I have begun editing the first issue of the Divyadaan Journal for 2010, and yesterday I was working on Howard and Swanger's chapter 2, which is on Jawarharlal Nehru's peculiar relationship to Gandhi. I find myself amazed at the way Howard and Swanger are interpreting Gandhi: here is an interpretation that rings true, and that I for one have never seen.
Howard points out that Nehru never really understood Gandhi. Nehru was a Fabian socialist; he was a 'modern'; Gandhi was pre-modern. Gandhi believed in dharma, in an organic society, and his ideas make sense only within this kind of a world view. Gandhi considered modern technological society as adharma; and he was, says Howard, profoundly right. His views and his analyses are being slowly confirmed by many thinkers today.
There is, of course, the ticklish issue of Gandhi's upholding of the varnadharma, the caste system in its varna essentials at least. Howard deals with this in his chapter 1 (published in DJPE 20/3 of 2009), and he has an interesting take on it, making Gandhi intelligible if not completely defensible.
But the ideological divide between Nehru and Gandhi is interesting, it is sharp, and it had enormous consequences. We are reaping the consequences of Nehruvian socialism. True, everyone is looking at India these days, and marvelling at our progress; even Pope Benedict XVI alludes obliquely to this when he speaks of countries that have managed to pull themselves out of poverty. But not Howard: Howard maintains a healthy skeptical distance from such facile praise of India's progress. He is, in that sense, profoundly Gandhian. For Gandhi - echoed in this by Paul VI in Populorum Progressio - there is no development that is not moral.
Where is Howard heading? I am not sure. But I am surely waiting eagerly for the forthcoming chapters of his book, Gandhi and the Future, which we are serializing in Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education.