Public reason, Indian style
- Spot-fixing: Chandila was in touch with four sets of bookies, says Delhi Police
- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives, to hold talks with PM on boundary, water issues
- IPL 2013: Delhi Daredevils crash to defeat, finish last
- Jaganmohan's wife attacks CBI, accuses it of working at Congress behest
- Blast accused death: UP govt seeks CBI probe, FIR against 42 persons
In a democracy, public opinion is the ultimate God, or so it is said. Even authoritarian regimes, at some point, fear its wrath. 2011 was the year, not of individual heroes, but of public opinion: public opinion railing against authority, oligarchy and corruption. But it was also a year in which public opinion, or so we are told, was transformed by the medium it used. Authoritarian governments found it hard to control flows of information and opinion. But the proliferation of new media — from TV to Twitter — also raised profound questions about the ways in which public opinion was going to be formed. Was the proliferation of new media forms genuine empowerment or did it rest on its own set of exclusions? Was it easier or harder for ordinary people to be heard? Where more people were expressing their opinion, did one have to shout harder to be heard? Would older forms of contribution to public reason survive? Could the old-fashioned, essay-style column, with complexity and nuance (and full disclosure, I have a vested interest in defending that genre), survive the Age of 140 Characters? Was the sound bite going to replace the sound thought? In short, what is the future of democratic discourse?
It is said, rightly, that in a democracy, nothing has special authority: not God, not History, not Reason. In fact, the radical promise of democracy is just that as Kant put it, "Reason has no dictatorial authority; its verdict is always simply the agreement of free citizens." But how are these agreements going to be produced? Every democracy has worried about this. We don't know how to institutionalise a conception of public reason in which all individuals can participate as free and equal individuals. But 2011 was an object lesson in the ways in which discourse operated in a democracy. Indian democracy is a feat of improvisation, and nothing reflects this more so than the character of our public argument. Here are some randomly collected lessons from 2011.
- Former Ranji player among 3 more held
- Rajasthan Royals to file FIR against tainted trio
- If found guilty, BCCI to ask ICC to erase Sreesanth records
- Top cops among 42 named in death of blast accused
- PM takes tough line on incursion issue
- Security forces blame Maoists, villagers say CoBRA man was killed in ‘friendly fire’