Strob: Burke, Dewey, the Public

Stob, Paul. Kenneth Burke, John Dewey, and the Pursuit of the Public. Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2005. Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 227 Cites Ackerman and Fishkin’s discussion and states, “It is not that the citizenry is incapable of hammering out intelligent political solutions, but that it needs access to social contexts that facilitate deliberation and the emergence of a common good. To foster a culture of political intelligence, the public needs only the chance to enter the forums that will facilitate thorough, cooperative political decision-making.” Important point of citizens needing access Multiple public spheres, cites Robert Asen and Daniel Brouwer 227-228 “Multiple public spheres point to the differences between individuals and groups and how those differences create divergent “publics.” Permeable boundaries point to issues of access to and participation in these different publics. And the role of the state in relation to these different publics points to issues of power relationships bong various publics and institutions.” Burke and Dewey have similar understanding of the role of language in the public sphere (near quote). 229 “Burke and Dewey establish a model of the public based on the problems and possibilities of language. They both argue for a reconstruction in language to ameliorate specific social problems. In that way, they conceptualize a public based not primarily on identity, access, or power, but on the use of language in the public sphere. Their focus is on the use of language in the public sphere helps us better understand the problem-solving and community-building possibilities of language itself.” italics the authors (Stob 229). Clearly blatant links to rhetorical praxis. If you want to be a rhetor, then you must be skilled in the use of language. B & D seem to construct views of the world based upon language instead of language based upon the world. This could be thought and discussed a lot Stob Burke and Dewey were both leftists: Dewey more establishment traditional, Burke more radical/commie 234 “A discursive politics underlies both Burke’s and Dewey’s understanding of “the public.” Both believed that fruitful inquiry emerges not primarily through an understanding of what the public is—through an understanding of the structures and identities that constitute the polity—

Strob: Burke, Dewey, the Public
but through an understanding of what the public can do, an understanding of the possibilities for a diverse public brought closer and closer through language” (Stob 234) (italics the authors). Note the focus on fluidity, on action, on getting things done and movement instead of keeping it in place. 237 Great quote on how the people are aware that it is the public, but power, the meaning of the public is what it can do. (Dewey?) 240 “Perhaps the best way to sum up Burke’s and Dewey’s understanding of language in the public sphere is to describe it as the call to alleviate the public’s problems through a reconstruction in language” italics the authors 241-42 “The right question for scholars and political actors to ask regarding the public may not be who—who’s in opposition to whom, who’s in what social group, who’s voice is being marginalized—but how. This is not to say that questions of who may not arise, but it is to say that such questions are not the promising way to approach the public. If the hope is for amelioration, the best things to focus on are the tools that create amelioration, the tools of language. The most promising path to amelioration may be to ask, given that people and groups are divided and will always be divided to some degree, what specific reconstruction in language will allow us to forge a better public?” italics the authors (Stob 241-242) This emphasizes the importance not of specific objects, but rather focuses the process. There is not time to discuss Stob’s synthesis of two of America’s greatest rhetoricians, but this is a critical point. Changing the public—or even the nature and state of higher education—is not about things and stuff, instead it is about using our language to adjust how we see ourselves and how we harness and direct our skills.