Debates on the right to communicate have been going on for decades. Despite being considered a basic right, it has failed to achieve universal recognition. The rather universal, and Western, nature of the right to communicate is in conflict with the forceful moves towards cultural relativism. This article takes the reader to intellectually stimulating analyses on how can Habermas’ discourse ethics, particularly seen in his theory of communicative action, provides a theoretical backdrop on the right to communicate. The major criticisms on Habermas’ theory especially of its Western origin and the highly contested idea of a power free setting are presented here. It comes with a short history on the evolution of the right to communicate. Basic readings on cultural relativism and multiculturalism will help much to appreciate this article. This article is helpful especially that many countries are using cultural relativism to justify forms of oppression of basic rights such as the right to communicate. It offers theoretical suggestions on how to tread the rather conflicting lines that lie between universalism and cultural relativism.
International Communication Gazette, October 1998 vol. 60 no. 5 395-413.