Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa



Gandhi's critique of the modern state was central to his political thinking. It served as a pivotal hinge between Gandhi's anticolonialism and his theory of politics and was given striking institutional form in his vision of decentralized peasant democracy. This essay explores the origins and implications of Gandhian antistatism by situating it within a genealogy of early twentieth-century political pluralism, specifically British and Indian pluralist criticism of state sovereignty and centralization. This essay traces that critique from the imperial sociology of Henry Sumner Maine, through the political theory of Harold Laski and G. D. H. Cole, to Radhakamal Mukerjee's reworking of these strands into a normative–universal model of Eastern pluralism. The essay concludes with a consideration of Gandhi's ideal of a stateless, nonviolent polity as a culmination and overturning of the pluralist tradition and as integral to his distinctive understanding of political freedom, rule, and action.

Hide All

I would especially like to thank Pratap Bhanu Mehta for first pointing me to Radhakamal Mukerjee's work, and Jeanne Morefield and Verity Smith for organizing and including me in two APSA panels on pluralism and Laski, at which I could experiment with these ideas. I am grateful to Kavita Datla, Noah Dauber, John Dunn, Bryan Garsten, Ram Guha, Sudipta Kaviraj, Sunil Khilnani, Rama Mantena, Uday Mehta, Melissa Schwartzberg, and Annie Stilz for their helpful comments.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Cécile Laborde , Pluralist Thought and the State in Britain and France, 1900–25 (New York, 2000)

G. D. H. Cole , “Conflicting Social Obligations”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 15 (1914–15), 140–59

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 8
Total number of PDF views: 118 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 491 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.