Wallstein Verlag

Uwe Pörksen

Political Speeches

or How we Decide

288 pages, 12 x 20
ISBN: 978-3-8353-1930-1 (2016)


German Version

In his essays, the renowned linguist Uwe ­Pörksen pursues the questions concerned with what a good speech is and how it is used with regard to decisions in current politics.

The art of political rhetoric often threatens to degenerate into a staged production. On the media platform, it is important for politicians to express themselves in a way that makes them invulnerable, showing themselves as competent and innovative, assertive and yet approachable, without ever actually becoming tangible as they speak. Today, then, political rhetoric appears to be a trained, carefully calculated routine, oriented towards influencing public opinion. Pörksen pursues this aspect of the political speech in his articles.
However, he also examines the programme and the poetics of the decision-making speech. This type of speech has confidence in the maturity of the audience, daring to open a debate on a specific proposition and a conceptional design. It is not aimed primarily at gaining the approval of a large number of people, but stimulates a discussion on the available alternatives, in order to clarify a specific situation.
As Uwe Pörksen shows in his studies on the power of concepts and images, the art of political rhetoric cannot be seen only as a technique of overpowering, but also as the applied ethics of the public sphere. It is the theory and practice of an independent, intrinsically democratic search for solutions that are rational and better for society.

Uwe Pörksen, born in 1935, was a professor of German language and older literature in Freiburg from 1976 to 2000. His main areas of research are the art of narration in the Middle Ages, the history of science languages and the history and present of language critique. Awards include: Language Prize of the Henning Kaufmann Foundation and the Hermann Hesse Prize. Publications include: Was ist eine gute Regierungserklärung? Grundriß einer politischen Poetik (What is a Good Government Declaration? An Outline of Political Poetics, 2004); Die politische Zunge. Eine kurze Kritik der öffentlichen Rede (The Political Tongue. A Short Critique of Public Speaking, 2002).
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