Global Swadeshi

because one world is plenty

I've been reading about Gandhian economics these days because it turns out that barnraisings and farmers' markets and voluntary coops and associations, things which I've participated in and helped organize most of my life, fit right into his model. I've put my raw notes to _Foundations of Gandhian Economics_ up at and will be writing more about the concepts as I read more but while looking for definitions of Seva (service) I came across a great passage from _Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life_ by Satish Kumar (Green Books, 2007 ISBN 1903998891, 9781903998892) which gives solid context to my reading. (Thank you

While the freedom struggle was in progress, Gandhi was working on ideas for a new social order for post-colonial India. He believed that there would be no point in getting rid of the British without getting rid of the centralised, exploitative and violent system of governance and the economics of greed that they pursued. Gandhi designed a new trinity to achieve his vision of a new non-violent social order. He called it Sarvodaya, Swaraj and Swadeshi.

The first of the trinity was Sarvodaya, the 'upliftment of all'. "All rise' - not a few, as in capitalism, not even the greatest good of the greatest number as in socialism, but each and every one should be taken care of. That is Sarvodaya... Sarvodaya includes the care of the Earth - of animals, forests, rivers and land. Gandhi's vision is better encapsulated in the concept of biocracy rather than democracy.

Economic development as consensus. Not "the rising tide lifts all boats" but "everybody in the water gets to ride in a boat" and even more, the trees have standing. Gaia gets a seat at the table when we discuss breaking ground.

The second aspect of the Gandhian trinity is Swaraj, 'self-government'. Swaraj works to bring about a social transformation through small-scale, decentralised, self-organised and self-directed participatory structures of governance. It also implies self-transformation, self-discipline and self-restraint. Thus Swaraj is a moral, ethical, ecological and spiritual concept and therefore a sattvic method of governance. The third part of the trinity is Swadeshi, 'local economy'. Gandhi opposed mass production, favouring production by the masses. Work for him was as much a spritual necessity as an economic one. So he insisted on the principle that every member of society should be engaged in manual work. Manufacturing in small workshops and adherence to arts and crafts feeds the body as well as the soul, he said. He believed that long-distance transportation of goods, competitive trading and relentless economic growth are rajasic, verging towards tamasic, because they destroy the fabric of human communities. Within the context of Sarvodaya, Swaraj and Swadeshi, taking care of each other and caring for the Earth, constantly and regularly, development emerges through seva and is sattvic development.

The English translation of seva as service does not convey the depth of its meaning. For example, one can be paid for a service but seva is offered as a gift. Seva implies devotion and a long-term commitment. It is good in itself, irrespective of results, outcomes and achievements. The person performing seva does not try to change the world but to serve the world. When one wishes to change others, there is a certain amount of rajasic hubris involved. When we want to change the world, we know what is good for the world and we want to shape it to our image and to our ends.

The person engaged in serving the world accepts hs or her limitations and offers himself or herself for the wellbeing of the other, believing that the other is none other than I, and I am none ther than the other. There is no duality, nor resparation between the one serving and the one served. Both exist in a web of relationships and both are seeking spiritual fulfilment as well as material and phsical wellbeing. It was this spirit which inspired many thousands of Gandhian workers to commit themselves to sattvic development through service.

Rajas, tamas, and sattva are the three gunas or qualities of Ayurvedic medicine and philosophy.


In Samkhya philosophy, one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, rajas (Sanskrit rajas, or rajoguna) is the quality (guna) of activity. If a person or thing tends to be extremely active, excitable, or passionate, that person or thing is said to have a preponderance of rajas. It is contrasted with the quality of tamas, which is the quality of inactivity, darkness, and laziness, and with sattva, which is the quality of purity, clarity, and healthy calmness. Rajas is a force which promotes one or more of the following: (1) action; (2) change, mutation; (3) passion, excitement; (4) birth, creation, generation. Note that passion is a feeling (often) associated with the act of generating something new. Rajas is viewed as being more positive than tamas, and less positive than sattva; except, perhaps, for one who has "transcended the gunas". The (eventual) fruit of rajas is pain, even though the immediate effect of rajas is pursuit of pleasure.

The idea that economic activity can be a path of wisdom has always given me hope.

Representative John Lewis says that the civil rights movement should, perhaps, have studied Gandhi more. Maybe class is in session once again.

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Class is in session once again -

thank you for putting these gems to be found in Gandhian thought so well together here.
Thanks for reading. The next set of notes will come from Ajit Dasgupta's _Gandhi's Economic Thought_. Just finished that this morning.
Thank you for this. I wonder what would Gandhi think of open source movement?
I believe that open source is an example of Gandhian economics and that today's technology makes Gandhi's cottage industry and village economy much more feasible.
George, any thoughts on how to inject this quality material into the vein of the modern sustainable/resilience movements? Also, how to approach the modern civil rights activists with this material? Not expecting answers from you, but hey, you started it! :-)
Elinor Ostrom, recent economics Nobel prize winner, is in the thick of the resilience movement. She might be interested and understand the implications. I have an inkling that the concept of sarvodaya meshes very nicely with some of the ideas of Adrian Bejan's constructal theory which is an overarching conceptual framework for patterns in thermodynamics, flow systems from rivers to traffic, and the economics of distribution systems. I spoke briefly with Representative John Lewis of Georgia about Gandhian economics last year while he was visiting Harvard and have his card but haven't followed up as I don't think these concepts would get his attention in the avalanche of information his office receives. He does say that the civil rights movement probably should have studied Gandhi more.

My track record with getting anything injected into the general conversation is woefully dismal. I just write when I feel like it and am getting tired of repeating myself. Don't mean I'm gonna stop. Only that I'm feeling my age after thirty or more years of struggle.
The connections you've drawn here are pretty fascinating. Bejan's theory seems to touch on some of what was discussed in episode #147 of the C-Realm Podcast.

Ostrom is also a fascinating character. Maybe she'd be amenable to participating in a podcast interview? Never hurts to try.
Contact her. I found her an open and inviting person but that was before the Nobel and the probable pressures on her time. She's done a lot of work theoretically and in the field. Unlike most economists, she's done real world experimentation.




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