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Deliberate Conflict

Argument, Political Theory, and Composition Classes

Patricia Roberts-Miller

Publication Year: 2007

In Deliberate Conflict: Argument, Political Theory, and Composition Classes, Patricia Roberts-Miller argues that much current discourse about argument pedagogy is hampered by fundamental unspoken disagreements over what democratic public discourse should look like. The book’ s pivotal question is, In what kind of public discourse do we want our students to engage? To answer this, the text provides a taxonomy, discussion, and evaluation of political theories that underpin democratic discourse, highlighting the relationship between various models of the public sphere and rhetorical theory.

Deliberate Conflict cogently advocates reintegrating instruction in argumentation with the composition curriculum. By linking effective argumentation in the public sphere with the ability to effect social change, Roberts-Miller pushes compositionists beyond a simplistic Aristotelian conception of how argumentation works and offers a means by which to prepare students for active participation in public discourse.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

Sometimes it seems that teaching first-year writing has the place in the academy that sex had in the Victorian era—the language surrounding it is one of duty and distaste, but the simple presence of a younger generation demonstrates that people are engaging in it, or did it at some point in their lives. The accepted explanation is that we participate in it...

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pp. 1-17

Everyone knows what it means to teach public argumentation in writing classes. It means that the instructor brings in examples of public policy writing on various topics, pointing out various formal qualities. Then the instructor gives an assignment something like the following: ...

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1. Politics Without Argument

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pp. 18-57

The liberal model of the public sphere is not the first or oldest model of democracy (the agonistic model long predates it), but it is the most common in political theory and public discourse. Like current-traditional pedagogy (which is, in many ways, the pedagogical enactment of liberal political theory), it is grounded in Enlightenment values of...

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2. Autonomous Selves, Liberally Educated

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pp. 58-97

As described in the previous chapter, the most common criticisms of the liberal public sphere focus on: the public/private split; the assumption of universality; the notion of the autonomous individual; limiting public discourse to rational argument. The discussion centered on political theory, but those same criticisms trouble teachers of argument...

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3. Closing My Eyes as You Speak

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pp. 98-141

One dilemma in liberal political theory is that the government is to remain neutral in regard to values (the good), yet any particular policy necessarily represents the triumph of some set of values. The Hetch Hetchy Valley is preserved in a wilderness state (a preservationist value) or dammed and flooded (an instrumentalist value); policies cannot be...

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4. What Angels of Our Nature? Communitarianism, Social Constructivism, and Communities of Discourse

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pp. 142-181

I distinguished the liberal model of the public sphere from the interest- based model on the grounds that the former tries to balance self-interest and public good while the latter ignores public good altogether. Communitarians argue that the distinction is essentially false—the liberal model necessarily ends up in the interest-based model due to its unwillingness...

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5. Listening for Difference

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pp. 182-220

Much of my criticism of various models of a democratic public sphere rests on whether or not the model promotes a deliberative versus an expressive public sphere. Yet I have not made the case for discussion. What makes discussion valuable? Why shouldn’t people simply vote without having to argue about anything first? Jon Elster lists nine...

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pp. 221-230

When Berlin published “Rhetoric and Ideology,” he laid out a deeply problematic taxonomy, making a monolith of classical rhetoric, obscuring the distinction between models of perception and models of cognition, ignoring traditions like rhetorical humanism and pragmatism, and implying that practice and theory are necessarily connected...


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pp. 231-240

Works Cited

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pp. 241-256


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pp. 257-263

Author Biography

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p. 277-277

Back Cover

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p. 278-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780809387458
E-ISBN-10: 080938745X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327669
Print-ISBN-10: 080932766X

Page Count: 277
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1st Edition