Studying political disputes: A rhetorical perspective and a case study

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This article argues that rhetorical analysis is a method particularly well-suited for the study of political disputes and introduces commonplaces as a tool to conduct such analysis. Commonplaces function as key reference points that produce and organise social meaning; they can thus help to clarify the terms of the dispute and illuminate how these are linked to broader debates within the political community. Commonplaces call into attention sedimented views and point to alternative norms of action pursued by agents of change and therefore to entry points for recontestation. The article substantiates this claim through a case study that maps arguments for climate action in party manifestos in the 2019 General Election in the United Kingdom. A rhetorical analysis of the material highlights the emergence of a number of insurgent commonplaces that seek to disturb the dominance of ‘economic growth’ as principle that informs climate action. Commonplaces can provide a more nuanced understanding of public debates, help to identify sedimented ideological views, and illuminate openings for recontestation and the pursuit of alternative socio-ecological arrangements.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date3 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Aug 2020


  • climate change
  • commonplaces
  • political dispute
  • rhetorical analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

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