Rhetoric and Global Justice


  • Julia Skorupska




Activists have long recognized the importance of rhetoric and emotional appeal in building support for the global justice movement. However, many political theorists worry that the use of rhetoric may obstruct clear presentation of the issues at stake, and may result in our policies being determined by where the sympathies of the best rhetoricians lie. In this article I examine the ways in which contemporary theorists try to accommodate the need for rhetoric and emotional appeal, and I argue that their attemptsare unsatisfactory because they view rhetoric as a tool or skill that can be used to manipulate people to support any position. Yet if we question the sharp separation between rhetoric and reason, then the aims of building support for a cause, identifying the causes we ought to support, and treating others with respect need no longer conflict. Re-examining the radical liberal theories of J.S. Mill, L.T. Hobhouse and J.A. Hobson, will help us to see how this separation might be questioned and rhetoric recovered as a respectful and respectable form of argument.