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Democratic dialogue

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(eKapitel) On the relationship between democracy and the art of public speaking. Through its rich contextualization, rhetoric rests on a reasoned approach to man, knowledge, society and language. This long series of associations to other branches of learn

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Lennart Hellspong, Södertörn University

On the relationship between democracy and the art of public speaking. Through its rich contextualization, rhetoric rests on a reasoned approach to man, knowledge, society and language. This long series of associations to other branches of learning connects rhetoric with broad fields of humanist thinking. It might even be seen as the hub of a wheel of ideas about our ways of living and forms of action. In this article, Lennart Hellspong develops this insight into the significance of rhetoric by exploring its relationship to society, to our way of dealing with common issues by acting politically.

Lennart Hellspong (2011) remarks

My own background is in linguistics, a modern discipline with an elaborate and precise terminology. What attracted me to rhetoric as a distinct alternative (and also troubled me a little) is that its core concepts are few in number but deeply rooted in a long tradition and that they serve as topoi by not being closed terms but ever open to exploration. For this reason, they can be approached from different angles. This porosity is something that I wanted to take advantage of in examining the relationship between rhetoric and politics. What interested me was to engage in a dialogue between the two disciplines in order to review another dialogue: that which is central to our understanding of democracy as a pluralistic universe of voices.
I later came to take an interest in negotiation as an underdeveloped part of rhetorical investigation. I now think that a dialogical rhetoric can be con­ceived as a rhetoric of negotiation – a concept that does justice to both the deliberative and the persuasive aspect of exchanging views. Similarly, I think that a dialogical or deliberative democracy can be seen as a negotiative democracy, where both sober consultation and heated confrontation make up the democratic process.

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About this article

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About Lennart Hellspong

Lennart Hellspong is Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric at Södertörn University.

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