Gendle publishes essay on Sarvodaya social movement

In this essay, Director of Project Pericles and Professor of Psychology Mathew Gendle elevates Sri Lanka’s Sarvodaya movement as a model for populist solutions to governmental dysfunction in the U.S.

Director of Project Pericles and Professor of Psychology Mathew Gendle published an essay in the February 1, 2021 edition of The Progressive Populist.

Mat Gendle, professor of psychology and director of Project Pericles

Entitled “A Non-Violent and Local Path Forward: Can the Sarvodaya Social Movement Offer a Viable Populist Solution to Governmental Dysfunction in the U.S.?.”, this essay (available here: provides an overview of the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka, and discusses how Sarvodaya’s approaches and philosophies might be effectively applied to large-scale progressive governmental reform in the U.S.

Founded by Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne in 1958, the Sarvodaya movement is rooted in Ariyaratne’s lifelong mission to create a society free of poverty, affluence and conflict and welfare for all through local community mobilization. Ariyaratne’s work has focused on both decentralizing political power toward community-level institutions that favor participatory democracy and restructuring the Sri Lankan market economy. Ariyaratne argues that the primary outcome from wealth generation should be the elimination of poverty across the entire society, which is markedly different from Marxism’s forced economic equality or free-market capitalism’s preoccupation with individual enrichment.

Sarvodaya is now the largest nongovernmental organization in Sri Lanka and facilitates the country’s primary economic, political and social development networks. Sarvodaya has maintained its organizational effectiveness by actively promoting local self-development and autonomy in community decision-making. Through mechanisms that foster inclusive participatory democracy, community members initiate Sarvodaya enterprises by articulating the advancements needed to eliminate local poverty and creating strategies to address these needs within hyper-local contexts.

In this work, Gendle argues that Sarvodaya’s philosophies and actions to promote equity and social justice in Sri Lanka should serve as a model to U.S. citizens working to peacefully counteract the massive economic, social, and political injustices being perpetuated by governmental systems throughout the U.S.

Sarvodaya is the partner organization for the Elon University Periclean Scholars Classes of 2019 and 2023.

The Progressive Populist is a nationally distributed print magazine (published twice monthly) that provides a vehicle for organizing a populist movement with progressive values. This periodical reports on issues of interest to middle-class workers, small-business owners, and family farmers and ranchers.