In moving beyond the dichotomy between representative and participatory models of
democracy, contemporary democratic theory has drawn out the crucial role of
deliberation in the effective operation of democratic institutions. However, while
various theorists show that deliberation is applied to democratic effect in an assortment
of arrangements (such as interpersonal relationships, new social movements and
international negotiations), there appears to be a hesitation in theorising the means to
improve the deliberative functioning of currently existing representative institutions.
This thesis argues that despite the many limitations of representative democracy, and of
the mass media which act as its key deliberative forum, currently existing models of
representative democracy still offer formal and practical opportunities for collective
deliberation in rhetorical exchanges among citizens, particularly, but by no means
exclusively, in the course of the election campaign. Consideration of recent democratic
theory suggests that the quantity and quality of democratic deliberation in a range of
particular situations may be assessed against a set of criteria: access, transparency,
feedback and coordination.
For citizens to make use of the deliberative opportunities raised by the election
campaign requires, it is argued, the creation of a contemporary rhetoric. This thesis
addresses that process by reviewing the roots of rhetorical practice and theory in tribal
and bardic methods used to produce social cohesion, in the activities of the Sophists in
Greek, and particularly Athenian, direct democracy and in the practical reason of
Aristotle's seminal text.
This thesis then proceeds to consider the rhetorical techniques, employed in two recent
election campaigns, which overcame the preconceptions of academic and media
commentators to produce "upset" results by successfully engaging, it is argued, the
citizen-audience in a meta-narrative of rhetorical exchange.
From consideration of these three case studies, an account of a rhetoric emerges as a
technical and instrumental discipline. While a contemporary version of political rhetoric
may be derived from campaign practices in the electoral context, that rhetoric is also
capable of utilising the mass media for much broader deliberative purposes and the
potential for marginal and critical political forces to apply these activities more widely
Central to the development of new, deliberative accounts of rhetoric is a return to
Aristotle to appreciate the ethical import of rhetoric. A contemporary approach to
rhetoric, arising from an emerging account of citizenship as participatory, deliberative,
global and "media-active" is considered.