“For Arendt, the private sphere is the realm of necessity where life in the household and family life, sustained by labour, production and consumption, take the centre. In contrast, the public sphere is the realm of freedom and action, with its focus on the world rather than life; it is the realm of public discourse preserved for individuality achieved through excellence, creating memory and thereby culture. It is the public political realm that stabilizes the world, preserves worldliness through friendship of discourse among citizens. Technical issues such as “poverty” are mattes for the experts, whereas politics is about determining what form of government we need to have.
Arendt has observed that the moderns misunderstand and equate the polis, or the political ream with the social realm, whereas in the understanding of the ancients, the private sphere, the realm of household and family and the maintenance of life, was clearly distinct from the public sphere, the polis, the political realm that attends to the affairs of the common world. The ‘emergence of the social realm, which is neither private nor public, occurs with the emergence of the modern age which lasted from the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century which found its political form in the nation State (Arendt, 1958: 28).”
( The following article was originally published in The Island on 8th and 9th of February 2005 under the name Citizen-Ordinary. The article was written in response to the proposals made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe inviting public discussion on what should be the ‘podu yahapatha’ or the common good of Sri Lanka. The gist of the proposals was that our common good should be based on democracy and the market economy. The issues raised in this article as to whether we want to accept the market as the guiding principle of our collective life are more relevant today when Ranil Wickremesinghe is the Prime Minister of the country and is at the helm implementing market driven reforms in the economy. The original article is republished here sans only the specific references to the then political context.)
The market as a legitimate part of the economy has also come to stay even though the manner in which the dominance of it was forced upon us in the post-1977 period has wreaked havoc on the Sri Lankan society, the unfolding of the serious ramifications of which will take a long time to come, as shown by one of its prime examples, the privatized public transport, experienced by the ordinary folk who travel around by bus. The real issue about the market is not whether it can be considered a legitimate partner in the national economy, but whether we want to accept the market as the guiding principle of our collective life.
Continue reading The common good, market economy and politics By Kumudu Kusum Kumara
The lack of female representation in the Sri Lankan legislature has been of great concern for over a decade. This concern has lead to some theorizing and attempts at practical solutions to the problem. Among these has been the suggestion of a reservation for a quota for women in the electoral process in every political party. Women have also been encouraged to apply for candidacy on the electoral lists of political parties they support. These attempts have not met with success. It has been the experience of activists that leaders of political parties at all levels are reluctant to include women in their electoral lists. Unsurprisingly, all leaders at all levels of all the political parties in Sri Lanka today are male. On the other hand, only a very few women have come forward seeking nomination. It is also a fact that very few of the women who gained nomination were elected by the people. In the 21st century Sri Lanka, women’s involvement in politics is in inverse proportion to the awareness and discourse on the need for the inclusion of women and gender-related issues in the political agenda. The present study attempts to explain this paradox. Continue reading Women in Politics in Sri Lanka: the Left Movement – Pulsara Liyanage
The emergence yet again of a Left group within the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) shows that the strong desire on the part of youth to engage in politics, the desire to appear and shine in the public realm and thus display one’s excellence to the world, cannot be suppressed even under most challenging circumstances.
We need to view positively that this group claims that it is interested in, resisting neo-liberalism, promoting socialism and bringing the alienated ethnic minorities, Tamil community in particular, into the fold of the nation.
These are positions in line with the prevalent political interests of the community. Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dekma states that the Sri Lankan people have rejected neo-liberalism. Hence, shouldn’t it be appreciated that these youth have come forward to assert the same position? The idea of socialism is entrenched in Sri Lankan society. Gunadasa Amarasekera, the founder of Jathika Chinthanaya, claims that Sri Lanka has inherited socialist views from Buddhist thinking. It is plausible that Amarasekera’s view, that this was a reason for socialist ideology that came from the West to get entrenched here, is true. It is understandable if those who believe that the idea of socialism had disappeared from this country get perturbed by the rumblings within the JVP. Not only the Marxist and Trotskyite parties but even the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) belongs in the left tradition of the country. This is manifested in that several times the SLFP formed coalition governments with left parties, the JVP itself being a partner in the previous SLFP regime led by Chandrika Kumaratunga. Winning over the ethnic minorities into the fold of the nation is a principle accepted by the present government as well. Hence, can we accuse our youth of taking those ideas seriously? Continue reading politics