Democratic Rhetoric and The Duty of Deliberation, Vol. 8 - 2001, No. 3
The management of memory in the public sphere has followed historically, in democracies, three radically heterogeneous models which, in turn, have affected the way in which citizens are allowed or refused access to critical moments of "parole publique." The first model concerns the first known procedure amnesty, a decree taken in Athens in 403BC, following the tyranny of the Thirty and a civil war. A decree of amnesia-amnesty, the Athenian imperative of "I would not remember" goes against everything which we today regard as the duty of memory within the sphere of public deliberation. The second model is offered, in today South Africa and following the collapse of apartheid, by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Here amnesty opposes amnesia as a duty is placed on perpetrators to engage, by way of public rituals of narration, a non-criminal judicial process of "full disclosure". The third model is a procedure in use in most contemporary democracies in the management of sensitive archives (the case studied here is that of French laws regulating access files regarding World War Two and the Purge period in particular). These three models help shed light on certain relations between politics, discursive practice and deliberation, and enable us gain insights into the ways in which truth and deliberative politics are linked. The Athenian amnesia on civil war, and its duty of silence, and the South African full disclosure on a quasi civil war, with its duty of narration, fall on the same side of a divide, that of a memory politically alive, while the French memory-archive regarding collaboration, another form of civil war, relies entirely on a written treatment of documents that aim to de-politicize memory. All three models carry different implications for what we consider "parole publique" in a democracy and how private citizens, not experts, can or cannot engage the public past, in order to make informed choices regarding the common good.
Public speech contains the potential for transition. This essay is addressed to the contemporary debate in South Africa over how to define the form of public deliberation. As it presents the question of how collective deliberation moves between modes of opposition and agreement, this controversy both extends and challenges the logic of reconciliation. It is a debate about debate that marks a third phase of transition, a time in which the relationship between unity and difference comes to define the character (ethos) of politics.
This paper considers the place of impiety within democratic theory. Contemporary political theory is concerned with discourse and has developed communicative norms to deliberation in the public sphere. These norms of deliberative democracy require, however, that participants be reasonable and guided by goodwill. These theorists do not give serious consideration to impiety, and in particular to its possibilities to move beyond antagonism, enabling prudence and promoting philia, civic friendship. A brief critical discussion of Seyla Benhabib's conception of deliberative democracy is followed by a discussion of the relationship of rhetoric to prudence. While prudence is usually considered in Aristotelian terms, it can also be viewed Sophistically. Sophistic prudence is strategic, impious, and often uses laughter. Three cases of impiety are then briefly examined.
The matter of Religious Rhetoric may be discussed under two main categories: in the first, Religion is merely a means of argumentation and in the second, Religion is the object of the argumentation. The first category may be defined as "agreements of certain special audiences" which is distinguished from the "universal audience." The "universal audience" constitutes a wide range of agreement, which is based as a rule on the general knowledge, experience and common sense of people. This agreement functions rhetorically as the starting point of an argument while the speaker (writer) seeks to begin the argument from a point shared with the audience at large, the "universal audience." However, an argument that aims to reach an agreement on the basis of theology (i.e. a religious system, or sacred texts) cannot capture the "universal audience." The audience's presupposition under such specific cases is limited to a specific group that shares a specific language and specific premises accepted only by them as self-evidence. What is usually called common sense consists of a series of beliefs which are accepted within a particular society, and which the members of that society suppose to be shared by every reasonable being.
Although ceremonial forms of public speech in the time of Louis XIV do not allow for the creation of a sphere of public deliberation, they aim at producing ethical effects and provide a rich source for the study of a historically determined cult of personality. They participate in the royal administration's program for the celebration of the absolutist monarchy, adding to its control over ideological mechanisms. Ceremonial speeches are an integral part of the royal text, a complex network of discursive practices which also includes histories and official memoirs as well as pictorial and sculptural representations. Each component has a specific function in its own given context, but it resonates with all the components within the royal text and derives its wider significance as an instrument of personality cult from this intertextual relationship. With Colbert as the major force behind its production, the royal text is elaborated in the context of State-sponsored institutions such as the French Academy, specifically as an instrument of monarchic celebration. By analysing two discursive strategies, the elaboration of the image of an infallible ruler and the defence and justification of his policies, we can identify topoď at the core of all forms of personality cult, even perhaps contemporary totalitarian regimes. This article aims at developing tools for the analysis of personality cult as a general phenomenon, and at understanding the function of public speech in guaranteeing the apparently immutable social order of the Ancien Régime.
This essay endeavours to philosophically interpret the reference to public speech in social discourses, which propound its civic virtue. It first examines some of the principal arguments, which underlie the justification for recourse to speech in the rhetorical setting of what Habermas designated as communicative action. It then examines certain of the axiomatic presuppositions which found such a justification, in particular the existence of a principle of truth, the anthropological discarding of all agonistic violence, and the ethical and political hypostasis of language. It lastly confronts public speech, on one hand, with the sociological criticism of Bourdieu, and, on the other hand, with various expressions of negative dialectics, deconstruction, ideological criticism, and post-modern thought. In conclusion, the essay proposes a paradoxical reflection, inspired by Lévinas and Blanchot, in particular, on the disenchanted value of public speech and the enigmatic nature of philosophical signification - solitary, mute, and agoraphobic.
A number of Internet-democracy commentators have proposed that online communications may facilitate the Habermasian public sphere of communicative rationality. In contrast, Mark Poster and other cyber-postmodernists claim that this public sphere notion is "outmoded" in relation to online practices. They argue that cyberspace represents a "hyperreality" in which the rational subject is radically decentred. As such, cyber-postmodernists argue, cyberspace undermines communicative rationality and the public sphere. The concept is seen to be useless for evaluating democratic interaction through the Internet. In this paper I evaluate this argument by exploring actual cyberspace experiences of selfhood and by looking further at the notion of communicative rationality. My investigation shows that the Internet does indeed alter interactions in new ways, but that the changes that result are not as radically hyperreal as some cyber-theorists claim, and, furthermore, that these changes are able to be taken into account by the public sphere conception.