Rhetoric and Public Policy
ome readers of this journal may wonder why a special issue, which
ostensibly assembles a critical mass of articles focused on an unusual
or underappreciated topic, has been devoted to rhetoric and public
policy. After all, one may ask, haven’t scholars understood for over two
millennia that rhetoric and public policy are intertwined? Classical figures
like Aristotle recognized this connection and wrote about it extensively. His
discussion of deliberative rhetoric, for example, offered advice for advocates
debating such issues as war, and he instructed citizens that “the security of
the state” depended on their being “knowledgeable about legislation.”1 In our
own time, on the pages of this journal, studies regularly appear exploring
intersections of rhetoric and public policy across a wide range of historical
and contemporary topics. A special issue on rhetoric and public policy, then,
cannot blithely announce that a heretofore unseen connection has been
discovered and that the articles shall inaugurate a promising line of inquiry.
Rather, this special issue joins a longstanding scholarly conversation while
articulating a different emphasis. In this spirit, the contributors consider
questions that often recede into the background in our scholarship: What
is the role of rhetoric in policymaking? How should rhetorical scholars
approach public policy?
Robert Asen is Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
© 2010 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. All rights reserved. Rhetoric & Public Affairs Vol. 13, No. 1, 2010, pp. 1–6. ISSN 1094-8392.
2 Rhetoric & Public Affairs
These questions address two aspects of the relationship between
rhetoric and public policy: the place of rhetoric in the policy domain, and
the rhetorical study of policy, respectively. A