Appropriating rhetoric: a beginner’s guide

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Clare L Fisher Williams



This paper examines the importance of the speaker – the agent – in the construction of dialogue. Within the rhetoric used by each agent are power constructs which display the speaker’s position in society (role). The rhetoric used by that agent in the process of fulfilling that social role is particular to that setting in spacetime. However, what happens when another agent in a different social position appropriates that rhetoric? The framing of the dialogue changes and the hidden power structures revealed and altered. To what extent does the new agent appropriate the first speaker’s normative authority? What impact does this have on the rhetoric itself ? In this discussion I take a real-life example of the appropriation of rhetoric from the ongoing Eurozone downgrade debates. I use McCloskey’s theory of rhetoric, or ‘sweet talk’, to uncover the normative bias of the discourse, and set the dialogue within Giddens’ structuration framework to highlight the importance of
language, locale and the agent. The analysis highlights power differentials that are indicative of conflicts of interest in the regulation of credit-rating agencies and the debate asks what this means for future action.

Abstract 68 | NILQ 64.3.8 Williams Downloads 45