Reaching social integration or consensus: Bangladesh as a case study.
Subject: Social integration (Methods)
Authors: Hassan, S.M. Monirul
Kundu, Indrajit
Pub Date: 03/22/2005
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2005 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Spring-Summer, 2005 Source Volume: 80 Source Issue: 1-2
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Bangladesh Geographic Name: Bangladesh; Bangladesh Geographic Code: 9BANG Bangladesh
Accession Number: 134676973
Full Text: Introduction

Sociologists consider social agreement one of their greatest concerns. Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, Robert K. Merton, Anthony Giddens, and Jurgen Habermas have all addressed the problem of achieving social consensus. In so doing, Durkheim and his followers focus on the structural aspect of society. They believe that individuals could reach consensus if the institutions that govern society perform their function properly.(1) In contrast, Weber and his followers focus on the actions of individuals rather than institutional structure. They argue that if individuals are motivated by rational intentions, they can easily achieve social agreement. (2)

Why should individuals set aside conflicting interests to achieve consensus? Individuals in a society who are rational would not endanger their own existence by reaching social agreement with other individuals. This is a simple and straightforward answer at the conceptual level, but in reality the problem is far more complex. Rational individuals do sometimes sacrifice their self-interest at the expense of their very existence. Yet, due to the complexity of modern society, it is hard to explain human behavior through structural and individualistic theoretical tools.

A fairly new theoretical tool has emerged in the field of sociology to help one comprehend the complicated nature of contemporary Western society. Rationalization of lifestyle in Western society has reached the point where individual action can not be understood merely through structural or individualistic lens. By studying both the "agency" and "structure" of a society, one can better understand the complex behavior of that society. Accordingly, the authors of this study argue that a rational individual, seeking consensus, should pursue a communicative dialogue free of structural constraints. In other words, rational individuals, free from internal and external restrictions, should be inclined to seek social consensus. An examination of Bangladesh politics will provide a useful case study.

Concepts and Terms

The authors of this study argue that a synthesis between "agency" and "structure" is required to comprehend the social integration of a society. "Agency" refers to the autonomy of an individual from both internal and external inclination. In short, it refers to purposeful action of the individual. This term implies that individuals are free to create, change, or influence events. The individual has to be reflective, act on his/her own judgment, and deal with society as an active agent. When an agency achieves this status, the individual can behave discursively, that is, argue freely and respect the arguments of others. Here, the only valid action stems from rational calculation that takes into account the attitude of others. When individuals are prepared to accept the better argument, regardless of their own beliefs, discursive behavior is possible.

"Structure," or patterns of organization and institutions of society which constrain and direct behavior, remain outside the authority of agency. Organizational and institutional activities are characterized as structural behaviors. In many cases, individuals in a society are guided by organizational and institutional rules. The institutional arrangement must allow for an individual to engage in discursive behavior. The autonomy of the individual remains the basic value within the structural condition of society. (3)

Tradition causes individuals to accept social actions uncritically, thus creating passive behavior among individuals in society. To prevent this, Habermas encourages the individual to be critical of tradition, thus making them active participants in society. (4) The authors of this study believe that the strength of tradition over agency fosters major problems in maintaining the integrity of a society. With the aid of tradition, an agency avoids burdensome reflective activities and conforms reality to "accepted" knowledge that accompanies tradition. In accordance with the "common people" perspective which, in most cases, accepts existing normative guidelines of society rather than questioning them, the authors of this study recognize that common people are not willing to act reflectively all the time. In contrast, intellectuals always think reflectively and thus should guide the thoughts of the rest of society toward consensus.

Theory of Communicative Action

In his various works, Hebermas emphasizes one distinctive sphere of humanity, namely, language. According to Habermas, human beings communicate with one another, invoke normative validity,(5) conform to the norms of a specific culture, and, in so doing, associate, socialize, and seek social integration. Borrowing the idea from British philosopher John Langshaw Austin, Habermas has shown that individuals in a society can communicate with one another through illocutionary and perlocutionary affect (interaction between speaker and listener). To start such a dialogue, discourse is necessary. Discourse refers to a context whereby individuals begin to communicate with certain mutual understandings and normative expectations. They must accept the premises within the discourse and that the better argument will always hold sway. Speakers must realize that the validity of their claim will often be challenged by the listener. The speaker must be prepared to redeem the validity of his/her claim if it is called into question. Reciprocal understanding, free from coercion, must be met in discourse. (6)

According to Habermas, discourse:

During discourse, people participate willingly in discussion and are often challenged on the rationality and truthfulness of their argument. Most speech will not attain the status of discourse unless it is raised to the level of questioning. Individuals usually avoid discourse because it is time consuming and cumbersome. They prefer to live in a "take it for granted world" that requires less thought and ensures harmony and concord. Discourse is a qualitatively different world, where people always look to validate each other's claims. Ideally, then, since discourse is a matter of common understandings, individuals resort to it only when there is a disruption of common understandings that orient actions in common directions, a disruption serious enough to require a reassessment of those understandings. (8)

Once discourse is established, people can achieve social consensus several ways. First, everyone involved in the discourse has to observe universal norms during inter-subjective communication (communication between two or more persons). While the listener demands validity of the speech action invoked by the speaker, s/he has to, at least implicitly, redeem the validity claim during communication. It is clear from Habermas' argument that he sees inter-subjective communication as the proper place to develop normative aspects of a society. By doing so, Habermas distanced himself from strategic rationality in favor of normative rationality. If strategic rationality is permitted in society, Habermas argues, it would cause systematic communication as individuals would try to manipulate or exploit others in society to control most of the resources of that society. If so, coercion, not equality, would dominate society. (9)

To avoid this, Habermas argues that rational action must be the norm rather than the exception (normative rationality). Under such circumstances, everyone is assured of having his/her voice heard and acceptance of the better argument becomes the norm. Here, one does not employ communication for manipulation. Instead, individuals seek to reach a common understanding of their situation. (10) For example, while dining someone might say, "please pass the salt," with the hope of the request would be obeyed not out of fear for what noncompliance might bring, but because one recognizes the validity of the rules of etiquette and understands that passing the salt is the appropriate response to such a request. By making this request, one invokes a norm that they implicitly take to be valid. And in the case of moral norms, as Habermas argues, "I undertake an obligation to show its validity if it should be challenged." (11) What is implicit here is that speakers and listeners with shared understandings develop the motivation of raising validity claims and are obliged to prove the truthfulness of their statements when challenged by others. An obligation to raise validity claim through argumentation thus becomes the ultimate guiding principle of Habermas' communicative action. (12)

In putting forward his Communicative Action Theory, Habermas did not ignore the existence of plurality of both culture and minds. With the aid of a better argument, Habermas asserts, individuals engaged in communication can reach agreement. But in recognizing the plurality of minds and cultural backgrounds, Habermas confronts the problem of realizing an integrated society. As people live in plural societies and are born with different normative settings, how can they sacrifice their normative position for a better normative argument raised by others? The reality is far harsher than the theoretical abstraction. For Habermas, seeking a solution is inevitable in trying to attain a better modern world with sound social consensus. Here, Habermas become Kantian. He believes that some universal principles exist in the world, regardless of time and context. In this regard, he has differentiated between norms or the rules that individuals have a duty to observe, as opposed to values or ends that they pursue. Here the norm involves questions of justice, and value reflects a sense of what constitutes a good life. This conception of a good life is shaped by the culture to which individuals belong. In communicative action, Habermas claims that there must be a break between norms and value. The validity of norms, he states, "require a break with all of the unquestioned truths of an established, concrete ethical life, in addition to distancing oneself from the contexts of life with which one's identity is inextricably interwoven." (13) When norm is dissociated from value, universality can be reached. In short, if universal principle could be established in the moral life of people in plural societies, consensus is possible through inter-subjective communication.

Discursive Democracy

Habermas encourages individuals to become self-reflective, to distance themselves from internal or external inclination and live in a free society. The ability to reason in promoting one's argument is another important characteristic of people in a discursive democratic system. In this system, individuals are involved in a decision-making process that can produce new ethics and values. This decision-making process occurs in the public sphere, an arena where individuals discuss matters of common concern, in an atmosphere free of coercion or dependencies (inequalities) that would induce an individual toward acquiescence or silence. (14) Habermas' main concern is to empower one's voice and neutralize means of collective judgment within democratic arenas, namely, coercion, markets, and tradition. He believes that the disruptions of traditional societies pave the way for new kind of individual and culture (i.e., thinking, expectation). This new relationship is essential to establish cooperation, solidarity, and agreement in societies, thus eliminating the tyranny of coercion, market, and tradition. Democracy increasingly appears as a means for reestablishing authorities because it is the only means of coordinating collective action that attend to, and is part of, individuals' negotiating their identities in modern society. (15)

One of the important aspects in discursive democracy is the autonomy of individuals. Autonomous individuals are self-reflective (they engage in critical examination of self and others), champion reason, and arrive at judgments that they can defend in an argument. Habermas has identified different types of autonomy of individuals. First, individuals must be self-reflective--they would not only be able to identify themselves as merely a physical object but also as a reflective entity in terms of time and life history. Second, autonomy implies the capacity of an individual to initiate a project to bring new ideas and relations into being. Individuals have some control over their lives and are not subject to arbitrary creativity. Third, individuals live in complete freedom from internal and external constraints. Autonomy from internal and external constraint would increase the capacities of agency greatly. Agency can thus encourage people to behave freely. Internal autonomy refers to freedom from an individual's own impulses, inclinations, or desire. It is here that individuals can achieve a reflective mind. In contrast, external autonomy refers to complete distance from traditions, prevailing opinions, and pressures to conform by subjecting elements of one's social context to criticism. According to Habermas, individuals who avoid internal and external constraints achieve the capacity to pursue critical judgment and universal reasoning. This is a prerequisite for the success of integration of any political community. Fourth, individual autonomy depends on one's capacity to participate in inter-subjective process of reason giving and response. Fifth, reciprocal recognition of "I" and "You" is a necessary requisite before one can consider the perspective of others. Understanding another person's perspective would elevate an individual to greater autonomy. Finally, autonomy implies some measure of responsibility because it helps people develop intention to explain their behavior to others. Once autonomy is established in discourse where better arguments hold sway, discursive democracy can emerge. (16)

The Political Arena in Bangladesh

The main problem concerning the democratic process in Bangladesh is its failure to reach national consensus on any major or minor issues. Bangladesh is passing through a very critical phase in its history. The function of all of its institutions is on the verge of collapse. Simultaneously, its political actions have come under increased international scrutiny, raising doubts that Bangladesh is a liberal, democratic, moderate, secular country. There are more than one hundred recognized political parties in Bangladesh, but only fifteen to twenty actually compete for control of national politics. Two major political parties are the key players in determining the fate of the country: the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Other influential political parties include the Jatiya Party, Jamaat-E-Islami Bangladesh, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Gono Forum, and Islami Oikkya Jote. Upon examining the general election results of 1991, 1996, and 2001, one finds the aforementioned parties as influential stakeholders in determining the political destiny of Bangladesh. (17)

Despite achieving independence more than three decades ago, the common people of Bangladesh continue to live in a state of insecurity where poverty, crimes against women and minorities, extortion, and terrorism remain a fact of daily life. Political violence, which first emerged in the 1980s, increased substantially by the mid-1990s while corruption in all spheres of Bangladesh society expanded like a hydra-headed monster. (18) What one sees in Bangladesh today is the cumulative increase of patronized crime practiced by successive governments of the country. (19) To break this cycle, a national consensus is desperately needed to support major interaction between the political parties. The ruling party cannot carry out this huge task alone. It is possible only through a process of continuous dialogue and consensus at both the local and national level.

A Brief Political History of Bangladesh

Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in 1971 following an armed struggle against Pakistani occupation. Until 1990, Bangladesh experienced numerous military coups, followed by autocratic and pseudo-military regimes. Two popularly elected presidents were assassinated, and the original constitution of the country has undergone several undemocratic changes. (20) Since 1990, however, Bangladesh's political development has appeared more democratic. Between 1990 and 2001, three parliamentary elections were held under a neutral caretaker government. (21) Yet, upon examining the nature of political activities of various political parties during the past three decades, one finds a lack of consensus among the people of Bangladesh as well as among the political parties. All political parties have employed the rhetoric of common good to appeal for support from the general populace of Bangladesh. The political discourse (not Habermasian discourse) has been filled with numerous promises. The manifestoes of all major political parties contain assurances of eradicating extreme poverty and transforming Bangladesh into a prosperous country. While all the major parties express concern for the welfare of the people, there is little consensus on how to achieve this. Debate on any issue only increases ideological differences between political parties as the BAL and BNP engage in "the politics of boycott and resignation" in an effort to discredit the ruling party at any given time. (22)

Political Discourse in Bangladesh

The distance between the two major political parties in Bangladesh has increased at an alarming rate. The very existence of society is threatened by the arbitrary positions assumed by the BAL and BNP. To understand the basic problem between the two parties, one must examine the history of the country since 1971. During the war of independence, people from all walks of life exhibited strong consensus. Only a small section of the populace, followers of some extremist political parties, opposed the struggle for independence, some of whom even collaborated with the genocide conducted by Pakistani forces. Naturally, during the immediate post-independence period the collaborators of Pakistani forces and the anti-liberation forces were compelled to refrain from political activity in Bangladesh. Yet, over time, these political forces gained the opportunity to express their ideology publicly. The present political scenario exhibits two broad divisions among the major political parties in Bangladesh. One group sides with BAL, the other with BNP. There are certainly other parties but their influences are not comprehended so strongly. These parties either directly or indirectly revolve around or form alliances with BAL or BNP. (23) Consequently, "Bangladesh has a highly politicized culture. The polarization in politics has gone so deep that it has divided the country into almost two nations." (24)

The unresolved consensus regarding the events of 1971 have shaped the dilemma of reaching agreement regarding "Bangladeshi" or "Bengali" identity of the nation. It seems that no one is able to bridge the gap. The two leaders, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and General Ziaur Rahman, each claim credit as the leader of the independence movement of Bangladesh. But there is no consensus on the role of these two leaders in the liberation war. The difference over this issue influences all aspects of Bangladesh society. For example, the BAL has been trying to identify itself as the champion of "a historic struggle for national liberation." (25) The original constitution recognized the successive struggles for national liberation. But in 1977 these words were replaced with "a historic war for national independence" through a martial law proclamation. (26) The BAL has not ruled out the contribution of other pro-liberation parties (i.e., Communist Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Gono Forum), but its effort to label other parties as anti-liberation forces can only produce further division in Bangladesh politics and society.

In 1971 people irrespective of class, religion, and caste united under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the BAL. Bangabandhu and Bangladesh became synonymous at that period of the country's history. Unquestionably, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had the overwhelming charisma as the vanguard leader of Bangladesh liberation. (27) With the passage of time, however, new political forces have emerged. In the absence of communicative dialogue to achieve consensus, the difference between the followers of different political parties has widened. Thus questions of Bengali versus Bangladeshi, pro-liberation forces versus anti-liberation forces, leaders of independence movement versus declarers of independence war remain unresolved. Recently, a BNP led four-party coalition government has been trying to establish General Ziaur Rahman (former president of Bangladesh) as "the declarer of independence war of Bangladesh" in the latest state-sponsored historical record. This contradicts the historical record and is sure to spark a strong reaction from opposition parties. (28)

There are some vital issues in Bangladesh politics that need consensus to promote the greater interest of the nation over that of party. The impact of violence, particularly violence against minorities (Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and Tribal) in the aftermath of the general election of October 2001, has tarnished the image of the country in the eyes of the international community. (29) Minorities in Bangladesh are virtually unable to express their grievances through effective institutional means. (30) The principal reason for this is the absence of communication that "disconnects" the minorities with the majority community as well as political parties. There are many other issues such as "Separation of Judiciary from Executive," "Decentralization of Administration," "Repeal of the Black Laws," "Ensuring Free and Fair Elections," "Establishing Human Rights Commission," and "Appointment of Ombudsman" which demand immediate consensus. (31)

At present, the most important institutional setting for reaching consensus is parliament. The parliament of Bangladesh, while claiming to be a democratic institution, is not serving that function properly. The public views political debates in the parliament as provocative rather than constructive. Members of parliament receive low marks as lawmakers. According to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), in the three sessions of the Eighth Parliament only twenty-two hours were spent on legislative business, while unscheduled debates took 11.23 hours. TIB also reports that over 23.5 million taka (approximately US $500,000) has been wasted owing to lack of a quorum in the last three sessions of Eighth Parliament. (32) The Jatiya Sangsad (the National Parliament) virtually remains a fifth wheel of the government. (33)

Allegations of malfeasance and oppression have been constantly raised by the opposition in successive parliaments. These accusations, either real or imagined, have not been resolved through dialogue, and these cumulative complaints have made the whole political situation more unmanageable. Despite the potential for democratic institutions to function properly, political parties are not eager to engage in a dialogue to promote democracy in Bangladesh. Astonishingly, the two supreme leaders of BAL and BNP, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, respectively, have not had any political dialogue since 1991. They have rarely exchanged views even during informal social and political contacts. Thus, the two political parties have failed to move away from a culture of revenge and retribution toward one of cooperation and consensus. Instead, the leaders of major political parties in Bangladesh are indulged in a blame game against each other. For example, while the ruling party stresses the need for a political consensus on economic and other issues, the opposition accuses the government of wrecking the economy. (34)

It is frustrating to admit that Bangladesh politics lacks agreement or consensus. But the country has shown some form of consensus among its people irrespective of power, wealth, and status during specific periods of its history (i.e., the independence war of 1971). Everyone in Bangladesh invested their private goods (35) for the attainment of public good, namely, an independent country. Yet, from 1971 to the early 1990s consensus gradually disappeared from political discourse. In 1990, when the country was ruled by an autocratic pseudo-military regime, a new phenomenon emerged in the mind of the populace and political parties. For the first time a democratic mentality began to surface in the political discourse. The people of Bangladesh waged an uncompromising movement against autocracy and overthrew an autocratic regime. Since then, all political parties have expressed unanimous agreement regarding the institutional arrangement (that is, the introduction of caretaker government for peaceful transition of political power in the society). This is a rare occasion in the democratic history of Bangladesh. To some extent, a kind of Rawlsian 'veil of ignorance' had been incorporated in the arrangement of caretaker government. According to philosopher John A. Rawls, all persons become rational beings who can debate, discuss, agree, and contract. Until then, they do not know who they will become as they begin their real life in a society. This is the 'veil of ignorance', which Rawls assumes is responsible for producing social justice in a society. This may be the purpose of the caretaker government in Bangladesh. (36)

Critical Understanding of Bangladesh Political Discourse

Is Habermasian discourse visible in the political arena of Bangladesh? In trying to answer that question, one must first consider the heated political debate concerning "who was the first declarer of political independence of Bangladesh?" The BAL favors of the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, while the BNP bestows the honor upon the late President General Ziaur Rahman. The argument is so heated that both parties refuse to sit across a table to resolve the issue. Objective historical evidence which would create consensus among the politicians is lacking. Under such circumstances, it is almost impossible to achieve consensus. The question thus becomes can one use Habermasian insight in Bangladesh to achieve collective consensus? To answer this query, one must first understand the thought process of the people of Bangladesh.

First, if one observes the political context of Bangladesh, it is immediately evident that political action is certainly not free from the repression of coercion, market, and tradition. Habermas argues that inequality within a society is a significant barrier to reaching consensus within a modern political institution. This inequality arises from coercion, market mechanism, and traditional repression in society. The lack of intention of Bangladesh politicians to reach agreement magnifies this problem. (37) The Bengali vs. Bangladeshi identity debate has created polarization not because it can not be resolved, but because of different interests of the people organized unequally in the country's social strata. Without a common perspective, how can people reach a consensus in any political issue? If there is no universal normative perspective, how could one rational individual be inclined to resolve any crisis through argumentation in the process of communication? These are the arguments Habermas put forward in seeking to establish consensus in societies where modern political institutions exist.

A major issue in Bangladesh politics that demonstrates the need for Habermasian discourse is the debate on whether or not Bangladesh should sell natural gas to foreign countries, particularly India. International oil companies have pressed the Bangladesh government to permit them to sell natural gas to neighboring countries. They are motivated completely by commercial interests. They have even threatened to pull out their investments from natural resource excavation activities if the Bangladesh government fails to meet their demand. (38)

The position of various political parties on this issue is quite interesting. The BAL, the strongest opposition party at present, opposes the sale of natural gas to foreign countries. Yet, the BAL is willing to sell natural gas if Bangladesh could ensure its own natural gas reserve for at least another half-century. (39) In contrast, the BNP, the leading party of the present ruling coalition government, favors of sale natural gas to foreign countries. Ironically, this same political party took the opposite position between 1996 and 2001 when it was the opposition party and the BAL was the ruling party. Some leftist political parties completely oppose selling natural gas abroad, arguing that a country like Bangladesh should provide the gas only to its citizens. (40)

The debate over the sale of natural gas to foreign countries is but one example of Bangladesh being unable to resolve most of its national issues through communicative dialogue. Individuals involved in communicative action must be prepared to appreciate the superior argument of others. If that argument always holds sway, then a plurality of individuals would be able to achieve agreement. One should always remember that during this communicative context an individual must be free of any repression from coercion, market, or tradition. (41) It seems that there is very little political discourse or leadership in Bangladesh; few are willing to acknowledge the superior argument of others to promote the national interest. That is why one fails to see agreement or consensus on public policy. Ultimately, this will produce disintegration and polarization of society for an indefinite period of time.

Alternative Explanation

This study of Bangladesh politics indicates that lack of communication remains the key failure in that country's political discourse. Both individuals and political parties are not inclined to take part in any kind of argumentative process to resolve their differences. A change in the mindset of Bangladeshi people is needed badly. This might be accomplished by strengthening the role of civil society in the country. Intellectuals have to convince the populace to accept consensus and integration. At the same time, professional groups have to pressure political parties by endorsing integrative attitudes and communicative dialogue among themselves. This, however, is a short-term strategy. Over the long haul, the education system and the other institutions have to be organized in such a way that future generations in Bangladesh would be reflective, willing to engage in a rational communicative dialogue. New curricula could be organized with extreme care to create properly self-reflective rational individuals in society. The intellectuals of Bangladesh have to assume these responsibilities with utmost care and commitment. Their goal should be to create reflective individuals who possess a proper respect for their tradition.

To accomplish this, the intellectuals, thinkers, and philosophers of Bangladesh would have to create stories of national heroes to promote self-esteem. This will help the nation to believe in itself, a necessity for creating a well-integrated society. They can follow in the footsteps of the German poet Friedrich Holderlin, who, in his elegy Home Coming, took a theme from the Homeric past to build German society into an integrated whole. Through Holderin's writing, the German people gained confidence and worked toward establishing the modern German state. (42) Perhaps Bangladesh needs such individuals whose writings can awaken the sleeping minds of the populace who are fighting aimlessly for mere self-interest and thus jeopardizing the fortunes of future generations.


Political discourse in Bangladesh has not yet become institutionalized as in Western political communities. The autonomy of individuals, as Habermas conceptualized, does not exist at all in Bangladesh. Consequently, well-balanced internal and external restriction on human inclination are absent here. A self-reflective individual is a necessary precondition for Habermas in a political community. Self-reflective individuals would speak with reason and establish claims to promote consensus. Establishing a claim toward any resources of society requires consensus. In order to reach any consensus, everyone has to resort to reasonable argumentation. Individuals must be willing to defend the validity of their argument through superior reasoning. When the better argument holds sway in communicative discourse, and when this kind of attitude becomes institutionalized, individuals within that society can minimize their disputes.

It is not the intention of the authors of this paper to argue that only Habermasian concepts can bring social integrity and consensus to Bangladesh. Rather, they call upon the country's intellectuals to realize the need to address the country's lack of social integration and tolerance. Critical examination of cultural and contextual aspects of Bangladesh society would prove quite profitable for understanding the present crises that the citizens of that country face.


(1) For a sample of the Durkeim school of thought, see Howard Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New York: Free Press, 1963).

(2) For a sample of the Weber school of thought, see Michael Hechter, Principles of Group Solidarity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987).

(3)See Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984); Jurgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 11 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987).

(4) Michael Pusey, Jurgen Habermas (Sussex:Ellis Horwood Limited, 1987), 59-65.

(5) If challenged, an individual will be motivated to defend his/her argument. For example, if one claims that Bangladesh is better than all other Muslim countries that practice democracy, and that declaration is challenged, the person asserting the claim must be prepared to prove it.

(6) Jurgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. Thomas McCarty (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984).

(7) Jurgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975), 107-08.

(8) Mark Warren, "The Self in Discursive Democracy," in Cambridge Companion to Habermas, ed. Stephen K. White (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 167-200.

(9) Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, I: 10, 17.

(10) Ibid., I:285, 287.

(11) Ibid., I:302.

(12) Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Christian Lenhardt and Sherry Weber Nicholson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990).

(13) Jurgen Habermas, Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics. trans. Ciaran P. Cronin (Cambridge, MA:MIT Press, 1993), 12.

(14) Warren, "The Self in Discursive Democracy," 170-71.

(15) bid.

(16) John Dryzek, "Discursive Democracy: Politics, Policy, and Political Science," in Cambridge Companion to Habermas, ed. White, 97-119.

(17) See, for example, Khaleb Habib, Elections; Parliament; of the Cabinet, 1990-91 (Dhaka: A.R. Murshed, 1991), 43, 65, 84, 99, 124, 132.

(18) Mizanur Rahman Shelly, "The Roles of the Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition in Strengthening Parliament," The Daily Star (Dhaka), February 3, 2003,17.

(19) Rehman Sobhan, "Clean Politics as a Way to Clean Heart" The Daily Star (Dhaka), February 20, 2003, 5.

(20) I. Kundu and N. Saha, "Democracy-Development Debate in Bangladesh: An Analysis of Some Relevant Issues," Chittagong University Journal of Law 1 (2001): 170-71.

(21) Though there was a general election in February 1996, the parliament was short-lived and not influential.

(22) The description of recent Bangladesh politics as "the politics of boycott and resignation" (see Maudad Ahmed, South Asia: Crisis of Development (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2003), 298) best describes the battle for political power in Bangladesh between the BAL and BNP. In the Eighth Parliamentary Elections (2001), the BAL lost control of parliament to the BNP and immediately rejected the election result by labeling it as fraudulent. The party then briefly refused to take part in the parliamentary proceedings. Earlier, the BAL stayed away from the Fifth Parliament (1991-96) when the BNP was in power, and the BNP followed a similar path when the BAL controlled the Seventh Parliament (1996-2001). See Ahmed Raez, "The Tale of Limping Parliaments," The Daily Star (Dhaka), January 31, 2004, 10.

(23) Hasan Rahman Hafizir, ed., Ministry of Information, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, History of Bangladesh, War of Independence, vol. 8 (Dhaka, 1984).

(24) Ahmed, South Asia. 298.

(25) Shelly, "The Roles of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in Strengthening Parliament," 17.

(26) The Constitution of People's Republic of Bangladesh, 1996, in Ahmed, South Asia, 298.

(27) Shelly, "The Roles of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in Strengthening Parliament," 17.

(28) Hassan Hafijur Rahman, ed., History of Bangladesh War of Independence: Documents, vol. 3 (Dhaka: Ministry of Information, Government of People's Republic of Bangladesh, 1982), 1-2.

(29) Hasan Ferdous, "Our Duty Toward Minorities," Prothom Alo (Dhaka), March 14, 2003, 8.

(30) This is not to say that there is lack of substantial institutional means to address minority problems. Rather, these institutional means are not a strong or effective way to channel minority grievances. Minorities are not represented properly in different national and local forums.

(31) Article 77(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh declares, "parliament may, by law, provide for the establishment of the office of the Ombudsman." But even after three decades, successive governments have failed to implement this constitutional commitment.

(32) "Stagnant Parliament," The Daily Star (Dhaka), May 3, 2003, 1.

(33) Shelly, "The Roles of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in Strengthening Parliament," 17.

(34) "Prime Minister for Political Consensus on Economic and Welfare Issues," Daily Star (Dhaka), May 3, 2003, 12.

(35) Mancur Olsen, The Logic of Collective Action (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965), 9-16.

(36) According to Rawls, hypothetically members of the society made a contract with each other to surrender their individual right for the attainment of the collective good. This contract occurred before the people had any idea of their place in society. For additional information, see John A. Rawls, A Theory of Justice (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 136-42.

(37) This topic has been well covered over the last two years in Prothom Alo (Dhaka) and the Daily Star (Dhaka).

(38) Anu Mohammed, "Gas Resource or Danger: The Politico-Economic Aspect of Gas Resources," Unnayan Bitarka Nos. 1-2 (March-June 2001):67-80.

(39) Mohammad Golan Mohiuddin, "Globalization and Natural Gas as a Principle Fuel in Bangladesh," Unnayan Bitarka Nos. 1-2 (March & June 2001):37.

(40) This topic has also been well covered over the last two years in Prothom Alo (Dhaka) and The Daily Star (Dhaka).

(41) It should be noted here that the authors are not endorsing total authority of tradition over the individual.

(42) Martin Heidegger, Existence and Being, trans. Werner Brock (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1949), 243-69.

S.M. MONIRUL HASSAN and INDRAJIT KUNDU are both Assistant Professors of Sociology at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
can be understood as that form of communication that is removed
   from contexts of experience and action and whose structure assure
   us: that the bracketed validity claims of assertions,
   recommendations, or warnings are the exclusive object of
   discussion: that participants, themes, and contributions are not
   restricted except with reference to the goal of testing the
   validity claims in question; that no force except that of the better
   argument is exercised; and that, as a result, all motives except
   that of the cooperative search for truth are excluded.(7)
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