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David Cortright , Gandhi and Beyond: Non-violence for an Age of Terrorism

(Paradigm, 2006; ISBN 1594512663; 288pp; £16.99)

Gandhi and Beyond is divided into three parts: the first two chapters look at the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King; the next three at how their ideas have been used by other activists such as Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day; and the final two at issues of gender and principles for action. The author says in his introduction that he hopes it will add to academic knowledge about nonviolence, whilst also inspiring people to act. I think he is more successful in the former objective, than the latter, as it is often rather a theoretical read.

I found the historical accounts the most useful part of the book. Although the stories of Gandhi and King have been told many times, there were still things that were new to me. For example Gandhi calling off the salt boycott to negotiate with the British (who then let him down) and King's momentous visit to India in 1958. It was also heart- ening to see Dorothy Day get such a good hearing, and to read about Cesar Chavez and Barbara Dem- ing, of whom I knew very little. This would all be helpful background for someone who was new to the ideas of nonviolence, and add to any long term activist's knowledge. Furthermore, it was refreshing to acknowledge the weaknesses Gandhi and King had in the areas of sexuality and gender, whilst showing us we can still admire their long term achievements.

However, I found the discus- sions about such topics as whether nonviolence is coercive to be quite dull, and the com- ments about property damage limited. I was astounded that the author spent so much time decry- ing the violence of activists in Seattle, whilst dismissing the 27 year history of the Ploughshares movement in a few sentences. Furthermore, the book is subtitled "Nonviolence for an Age of Terror- ism", yet the debate on this sub- ject is reduced to four pages in the last chapter. And I felt the two closing chapters about gender and action were overstated and obvious.

Overall, I found the book a plodding read, and only finished it because I was writing this review. It is probably worth reading for the accounts of the lives of Gandhi, King et al, but otherwise has little to recommend it.