Gandhi’s Thought Reexamined: In the Light of Conviviality

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  • ガンディー思想の現代的意義 ──コンヴィヴィアリティを軸として──


Modern civilization has faced an unprecedented population growth since the late twentieth century. Today, the Earth accommodates 7.2 billion inhabitants, of which 17% belong to high-income societies and 83% to middle-income and low-income societies. The former receive 71% of the world’s Gross National Income (GNI), whereas the latter share only 29% of it. This enormous disparity between the rich and the poor becomes more visible when the focus is recast on individual countries. The per capita income of the Republic of Burundi is 238 times less than that of the United States and 217 times less than that of Japan. On the global scale, 1.2 billion people are living under $1 a day and 842 million are suffering from malnutrition. This makes a stark contrast to the situation in affluent societies in which people are worried about obesity with gourmet and fitness industries prospering. Human societies have pursued material development since the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century. As the world population has increased by a factor of nine since 1750, the Western model of economic development has taken the form of mass-production and mass-consumption, which results in the depletion of natural resources and the rapid extinction of biomes. This trend has remained basically the same, or has possibly even been aggravated, in the twenty-first century. Against such a background, this paper presents the thought of Mahatma Gandhi, who critically observed what he called “modern civilization”. He organized the charkha (hand-spinning wheel) movement, which attempted to employ as many poor people as possible by not relying upon the machines of mass production. The movement was meant to liberate India from the shackle of modern civilization. Rabindranath Tagore severely condemned it as a reactionary opposition to modern civilization, whose position was defended by Amartya K. Sen in the late twentieth century. However, Sen’s argument is now to be examined from a Gandhian perspective as well. In contrast to Sen, this paper shows the pertinence of Gandhi’s position in the age of globalization, by utilizing Ivan Illich’s concept of “conviviality”, which is defined as “autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment”. The twenty-first century will become a crossroads in which a greater number of people will either compete for disappearing resources under the name of “globalization”, or turn toward a more simple life to share them, not only among themselves in the present generation but also with those of future generations. Gandhi’s following words, which Ernst F. Schumacher quoted, have a fundamental meaning in such an age. “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed”. This is the point that will decide whether conviviality, both intra-generational and inter-generational, may or may not be established. Development that would preserve ecosystems, including mankind, may take—to utilize Sen’s concepts—a form in which the enhancement of the “capability” of the poor would be supported by a sense of “sympathy” or “commitment” from the better-off in global society. In this case, however, it is, as Gandhism suggests, only by means of reducing the “needs” of the latter that we could fundamentally resolve the contradiction of “modernity”. What does this mean for economics? Since Adam Smith upheld self-interest until Amartya Sen advocated human development, economics has generally considered how to employ people in the process of a growing economy. On the other hand, a new economics largely based on Gandhism, would execute the same task, at least in the material sense, in the process of a declining economy. This task is, though, extremely difficult, because it would attempt to maintain a population that has grown to an unprecedented size in the “modern” era, while going to the opposite end of such “modern” values as self-interest, capital accumulation, marke


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