Wednesday, January 2, 2008

J P's Total Revolution and Humanism

Every society keeps changing. The changes may take place unconsciously or may be brought about by conscious efforts. The modern societies are different from earlier societies in the sense that modern societies are changing much faster. In words of Wilbert E. Moore, "By any crude measurement the contemporary world appears to be changing more rapidly than at any time in human history. …"

Similarly, there is now much more conscious effort to change societies. The values of liberty, equality and fraternity have found and are increasingly finding wide acceptability. The gap between these social ideals and the existing social reality is so great that sensitive minds are propelled by an urge for changing the society in a desirable direction. Probably this explains why Jayaprakash Narayan’s idea of Total Revolution caught the imagination of many young people in general and in Bihar in particular during the period of 1974-79. Jayaprakash Narayan or J.P. was certainly an important social and political thinker and leader of twentieth century India. W. H. Moriss-Jones, for example, has described J.P. as "the most vital political thinker in modern India" in his The Government and Politics of India. He wielded considerable influence on young people during the Bihar movement. I was also one of those who were attracted towards his idea of Total Revolution. In fact, I did my Ph.D. on J.P.’s Total Revolution because I wanted to make an in depth and well-researched exposition of J.P.’s concept of Total Revolution.

While, on the one hand, I was attracted towards the idea of Total Revolution, on the other, I became a rationalist and humanist in my student days itself. Since the foundation of Bihar Buddhiwadi Samaj in 1985 and Buddhiwadi Foundation in 1996, I have been working for the promotion of rational humanism through these organizations. Therefore, in this J.P.’s centenary year I felt the need to evaluate J.P.’s concept of Total Revolution from a humanist point of view. Thus, I decided to write this book by thoroughly revising my Ph.D. thesis and adding an entirely new chapter titled "Total Revolution and Humanism".

The main purpose of this book is to expound J.P.’s concept of Total Revolution and evaluate it from a humanist point of view. However, a deeper appreciation of Total Revolution requires an understanding of J.P.’s intellectual-political background, particularly his intellectual journey from Marxism to Total Revolution. In the first chapter of the book titled "J.P.’s Conversion to Marxism", I have traced J.P.’s conversion to Marxism in America. However, before doing that I have also taken a synoptic look at J.P.’s social background, early education and political influences on him, before he left for America at the age of twenty. The second chapter titled "Marxism to Democratic Socialism" and the third chapter "Democratic Socialism to Sarvodaya", I have traced the evolution of J.P.’s social and political thought from Marxism to sarvodaya via democratic socialism. In the fourth chapter "J.P.’s Concept of Total Revolution", I have tried to give an authentic exposition of J.P.’s concept of Total Revolution based on his own writings, speeches and interviews. In the concluding chapter "Total Revolution and Humanism", I tried to evaluate Total Revolution from point of view of a humanist. Before doing this, I have given a brief exposition of humanism in general and ideas of Corliss Lamont and M. N. Roy in particular. My main conclusion in this chapter is that Total Revolution, as a social and political ideology, broadly speaking, is compatible with humanism. I have in particular commended J.P.’s value-based scientific approach towards social change. However, I have expressed reservations about some of J.P.’s formulations regarding incentive to goodness, materialism and spiritualism. I have shown that these formulations are not acceptable from a humanist point of view. There is no need to go "beyond the material" and look in the direction of "spiritual" for incentive to goodness. Human rationality and inherent sympathy for others is sufficient to provide all the incentive that is needed for moral behaviour. Incentive to goodness is inherent in human nature itself.

I hope this book will be of interest for both the supporters of Total Revolution and the advocates of humanism.

The book can be obtained at a nominal price from the Buddhiwadi Foundation.

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