What does Gandhi have to say about youth work?

By Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2006 I was invited to write a paper on Gandhi as part of a series called “What does … have to say about youth work?” for the journal Youth & Policy. Here is a version with a couple of minor changes to update some references. The full citation is:Stuart, G. (2006). What does Gandhi have to say about youth work? Youth & Policy(93), 77-89. Available from http://www.youthandpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/youthandpolicy93-1.pdf

Gandhi, assassinated in 1948, was a seeker after the Truth who transformed India and inspired social change movements throughout the world. Gandhi’s large body of writing provides him with the opportunity to ‘speak to you from my grave’ (Dasgupta and Walz, 1986) and, although he may not have written directly about youth work, his theory and practice of nonviolent social and individual change could serve as a solid foundation for youth workers today.

Mohandas Gandhi (better known as Mahatma Gandhi) was born on 2 October 1869 in India, to middle class parents; his father was a senior official of a small Indian state. Married at 13, Gandhi set sail for England to become a lawyer when he was 19. After being called to the bar in 1891, Gandhi returned to India to work as a lawyer without much success (partly due to his shyness). His move to South Africa in 1893 to become a legal advisor to an Indian merchant set the stage for his political awakening. Shortly after his arrival, despite having a first-class ticket, he was thrown from a first-class train compartment because a white man objected to his presence. His humiliation at the hands of those and other officials began the process of transforming him from a meek, mild citizen into an unwavering political and social activist.

During his 22 years in South Africa Gandhi refined many of his nonviolent techniques, began his life long commitment to communal living in ashrams and learnt to lead large- scale political campaigns. Returning to India in 1915 he became involved in various campaigns to help his fellow Indians before emerging as a leading figure in India’s successful struggle for independence. In 1948, five and a half months after independence, Gandhi was assassinated on his way to a prayer meeting by a Hindu radical who accused him of weakening India by allowing the creation of the separate Muslim state of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nehru told the newly independent Indian nation:

Friends and Comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere, I do not know what to tell you and how to say it, our beloved leader, Bapu [Father] as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more…. The light has gone out, I said, and yet was wrong. For the light that has shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many many years, will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will still be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate present; it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom. (Nehru, 1989:1)

Despite being a leader of a political struggle, Gandhi’s major concerns were spiritual and moral. His belief, however, that political, economic, social and spiritual actions were interrelated and could not be compartmentalised meant all his actions were part of his spiritual quest. Nonviolence was not just a political strategy but a central foundation of his philosophy influencing all aspects of his life.


Gandhi is best known for his nonviolent resistance British rule in India. Initially Gandhi used the term ‘passive resistance’ to describe his methods of nonviolent action but used the term satyagraha from 1908. The literal meaning of satyagraha is ‘holding on to Truth and it means, therefore, Truth-force’ (Gandhi, 1951:3). According to Gandhi:

In the application of Satyagraha, I discovered, in the earliest stages, that pursuit of Truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For, what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but one’s own self. Satyagraha and its off-shoots, non-co-operation and civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of suffering. (Gandhi, 1996)

The 1930 campaign against the British salt laws is an excellent example of Gandhi’s use of satyagraha. Under these statutes the government had a monopoly on production and levied a sales tax on salt, whilst Indians were not permitted to produce their own salt or to use salt manufactured illegally. Gandhi used these laws to highlight the injustice of British rule and to mobilise the Indian population. He first wrote to the Viceroy in March 1930 addressing him as ‘Dear Friend’:

Before embarking on Civil Disobedience and taking the risk I have dreaded to take all these years, I would fain approach you and find a way out. My personal faith is absolutely clear. I cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives, much less human beings, even though they may do the greatest wrong to me and mine. Whilst, therefore, I hold British rule in India to be a curse, I do not intend to harm a single Englishman…. Let me put before you some of the salient points…. The whole revenue system has to be revised as to make the peasant’s good its primary concern. But the British system seems to be designed to crush the very life out of him. Even the salt he must use to live is so taxed as to make the burden fall heaviest on him….

My ambition is no less than to convert the British people through nonviolence and then make them see the wrong that is done to India…. If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the 11th of this month, I shall proceed with such co-workers of the ashram as I can take to disregard the provisions, of the salt law.

I regard this tax to be the most unjust of all from the poor man’s standpoint. As the independence movement is for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil. The wonder is that we have submitted to this cruel monopoly for so long. It is, I know, open to you to frustrate my design by arresting me. I hope that there will be tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me….

This letter is not in any way intended as a threat, but is a simple and sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister…. I remain, your sincere friend, M. K. Gandhi. (Sinha, 1985)

The Viceroy’s secretary responded ‘His Excellency…. regrets to learn that you contemplate a course of action which is clearly bound to involve violation of the law and danger to the public peace’ (Sinha, 1985) and so Gandhi, with 78 satyagrahis (satyagraha activists), started a 24 day, 388 kilometre March to Dandi. On the way he spoke to large crowds and urged Indians to join the struggle for independence. Upon reaching Dandi, he spent a day in prayer and meditation and then, with the satyagrahis proceeded to collect salt. At first the government ignored the protest, but as it gained momentum the official response became more and more brutal. In the middle of the night of May 5, the police arrested Gandhi and proceeded to arrest the other leaders of the campaign. The breaking of the salt laws, however, continued to gain momentum. The nonviolence of the satyagrahis at times stood in stark contrast to the violence of the police. Webb Miller, a United Press correspondent, described an action on May 21, 1930:

The salt deposits were surrounded by ditches filled with water and guarded by 400 native Surat police in khaki shorts and brown turbans. Half-a-dozen British officials commanded them. The police carried lathis—five-foot clubs tipped with steel. Inside the stockade twenty- five native riflemen were drawn up.

In complete silence the Gandhi men drew up and halted a hundred yards from the stockade. A picked column advanced from the crowd, waded the ditches, and approached the barbed-wire stockade, which the Surat police surrounded, holding their clubs at the ready. Police officials ordered the marchers to disperse under a recently imposed regulation which prohibited gatherings of more than five persons in any one place. The column silently ignored the warning and slowly walked forward. I stayed with the main body about a hundred yards from the stockade.

Suddenly, at a word of command, scores of native police rushed upon the advancing marchers and rained blows on their heads with their steel-shod lathis. Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like tenpins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow.

Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patched of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down. When every one of the first column had been knocked down stretcher-bearers rushed up unmolested by the police and carried off the injured to a thatched hut which had been arranged as a temporary hospital.

Then another column formed while the leaders pleaded with them to retain their self-control. They marched slowly toward the police. Although every one knew that within a few minutes he would be beaten down, perhaps killed, I could detect no signs of wavering or fear. They marched steadily with heads up, without the encouragement of music or cheering or any possibility that they might escape serious injury or death. The police rushed out and methodically and mechanically beat down the second column. There was no fight, no struggle; the marchers simply walked forward until struck down. There were no outcries, only groans after they fell. There were not enough stretcher-bearers to carry off the wounded; I saw eighteen injured being carried off simultaneously, while forty-two still lay bleeding on the ground awaiting stretcher-bearers. The blankets used as stretchers were sodden with blood. (Miller, 1930, p 250–251)

After the action Miller went to hospital and counted 320 injured and two dead. By mid summer, as many as 100,000 Indians had been jailed (Mehta, 1977). The salt protests were a turning point in the independence struggle and helped mobilise the India nation. Part of Gandhi’s strategy was overcrowding the country’s jails to put a strain on British rule and to highlight the brutality of the response.

The salt marches demonstrate four central foundations of Gandhi’s philosophy and actions:

  1. Truth (Satya)
  2. Nonviolence or non-harm (Ahimsa)
  3. Willingness for self-sacrifice (Tapasya)
  4. Welfare for all (Sarvodaya)

Truth (Satya)

For Gandhi, God alone was Truth and everything else was transitory and illusory.

The word Satya (Truth) is derived from Sat, which means ‘being’. Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God. In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God, than to say that God is Truth… And where there is Truth, there also is knowledge which is true. Where there is no Truth, there can be no true knowledge… Devotion to this Truth is the sole justification for our existence. All our activities should be centred in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life. When once this stage in the pilgrim’s progress is reached, all other rules of correct living will come without effort, and obedience to them will be instinctive. But without Truth it is impossible to observe any principles or rules in life. (Gandhi, n.d:3)

Gandhi’s (1940) autobiography The Story of my Experiments with Truth attests that the search for Truth was at the heart of his political, social, economic, and ethical thought. For Gandhi, Truth was inseparable from God and universal justice (Gandhi, 1958a; Walz and Ritchie, 2000) and the satyagraha movement was a ‘movement intended to replace methods of violence, and a movement based entirely on truth’ (Gandhi, 1951). Gandhi went to the extent of defining untruth as violence (Ritchie, 2001). Since he believed that nonviolence involved a search for truth and that no individual had a monopoly on truth or complete understanding he assumed his opponents needed to be treated with respect because they had the potential to contribute to a greater understanding of truth (Gandhi, 1958a). Gandhi believed all people were manifestations of Absolute Reality and so they were able to evaluate truth through their inner voice or conscience. The search for truth, however, could not rely on meditation and withdrawal from the world but needed to be conducted in the world and involved an active engagement in social and political change (Ritchie, 2001).

The marches highlighted the truth that although the British were happy to have the consent of Indians, wherever possible, British rule was supported by coercive and brutal force – they would rule by the club and the gun. By bringing this truth into the open, British authority was undermined to the extent that going to jail was no longer a mark of shame but a badge of honour (Ackerman and DuVall, 2000) and international attention was given to the independence struggle.

Nonviolence (Ahimsa)

Ahimsa, which means literally ‘non-harming,’ was also a foundation of Gandhi’s spiritual and political quest.

In its negative form it means not injuring any living being, whether by body or mind. I may not therefore hurt the person of any wrong-doer, or bear any ill will to him and so cause him mental suffering…. In its positive form, ahimsa means the largest love, the greatest charity. If I am a follower of ahimsa, I must love my enemy. I must apply the same rule to the wrongdoer who is my enemy or a stranger to me, as I would to my wrong-doing father or son. (Gandhi, 1986: 212-3)

Gandhi believed nonviolence was the law of love and that it involved loving one’s enemy. He believed, ‘it is no nonviolence if we merely love those that love us. It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us’ (Gandhi, 1958a:86). He went to the extent of suggesting that hate was the subtlest form of violence and ‘complete nonviolence is complete absence of ill-will against all that lives’ (Gandhi, 1971:69). Gandhi objected to violence not only because it was a barrier to a search for Truth but also ‘because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; [but] the evil it does is permanent’ (Gandhi, 1958a: 95).

Gandhi (1958a) suggested, ‘no man [or woman] could be actively nonviolent and not rise against social injustice no matter where it occurred’ (p. 89). He depicted social justice ‘as fairness to the individual, with priority to disadvantaged people’ (Walz and Ritchie, 2000:214). And expected his followers, amongst other things, to work towards the end of untouchability and other injustices, to be active in social and political change, and to work towards the elimination of poverty.

During the salt march Gandhi urged satyagrahis not to inflict harm on the British and the supporters. He believed that people were basically ‘gentle, co-operative and giving’ and even when they acted differently, they could be assisted back to a path of ‘nobility and selflessness’ (Sharma, 1989: 65). He made a distinction between people and their actions: satyagraha involved the ‘demonstration of love and respect even for one’s so-called enemies’ and ‘doing good even to the evildoer’ (Ritchie, 2001: 56). ‘I must love my enemy. I must apply the same rule to the wrongdoer who is my enemy or a stranger to me, as I would to my wrong-doing father or son’ (Gandhi, 1986:213). It was appropriate to resist injustice but to attack the people behind it was ‘tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself’ (Gandhi, 1958a: 88). Gandhi argued that violence could never really end injustice because it inflamed the prejudice and fear that fed oppression (Ackerman and DuVall, 2000). Violent, unjust means would never lead to a nonviolent just end.

 The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree: and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree…. We reap exactly as we sow. (Gandhi, 1909, Chapter 16)

Self-sacrifice (Tapasya)

Rather than cause physical harm to others, satyagrahis were willing to accept self-sacrifice.

Self-sacrifice of one innocent man is a million times more potent than the sacrifice of a million men who die in the act of killing others. The willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful retort to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God or man. (Gandhi, 1958b)

Gandhi believed ‘satyagraha means fighting oppression through voluntary suffering. There can be no question here of making anyone else suffer’ (Gandhi, 1987: 55). Gandhi claimed that suffering worked because ‘real suffering bravely borne melts even a heart of stone’ (quoted in Ritchie, 2001:53), and he thus argued that satyagraha required:

More heroism than does fighting a battle. The soldier has weapons in his hand; his aim is to strike the enemy. The satyagraha, on the contrary, fights by suffering himself. Surely, this is not for the weak and the diffident. (Quoted in Ritchie, 2001:53-4)

Welfare of all (Sarvodaya)

Gandhi believed that sarvodaya, or the ‘welfare of all’, began with care for the ‘poorest of the poor’ (Walz, Sharma and Birnbaum, 1990: 16) and implied ‘selfless service to others’ (Ritchie, 2001: 67). In the Indian context Gandhi had a particular concern for ending the oppression of untouchability.1

The most important thing to do is purification from within. So long as the poison of untouchability remains in the Hindu body, it will be liable to attacks from outside. It will be proof against such attacks only when a solid and impregnable wall of purification is erected in the shape of complete removal of untouchability. (Gandhi, 1963b: 105)

Gandhi argued personal and social development were inseparable (Sharma and Ormsby, 1982: 17), and social development needed to focus simultaneously on individuals, families and communities, as well as the social, psychological and moral institutions from which economic and political life emanate (Sharma, 1989: 63). The central component of sarvodaya was the ‘individual and village or small local communities in control of their economic and political life’ (Ritchie, 2001: 66). Only ‘self-sufficient, self-dependent, and self- governing towns or villages’ could provide individuals with the ‘wholesome and intimate environment’ necessary for personal development (Sharma, 1989: 67).

An important feature of sarvodaya was the principle of human scale and immediacy, swadeshi, which involved people having a particular responsibility for their local environment and community (Walz, Sharma and Birnbaum, 1990).

It means a greater dependence on indigenous resources and talents for individual and societal functioning, identifying, exploring, and creating such resources and talents locally, and creating a new social order according to the needs, goals, and aspirations of the local populations. (Sharma, 1989: 67-68)

Swadeshi, important component of sarvodaya, emphasised a human scale of social organisation (Walz and Ritchie, 2000: 218) and an economic system that was local, small scale and people-oriented (Sharma 1989, see also Schumacher, 1973). It entailed ‘developing an attitude of self-help in all aspects of life, including the bringing about of desired social development’ (Sharma and Ormsby, 1982: 22).

Much of the deep poverty of the masses is due to the ruinous departure from Swadeshi in the economic and industrial life. If not an article of commerce had been brought from outside India, she would be today a land flowing with milk and honey. But that was not to be. We were greedy and so was England…. If we follow the Swadeshi doctrine,  it would be your duty and mine to find out neighbours who can supply our wants and  to teach them to supply them where they do not know how to proceed, assuming that there are neighbours who are in want of healthy occupation. Then every village of India will almost be a self-supporting and self-contained unit, exchanging only such necessary commodities with other villages as are not locally producible. (Gandhi, 1963a, chap. 87)

Underpinning sarvodaya and swadeshi were six values: material simplicity, personal growth, self-help, human scale, self-determination and ecological awareness (Sharma, 1989; Walz, 1986). Gandhi believed liberation from the British was only part of the struggle. At a social level industrial capitalism tolerated, if not promoted, a violent social order though exploitation, inequality and unequal distribution of resources (Walz, Sharma and Birnbaum, 1990) with over consumption and the exploitation of villages leading to unacceptable levels of poverty (Ritchie, 2001). He argued that personal revolution had to precede social revolution (Sharma and Ormsby, 1982) and believed the only way to broad social change was for individuals to change. For Gandhi over-consumption in the face of extreme poverty and environmental degradation could not be supported and each person needed to meet their basic needs in a prudent and sparing manner. In addition he believed that reducing consumption would encourage individuals to become more generous and less attached to material possessions (Ritchie, 2001).

Ashram vows

The eleven vows that formed the basis of ashram life provide indications of what Gandhi might expect from youth workers today. The ashrams established by Gandhi were disciplined, intentional communities that were experiments in living out his high ideals. For Gandhi vows were powerful tools that encouraged the denial of self as part of the quest for self realisation and social transformation. Ashram adherents vowed to practice:

  1. Truth
  2. Nonviolence
  3. Chastity
  4. Non-possession
  5. Non-Stealing
  6. Bread-Labour
  7. Control of Palate
  8. Fearlessness
  9. Equal respect for all religions
  10. Swadeshi
  11. Elimination of untouchability. (http://www.mkgandhi.org/philosophy/fivebasicprinciples.htm )

The emphasis was on both personal and social liberation. While the relevance of most of the vows can be seen to flow from the principles discussed above, some require further explanation. The vows of chastity and control of palate were based on the Hindu concept of Brahmacharya and were important in Gandhi’s emphasis on the search for self-realisation. According to Gandhi:

The full and proper meaning of Brahmacharya is search of Brahman [God]. Brahman pervades every being and can therefore be searched by diving into and realising the inner self. This realisation is impossible without complete control of the senses. Brahmacharyathus means control in thought, word and action, of all the senses at   all times and in all places. A man or woman completely practicing Brahmacharya is absolutely free from passion. Such a one therefore lives high unto God, is Godlike. (Gandhi, 1955:112)

Gandhi’s concern about over-consumption and poverty meant he expected people living in his ashrams to take a vow of non-possession.

Non-possession is allied to non-stealing. A thing not originally stolen must nevertheless be classified as stolen property, if we possess it without needing it. Possession implies provision for the future. A seeker after Truth, a follower of the law of Love, cannot hold anything against tomorrow. God never stores for the morrow. He never creates more than what is strictly needed for the moment…. If each retained possession of only what he needed, no one would be in want, and all would live in contentment…. We ordinary seekers may not be repelled by the seeming impossibility. But we must keep the ideal constantly in view, and in the light thereof, critically examine our possessions and try to reduce them. (Gandhi, 1963a, chap. 37)

As can be seen from the Salt March, Gandhi expected his followers to be fearless.

My nonviolence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice. I can no more preach nonviolence to a coward than I can tempt a blind man to enjoy healthy scenes. Nonviolence is the summit of bravery. And in my own experience, I have had no difficulty in demonstrating to men trained in the school of violence the superiority of nonviolence. As a coward, which I was for years, I harboured violence. I began to prize nonviolence only when I began to shed cowardice. (Gandhi, 1963b)

Everybody at the ashrams was expected to undertake bread-labour or to work for their meals. Gandhi had great faith in the value of manual labour and believed that it was ‘a veritable blessing to one who would observe nonviolence, worship Truth, and make the observance of Brahmacharya a natural act’ (Gandhi, 1960: 8). His attitude towards welfare was also shaped by his attitude towards bread-labour.

My friendship for the paupers of India has made me hard-hearted enough to contemplate their utter starvation with equanimity in preference to their utter reduction to beggary. My Ahimsa would not tolerate the idea of giving a free meal to a healthy person who has not worked for it in some honest way, and if I had the power I would stop every Sadavrat [charity] where free meals are given. It has degraded the nation and has encouraged laziness, idleness, hypocrisy and even crime…. Every city has its own difficult problem of beggars, a problem for which the moneyed men are responsible. I know that it is easier to fling free meals in the faces of idlers, but much more difficult  to organize an institution where honest work has to be done before meals are served. (Gandhi, 1960: 36-37)

Gandhi’s search for truth was not limited by religious boundaries. Although he was a Hindu, he drew on the insights from many different religions and regularly read a wide variety of sacred texts.

I came to the conclusion long ago, after prayerful search and study and discussion with as many people as I could meet, that all religions were true and also that all had some error   in them, and that, whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism, from which it logically follows that we should hold all as dear as our nearest kith and kin and  that we should make no distinction between them. (Gandhi, 1963a, Chapter 12)

Implication for youth workers

There are numerous implications for practice based on a Gandhian approach to youth work. Here I will suggest five. First youth workers need to strive for highly ethical standards both in their work and personal lives. In particular they need to seek truth; they need to act with integrity and absolute honesty; they need to be nonviolent and just in all their actions; and their relationships with young people need to be free from manipulation and exploitation. A commitment to truth and honesty means that youth workers would share all relevant information with young people (including case-notes and other files), they would not withhold information ‘for the young person’s own good’, and they would actively seek out Truth as experienced by young people.

Second youth workers need to be committed to social justice and social change. Too often they focus on individual rather than social or structural change for a range of reasons including:

  • Paying such attention to addressing the immediate needs of young people they have little time or energy for social change
  • They are working in a political context that places little emphasis on social justice
  • They are concerned that their funding may be at risk if their providers disagree with an involvement in social change activities
  • They may not feel that they have the knowledge or skills needed for social and structural change (Bessant, 1997; Bessant, Sercombe and Watts, 1998; White, 1990).

It is possible, however, to develop practices which meet the needs of individual young people while also meeting broader social objectives of improving the position of marginalised young people. As White (1987) suggests, there is a significant difference between youth workers who ‘actively and consciously situate’ their work within ‘a framework of broad political and social objectives’, as opposed to those ‘workers who concentrate on the provision of services without reflecting too much on the social or political significance of their day-to-day practices’ (p. 25).

Third youth workers should work from a position of power-with rather than power-over (Stuart, 2004a). According to Starhawk (1990), power-over is linked to ‘domination and control’ (p. 9) and is ultimately backed by force. Power-with is linked to ‘social power, the influence we wield among equals’ (p. 9) and is based on respect, influence and empowerment. The relationship between power and youth work is complex but it is an issue that is unavoidable and needs to be dealt with explicitly (Sercombe, 1998). Youth workers need to recognise the nature of power involved in their relationships with young people and how they exercise power. Although youth workers and young people are not equals, working from a position of power-with encourages youth workers to recognise the wisdom and insights of young people and to adopt strategies that are empowering and do not rely on force or coercion. In particular youth workers need to explore non-coercive behaviour management strategies that are based on meeting the needs of young people, building community and co-operation (Stuart, 2004b).

Fourth at a time where there are growing attempts to control young people and youth services are being pressured to target marginalised young people through a social control orientation (Robertson, 2000; Smith, 2002), a Gandhian approach to youth work would favour practice based on informal education. Ideally informal education is grounded in a commitment to social justice, individual and social change, critical thinking, dialogue and collaboration. It involves dialogue and critical thinking, through which people can recognise the ways in which they are marginalised and disempowered and take action for change (Jeffs and Smith, 1990). Such an approach is consistent with Gandhi’s emphasis on both personal and social liberation.

Finally sarvodaya and swadeshi imply that small, locally based social services are more likely to deliver services meeting local needs than large corporate service bureaucracies (Walz and Ritchie, 2000:219). Therefore youth workers should be involved in developing social and economic systems that promote human worth, productivity, creativity and dignity, while not over-exploiting the world’s natural resources (Ritchie, 2001; Sharma, 1989).

At times a commitment to empowerment, social justice and nonviolence seem to be out of fashion, but Gandhi challenges us to ensure that youth work focuses on both individual and social transformation. Although speaking from a different culture and era, Gandhi can provide inspiration and guidance to youth workers who are willing to accept the challenge.

Note 1  ‘Untouchables’ or harijans were members of the lowest Hindu class or people who were outside the caste system. They often undertook tasks that were considered ritually unclean (e.g. killing animals, working with dead animals, cleaning toilets) and members of the higher castes believed that contact with harijans made them unclean. Harijans faced many restrictions such as not being allowed to enter Hindu temples or to drink from public water fountains). Although officially abolished, harijans still face extensive discrimination.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Principles of nonviolence
  2. Nonviolence as a Framework for Youth Work Practice
  3. 7 principles guiding my work
  4. My background in peace and environment groups
  5. What are Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops?
  6. What can you do when someone you know is experiencing domestic violence?

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.


Ackerman, P. and DuVall, J. (2000). A force more powerful: A century of nonviolent conflict, New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Bessant, J. (1997). Free market economics and new directions for youth workers, Youth Studies Australia, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 34-40.

Bessant, J., Sercombe, H. and Watts, R. (1998). Youth studies: An Australian perspective, South Melbourne: Longman.

Dasgupta, S. and Walz, T. (1986). Gandhi and the New Society, Social Development Issues, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 1-10.

Galtung, J. (1990). Cultural violence, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 291- 305.

Gandhi, M. (1909). Hind Swaraj and Indian Home Rule, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, M. (1940). An autobiography or The story of my experiments with Truth, M Desai, Trans., Ahmedabad, India: Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, M. (1951). Satyagraha: Nonviolent resistance, B Kumarappa, Trans., Ahmedabad, India: Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, M. (1955). Truth is God: Gleanings from the writings of Mahatma Gandhi bearing on God, God-Realization and the Godly Way, compiled by R Prabhu, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, M. (1958a). All men are brothers: Life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as told in his own words, Paris: UNESCO/Melbourne University Press.

Gandhi, M. (1958b). The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India.

Gandhi, M. (1960). Bread labour: The gospal [sic] of work, compiled by R Kelhar, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, M. (1963a). The mind of Mahatma Gandhi, 3rd ed., Ahmedabad: Navajivan Mudranalaya.

Gandhi, M. (1963b). The way to communal harmony, compiled by U Rao., Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, M. (1971). The writings of Gandhi: A selection, compiled by R Duncan, London: Fontana/Collins.

Gandhi, M. (1986). The moral and political writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 2, compiled by R Iyer, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gandhi, M. (1987). The moral and political writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 3, compiled by R Iyer, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gandhi, M. (1996). Selections from Gandhi, compiled by N Bose, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Mudranalaya.

Gandhi, M. (n.d.). From Yeravda Mandir: Ashram observances, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. (eds.) (1990). Using informal education, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Mehta, V. (1977). Mahatma Gandhi and his apostles, Middlesex: Penguin.

Miller, S. (1930). The Salt March. In H. Jack (Ed.), The Gandhi Reader: A sourcebook of his life and writings. New York: Grove Press.

Nehru, J. (1989). Mahatma Gandhi: Reflection on his personality and teachings, Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Ritchie, H. (2001). Gandhian thought as general theory for social work practice, Masters of Social Work thesis, The University of Iowa.

Robertson, S. (2000). Working space. A warm, safe space: An argument for youth clubs, Youth & Policy, No. 70, pp. 71-77.

Schumacher, E. (1973). Small is beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered, London: Blond and Briggs.

Sercombe, H. (1998). Power, ethics and youth work, Youth Studies Australia, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 18-23.

Sharma, S. (1989). Gandhian development: An exploration of the conceptual, structural, and valuational linkages, Journal of International and Comparative Social Welfare, Vol. 5, pp. 62-75.

Sharma, S. and Ormsby, H. (1982). The concept of social development in Gandhian Philosophy: Some preliminary observations, Social Development Issues, Vol. 6, pp. 15- 25.

Sinha, S. (1985). A Pinch of Salt Rocks An Empire, New Delhi: Indraprastha Press.

Smith, M. (2002). Transforming youth work: Beyond Connexions, Informal Education Homepage, viewed 25 June 2002 http://www.infed.org/youthwork/transforming.htm

Starhawk (1990). Truth or dare: Encounters with power, authority, and mystery, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Stuart, G. (2004a). Nonviolence as a Framework for Youth Work Practice, Youth Studies Australia, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 26-32.

Stuart, G. (2004b). Youth work and managing behaviour, Youth & Policy, No. 85, pp. 19- 36.

Walz, T. (1986). Organisational behaviour and nonviolent management: A Gandhian analysis, Gandhi Marg, Vol. 83, pp. 756-767.

Walz, T. and Ritchie, H. (2000). Gandhian principles in social work practice: Ethics revisited, Social Work, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 213-222.

Walz, T., Sharma, S. and Birnbaum, C. (1990). Gandhian thought as a theory base for social work, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois.

White, R. (1987). Youth workers: Training for what? Bulletin of the National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 23-27.

White, R. (1990). No space of their own: Young people and social control in Australia, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.


About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I'd love to hear what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.