An Eminent Victorian: Gandhi and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy in the 19th Century

Gandhi’s lauded text Hind Swaraj is born of and located within the 19th century crisis of liberal democracy and its resolutions of an intimate animosity towards the masses. Gandhi shares considerable terrain with Indian liberals writing in the late 19th and early 20th century; the text can be seen as articulating a certain kind of conservatism that attempts to think with “recovering liberties” that Christopher Bayly charts in all its nuances of a global historicism, statistical liberalism and a benign sociology. While Gandhi draws upon this burgeoning corpus of liberal thought in India, his work is characterized by its typical impatience with ideas, and a method that combines random observation with apodictic statements. The Hind Swaraj resisted many of the impulses of Indian liberalism, even when thinking from within it, in its attempt to forge a politics of indigeneity.