ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Myriad Senses of Powerlessness


In the context of liberal democracy, political observations that are indicative of the paradox of power relations have become a clich. Put clearly, common people who constitute the most significant political entity, however, are, in a constitutional sense, supposed to possess the voting power to make and unmake a government. In actual practice, these people do lack the power that is necessary to control the government that is likely to rely on hackneyed promises which yield only public illusion. At another end of the spectrum of powerlessness, there are those who, in fact, are politically powerful but pretend to be powerless. In the first case, it is an element of illusion of being powerful that forms the part of the democratic paradox while in the second it is the deceptive sense of pretension that is constitutive of the suggested paradox. Public intellectuals are yet another entity on this spectrum who, arguably, consider themselves as the most powerful opinion shapers and who, by virtue of this power, tend to believe that they can at least problematise the political questions that explain the lack of well-being of the common masses. But such is the contemporary political scenario that they also find themselves to be powerless, that is, they are not in a position to avoid the de-problematisation of political issues that, due to public illusion and the pretension of the powerful political personality, fail to occupy the frontal position.

Although there is a spectrum of powerlessness, it is necessary to make the distinction between these three cases. For example, those who claim to be powerless through public posturing in fact deliberately manufacture such a self-image. In such cases, unlike the vast majority of people who are really powerless, it is a pleasure for the political leaders to pretend to be powerless. The claim to be powerless gives pleasure because it depends on the safety and the guarantee of such a safety to a political leader.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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