‘The supreme consideration is man’

Tagore and Gandhi’s contrasting viewpoints and their relationship must have made for some intense and fascinating arguments.  The following quotation from the first preface, seems to align reasonably well with Tagore:

Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labour, but greed. It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might. . . The supreme consideration is man.

Obviously they diverge significantly in their thoughts on how technologies could be integrated into society. Tagore’s approach and reasoning resonants with my technology-addled modern perspective — but I wonder what kind of reception it received when written / delivered?

I’m not sure I’d label Gandhi strictly anti-technology or Luddite (as Andrew pointed out, he acknowledged some technologies as ‘inevitable’ — and complimented the sewing machine). Those tendencies are highlighted in these writings, but within the context of self-rule; the technologies he mentions (railroads, western Medicine, others) were portrayed as tools of the oppressors that prevented self-actualization and passive resistance and that didn’t give ‘supreme consideration’ to the man.  I’m not sure the same applies to his treatment of lawyers or doctors, as others have mentioned. The outright rejection of both fields, while internally consistent, is tough to comprehend today.

2 thoughts on “‘The supreme consideration is man’

  1. I agree — it’s probably impossible (and maybe practically undesirable) to eliminate all technology. But I think you can read Gandhi as an anecdote to the “all technology ultimately leads to progress” ethos of today. Tech. may ultimate encourage some habits of thinking and build some power structures that we aren’t so comfortable with — Gandhi helps us focus on those.

  2. Also agreed. I don’t see Gandhi as strictly anti-technological. In fact, he speaks of seeing the body itself as a machine in itself. I read Gandhi as interpreting technology in two lights.

    1) Technology impedes the individuality of man (and women). Analogy: Facebook is addicting and turns me into a social media addict.
    2) Technology impedes civilization. Analogy: Facebook’s UI allows people to create more wide connections, but affords less deep connections.

Comments are closed.