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Another Realism: The Politics of Gandhian Nonviolence

  • KARUNA MANTENA (a1)
Abstract

Although Gandhi is often taken to be an exemplary moral idealist in politics, this article seeks to demonstrate that Gandhian nonviolence is premised on a form of political realism, specifically a contextual, consequentialist, and moral-psychological analysis of a political world understood to be marked by inherent tendencies toward conflict, domination, and violence. By treating nonviolence as the essential analog and correlative response to a realist theory of politics, one can better register the novelty of satyagraha (nonviolent action) as a practical orientation in politics as opposed to a moral proposition, ethical stance, or standard of judgment. The singularity of satyagraha lays in its self-limiting character as a form of political action that seeks to constrain the negative consequences of politics while working toward progressive social and political reform. Gandhian nonviolence thereby points toward a transformational realism that need not begin and end in conservatism, moral equivocation, or pure instrumentalism.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Karuna Mantena is Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University, Box 208301, New Haven, CT 06520 (karuna.mantena@yale.edu).
References
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