international attention and boosted his authority and credibility as a leader of the Indian liberation movement. Even though his use of the media was “antithetical to his anti-modern stance” it proved to play a significant role in projecting his platform worldwide. ________ states that if it were not for such technology, Gandhi’s appearance outside India would have” scarcely had any effect at all”. Gandhi was averse to modernity, however he was a practical man in that he realised how he could use modern technology to his advantage, becoming the first anti-colonial activist to use the platform to capture his non-violent resistance. Moreover, Gandhi endorsed other aspects of modern technology to promote his desire for a return to Indian tradition including the use of railways and the printing press. Although he labelled railways as a source of “evil” for its ability to spread famine and disease, he used the rail to deliver bread to pilgrims on their marches and also as his form of transport during his political campaigns. In addition, Gandhi frequently used the printing press to publish his articles advocating nationalism, extending his influence over the entire nation.

Evidently, Gandhi’s methods to achieve independence was a paradoxical combination of tradition and modernity. The road to Indian liberation from British colonisation had dragged on for so long that "its forms were inevitably complex and sometimes contradictory". For instance, Gandhi used modern, Western critiques including Tolstoy, ______ to criticise modernity and colonialism and realised the need for a return to Indian tradition through Western and modern inspirations gathered during his time in London. Though he did reject the ideologies associated with modernity such as Marxism and feminism, he nevertheless used modern forms of protests and ideas including the use of suffragette resistance techniques, his support for several feminist objectives and his adoption of an androgynous identity through his traditional dress. Thus, ironically, Gandhi’s anti-modernist and traditional tactics could only be achieved through the “resources of a modernity”.

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Therefore, Gandhi’s conflicting combination of the tradition and the modern was due to the process of his realisation that Indian liberation from Britain and the reassertion of traditional Indian culture could only be achieved through modern means. However, it could also be said that the paradoxical nature of his fight for freedom contributed to the “secret energy of the powerful counter-modernity that he advanced”.


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