Rhetoric in Neoliberalism

  • Kim Hong Nguyen
Part of the Rhetoric, Politics and Society book series (RPS)


There is a growing concern in the discipline of rhetorical studies about the credibility and public relevance of speech. Kathleen Hall Jamieson (1988) documents the decline in television coverage and newspaper reprinting of political speeches and the significant reduction in traditional forms of deliberation in favor of public discourse that is conversational and organized by personal narrative. Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee (2009) argue that the modern view of rhetoric as a form of manipulation is a key indication of the diminishing credibility of speech. Crowley and Hawhee and Jamieson all contrast this modern view of public speech to that of ancient Greco rhetorical values of copia, rhetorical invention, and altruistic citizenship in order to show that modern public speech has become increasingly functional and efficient, aimed at communicating as clearly as possible with the least number of words. Walter Ong (1982) describes how literate culture abstracts knowledge from the context in which and by whom it is produced, leading to neutral and abridged discursive formats like lists, statistics, facts, and how-to manuals. Bradford Vivian (2006) attributes the privileging of quotes that function as sound bites and other economical communicative practices to neoliberalism as a structural enterprise for media and cultural industries and as an ideology that promotes efficiency. Megan Foley (2012) argues that the circulation of sound bites is not indicative of a decline but rather demonstrates audience attachment to public speech in another truncated form. Whether the economization of speech is a symptom of the decline or rise, discourse in the contemporary era must be evaluated using new interpretative heuristics and ways of knowing to understand its value, effect, and magnitude.


Communicative Labor Corporate Venturis Economic Subject Intensive Mothering Homo Economicus 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Hong Nguyen
    • 1
  1. 1.Speech CommunicationUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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