Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, Vol 3, No 1 (2013)

The non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 21st Century: Implications for the Pursuit of Social Justice in Global Context

Paul Banahene Adjei

Abstract


This essay is an intellectual conversation about the non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and the possibility of using it to pursue social justice within the field of social work. The essay asks: In what ways can Gandhi and King’s non-violent philosophy help professional social workers capture their inner feelings and thoughts that harbour resistance against social injustice, while, at the same time, seek love, common humanity, compassion and kindness? In what ways can Gandhi and King’s ideas about non-violence and their effects on the human psyche help today’s social workers to pursue social justice in the global context? What are the real consequences of situating Gandhi and King’s non-violent praxis in the pursuit of global social justice? To answer this question, this essay relies on data collected during the author’s doctoral research in which he conducted open-ended semi-structured interviews of 20 purposively selected school activists in Toronto in 2009 and 2010. Six of the 20 participants were key informants for the study. This paper is about some of the responses of key informants about the non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and how it can be used to pursue social justice. This paper calls for a revolutionized reflection of Gandhi and King’s non-violent philosophy. By that, this essay suggests bringing a discursive sophistication into their speeches and writings in ways that can inform and shape contemporary activism while acknowledging their shortcomings and limitations. Furthermore, this essay argues that, given the current charge against the social work profession that it is doing little to address social marginalization and injustices in society, a dedication to the non-violent philosophy of Gandhi and King can be a starting point to position members of the profession as forerunners in the pursuit of global social justice.

Keywords


Social Justice, Non-Violent Philosophy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Stayagraha, Ahimsa, Global activism

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