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Making the real: rhetorical adduction and the Bangladesh liberation war

O'Mahoney, J. ORCID: (2017) Making the real: rhetorical adduction and the Bangladesh liberation war. International Organization, 71 (2). pp. 317-348. ISSN 0020-8183

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0020818317000054


Do normative arguments change what political actors do? If so, how? Rather than the pure force of abstract moral reasoning, states often try to move the locus of contestation to an arena in which they can make practical progress - the evidence, or the empirical facts in support of their argument. This paper analyzes the way states try to bolster their position first by constructing an argument in which an action represents part of their argument and then, second, by performing that action to make the argument seem more convincing. This mechanism I call rhetorical adduction. The paper challenges theories of communication that deny a causal role to the content of normative arguments and diverges from a leading view in the literature on argumentation that arguments have their effects through persuasion. The paper integrates strategic argumentation theory with theory from psychology of how people make choices based on compelling reasons rather than cost-benefit analysis, as well as theory from sociology of how people resolve morally complex situations through the performance of ‘reality tests’. I illustrate the mechanism using a case from the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Initial resistance to recognizing the putative state of Bangladesh after India's invasion of East Pakistan was reversed due to an argument that Indian troop withdrawal meant that international norms were not violated.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:79326
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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