Pivots and Levers

Political Rhetoric around Capitalism in Britain from the 1970s to the Present

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
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This article examines how politicians have applied evaluative-descriptive terms as rhetorical levers to a pivotal basic concept, illustrating the broader rhetorical strategy of dissociation identified by Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca. It focuses on political debates around capitalism that took place in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century British politics, including the period following the financial crisis of 2008. Drawing on data from the Enhanced Hansard Corpus and Hansard Online, together with other contemporary texts, it combines quantitative and qualitative analyses using a corpus-based approach to identify salient items that are then placed in their discursive and sociopolitical contexts. More generally, the article seeks to bridge part of the gap between Koselleckian Begriff sgeschichte and Quentin Skinner’s rhetorical approach by applying what is in effect a historical-pragmatic approach to the history of political concepts.

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