Rhetoric and Radical Democratic Political Theory

Alan Finlayson

in The Politics of Radical Democracy

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633999
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652723 | DOI:
Rhetoric and Radical Democratic Political Theory

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Radical democracy is distinctive in claiming that democratic practice is one of contestation and disagreement. This chapter takes up this issue and considers how the practice of disagreement might itself be conducted. Counter-posing radical democracy to ‘aggregationist’ and ‘accommodationist’ theories of democracy, and later to proceduralism, it argues that radical democratic politics is an essentially and ineradicably rhetorical politics. Focusing on the ‘rhetoricality’ of politics emphasises the variety of styles (polemical, parodic, emotive, scientific), as well as the range of strategies (metaphor, analogy, catachresis), mobilised in attempts to persuade others to a particular way of thinking. It thus contrasts sharply with the highly attenuated sense of argumentation assumed by deliberative democrats.

Keywords: rhetorical politics; proceduralism; democratic theory; deliberative democrats; persuasion; argumentation; radical democracy

Chapter.  8178 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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