Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
In the face of the multifaceted critiques of modernity, no one needs to be reminded of how fragile [local forms of civil community] are, how easily they are coopted and perverted. But at a time when the threat of total annihilation no longer seems to be an abstract possibility but the most imminent and real potentiality, it becomes all the more imperative to try again and again to foster and nurture those forms of communal life in which dialogue, conversation, phronesis, practical discourse, and judgment are concretely embodied in our daily life.(Richard Bernstein, Beyond Objectivity and Relativism, 229)
The 1980s and 1990s have been good decades for rhetoric. Stanley Fish, using Richard Lanham's terms, noted the rise of homo rhetoricus, suggesting that it was just such a “species” of intellectual that would point us to the future not just of academic inquiry but of human inquiry as well. Such an intellectual would investigate not the world as it is reflected in our scientific practice, but how those reflections themselves are constructed. “[T]he givens of any field of activity – including the facts it commands, the procedures it trusts in, and the values it expresses and extends – are socially and politically constructed, are fashioned by man rather than delivered by God or Nature” (Fish, Doing 485), and two of the fields most directly affected by the upswing in the fortunes of “rhetorical man” are economics and science.