ISSA Proceedings 2014 ~ Isocrates’ Moral Argumentation
Abstract: Two of Michael Calvin McGee’s unpublished manuscripts hint at how the ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates developed a perspective on argumentation that may be useful for contemporary analysis of public affairs. The first manuscript describes Isocrates as a “cultural surgeon” who operated using “moral argumentation.” The second manuscript suggests how individuals may repair cultural faults using moral argumentation. Through rhetorical analysis of Spanish 15M protest logoi, this paper explores the critical utility of Isocratic moral argumentation.
Keywords: Isocrates, Michael Calvin McGee, social movements, protest, 15-M, rhetoric, public argument, argumentation
How may an understanding of argumentation scholar Michael Calvin McGee’s use of the term “moral argumentation” inform the analysis of modern-day protest activity? Exploration of this question promises to enrich understanding of this term and shed light on how argumentation by twenty-first century protestors may contribute to the processes of deliberation and unity formation. McGee first describes moral argumentation in the first of his two unpublished manuscripts on the topic of Isocrates (McGee 1986, 1998). In this manuscript, “Isocrates: A Parent of Rhetoric and Culture Studies,” McGee provides no direct definition of moral argumentation; however, some preliminary understandings may be extrapolated from McGee’s use of the term by reading this paper in tandem with the second manuscript, “Choosing A Poros: Reflections on How to Implicate Isocrates in Liberal Theory.” Although the term moral argumentation has been employed in other philosophical contexts, McGee inflects it in a unique and particular way that warrants further study (Habermas 1984, 1988, 1990, 1996). This paper aims to (re)construct the meaning of McGee’s “moral argumentation” to support a case study of protest logoi (i.e., reasoned arguments, such as protest slogans) by the Spanish protest group 15-M.
2. Moral argumentation
In the first manuscript, “Isocrates: A Parent of Rhetoric and Culture Studies,” McGee argues that Isocrates’ argumentation may be characterized as the “skill and talent of discovering how best to apply values to a given circumstance” [emphasis added] (McGee 1986). McGee’s definition attributes an implicit and intrinsic moral component to Isocrates’ form of argumentation, which is signaled by McGee’s use of the term “values,” a word that connotatively and denotatively carries ethical and moral implications (McGee 1986). McGee contends that for Isocrates, engaging in or performing “moral argumentation encouraged right action” (McGee 1986). McGee asserts that Isocrates stated that “moral knowledge” could be obtained through studying the “history of public address,” which also serves as a history of “virtue in action” (McGee 1986). By “public address,” McGee most likely gestures to the classical Greek understanding of the term, encompassing a variety of speeches (e.g., forensic, epideictic, deliberative, encomiastic) that were traditionally delivered at “the law courts, in political assemblies, and on ceremonial occasions at public festivals” (Ilie 2009, p. 833; McGee 1986). Thus, inherent in McGee’s description of this acquisitional process is the salient role history plays in obtaining “moral knowledge,” which is further articulated in the manner in which Isocrates constructed arguments (McGee 1986).
According to McGee, Isocrates used the “exercise of reason” (i.e., logismo) to arrive at logoi (i.e., reasoned arguments), a process which in the case of Isocrates involved transforming historical knowledge into “present action” (McGee 1986; Poulakos 2008, p. 87). In essence, history provides a collection of topoi (i.e., “argument schemes”) that may be mimetically altered through logismo to arrive at logoi (van Eemeren 2010, pp. 101–103). McGee further nuances Isocrates’ use of logos by arguing that Isocrates “established the possibility of performing […] surgery on ‘culture,’” due to his use of logos, citing as evidence his ability to create logoi that had the potential to move a group of Athenians to “re-define their Being […] from the ideology of ‘Being-in’ a polis (‘I am Athenian’) to an ideology of ‘Being-In’ a linguistically-defined culture (‘I am Greek’)” (McGee 1986). Further developing this line of thought, McGee propounds that Isocrates was not a cultural “diagnostician” but rather a “surgeon,” an assertion that McGee evidences through highlighting that Isocrates did not compose dialogues that illustrated “how to find faults in a culture” as had Plato, but rather left examples of employing “principles of moral argumentation to model for positive cultural change” [emphasis added] (McGee 1986). McGee concludes this manuscript by proposing that we use Isocrates’ oeuvre as “resources to see cultural faults and to perform the surgery necessary to repair them” (McGee 1986).
In the second manuscript, “Choosing A Poros: Reflections on How to Implicate Isocrates in Liberal Theory,” McGee further develops his characterization of Isocrates’ form of argumentation through a discussion of the identificatory effects of his logoi (McGee 1998). McGee argues that Althusser’s orientation to identification is “analogically” closest to “Isocrates’ orientation to his audiences” and thus identifies an important conceptual component to understanding the effects of Isocrates’ logoi, “interpellation” (McGee 1998). Before exploring “Isocratean interpellation” in greater depth, it may be useful to briefly discuss Althusserian interpellation to allow for a proper contrast of these two forms of hailing.
Louis Althusser introduced the concept of “Ideological State Apparatuses” (ISAs) in his 1970 essay, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes toward an Investigation),” built upon the Marxist conception of the State or the State apparatus as a repressive apparatus that functions as a repression machine which perpetuates bourgeoisie domination over the proletariat and articulates State power (Althusser 2008, pp. 11, 14, 16–17). By contrast, the State Apparatus itself contains institutions (e.g., the army, police, and government) that operate through violence (Althusser 2008, pp. 16–17). Ideological State Apparatuses are a “number of realities which present themselves… in the form of distinct and specialized institutions” (e.g., political, legal, and educational systems, the family, religion, and culture) that function by ideology (Althusser 2008, pp. 16–17). The critical difference between Ideological State Apparatuses and what Althusser refers to as the (Repressive) State Apparatus lies in their functioning, with the former relying primarily upon ideology and only secondarily through repression and the latter functioning in the complete inverse (Althusser 2008, pp. 18–19). To illustrate how ideology, defined as “the system of the ideas and representations which dominate the mind of man or a social group” functions in the life of the individual, Althusser introduces the concept of interpellation (Althusser 2008, pp. 32, 40). Althusser predicates his conceptualization of interpellation on the premise that ideology exists as a result of the “category of the subject,” given that ideology is destined for “concrete subjects” (Althusser 2008, pp. 44–45). Following this assertion, Althusser propounds that “the category of the subject is only constitutive of all ideology insofar as all ideology has the function (which defines it) of ‘constituting’ concrete individuals as subjects” (Althusser 2008, pp. 44–45). To describe how ideology constitutes subjects, Althusser contends that it operates by recruiting subjects from individuals or by transforming individuals into subjects through “interpellation or hailing” (Althusser 2008, p. 48). In order to illustrate this action, Althusser provides an example of a police official exclaiming, “‘Hey, you there!’” to an individual on the street, compelling him or her to turn around, and by virtue of this action, he or she is interpellated into a subject (Althusser 2008, p. 48).
In the second manuscript, McGee argues that Althusser understood interpellation to be a power of the State and consequently “always [a] negative” action, which sharply contrasts with the positivity McGee attributes to “Isocratean interpellation” (McGee 1998). McGee describes Althusserian interpellation as “evil [and a] virtually demonic” action in contrast to the “good” Isocratean interpellation, which he terms “positive interpellation” (McGee 1998). For Althusser, “the existence of ideology and… interpellation of individuals as subjects are… the same thing,” therefore, according to McGee, Althusser “sees” an erasure of subjectivity by contrast to Isocrates, who views subjectivity as a “hard-won acquisition… [a] realization of the possibility of Being a subject” (Althusser 2008, p. 49; McGee 1998). McGee couches his argument by stating that there exist “many reasons” to justify his use of the term interpellation vis-a-vis “Isocratean rhetoric” and cites the following three reasons:
1) both “discuss political struggle,”
2) both “study callings,” and
3) both “understandings of calling are tied to the theory and praxis of power” (McGee 1998). McGee concludes this manuscript with a discussion of how contemporary “Liberalism” has given way to the “the individual,” who has contributed to Western “political and cultural fragmentation” (McGee 1998). For McGee, “the individual” is a “cultural [fault]” of modern democracies, citing America as a geographical region where this phenomenon may be observed (McGee 1998). As such, McGee proposes looking to Isocrates for solutions to repair 21st century disunity by way of Isocratean interpellation and argues that it may produce a “positive becoming of the collective, rather than a negative ceasing-to-be of the individual” (McGee 1998).
To summarize, upon piecing together elements from both of McGee’s manuscripts, a definition of moral argumentation begins to emerge, one that speaks of moral argumentation as a particular kind of argument practice that exhibits particular characteristics (McGee 1986). It would appear that for McGee, Isocrates’ moral argumentation involved the [communicative] process of transforming topoi of the past, through logismo, into logoi that appropriately addressed the given oratorical circumstances of the present, producing logoi that had the potential to produce two differing types of interpellative calls. These two types of callings were designed to interpellate either a group of individuals or an individual to engage in a specific deliberative action, yielding a particular communicative outcome. In the case of the individual, this would entail inspiring the individual to engage in dissoi logoi (i.e., the internal practice of “pulling apart complex questions by debating two sides of an issue”) in order to form wise judgments (Mitchell 2010, p. 108). In contrast, the deliberative action for a group of individuals would be synerchesthe (i.e., a form of interactive collective inquiry and deliberation that leads to the formation of wise judgments and unity) (Mitchell & McTigue 2012, pp. 92, 96; Mitchell 2010, pp. 108–109, 111, 2011, pp. 62–63). McGee’s definition may be better understood by contextualizing it in the pedagogical program of Isocrates, as this will illustrate the manner in which McGee’s definition re-articulates pedagogical touchstones and values from Isocrates’ paideia (i.e., educational program) and provide greater clarity to McGee’s definition of Isocrates’ moral argumentation, which will henceforth be referred to as “Isocratic moral argumentation.” The following figure provides a visual representation of the structure and components of Isocratic moral argumentation.
3. Isocratic moral argumentation
The first component of McGee’s Isocratic moral argumentation relates to the process of studying and mimetically transforming historical topoi into logoi for present and future action, a process articulated in many of what Isocrates terms “moral treatise[s]” (Isocrates 1928d, sec. 3–7). Isocrates’ paideia was in perpetual engagement with history, as it served as a cultural text from which topoi were extracted, modified, and improved upon, in order to address the given oratorical needs of a situation (Isocrates 1928a, sec. 96–100, 1928c, sec. 8–11, 1928d, sec. 11–24; 32–35, 1928e, sec. 34–38, 1929a, sec. 82–84, 1929b, sec. 82–84, 1945d, sec. 7–11). Isocrates did not wish for his students to be “shameless babblers” and merely repeat per verbatim “the same things which [had] been said in the past,” but rather to “surpass them” (Isocrates 1929a, sec. 82–84, 1945d, sec. 7–11). This rhetorical practice is most clearly described in Panegyricus: “For the deeds of the past are, indeed, an inheritance common to us all; but the ability to make proper use of them at the appropriate time, to conceive the right sentiments about them in each instance, and to set them forth in finished phrase, is the peculiar gift of the wise” (Isocrates 1928c, sec. 8–11). Isocrates’ paideia highlights three important nuances in the creation of new logoi from historical topoi. First, this process must not be performed in a hasty manner, but rather, as described in Antidosis, through the critical “exercise of reason” or reasoning (i.e., logismo), which leads one to be mistaken “less often” in one’s “course of action” (Isocrates 1929a, sec. 290–293). Second, one should endeavor to mimetically alter and exceed what has “been said in the past” and not blindly copy (Isocrates 1929a, sec. 290–293). Third, one must not neglect to be mindful of the kairos (i.e., timing) of the moment, in order to allow for the effective delivery of logos (Isocrates 1928c, sec. 8–11). Thus, the first component in the process of Isocratic moral argumentation may be understood as an argument creation phase that leads to the second phase: the delivery of logoi.
These newly created logoi have the potential to create two differing types of interpellative calls depending on the audience (i.e., individuals or an individual), which is where a salient distinction arises with regard to how the interpellative component of Isocrates’ logoi functioned. This distinction relates to the disjuncture that occurs with regard to the eventual “Communicative Outcome” of the audience-specific interpellative calls. Logoi destined for an audience comprised of individuals were composed in such a way that they would interpellate that group of people to engage in a particular “Deliberative Action” called synerchesthe, an important capability of Isocratic logos that is highlighted in a section of Nicocles or the Cyprians, referred to as the “hymn to logos.” In this passage, logos was offered as the reason “we escaped the life of wild beasts […] come together and founded cities and made laws and invented arts; and […] there is no institution devised by man which the power of [logos] has not helped us to establish” (Isocrates 1928b, sec. 6–7). The hymn to logos reveals that for Isocrates, logos is intrinsically linked to humanity and, through the cultivation of logos, citizens may assist their city in making wise choices through engaging in “reasoned political debate” (Morgan 2004, p. 145). Isocrates acknowledged that logos could be a source of social unification or disagreement, and as such, produce centripetal or centrifugal effects (Haskins 2004, p. 97; Mitchell & McTigue 2012, pp. 92–93). Consequently, Isocrates instructed his students to deliver logos in such a manner that their performance would be capable of spurring synerchesthe, which would serve as a source of social unification, binding the demos together into a “political community” (Poulakos 2008, p. 16). Isocrates described three related actions that indicate how the unity formation of synerchesthe may be invoked through “coming together deliberatively”: first, collective inquiry; second, deliberation; and third, alliance formation (Mitchell & McTigue 2012, p. 92; Poulakos 2008, p. 19). In essence, logoi composed for individuals produced an interpellative call that could spur the “Communicative Action” of synerchesthe, leading to the “Communicative Outcome” of forming wise judgments through deliberation and creating unity among those participating in the collective deliberation of a given inquiry.
In contrast, the second type of interpellative call produced through Isocratic moral argumentation is the call directed toward the individual alone. The “Deliberative Action” produced by these logoi has a distinct “Communicative Outcome” that is best represented in Isocrates’ letters To Alexander, To the Children of Jason, To Archidamus, and To Demonicus and Nicocles or the Cyprians, wherein one may observe the manner in which logoi are constructed to interpellate the individual into engaging in the “Deliberative Action” of dissoi logoi (Isocrates 1928b, sec. 7–10, 1928d, sec. 32–35, 1945a, sec. 3–5, 1945b, sec. 16–19, 1945c, sec. 6–9; 9–13). This particular communicative action (i.e., dissoi logoi) highlights a pervasive component in Isocrates’ paideia: debate. Protagoras of Abdera, a key teacher of Isocrates, practiced a politicallyinfused program of education based on dissoi logoi and argumentative practice (Smith 1918, pp. 197–199, 202–203). Isocrates, having been influenced by Protagoras’ argumentativefocused pedagogy, interpellated those whom he advised and instructed them to engage in this “Deliberative Action” in order to arrive at the “Communicative Outcome” of forming wise judgments. In To Demonicus, Isocrates describes his paideia as one that teaches students “how they may win repute as men of sound character… [and] improve their moral conduct” (Isocrates 1928d, sec. 3–7). For Isocrates, engaging in dissoi logoi enabled wise decision making and consequently lead to improved “moral conduct” (Isocrates 1928d, sec. 3–7). In Nicocles or the Cyprians, Isocrates contends that “we regard as sage those who most skillfully debate their problems in their own mind” and similarly, in To the Children of Jason, “nothing can be intelligently accomplished unless first […] you reason and deliberate” (Isocrates 1928b, sec. 7–10, 1929a, sec. 253–256; 256–259, 1945c, sec. 6–9). The aforementioned passages elucidate the importance of internal deliberation to arriving at a well-formulated judgment and the ultimate “Communicative Outcome” of the interpellative call directed at the individual. Thus, one may understand Isocratic moral argumentation as the creation of argument(s) that produce(s) nuanced interpellative calls, depending on the audience, to engage in differing communicative actions that result in the formation of wise judgments and, in the case of a group of individuals, also unity.
Isocratic moral argumentation is a particularly useful hermeneutical tool for examining how protest argumentation carries the potential to create unity among protest group members. In both of McGee’s unpublished manuscripts related to Isocrates, he gestures toward the utility and insightful perspective that may be gained through considering Isocrates’ concepts as “resources” that may aid in the analysis of contemporary “political rhetoric” (McGee 1986, 1998). Similarly, argumentation scholar Gordon Mitchell has also drawn upon Isocratean concepts for the contemporary study of diverse deliberative settings (Mitchell & McTigue 2012; Mitchell 2010, 2011). Furthering this theoretical approach, in order to elucidate the hermeneutical merit of Isocratic moral argumentation, this paper performs a case study of the Spanish protest group 15-M’s protest logoi from the summer of 2011, in order to illustrate how this type of argumentation may be performed to create a “positive Becoming of the collective” amid the contemporary milieu of fragmentation (McGee 1986). A particular angle of inquiry will focus specifically on how historical topoi were transformed into logoi used by 15-M to interpellate people into their protest acampadas [encampments], where they engaged in synerchesthe and ultimately created unity.
In the summer of 2011, Spain had a youth unemployment rate of 45%, out of which 650,000 were below the age of 30 and neither worked nor studied (Taibo 2013, p. 156). This growing group of young people is referred to as the “ni-ni,” ni estudia ni trabaja [“neither-nor,” neither studies nor works] (Roseman 2013, pp. 401–402; Santos Blázquez 2013, p. 386). In 2011, the Spanish labor market presented multiple challenges for young people, such as being paid in dinero negro [off the books] and providing an “abundance of contratos-basuras,” which are employment contracts that pay low salaries and have a tendency to engage in illegal treatment toward employees (Taibo 2013, p. 156). Concurrently, in the public university system, “a visible deterioration” in the quality and accessibility occurred with the onset of the large hike in tuition fees and scholarship cutbacks (Perugorría & Tejerina 2013, p. 427; Taibo 2013, p. 156). Difficulties also abounded in the Spanish economic sector, which was experiencing a financial crisis due to a number of factors (e.g., the bursting of the Spanish real-estate bubble and the international financial crisis) (Castañeda 2012, p. 310; Cortés 2013, p. 66; Éltető 2011, pp. 41, 45; Pino 2013, pp. 234–235; Royo 2009, p. 28). Amid this economic, social, and political turmoil, the internet-based Spanish platform ¡Democracia Real YA! [Real Democracy NOW!] issued a nationwide call for mobilization through social media, to be held on May 15, 2011 (Morell 2012, p. 387; Perugorría & Tejerina 2013, p. 428; Serrano Casado 2012, pp. 27, 30). This demonstration was set to occur one week prior to the elecciones municipales [municipal elections] and those of the comunidades autónomas [autonomous federal regions of Spain], in order to protest issues such as “corruption of the political parties,” high unemployment levels, and governmental “mismanagement” of the economic crisis (Cedillo 2012, pp. 573–574; Jiménez & Estalella 2011, p. 20; Serrano Casado 2012, p. 27).
Demonstrations occurred in over 50 Spanish cities, with the participation of hundreds of thousands of Spanish citizens (Ceisel 2013, p. 159; Perugorría & Tejerina 2013, p. 428; Serrano Casado 2012, p. 29). Following the close of the demonstration on May 15, 2011, in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, a group of over 30 individuals continued their protest by spending the night in the plaza, a decision that would mark the formation of the protest group known as 15-M and the creation of Acampada Sol [Sol Encampment] (Jiménez & Estalella 2011, p. 20; Romanos 2012, p. 186). Thereafter, Madrid’s acampada was replicated across Spain and, in acts of solidarity, in international cities, such as London and Paris (Juventud Sin Futuro 2011, p. 82; Velasco 2011, pp. 24–25, 33). A key factor that likely contributed to the growth and size of transnational acampadas were 15-M’s logoi.
Two of 15-M’s protest logoi (i.e., slogans) will be examined to highlight how 15-M engaged in the first phase of Isocratic moral argumentation – the transformation of historical topoi into new logoi. One European social movement in particular had a significant influence on 15-M’s arguments: the French May ’68 protests (Feixa, Sánchez García, Soto, & Nofre 2013, p. 199; Pedret Santos 2011, p. 98). 15-M transformed the two following topoi from May ’68 into new protest logoi: “Enragez-vous” [Become outraged] and “Ne prenez plus l’ascenseur, prenez le pouvoir” [Stop taking the elevator, take the power] (Bussetti & Revello 2008, pp. 44, 78). The first May ’68 topos, “Enragez-vous” [Become outraged], was transformed via logismo into “Indígnate ya, sin lucha nadie te escucha” [Become outraged now, without a fight no one hears you] (García 2011). This example illustrates how 15-M transformed the affective rage from the May ’68 topos into an argument that channeled this emotion into a multifaceted interpellative call of affect, identity, and action. 15-M’s argument calls individuals to change their affective state to one of outrage, to become an indignado, and to move into action (i.e., participate in 15-M’s acampadas).
The second May ’68 topos, “Ne prenez plus l’ascenseur, prenez le pouvoir” [Stop taking the elevator, take the power], was transmuted to “Sin tele, sin cerveza, toma la plaza con cabeza” [Without TV, without beer, take the plaza with intelligence] (Velasco 2011, p. 69). This transmutation elucidates the manner in which 15-M borrowed with subtle modification May ’68’s juxtaposition of passivity and action, such as changing “take the power” to “take the plaza.” It should be noted that in this May ’68 logos, no direct instructions are provided with regard to how one should “take the power,” rhetorically producing an interpellative call lacking direction. 15-M, by contrast, provides explicit instructions to “take the plaza,” where, in reality, power is not what was taken, but rather created through occupation.
The two examined protest logoi demonstrate how 15-M created interpellative logoi from May ’68 topoi to call individuals to their acampadas, thereby increasing their growth and sustaining high participation rates. It should be noted that 15-M acknowledged their connection to May ’68 during the acampadas and created a logos that expressed how they understood themselves in relation to this antecedent movement. In Acampada Sol, a 15-M poster read “Esto no es mayo del 68: nosotros vamos en serio” [This is not May ’68: we are serious], highlighting 15-M’s desire to surpass May ’68 (Velasco 2011, p. 47). This action evokes a key component of Isocratic moral argumentation: surpassing or exceeding the actions of the past. This very point has also been noted by political science scholar, Juan Carlos Monedero, who argues that this protest logos is evidence that 15-M has learned from the past (Monedero 2012, p. 128).
The abovementioned logoi, in addition to many others, produced “Interpellative Calls” that brought multitudes of individuals to 15-M’s acampadas, wherein protestors were perpetually engaging in the “Deliberative Action” of synerchesthe, as 15-M practiced a culture of debate in their acampadas. Evidence of this culture may be observed in the manner in which virtually all of 15-M’s decisions were made through collective deliberation in asambleas [assemblies] (Benítez Martín 2013, p. 47). One 15-M protestor described the asambleas as, “un espacio de debate al principio, muy importante, se nos llamaba ágoras, porque era espacio de discutir ideas de trabajar, además poner en común ideas muy contrarias” [in the beginning, a space for debate, it was very important, we called it the agoras, because it was a space to debate working ideas, and put in agreement conflicting ideas] (Cabezas 2011, p. 198). There were multiple asambleas of varying sizes and topic matters that met with differing levels of frequency and duration, depending on the needs of an acampada (de la Rubia 2011, p. 160). In addition, working groups and commissions formed and held asambleas on a wide range of topics such as: feminism, healthcare, politics, economics, the maintenance and infrastructure of acampadas, and internal coordination (de la Rubia 2011, pp. 160–166). This description of 15-M’s culture of debate exemplifies the second component of the second phase of Isocratic moral argumentation: “Deliberative Action.” Given that synerchesthe was an unavoidable argumentative practice in the acampadas, two “Communicative Outcomes” ensued: 1) “wise judgment” formation and 2) “unity” formation.
In the acampadas, 15-M created a space where “wise judgment” formation became a collective, participatory, deliberative goal, evidenced in a guide created by the Commission of Dynamism from Acampada Sol on the topic of popular assemblies (Ruiz Trejo 2013, p. 29; Torres López et al. 2011, pp. 69–89). In this text, the commission describes an asamblea as follows: “un órgano de toma de decisiones participativo que busca el consenso… [y]… los mejores argumentos para tomar la decisión más acorde” [a participatory decision making entity that looks for consensus… [and]… the best arguments in order to make the most appropriate decision] (Torres López et al. 2011, p. 70). This statement demonstrates that 15-M understood the purpose of collective deliberation as an argumentative practice that would lead to making the “best” and “most appropriate” decision. Intrinsically imbedded in 15-M’s conceptualization of the asamblea is an argumentative ideal articulated in Isocratic moral argumentation: the arrival at wise judgment via deliberation with oneself or, in the case of 15-M, with a group of individuals through synerchesthe.
Through practicing deliberative argumentation, protestors who participated in the acampadas were also able to create unity among one another, the second “Communicative Outcome” of Isocratic moral argumentation for groups of individuals. 15-M protestors and scholars alike have commented on the unity the acampadas created (Cañero Ruiz 2013, p. 101; Costa-Sánchez & Piñeiro-Otero 2012, p. 1463; García Espín 2012, p. 300). To illustrate, one protestor from Madrid’s acampada said that it “alumbró una comunidad [en] que se hizo auténtica unidad orgánica” [illuminated a community in which authentic and organic unity was formed] (Mora, Esteban, & G. Rubio 2011, p. 96). This quote further substantiates the assertion that the argumentative practices of the acampada contributed to the creation of unity among protestors and thus reflects a “Communicative Outcome” of Isocratic moral argumentation.
This case study has considered how 15-M, engaging in what might be called Isocratic moral argumentation, borrowed May ‘68 topoi to create new protest logoi. Isocratic terminology helps explain how these new logoi served as “Interpellative Call[s]” to attract individuals to 15-M’s acampadas to engage in the “Deliberative Action” of synerchesthe. In the acampadas, synerchesthe produced two “Communicative Outcomes:” wise judgment formation and the creation of unity among protestors. These insights illustrate how contemporary protest activity can be understood as argumentative phenomena, through the application of a theoretical framework grounded in argumentation theory and classical Greek rhetoric.
Future application of this argumentative practice could involve an examination of other social protests groups that have been influenced by 15-M (e.g., the 2011 Greek Indignant Citizens Movement and the American Occupy Wall Street movement). Such an investigation would provide greater insight into the transnational impact of 15-M’s argumentative practices and allow for the study of the application of Isocratic moral argumentation in differing national contexts.
In addition, future scholarship concerning Isocratic moral argumentation could also examine how the dynamics of this form of argumentation could be altered when practiced in a virtual format. A study that examines the use of Isocratic moral argumentation in a virtual asamblea would be a particularly salient area of future investigation, given the exponential rise of social media use by social movements within the past ten years. Isocratic moral argumentation and the conceptual framework it introduces to the study of social movement argumentation demonstrate the enduring salience and relevancy of implicating Isocratean concepts in modern-day contexts.
It is with immense gratitude that I acknowledge the guidance and support of Dr. Gordon R. Mitchell.
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