Survey Research as Rhetorical Trope: Electric Power Planning Arguments in Chicago

James A. Throgmorton. 1993. In Frank Fischer and John Forester (eds). The Argumentative Turn in Planning and Policy Analysis. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, pp. 117-144.

This chapter focuses on the rhetorical aspects of argumentation. Extending the important work of the Iowa Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry, the essay illustrates the ways planning is as much a rhetorical activity as it is the technical endeavor it is more popularly presented and construed to be. Much more than mere “gloss and seduction,” rhetorical persuasion is, I argue, fundamental to and constructive of central features of our social life, in particular character, culture, and community. At the heart of such ubiquitous rhetorical persuasion, I  suggest, lies the use of various rhetorical devices, or “tropes,” such as metaphor, metonymy, and irony that permit us to use words to suggest more than their literal meaning. A rhetorical perspective enables us to understand a policy or planning document as an interweaving of such tropes in narrative form. So a rhetorical approach to planning and policy analysis can assess the roles these devices play in proposing explanations, inspiring public visions, and recommending actions. Treating survey research as a rhetorical enterprise, I show how research methodology gains its contingent, specific meaning—and thus its power—from a particular audience, time, place, and articulation.

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