Learning to differ

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The essay describes how Polish members of parliament (MPs) reinvented the institution of parliament (conceived of in its essentially discursive character as parleyment) in the course of the political transition of 1989. The reinvention of “parliamentary democracy” and deliberation in the chamber involved four interrelated developments: rearticulation of the “people” and thereby providing new basis for parliamentary “representation” and for the rhetorical agency of MPs; redefinition and rearticulation of the relationship between parliament and other organs of state power, especially government; emergence of deliberation through the dialectic between identification and division; and refunctionalization of verbal and non-verbal behaviors to enable exercise of MPs’ rhetorical agency in the plural context. The essay suggests a perspective that sees argumentation and debate as both shaped by and constitutive of “institutions,” a perspective that complements the view of argument and debate in interpersonal terms.


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