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.
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