Gandhi and Mao As Communicators: A Comparative Study of Practice and Theory

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Singh, Kusum Jitendra

This study is a comparative analysis of the communication practice and theory of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Mao Tse Tung during the period in which they were the major leaders of the national liberation movements in India and China. In broadest terms, the problem dealt with is how they succeeded in communicating with hundreds of millions of illiterate peasants without the use of such modern means of communication as radio and television. If they had not solved the problem of communication, they would have been would-be leaders with very few followers and their movements would have been doomed to failure. The major method is that of content analysis in the context of the broader patterns of historical change in the countries involved. The first step, therefore, is a panoramic summary of the socio-economic and political situations in India and China during the period between World Wars I and II, the growth of the Indian and Chinese movements for independence from foreign control, and the detailed phases of national struggle during the critical war-time years of 1942 through 1944. The next step is a detailed content analysis of the major themes in almost all the recorded messages of Gandhi and Mao in the 1942-44 period. The quantitative analysis shows that, despite many differences with respect to other themes, the various themes relating to leadership style, received the greatest amount of attention from both. The qualitative analysis shows that, despite important differences, both Gandhi and Mao discussed leadership in terms that dealt not only specifically with channels of communication but also with goal values as alternatives to the perceived conditions of crisis, two broader themes that helped establish a sense of communality and understanding between the leaders and the led. The next step pulls together the communication theories of both Mao and Gandhi, a presentation based not only on the content analysis for the 1942-44 period but also on explicit statements over a longer period and tacit premises which are inferred from more general statements. It is suggested that the operational doctrines of both Gandhi and Mao have important implications for communication theory and that the more specific communication of each is a version of what, in Mao's terminology, has been called "the mass line." Finally, conclusions are reached concerning the multi-modal, multi-directional communication behavior of both Gandhi and Mao and their emphasis on the necessity that the communicator identify himself with the needs and even the life-styles of the recipients. These conclusions, it is suggested, have possible implications for future research on the vital connection between communication and development and particularly on the possibility of non-charismatic leadership in so-called "developing" countries.

George Gerbner
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