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About this book

Non-violent movements, under figures like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, led to some of the great social changes of the 20th century, and some argue it offers solutions for this century's problems. This book explores non-violence from its roots in diverse religious and philosophical traditions to its role in bringing social and political change today.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
This introductory text presents an overview of the central philosophical approaches to nonviolence, and of nonviolent practice through history. It examines the understanding of nonviolence developed in key religious traditions and in contemporary philosophies. Each religious approach to nonviolence will be discussed in great depth through examples drawn from Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Key theorists of nonviolence, from Socrates and Tolstoy through to the contemporary scholar of pragmatic nonviolence, Gene Sharp, will also be examined — along with their critics. Our understanding of these different traditions and philosophies will then illuminate the practice of key political figures of peace-making, from Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu to the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi, and the techniques of recent nonviolent movements, such as the Green Movement in Iran and elements of the Arab Spring. Though discussed individually, the reader will find common elements in all of them, which gives the book a systematic approach to the general theme of nonviolence.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 1. Nonviolence in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism

Abstract
Nonviolence as a religious virtue is found in three of India’s main religions: Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. From the very beginning, nonviolence was a dominant aspect of religious thought in Buddhism and Jainism, but it wasn’t until Mahatma Gandhi’s anticolonial struggles that the virtue of nonviolence in Hinduism was brought to the fore. All three religions find the root of their nonviolence in the ethic of ahimsa (non-injury or harmlessness).
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 2. Christianity and Nonviolence

Abstract
Nonviolence in the Christian tradition has its roots in Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, as detailed in the Gospel of Matthew. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us not to return violence with violence, but to respond with endless love to both the righteous and our enemies. Jesus’s sermon defines three principles behind his ethical imperative: (1) prohibition of anger, (2) nonresistance to evil and (3) the love of one’s enemies. On closer examination, it is evident that this Christian imperative to love our opponents is ultimately rooted in the love of God for human beings. As such, the love for God and the love of one’s enemy is codependent, for loving our enemy is displaying love of God’s children. Upon analysis of the Revelation of John it becomes clear that Christ’s idea of loving our enemies is a cornerstone of the Christian community. Of course, the concept of love in the New Testament is based upon Jesus Christ’s character, and the relation of the Christian to him. As such, the followers of Jesus must mould and form their love based on Christ’s love. Historically, oppressed Christian communities have used their love of one another to fend off the forces pitted against them. Loving one another, Christian communities were not only able to overcome their fear, but also to establish social solidarity together.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 3. Islam and Nonviolence

Abstract
Since the occurrence of 9/11 the image of Islam has been one constructed around stereotypes. The dominant stereotype is that to practise Islam is to be a violent fanatic. In addition, the common generalization of Islam as a faith is that it is motivated by bloodshed and violent tendencies, and that it is incompatible with secularism. Since 9/11, Muslim contributions to peace-making and nonviolence have been disregarded, overwhelmed by media images which have portrayed Islam as a religion of conflict and war.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 4. Philosophical Foundations of Nonviolence

Abstract
Some of the most notable philosophies of nonresistance were developed by Socrates, Henry David (H. D.) Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy. Both Socrates and Thoreau are considered to be defenders of conscientious disobedience. Each of these three, however, has contributed important elements to today’s understanding of nonviolence and nonresistance.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 5. Gandhi and Nonviolence

Abstract
Mahatma Gandhi continues to inspire many with his practical ideal of nonviolence. Although India has produced many gurus, Gandhi was the only spiritual figure who has able to merge spirituality and politics together to covert politics from a subjugation of power into a pursuit of truth and nonviolence. Gandhi admitted that his philosophy of nonviolence was not unique, since it was proclaimed in ancient scriptures. His conception of nonviolence was that it was a unifying force of loving and caring that connects humans among themselves and with nature, a means of seeking the sacredness of life: truth.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 6. Pragmatic Nonviolence

Abstract
Two forms of nonviolence exist: principled and pragmatic. The previous chapters have dealt heavily with principled (secular and religious ethical ideals) forms of nonviolence. In contrast, pragmatic nonviolence is a method of struggle concerned with the results nonviolence can achieve. Nonviolent principles are often used by individuals, not necessarily because they are believers in nonviolence from a philosophical standpoint, but actually to achieve practical advantages. Some scholars link pragmatic nonviolence with Machiavellianism, for its understanding that means justify the ends. It is for this reason that supporters of principled nonviolence argue that their struggle is more ‘worthy’ because it attempts to equate the means with the ends, without compromising one in favour of the other. Furthermore, they might claim that pragmatic nonviolence only leads to a half-hearted acceptance of the principle. However, proponents of such pragmatism argue that nonviolence is a far more effective ‘weapon’ than the use of violence.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 7. Critiques of Nonviolence

Abstract
Many Marxists believe violence to be a necessary and inevitable phase in tearing down the capitalist system. According to traditional Marxists, there is a historically determined revolution that will reconstruct the relations of production and put in place socialism. From this Marxist tradition stem the works of more contemporary theorists such as Georges Sorel and Slavoj Žižek, who believe in some way that a violent revolution is necessary. Post-colonial theorists such as Frantz Fanon apply Marxist conceptions of class struggle in a colonial framework. They argue that the nature of the colonial system is such that it legitimizes the use of violence as the only way of reaffirming the humanity of the colonized.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 8. Nonviolence in the Twentieth Century

Abstract
The twentieth century witnessed a few remarkable figures that employed nonviolent rhetoric and practice in efforts to combat injustices and oppression. Gandhi’s nonviolence, due to its spiritual and political applicability, influenced a number of other prominent political leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Chapter 9. Nonviolence in the Twenty-First Century

Abstract
Although the twenty-first century is still young, a handful of meaningful political changes have occurred throughout the world as a result of nonviolent uprisings. At the turn of the century it would have been impossible to imagine that some of the last dictatorial regimes to plague Europe, the Maghreb and the Middle East would be seriously threatened or disappear.
Ramin Jahanbegloo

Conclusion

Abstract
The twenty-first century marks a crossroads. The ending of the confrontation between East and West ushered in the possibility of a ‘new international order’ based on the extension of democracy across the globe, and a new spirit of peace. However, the enthusiasm which accompanied the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War seems now far away. The crises and cruelties in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Afghanistan and Iraq have brought many to the conclusion that the new world order is a new world disorder. However, in a brief note of optimism, the recent revolts in the Middle East demonstrate that democracy is held dear by its citizens, despite the fact that it is a fluid arena which has to deal with unforeseen challenges from both within and outside the society. Spinoza wrote that without passion no human activity, though supported by reason, can prosper. But how can one rekindle in citizens, either spoiled by well-being or resentful because of exclusion from it, the passion for democracy by taking the path of nonviolence?
Ramin Jahanbegloo
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