The fifth Balzan-Skinner Lecture and Symposium: Gandhi’s Realism: Means and Ends in Politics

16 May 2014, 11:00 - 18:00

SG1, Alison Richard Building

 A lecture and symposium by Balzan Skinner Fellow 2013-14 Dr Karuna Mantena.

Please click on the tab to see a draft programme. To register for this event please click on the Register Online link on this page.  The standard fee is £20 with a reduced fee of £12.50 for students. This includes refreshments and lunch.

Confirmed Speakers:
Professor Mrinalini Sinha (University of Michigan)
Professor David Hardiman (University of Warwick)
Professor John Dunn (University of Cambridge)
Professor David Runciman (University of Cambridge)

Gandhian nonviolence is often misconstrued as a static moral injunction against violence or simply a condemnation of violent resistance.  Gandhi himself is portrayed as a saintly idealist, pacifist, or purveyor of conviction politics – a moral critic of politics, speaking from standpoint of conscience and truth.  I aim to show why this view of Gandhi and Gandhian politics is misleading.  Against the saint-as-politician, or the moral man of conscience, I pursue Gandhi’s political thinking from the vantage point of Gandhi the political actor and innovator who vividly understood that politics is closely bound to the possibility of violence.  This was the core of Gandhi’s realism – a view of politics as shaped by endemic tendencies towards conflict, domination, and violence coupled with an account of how nonviolent political action can constrain and mitigate these same tendencies to effect progressive change. 

When ends are pursued without sufficient attention to the practical means necessary to enact them, for Gandhi, it gives free reign to the negative entailments of politics: to forms of incitation and indignation, resentment and hostility that dehumanize political opponents; and to psychological temptations towards violence and attendant forms of moral erosion.  This lecture explores Gandhi’s understanding of the negative passions and egoistic dispositions that both enable and are enabled by the dynamics of political contestation.   I consider Gandhi’s account of the moral psychology of violence alongside the analyses of Max Weber and Reinhold Niebuhr – thinkers particularly significant for the development of realism in the twentieth century.   I aim to show how Gandhi’s political thought bridged developments in both Indian and Western intellectual traditions and political repertoires to produce a novel synthesis and provocation.

11.00-11.30

Registration and coffee

11.30-13.00

Welcome and Introduction

Keynote Lecture
Gandhi’s Realism: Means and Ends in Politics
Karuna Mantena (Yale University)

Chair: Annabel Brett (University of Cambridge)

13.00-14.00

Lunch

14.00-15.30

Session 1: Gandhi, Nonviolence, and Indian Politics

David Hardiman (University of Warwick)

Mrinalini Sinha (University of Michigan)

Chair: Joya Chatterji (University of Cambridge)

15.30-16.00

Tea/coffee break

16.00-17.30

Session 2: Gandhi as a Political Thinker

John Dunn (Univeristy of Cambridge)

David Runciman (University of Cambridge)

Chair: Richard Tuck (Harvard University)

17.30

Wine reception in the atrium.

The Balzan-Skinner Lecture in Modern Intellectual History since c.1500

"I don’t think the work would have been as good without the stimulation of an interdisciplinary group of scholars such as CRASSH provides. The chance to share it with CRASSH audiences has been a real boon."
Dr Joel Isaac (QMUL), Balzan-Skinner Fellow 2010-11

The Faculty of History received  funding for five years from the International Balzan Prize Foundation to establish an annual Lecture in modern intellectual history since c. 1500. The Balzan-Skinner scholar holds a Visiting Fellowship at the University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) for one term during the academic year.

Balzan Skinner Lectures and Symposiums

Dr Hannah Dawson (University of Edinburgh)
Friday, 10 Sep 2010
The First Balzan-Skinner Lecture: Normativity of Nature


Dr Joel Isaac (Queen Mary, University of London)
Thursday, 5 May 2011
The Second Balzan-Skinner Lecture: Radical Translation: Analytic Philosophy in America


Dr Tim Stanton (University of York)
Friday, 5 Oct 2012
The third Balzan-Skinner lecture: John Locke and the Fable of Liberalism


Dr Gabriel Paquette (Johns Hopkins University)
Friday, 26 April 2013
The fourth Balzan-Skinner Lecture: Romantic Liberalism in Southern Europe, c. 1820-1850