Abstract

This article discusses the Habermasian public sphere as a realm constructed through communication and offers a critique of Jürgen Habermas's concept of an intersubjectively shared lifeworld among the participants as a fundamental prerequisite for communicative rationality in the discursive field. The article contends that the emergence of communicative rationality in the public sphere is unlikely to be facilitated by a singular and unitary modern public whose participants have commensurable languages and worlds. This argument is elaborated through an analysis of a public debate that occurred on August 10, 1888, between the Mahajan (headman) of the Modh Baniya caste council and Mohandas K. Gandhi, a Modh Baniya himself. Even though the discussion involved two people with an intersubjectively shared lifeworld, who were engaged in the deliberation as equals, the dialogue broke down, deepening divides. This article argues that the need to protect the spiritual domain from the polluting touch of the material domain led to the breakdown of communicative rationality.

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