Intercultural comparison on different concepts of how nonviolent action power-of-goodness works
A Research project at the University of Siegen
supported by the German Foundation for Peace Research
Project Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Heinz-Günther Stobbe
Project Leader: Martin Arnold
Logo Gütekraft – zur Hauptseite
The research project I work at is about a concept of conflict handling. This little known concept is called by different names.
Journalists first called it „passive resistance“ when it was developed and practiced by Mohandas K. Gandhi early in the 20th century.
Gandhi disapproved of name because he claimed that the concept was quite an active form of resistance and nothing like as „passive“ as the journalists expression associates. So he himself created a new term for it: „satyagraha“. He explained this Sanskrit word as „truth-force“, „love-force“ „soul-force“ and as „the force which is born by truth and love“. In German, for some years we have used the term „Gütekraft“, which means „power-of-goodness“. This concept was also called „non-violence“; but this term also causes misunderstandings since in our cultural context it associates (like „passive resistance“) not doing something, viz. violence.
In contrast to negative expressions, in history, the concept was often successful: It was effective on account of the positive power that could be mobilised by positive actions. Many people used this concept, partly before Gandhi and partly after having learnt from him, since he developed it into a deliberate and defined mode of action. Of the thousands people who used it, apart from Gandhi, the most famous was perhaps the Nobel laureate Martin Luther King Jr.
The question I am trying to answer in my research is: What are the notions of why and how people of various cultural and religious backgrounds found or find this concept effective? So I will deal not only with Gandhi as a Hindu, but also with Hildegard Goss-Mayr as a Roman Catholic and with the socio-anarchist Bart de Ligt. I’ll attempt to ascertain and compare what they thought were the reasons for the violence lowering effects of their actions. The aim of the research is to give people a better understanding of, and facilitate the learning of this satyagraha, power-of-goodness, Gütekraft. The project is embedded in a larger research undertaking of the Arbeitsgruppe Gütekraft (www.guetekraft.net). This working group fosters several projects like this one and, as a further step, will disseminate to as many people as possible any interesting results that are obtained.