The Rhetoric Conspiracy: Why Rhetoric Is Too Powerful and Had to Be Lobotomized

by Dave Logan & Halee Fischer-Wright

The Rhetoric Conspiracy: Why Rhetoric Is Too Powerful and Had to Be Lobotomized



Historically, rhetoric as an art has been considered both nefarious and weak.

In the first part of the paper, the authors describe the “lobotomization” of rhetoric, its true power, and its applications with individuals and organizations.

This first part paper describes the historicalcontext of the lobotomization—the separation of “Invention” from the other four canons of rhetoric, leaving rhetoric the basis of Freshman Composition and Public Speaking. It then discusses the power of rhetoric, beginning with the human capacity to name objects and people, resulting in leverage over the action of others.

The second part covers the nature of humans and their relationship with language, including the automatic formation of two parts of the rhetorical person: character armor (or identity) and terministic screens (or webs of words).

The third part examines organizations through the lens of rhetoric and character armor, leading to theconclusion that organizations are best conceptualized as “tribes” or “tribes of tribes” (depending on their size). Some organizational tribes are “lead”—slow to change, encumbered by politics, fearful, and stressed—with others are “gold”—leadership-embracing, market-dominating, innovation-producing.

By working with the entire tribe to determine its purpose (which “is a world of meaning created through language”), and construct “scenes” through which this purpose will resonate outside the tribe, people craft a new drama.

From a rhetorical perspective,“organizational alchemy” is replacing one drama with another, resulting in profound change. This process can only be accomplished by a leader (with or without formal authority) designing communication strategies (using all five canons of rhetoric) to move the organization to a more advanced cultural stage.

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