Understanding political issues through argumentation analysis

Authored by: Ruth Amossy

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Politics

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138779167
eBook ISBN: 9781315183718
Adobe ISBN:


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Is political discourse intrinsically linked to argumentation? Today, public opinion is often inclined to doubt it, partly due to the popular notion that politicians resort to rhetorical strategies in order to better manipulate their audience, with little consideration for valid reasoning and genuine debate. If we follow Aristotle's Rhetoric, however, the answer to this question can be considered as a matter of fact: political discourse corresponds to the ‘deliberative’ mode, one of the three genres upon which rhetorical argumentation is traditionally built (together with the forensic and the epideictic). Deliberation is mainly ‘concerned with determining whether a course of action or a policy [is] useful or harmful (expedient or inexpedient)’ (Jasinski 2001, p. 160). It can be defined as a verbal attempt to reach an agreement on the most suitable choice for the common good in situations where different, if not contradictory, opinions are possible. The practice of logos as both discourse and reason is supposed to pave the way for conflict resolution, thus allowing for a peaceful management of the various problems facing the polis. This view is at the basis of quite divergent approaches to argumentation such as that of Perelman's and Olbrecht Tyteca's New rhetoric (1969 [1958]) and van Eemeren's Amsterdam School of Pragma-dialectics (1996).

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