According to Barber, strong influential talk forms the centre of attention within the concept of democracy. Further, talk is not sheer speech, but refers to the human dealings that engage the use of language or linguistic signs. Talk has also grown to form the centre and root of the Western thought of politics, ever since the association of “logos” to the distinguishing factor between the human and other animal species.
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From the literature one of the three major issues related to democratic talk is that, talk involves listening as much as speaking. Under this issue the argument is that with consideration to the recent liberal theory, the idea of politics of interest under the concept of democracy can be confused with talk geared towards the expression of own interests; through the use of signs that are suitable to the various conditions. This idea moves ahead to show that communication in all its forms, involves the expression as well as reception of responses. This expression and reception in this case takes the form of speaking, and listening to the responses given in reaction to the utterances the communicator makes. However the liberal reduction of communicative talk to expressing oneself in form of speech; has led to the negative development of political institutions that promote the communication of self conceived interests, that has resulted to making the art of listening rather difficult. This phenomenon creates the situation where political among other types of representatives, speak on behalf of the people they represent rather than perform the acts of both speaking and listening for them. This situation therefore makes the listening aspect of the representation diminish, as all efforts are made to develop the speech part of the communicative role. An example of this expressive function in the current political system is the secret ballot system of voting, in which the voter is allowed to express himself and not to get the opportunity to be influenced by other individuals in the making of his private choice. Another example in this argument is the promotion of speaking through giving premiums and administering penalties on listening, within the separation of powers under the Anglo-American adversary system. The benefits of listening in political communication are that it enables individuals to understand what the other parties’ views are, establish common ideas and interests, enhance equality as parties don’t have to judge one another’s speech capabilities; and allows for reflection and growth of empathy. On the other hand the unwillingness to listen; focuses all emphasis on formal equality and not the value of the talk.
The second major issue related to democratic talk is that it engages the affective as well as the cognitive capabilities of an individual during communication. This is the view that attempts to contain speech within the context of reason, by making talk not only reveal but also define its rationality. The issue tries to impose on the power of speech, a set of neutral constraints that seek to make talk the initiator and origin of justice. The use of verbal eugenics is emphasized in this case, to form the basis on which justice is defined by the controlled utterance of words; as it threatens to dislocate the idea of justice completely as a creation of political opinion. This second issue is also based on the fact that life in general, is based on a long second-best basis founded on the compromise between the achievable and the ideal; while contrary to this idea the world of pure rationale accommodates no compromise in achieving the creation conceived of the perfect form. The major rationale for this issue is that talk regimented by philosophy is not just fit to be accommodated within the world of uncompromised reason but is also capable of forming the common grounds between philosophy, politics and harmony between the two. This issue also houses the ideas that within such a conception, even the leaders would have to follow as they lead as it views man as a cognitive being forming a component of man as a whole. Under this issue, the idea of rationality is grounded in influential prudence and ideas of justice rationalized by progressive self-interest. Under this consideration, talk inspired by these ideas seems to the negotiator between association and affection, uniqueness and interest, eccentricity and patriotism. The application of these ideas can also form the basis for community development, the establishment of consensus; the pursuit to ensure individual rights and aiding in conflict management. The issue is also important in establishing a voice and a hearing for common humanity.
The third issue related to democratic talk is the complicity of talk. This issue relies on the potentiality of talk to instill in individuals’ realm of intentions; the ideas of advanced futures, mutual interests and construct competing visions of community. The major idea under this issue is that political talk should be fashioned in a manner that, it perpetuates and brings in the ideas of making and remaking the world of uncertainty and contingency. Therefore the individuals in support of this speech have to be pragmatic in disregarding the current obstructions; but instead be focused on the fruits, consequences and expectations ahead. In conclusion under this issue, it is evident that strong democratic talk should be future and goal-oriented.
|Function||Example||Potential positive and negative effects|
|Articulation of interests||A hypothetical example under this function is the talk seeking increased taxation of individuals especially the high earning, so as to improve the living standards and livelihood of the community||The model is capable of driving societies to improving certain aspects of public interest like healthcare provision, for the benefit of the disadvantaged like the poor|
|Free-riders who are not ready to contribute benefit at the expense of the other members and further make the realization of the model difficult.|
|Persuasion||A hypothetical example here is the persuasive talk employed during campaigning for votes||the public is exposed to ideas and models of development conceived by the speakers|
|The negative effect is that it deafens the conceived corrective ideas among the public, which would have helped develop on the speakers arguments.|
|Agenda setting||A hypothetical example under this function is the discussion of the benefits and loss in terms of resources, which will be faced in implementing investment or development plans like road construction||it allows for different parties to conceive the benefits of implementing the plans in advance|
|The negative effect is that politicians may use the function to achieve their self-driven interests and motives.|
|Exploring mutuality||Hypothetical examples under this function are the forums where ideas are exchanged through dialogue and discussion between members of the public and politicians. Some of these are aired over the T.V so that the public reacts to the forums by calling in with questions or ideas||The potential positive effect of this function is that it enlightens the ideas adopted or enforced by the different agents|
|The negative effect of this function is that it may be used as a publicity tool for campaigning, among other self-interests of politicians.|
|Affiliation and affection||A hypothetical example, in this case, is the persuasive talk that politicians employ during or in anticipation of receiving the support of individuals during voting; through promoting their self-image while pointing out the defects of the public opinion of their rivals.||The potential positive effects of this function are that the harmful secrets or dealings of contesting individuals are exposed|
|The negative effect is that the function could be used by individuals to tarnish the good image of their opponents|
|Maintenance of autonomy||A hypothetical example under this function is the assurance of autonomy, control and exposure to choose the party they deem most fitting for given positions during the time of campaigns||The potential positive effect is that it is helpful in maintaining control and widening the self-interests held.|
|The negative effect is that it may be used as a deception tool to gain the trust and support of different people.|
|Witness and self-expression||Hypothetical examples, in this case, are the conscious, verbal utterance of commitment and support to affiliate political parties by politicians||The potential positive effect is that it helps in judging and choosing politicians, who identify with the common interests of the community.|
|The negative effect is that politicians may fake their identity and associations so as to receive the support of individuals then change afterward.|
|Reformulation and re-conceptualization||Hypothetical examples under this case are the alterations by politicians addressing different groups or areas to reflect their interest and consideration in the talk.||The potential positive effect is that it helps develop the other parts of the talk that characterize the success of the speakers|
|The negative aspect is that it could be used as a deception tool by self-centered politicians.|
|Community –building||A hypothetical example under this function is the involvement of the citizens by politicians in addressing meetings or functions geared towards realizing the interests of individuals or groups for the development of common prospects||The potential positive effect of this function is that it improves the capabilities and interests held by the public|
|The negative impact of this tool is that it is often only verbal, and the prospects are never implemented|
Barber, Benjamin. “Political Talk: General Characteristics” and “Nine Functions of Strong Democratic Talk” Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age. Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1984: 173-198.