Gandhi’s Localized Economics

By Working Villages International

Swadeshi, or “localized economics,” is a concept developed by Mahatma Gandhi.

At the beginning of the 20th century, India began importing cheap factory-made cloth from England, which forced thousands of local weavers and spinners out of work. The result was dire poverty and social chaos. Gandhi’s response was to throw away all articles made of English mill cloth, and wear only cloth which he spun himself. The image of him spinning on his charka became instantly famous; thousands followed his lead, and the result was India’s independence.

Fifty years after India’s independence, we find these problems all over the world due to the corporate globalized economy. In standard modern-day economics, the goal is to maximize profit at any cost. To this end, corporations will use many techniques to relentlessly pursue the bottom line. They will often:

  • Seek to maximize output per worker, regardless of health and safety concerns
  • Seek areas of the world where wages are low and human-rights laws are lax
  • Seek to ensure low wages by maintaining sufficient unemployment in the worker pool
  • Disempower communities through lobbying, policies and legal action
  • Use economies of scale to reduce per-unit costs, regardless of how much of a product is actually needed
  • Orient production towards the buyers who can pay the most
  • Concentrate capital due to winner-take-all competition and unfettered “free” markets
  • Pump money into advertising to create an imagined need
  • Promote the myth that happiness lies in consumption

It is hard to overstate the social problems that are caused by this corporate paradigm. Many countries now struggle with:

  • Widespread unemployment and plummeting wages
  • A dwindling middle class and a growing income gap between rich and poor
  • An impoverished working class
  • Dangerous or mind-numbing manufacturing work
  • Exploitation of child labor
  • A disenfranchised populace that’s easily incited to fanaticism, violence or terrorism
  • Demographic upheaval and ruptured families due to lack of local work
  • Widespread hunger and accompanying disease
  • Erosion of democracy, human rights, and worker rights
  • Environmental damage due to manufacturing and shipping

As if this were not enough, a globalized economy depends on cheap oil for manufacturing and transportation. This is becoming more and more untenable, for both environmental and political reasons, and is already impossible for countries in the global South. In Congo, for example, gasoline is $12 per gallon and the average person makes $100 per year, making any kind of oil-based manufacturing or transportation impossible for a local business.

Read full post at Working Villages International

7 responses to “Gandhi’s Localized Economics

  1. Seems like a dream, then I woke up…….and the nightmare continues! This globalization shit will be the end of us all. No food, no means to make ends meet, no roof over our heads, but there WILL be GOVERNMENT AND BANKERS…..what’s wrong with this picture?

  2. This is such an in-depth look at why buying locally is so important. We talk about it all the time, but not often enough in the context of social justice and economic freedom. A farmstead cheesemaker friend in Vermont prefers to keep his delicious sheep cheese local, even though demand for it (at a higher price) is much greater in wealthier markets far away. Looking first to our own village to fill our needs would be such an amazing shift. It’s happening with food; now to make progress in other areas. Thanks for getting me thinking about this!

  3. As we know this is not only a corporate paradigm. Gandhi faced the British Empire. Today the same groups are ruling the financial-oil-agrochemical-seed-and pharma corporations. The corporation is now trying to control most of the agriculture business. Two videos: I recommend:
    Confessions of an economic hit man:

    And notes: This is the kind of truth that they want you to eat.
    Fortunately the bst rBGH is banned throughout the European Union

  4. Pingback: Gandhi’s Localized Economics « TemporaryArtist

  5. Pingback: Gandhi’s Localized Economics « The Truth About Our World…

  6. Once again, I’ve learned so much from your post. As Eleanor noted, the idea of social justice and economic freedom coupled with the health and wellness benefits make this seem so simple.

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