GANDHI'S TRUTH: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence by Erik H. Erikson

GANDHI'S TRUTH: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this lengthy study of Gandhi's advance from his Bania childhood to the assumption of all-Indian Mahatmaship, Erik H. Erikson draws together some threads from his earlier and influential psychoanalytic works. He focuses on a little-known incident when Gandhi, then 48, and leading a strike in Ahmedabad, first used the technique of fasting. But in leading up to and in moving away from Ahmedabad, Erikson touches many other bases. As a student of human growth, he analyzes the illusion within Gandhi of his parents, of Hindu ethics, of Indian lifestyles, and of a uniquely personal vision--all of which underlay the Gandhian doctrine of Satyagraha, or militant nonviolence. Erikson discusses also the methodology of psychohistory, which he first attempted in his widely-acclaimed Young Man Luther. Though in a sense a sequel to that work, the present book is less orthodox as either straight biography or psychoanalytic case history. It is immensely diffuse and meandering, in places as hard to follow as an analysand's monologue. Erikson never convinces the reader of the central importance of Ahmedabad Event in Gandhi's life. Nor does he clarify the significance of some other recognized turning points. Despite his own well-known preoccupation with the search for identity, he fails to explain why the young Gandhi, on being kicked off a whites-only first class carriage in South Africa, so swiftly found his mission. Still, the book does convey the complex texture of a charismatic personality. And it contains a masterly essay on the complementary nature of Gandhian and Freudian insights, both of which Erikson endorses. Suggestive and difficult, this book will reward the patience of the reader interested in the potential of a psychoanalytic understanding of history.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1969
ISBN: 0393310345
Publisher: Norton