Quote: Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea (attrib Gandhi 1967 September)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 4 16:31:25 UTC 2011

There is a famous controversial quip attributed to Gandhi. Here is a
version I located in 1967.

Cite: 1967 September, The Reader’s Digest, Answer Men (Set of five
quotations), Page 52, Volume 91, The Reader’s Digest Association.
(Verified on microfilm)

<Begin excerpt>
MOHANDAS GANDHI was once asked: "What do you think of Western
civilization?" "I think it would be a good idea," he replied.
 - CBS News Special, "The Italians"
<End excerpt>

I do not know when "The Italians" was broadcast or the context of the
quotation. The quip is controversial because it is not clear whether
Gandhi said it. The Yale Book of Quotations has a citation dated 1968.
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has a variant published in 1979.
The query Gandhi was responding to in this version of the tale is
slightly different:

<Begin excerpt>
on being asked what he thought of modern civilization:
That would be a good idea.
(while visiting England in 1930)
E.  F.  Schumacher Good Work (1979)
<End excerpt>

Ralph Keyes discussed this saying in The Quote Verifier. Here is an excerpt:

<Begin excerpt>
During his first visit to England, when asked what he thought of
modern civilization, Gandhi is said to have told news reporters, "That
would be a good idea." The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations cites E. F.
Schumacher's Good Work as its source for this Gandihism, as does Nigel
Rees in the Cassell Companion to Quotations. In that 1979 book,
Schumacher said he saw Gandhi make this remark in a filmed record of
his quizzing by reporters as he disembarked in Southampton while
visiting England in 1930. Gandhi did not visit England in 1930. He did
attend a roundtable conference on India's future in London the
following year. Standard biographies of Gandhi do not report his
making any such quip as he disembarked. Most often it has been revised
to be Gandhi's assessment of "Western" civilization: "I think it would
be a good idea." …
<End excerpt>


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