Warren (1995) and Giddens (1991) compellingly describe the decline of traditional "lifeworld" horizons, including traditional family structures in many parts of the world. Individuals, however, are burdened in different ways by multiplying choices and the prospect of inhabiting multiple and pluralistic roles. Prakesh had moved between different cultures and tried to negotiate a different sort of identity from past models, which created anxiety; of course, it was not a simple matter of disavowing his culture of origin, as this culture contained many elements that he continued to value highly (e.g., community-oriented values). Warren's approach links democratic values with the development of autonomy and "communicative competencies", including the reciprocal recognition of speaking subjects. Although group analysis may chiefly be a form of treatment, its spirit is consistent with democratic processes and the building up of "citizenship", with reflexive attitudes towards one's issues, traditions, and preferences.
Political theorists argue that the vigorous democratic expansion of civil society is important in containing an evermore complex world and in creating conditions for improved governance (e.g., transformed interconnection, pluralism, cosmopolitanism, a "democratising of democracy"; Giddens, 1998; Habermas, 2004; Held, 1993). Conceptualising the realm of democracy beyond the state, Giddens (1992, 1998) explores the equalising, negotiation-based tendencies within modern personal relationships and the rise, for example, of "democratically-oriented" families and the decline in reliance on "old authority" and notions of the "way it was always done". Warren (1992, 1995), drawing on Habermasian theory, proposes a self-transformation theory of democracy, whereby democracy is seen as integral to values and conditions of self-development, autonomy, and self-governance. In other words, democratic experiences foster individuals who are likely to be more "public spirited, tolerant, knowledgeable and self-reflective than they would otherwise be" (Warren, 1992, p. 8). Warren (1995) defines autonomy as a capacity of judgment, an ability to reflect upon one's wants, needs, and values. More than this, democracy presupposes and encourages multiple discourses, an expanding range of communicative possibilities and "the reciprocal recognition of speaking subjects" (p. 140). Consistent with this model, neurosis is regarded as a form of "blocked autonomy". Is this, then, how Prakesh came to be immobilised? And is this where, through democratic and challenging group immersion, he was enabled to better articulate his position and develop more confident speaking and being rights, so to speak?
Power is never absent from the picture and at different times I also represented a distrusted (ex-)colonial country for Prakesh ("white authority") and an advantaged, middle-class professional world in the case of Andrea. Prakesh and Andrea were threatened by and assisted through the democratising forces of group dialogue; after all, no one was telling them what to do, which undermined their respective, deferential postures. The group analyst bears a complex responsibility in a contrived democracy, such as the therapy group, both as a figure of authority and as someone who disappoints omniscient expectations and attributions. It was for similar concerns, that Foulkes (1975c) preferred the term "conductor" as distinct from "leader", in his conceptualisation of the group analyst's task.
The idea of "therapeutic authority" has expanded considerably in the last few decades, subjecting most, if not all, areas of "subjective" and relational life to the potential constructions and interventions of "psy" experts (Miller & Rose, 1994). Correspondingly, there has been an ever-expanding diversification of what it means to live well, with no overarching guidelines or consensus on "how to live" (McAdams, 2008). This development in governance, indeed a regulative ideal of self-governance, is associated with advanced liberalism. That power derives from such authority is undeniable, but it is a power simultaneously open to challenge, dispute, research, support, and complaint in a way that was not the case in earlier decades.
Returning to a more general observation, philosopher John Dewey, like many social and political theorists nowadays, saw democracy as not simply residing in places such as the voting booth or parliamentary assembly, but as integral to "the attitudes which human beings display towards each other in all the incidents and relations of daily life" (Dewey, 1988, p. 226). For him, democracy was a guiding and pervasive moral ideal. Is this also the ideal that permeates the group analytic enterprise? Therapeutic inquiry is continual and, in theory, promotes communicative tolerance and "inner distance" (Woods, 2003), and, to put it even more grandly, a valuing of the "needs and interests and views of more and more diverse human beings" (Rorty, 1999, p. 82).