Mark Juergensmeyer. Gandhi’s Way: A Handbook of Conflict Resolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, rev. ed. 2005. Paperback, xi + 174 pages.
“Mahatma” Gandhi’s name is inescapably associated with the ideal of nonviolence. Living in a nonviolent way predictably involves conflict resolution, because conflicts arise even in the course of peaceful living. In this small book, Mark Juergensmeyer, a professor of sociology at the University of California in Santa Barbara, applies Gandhi’s moral philosophy to the complex area of clashing interests.
Right at the outset, he demolishes the popular image of the saintly Gandhi as a pacifist pushover, rightly presenting Gandhi as a passionate activist, who knew how to fight when necessary. In the course of his career, Gandhi had formulated principles for dealing with conflict that would lead to a “win-win” solution.
The first of three sections introduces the Gandhian way of fighting, in the context of both disputes arising between individuals and clashes between organizations and whole societies. In the second section, he spells out the rules that allow the reader to implement the Gandhian principles in concrete situations. The third section consists of fictitious dialogues that challenge Gandhi’s position from the perspectives of Marxism, Freudianism, and political realism. The author even has Gandhi creatively arguing with himself.
Juergensmeyer, who has written several books on violence, knows his Gandhi, and his presentation is both confident and competent. It gives the reader a glimpse not only into a practical method of applying justice in challenging situations but also into the mind of one of the great karma-yogis of India. The Gandhian position is in contrast to the one argued recently by James Kimmel in his book Suing for Peace. Kimmel believes that it is not worth one’s while to loose sleep over an issue. Gandhi felt that some things are worth fighting over, though his declared ideal is that of reaching a peaceful resolution that leaves both parties satisfied. We know that Gandhi did lose sleep over some of his fights.
Presumably how a person will proceed depends in the end on his or her character. If you can handle confrontation, Gandhi’s principles of engaging conflict in a nonviolent way are valuable guidelines. Juergensmeyer exposition of the Gandhian view leaves no question unanswered and thus will be eminently helpful to any activist, lawyer, or ordinary person interested in solving interpersonal conflict peaceably.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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