Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy

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University of Chicago Press, Aug 1, 1996 - Political Science - 384 pages
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In this witty and provocative study of democracy and its critics, Charles Willard debunks liberalism, arguing that its exaggerated ideals of authenticity, unity, and community have deflected attention from the pervasive incompetence of "the rule of experts." He proposes a ground of communication that emphasizes common interests rather than narrow disputes.

The problem of "unity" and the public sphere has driven a wedge between libertarians and communitarians. To mediate this conflict, Willard advocates a shift from the discourse of liberalism to that of epistemics. As a means of organizing the ebb and flow of consensus, epistemics regards democracy as a family of knowledge problems—as ways of managing discourse across differences and protecting multiple views.

Building a bridge between warring peoples and warring paradigms, this book also reminds those who presume to instruct government that they are obliged to enlighten it, and that to do so requires an enlightened public discourse.
  

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Contents

The Yankee Way to Knowledge
1
The Public and Its Problems One More Time
11
Authenticity and the Rhetoric of Trauma
25
Romancing the Gesellschaft Community and the Fallacy of Common Ground
40
Commensuration and Unificationism
68
Foucaults Trap
87
Pluralism the Public and the Problem of Knowledge
119
Democracy in America A Thought Experiment
150
Epistemics
189
The Uses of Argument Fields
217
Fields as Organizations
245
A Theory of Presumption
277
Desperately Seeking Dewey
293
Epilogue A Rhetoric for Modern Democracy
312
Bibliography
333
Index
373

Discourse across Differences
181

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1996)

Charles Willard is professor and chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Louisville.


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