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The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric
Absolutist Appeals and Political Persuasion

By Morgan Marietta

The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric
Hardback, 270 pages $39.95
Published: 1st March 2012
ISBN: 9781602583863
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Political Science, All Rhetoric Studies

Revealing what lies behind much contemporary political rhetoric, Morgan Marietta shows that the language of America's most prominent leaders often relies on deep, even sacred, ideals. Comprehensively and in great detail surveying the rhetorical inventions employed in influential social movements and into the highest levels of government, The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric systematically analyzes the use of absolutist claims—and appeals to what a speaker deems to be universal truths—as essential elements of persuasion in the American political landscape. In exploring the sometimes subtle ways in which politicians employ this "sacred rhetoric," Marietta engagingly demonstrates its impact on citizens' reasoning, public discourse, and the very nature of American democracy.

List of Tables and Figures

PART I: The Psychology of Sacred Rhetoric
1 Sacred Rhetoric in American Politics
2 Values and Value Conflict, Sacred Values and Sacred Rhetoric
3 The Reasoning Effect: Sacred Rhetoric and Deliberation
4 The Activation Effect: Sacred Rhetoric and Participation

PART II: Political Consequences of Sacred Rhetoric
5 “From My Cold, Dead Hands”: Sacred Rhetoric and Social Movements
6 The Absolutist Advantage: Sacred Rhetoric in the Bush Era
7 Sacred Rhetoric from Carter to Clinton: The 1976–1996 Presidential Debates
8 Sacred Rhetoric, the 2008 Campaigns, and the Democratic Party
Conclusion: “A Cure for Thought and the Diseases It Breeds”

Methodological Appendix: Subjects, an Experimental Approach

"An extraordinary book. Marietta streams together careful empirical analysis with the paradoxes of democratic theory. To those worried about polarization and the future of civil political discourse, this book is essential reading."

—Bert A. Rockman, Professor of Political Science and Department Head, Department of Political Science, Purdue University

"Marietta investigates a strangely under-explored facet of public opinion—the power of sacred values to trump reasoning in shaping the course of political debates and elections. This book is deeply innovative."

—Philip Tetlock, Leonore Annenberg University Professor, Psychology Department, University of Pennsylvania

"The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric is one of the most innovative studies of political communication and political psychology that I have read. Marietta conceptualizes and examines entirely new kinds of effects, including effects on how citizens reason about political issues, evenhandedly locating both the promise and perils of sacred rhetoric in American politics."

—Diana C. Mutz, Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication and Director, Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics, University of Pennsylvania

Morgan Marietta teaches American politics and political psychology at the University of Georgia.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 270 pages
 9in x 6in
2 b/w bar graphs

  LAN015000, POL000000
 Baylor University Press

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