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 Begriffsge-schichte and Quentin Skinner’s rhetorical approach by applying what is in effect a historical-pragmatic approach to the history of political concepts.
Neil Foxlee is a former senior research fellow at the University of Central Lancashire. Email: email@example.com