Thursday, May 24, 2012

McClosky, Rhetoric

When I have my economist hat on, my job is to inform the reading public of the way normal economic theory -- the mainstream, you might call it -- is in error, and so much so, that I am sometimes even agast. This "mainstream," even though it is widespread, is just wrong. Sad.
     Nevertheless, there are so many elements -- including what are called semantic ones or elements of language -- that sometimes I do find myself referring to some part -- an element or a statement -- that I agree with momentarily. Now when this happens I point to the part I agree with and say: "look at your own theory. The theory says..." Is that like saying I agree? -with neo-Classical? I am only agreeing temporarily. I am only doing it to oppose them. But is that weird? It seems kind of like I am having it two ways; I am both agreeing with an element and disagreeing with the whole. What is weird is that I seem to have switched my stance, for a moment. Here, then, is my sense of what is going on.

     Anything can make sense.
     We cannot say that nothing in mainstream economic ideation (thought) makes sense, because nothing, even a bad economic theory, exists in total isolation all by itself. These theories are not structures with walls around them -- for example, amoebas, or walled cities -- and even if it were so that wall or barrier around it exists for a reason. The existence of the wall implies something else, outside, that could be breached. Then the point is that everyting relates to everything else. And, the point of any economic theory whatsoever is ------ to touch the world.
     Usually I say that mainstream economic theory has been naughty. Thus, needs to be refuted, spanked. But, when something I have pointed out agrees with their point of view, I find their point of agreement significant. Maybe that's weird.
     What does it mean? Does it mean, and I think McClosky says something like this, that everything is rhetoric?
     Or that I have some ulterior purpose? The answer is: no. And the reason for this can be expressed here, I think so. It lies in the fact that everything (as we mention above) is connected. If rhetoric is everywhere, or everything is rhetoric, which McClosky may or may not actually state but which she seems to be closer to than I, we are simply creating another encasement, a wall. That is the problem. The word "rhetoric" would then become inoperative. In that case, why not just use the word "language"? And say that everything is language? Everything is language. Right?
     So then, who needs "rhetoric"? Rhetoric's place is to function. And rhetoric is, t hus, practical. The function of rhetoric is that it engages us. It makes the piece more fun to read, actually. I think! McClosky's book shows this. She shows that rhetoric pulls us in and gets our attention. It functions. Not as reality, though.
     What pulls us in is not mere language itself -- which is perhaps compelling only to professional linguists -- but the kind of language. That is why rehetoric amounts to a list. (McClosky: "classical rhetoric was merely a list of terms..." p.5-9.)
     Everything is rhetoric. Everything is language. What do scholars do other than use language to argue things? We can say that, that's all fine with me. Everything is language, fine. But, even if language is involved here, it still has to "touch the world." Economic theory is argument. But it is not merely rhetoric, it has to mean something. Now, the rhetoric stuff is used to support and put over the argument itself, but the whole discourse in terms of the real practice, is not merely rhetoric. (Some would italicize "merely.")
     It is subtle, I think so. The process of argumentation uses language, yes. But it is not mere language. it has to touch the world, too. Otherwise, what is the point, again?
     Rhetoric supports you, or, it makes your argument stronger. Argument is real because it touches the world. (Or in the reversed order of call, reality coming first: The world receives the argument, which receives rhetoric.) This mutual linkage of rhetoric, argument and reality, however, reduces neither to mere circularity, nor to the notion that the outside world is rhetoric.
     The reason that rhetoric is not an endless circle is that it has to touch the world, and the world is not rhetoric.

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