Global History of Political Thought: Gandhi as a Lesson on Cross-Cultural Hybridity
36 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 12 Apr 2011
Date Written: April 11, 2011
History of political thought tends to reduce intellectual traditions down to essential categories, usually defined around the nationality and time period of the subject of study. While this categorization is useful, it also has the danger to conceal, if not completely misconstrue, the global character of important cross-cultural political thinkers and texts. Furthermore, political thought as an activity has not been immune to globalization, pushing away from isolated, national traditions toward a globalized development of political ideas. This essay argues for a methodological shift in perspective for the history of political thought away from assuming thinkers or texts are part of a distinct and coherent national tradition and towards situating ideas within a global exchange of thought not necessarily limited by language or culture. This paper investigates an exemplary case of cross-cultural ingenuity and hybridity in the late modern period, Gandhi, by examining the influence of Tolstoy on Gandhi’s political thought, and reveals an ingenious, though fundamentally global, political thinker. Such cross-cultural ingenuity suggests that scholars resist forcing hybrid thinkers into narrow cultural and geographic niches.
Keywords: Gandhi, Tolstoy
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