Modern political discourse in societies which practice ‘liberal democracy’ is heavily dominated by symbolic forms which guide and regulate the discourse itself. These forms are most clearly presented in the concept of the political ‘issue’. These ‘issues’ are debated (or at least there is a pretense of debate) along with the relevant ‘policies’ (heteronomous dictates) which are argued as solutions to the ‘issue’. The conception of a particular ‘issue’ necessarily requires defining the very boundaries of it; what is it that constitutes the issue at hand and what is deemed irrelevant? Who delineates the boundary of an issue is the interested parties who wish to impose their own particular policies into effect – the competitors. The first part of the battle thus involves establishing the contours of the battleground (issue) itself and defining the rules of engagement in order to gain an upper hand before the contest has begun. This is the foundation of the issue paradigm.
Through the concept of ‘issues’ reality is parcelled into neat noumenal realms seemingly disconnected and existing in their own micro worlds. Amongst many other things these ‘issues’ may be for example, ‘drug legalization’, ‘the middle-east’, ‘race relations’, ‘education’ etc. This leads to incredibly inconsistent advocacy by those across the entire political spectrum as exemplified in liberal democrats who endorse drug legalisation yet seek to ban smoking in public or conservatives who call for fiscal restraint, happily cutting funding in ‘domestic’ affairs yet argue to massively expand such expenditure in the ‘foreign’ sphere seemingly without any thought to the connection between it all and the obvious inconsistency. The truth of the matter is that the advocacy of a particular policy (or indeed the advocation of ‘policy’ in itself) indicates an entire system of thought; yet most of the time within ‘separate’ issue spheres the same advocates will advocate positions which seem to contradict the principles expressed in others. The common, naïve reading of this is that many political advocates are complete opportunists who care nothing for the consistent application of principles and values. Whilst I do not disagree with such an evaluation, I think the effect of the issue paradigm is a deeper reason for this as there appears to be a great amount of people with multiple inconsistent positions on different ‘issues’ who appear to be motivated by authentic ideals.
The issue with ‘issues’ is the establishing assumptions behind them; by demarcating such divisions, the scope of inquiry is not only limited, but the ideas debated ‘within’ an ‘issue’ are disconnected from ‘outside’ ‘issues’. The fallacy behind this ontological categorization is all too clear; there appears to be no ‘outside’ to this universe and absolutely everything is connected in some way or other, yet supposedly this is not the case according to the ontology expressed through the framework of the issue paradigm. In effect it is nothing short of a project in the segmentation of reality itself.
To recognize the issue paradigm and its’ effects is the key to understanding why those who are philosophically minded find such discourse to be difficult to engage in; whilst philosophically minded people tend to develop lines of thought which aim to be interconnected and consistent, the ‘issue’ construct breaks down such connections. Is it any wonder therefore how relatively principled individuals such as Ron Paul or Nigel Farage are met with confusion at best and chiding annoyance at worst when either the Federal Reserve or the European Union respectively are mentioned by them in a debate which supposedly does not include those ‘issues’, when in fact they are of critical importance? The issue paradigm acts as a controlling wall surrounded by a minefield dotted with signs declaring: ‘DO NOT CROSS!’. Of course the braver travelers of the mind pay no heed to such warnings and are for the most part ignored or attacked by the attack dogs of ‘mainstream’ media.
Indeed, like much of the controlling symbolism of this society, the main supporter and signifier of the ‘issue’ paradigm is ‘mainstream’ media and sadly those elements of ‘alternative’ media which still practice the cultural style of the ‘mainstream’. These practices can only lead to heavily controlled debates and what amounts to a schizoid approach to politics and ultimately reality itself. In short the issue paradigm breeds nothing but madness.