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What is the role of arguments? Fundamental human rights in the age of spin

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In our Western democracies, parliamentary debates are seen less as a collaborative effort to achieve a shareable interpretation of an issue than a fight between contestants to be arbitrated by the media as the sole interface between text producers and text consumers. Arguments are no longer designed to convince or persuade. Rather the role of argumentation is twofold. By constant repetition, arguments construct ideological identity. But reformulations, permutations and recombinations of arguments can also give rise to gradual innovation. My illustration is the House of Commons debate of the Lisbon Treaty’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. That the argumentation we find in this debate is full of blatant repetition and void of any new aspects may be caused to some extent by the media industry’s growing grip on text production. Yet it also questions the role assigned to argumentation in our society.

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Birmingham

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