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Dalton, Dennis (1965) The idea of freedom in the political thought of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi and Tagore. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The thesis is concerned with the development of the idea of freedom in modern India, and particularly in the political and social thought of four major Indian writers, Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghose, Gandhi, and Rabindranath Tagore. Three major areas of discussion maybe distinguished here. First, there is a consideration of the common ground on which these four thinkers stand. It is argued that they comprise a "school" of modern Indian thought, both because of the purpose that they share, and the fundamental principles on which they all agree. Chief among these principles is that concerning the nature of freedom. Two broad forms of freedom are distinguished: "external" (political and social), and "internal" (moral and spiritual). These two forms are seen as complementary; as corresponding qualities which must both be achieved for freedom to be wholly realised. Second, the background of the school's thought is briefly discussed. Certain key themes in the writings of prominent nineteenth-century Indian figures are examined, to suggest the nature of the climate of opinion out of which Vivekananda's conception of freedom emerged. Finally, the greater part of the thesis is devoted to an analysis of precisely what these four men thought about freedom, and how one of them, Gandhi, carried on experiments with his ideas in Indian society and politics. It is argued that while all the members of this school agree on fundamental issues, each made a distinctive contribution to the development of the idea of freedom. Vivekananda's contribution arises in the synthesis that he created of various strands of nineteenth-century Indian thought, and which he used in his formulation of a particular conception of freedom. The major aspects of this conception were developed by the other thinkers, each adding new dimensions. If Vivekananda was the seminal influence behind the school, Aurobindo was its outstanding theoretician. He attempted to show a natural correspondence between individual freedom as self-realisation and social unity as a state of universal harmony in which each had recognized his spiritual identity with all. Gandhi was the most active participant in the nationalist movement. He sought to implement his school's ideas on freedom and harmony with a programme of social and political change; a method rooted in the belief that social progress could only come through a moral transformation of the individual in society. And finally, Tagore; who is seen, here, as the critic or "conscience" of the school, warning it against the cult of Nationalism: the threat to individual freedom and universal harmony which the others had overlooked.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:09

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