Economies of Violence: The Bhagavadgītā and the Fostering of Life in Gandhi’s and Ghose’s Anticolonial Theories

JIMMY CASAS KLAUSEN
AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW 108.1 (2014): 182-195

Abstract:  This article compares the political theories that Mohandas Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghose develop around the assumption that harm or violence is an unavoidable feature of all human action. Both Ghose and Gandhi venerated the Bhagavadgītā and shared a concern to foster life, and they shaped Hindu political theory by combining modern biological concepts with spiritual perspectives to determine the impact of harmful human actions within a totality of interdependent living beings. Although each thinker develops his anticolonial theory by balancing the value of life, the acceptance of an economy of violence, and the duty to act rather than renounce action, they diverge on the acceptability of violence whether in politics or in interactions with nature. Analyzing their framing of human actions as simultaneously biological and spiritual opens up a new perspective on Gandhi’s refusal and Ghose’s willingness to resort to violence in resistance to British colonial rule in India.