The Influence of Gandhi's Economic Thoughts on the Indian Economy



Gandhi wanted the Indian economy to center around autonomous village republics rather than work on the back of large-scale industries or consumption expenditure. Gandhi’s principles for formulating his economic thoughts were based on a call to ‘return to the nature’. He would have liked people to reduce their wants in lives and to concentrate instead on development of their faculties for achievement of spiritual goals. This would not require people in villages to madly rush to cities in search of work. All people would live more fulfilling and meaningful lives. He would justify use of machines and industrial production systems in the economy only when the outcomes serviced the fundamental and most basic needs of people. This paper describes Gandhi’s economic principles in order to analyze how they contrast with the free operation of the market today which has created multiple new inequalities in society. The liberalized rapid economic growth model in India has made development of the rural sector secondary to rapid growths in trade and manufactures of consumer commodities in the urban centers. This has gone the opposite way from the paths Gandhi outlined for his country, and it has exacerbated the same societal inequalities he wanted to see reduced.


self-sufficiency, gram swaraj, Gandhian economics, rural development, economic liberalization


AHLUWALIA, M. S. (2002). “Economic Reforms in India since 1991: Has gradualism worked?”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16 (3): 67-88.

CHAKRABARTY, B. (1992). "Jawaharlal Nehru and Planning, 1938–41: India at the Crossroads", Modern Asian Studies, 26 (2): 275-287.

COCHRANE, R. (2007). "Rural Poverty and Impoverished Theory: Cultural Populism, Ecofeminism, and Global Justice", The Journal of Peasant Studies, 34:2: 167-206.

CHOWDHRY, K. (1988). “Growth or Survival?”, India International Centre Quarterly, 15(4): 191-200.

GANDHI, M. (1933). Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

GANDHI, M. (1954) Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Volume VIII (1947-48). Bombay: Vithalbhai K. Jhaveri & D. G. Tendulkar.

IYENGAR, S., DOSHI, P. T. & DESAI, H. (2012). “Gramdan to Gram Swaraj: Insights from Rajasthan Experiments”, Gandhi Marg, 34 (1): 67-86.

JODHKA, S. (2002). "Nation and Village: Images of Rural India in Gandhi, Nehru, and Ambedkar", Economic and Political Weekly, 37 (32): 3343-3353.

KUMARAPPA, J. C. (1951). Gandhian Economic Thought. Varanasi: Sarva Seva SanghPrakashan.

MISRA, S. & RAJIV, S. (2002). “Revitalising Panchayati Raj-Away From Gram Swaraj” In MISRA, A. D. (Ed) Rediscovering Gandhi, New Delhi: Mittal Publications.

NACHANE, D. M. (2016). “Gandhian Economic Thought and Its Influence on Economic Policymaking in India”, Indian Journal of Economics, Vol. XCVII, No. 384.

NANDA, B. R. (1994). Gandhi and His Critics. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

PARIKH, D. and PETRIE, C. A. (2019). "'We are Inheritors of a Rural Civilisation': Rural Complexity and the Ceramic Economy in the Indus Civilisation in Northwest India", World Archaeology, 51 (2): 252-272.

PEDERSEN, J. D. (2000). "Explaining Economic Liberalization in India: State and Society Perspectives", World Development, 28 (2): 265-282.

PRIYA, A. (2019). The Impact of Development on the Environment and Human Rights: A Study of Three Indian Projects. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

RIVETT, K. (1959). "The Economic Thought of Mahatma Gandhi", British Journal of Sociology, 1-15.

SEN, A. K. (1977). "Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 6 (4): 317–344.

SEN, R. K. (1997). "Level of Living and Gandhian Economic Theory", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 24, No. 7/8/9: 791-798.

UDAYAGIRI, M., & WALTON, J. (2003). "Global Transformation and Local Counter Movements: The Prospects for Democracy under Neoliberalism", International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 44(4): 309-343.

Author Biography

Taz Mazinder Barua, Gauhati University

Taz Mazinder Barua is UGC Junior Research Fellow and PhD scholar at Department of Political Science, Gauhati University




Download data is not yet available.