Gandhi's Progressive Disillusionment: Thumbs, Fingers, and the Rejection of Scientific Modernism in Hind Swaraj

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Public Culture, Volume 23, Issue 2, p.331 - 348 (2011)



Gandhi is conventionally viewed as a lifelong critic of Western modernity and colonial government. This essay shows that these views, which were famously expressed in Hind Swaraj, took form in his struggle against the Transvaal state between 1906 and 1908. Before that time Gandhi was an early and influential advocate of the technologies of control, including compulsory fingerprinting for Indians in South Africa, that he would later resist very energetically. The essay suggests that Gandhi's disavowel of the goals and principles of western modernity was an unacknowledged rejection of his own earlier enthusiasm for the virtues of scientific government and late nineteenth-century progressivism.

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