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January 30, 2006

Laclau Talk: The question I wanted to ask

Hi All,

Glad to see so many folks at the Laclau presentation. For no other reason than we should all know how to pronounce his name: it is" laclew" ; it rhymes with laflew. Over 15 years, I and everyone I know, has been mispronouncing his name.

On to other topics: Don't you find it curious that when folks turn to the rhetorical tradition(in his case direct references to Cicero) they often do so with an eye toward the figurative (Stylistic) at, what seems to be the expense of other canons of rhetoric? This is, partly, a typical post-structuralist move when it comes to recovering the rhetorical tradtion. But, a stylistic approach to rhetoric should not be thought as both necessary and sufficient to turn one into a post-structuralist. The added trick, and this is where I would want to ask my question, concerns the translation of that stylistic device into a means to discuss the rhetoricity of a given concept (in his case, the move from an antagonism to a hegemonic frontier). In classical rhetorical language, rhetoric as a cultural practice, is situated talk. In laclau's langague it is mostly associated with the demand (what he calls an antagonism) to change the current situation. Classically, we focus on this demand to assess whether or not the demand was successful or not in transforming the addressee. We often do so to recover the notion of agency built into the act of making a demand. But in Laclau's hand, the rhetorical charater of the demand is less important than the rhetoricity associated with pulling together mulitiple demands into a populist reason against the current configuation of the social. I guess the question is: what, then, of the rhetoric of demand 1? Is it best understood as an antagonism, something that is only interesting rhetorically for what it tells us about the possiblitiy of generating a hegemonic frontier that pulls together a host of antagonisms? But, if so, then the anatogonism itself and its rhetorical character would only be important to the extent that it gathers others together, that is, the way it speaks to and offers itself to others or its outside? Well, that would have been my question: not sure how Laclau would answer, or if he would care much about the question. But, it is a question we should put on the table. Simply put: can any one text be the focus of understanding the concept of hegemony?


January 26, 2006

Concept Network

Hi All,

I just wanted to offer a reading strategy for dealing with the texts in class. One of the important pedagogical goals of the class is to make explict how different concepts orbit around each other and what value different authors give to this particular concept network.

So, for example, to talk about the public sphere is to talk at the same time of the following

civil society
private sphere
communication forms/genres (reason giving, claims making, argumentation, texts, print)
public opinion not opinion polls (mere opinion)
social movements
subaltern counter publics
publics or public sphere
publicness without a public sphere
general interest
general intellect
common topics
specific topics
deiberative democrcay
rhetorical democracy

you get the drift. It is not enough to think you know what the public sphere means, its meaning and value is a function of how different authors value it in terms of a host of other concepts. Just one example, while Habermas and Fraser and Virno all think a public sphere is important they would have three different ways of imagining its relationship to the state. For Habermas the state intervention into civil society is a bad thing, it collapsed the public sphere into the governance of the social; Fraser believes publics have to be viewed in light of their attachment to parilimentary forms of democracy, at the same time, she sees the existence of mulitple and oppositonal publics challenging the dominant public sphere. Virno has no use for the "people," a concept that may be explicit in Habermas's view of democratic legitimacy and is closely associated with the legitimation of the State. For Virno, the Multitude does not appeal to the State for refuge. At the same time, Virno doesnt seem to imagine the public sphere as primarily a place to redeem the emancipatory potential of reason (habermas) but, as somthing akin to an assembly for the multitidue (that which is other than the people) to care for common concerns.

So as the semester continues, one way to think about the presentations is as a way to make explict for the class the conceptual network of particular authors and how those networks appear differently or similarly


January 24, 2006


Howdy all

Instead of a List, how about a blog. Welcome to the Critical Concepts in Rhetorical Theory Blog. One of the things we might try is to post one's presentations on this site. Of course, let's see where it goes and if it is useful. For now, let the blogging begin.