Keep Calm, Carry On, and above all: Don’t Apologize! Changing Rhetoric in the Service of Stalling Political Change

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The notion of change is often associated with advances in social justice (as implied in Barack Obama’s campaign slogan “Change we can believe in” and Hillary Clinton’s presidential race slogan “Change Maker”), but change can be put in the service of conservative agendas as well–to maintain the status quo for example. When developing circumstances undermine or threaten a line of argument one way to uphold the original claim is to change the argumentation strategy. This chapter explores how the Danish government upheld its policy but changed its argumentation on the question of giving an official apology–a change I suggest was introduced as a means of vindicate the policy of not apologizing for past wrongful actions in state supervised social care institutions. I describe this change in tactic and discuss its implications. Instead of embracing the call for an apology as an occasion for political work in the strong sense of engaging and acting on communal values for the common good, the Parliament majority treated the call as political in the weak sense: a tactical matter of holding on to power.
The chapter’s theoretical framework consists in contemporary rhetorical, philosophical, and political theory on collective apologies as well as rhetorical citizenship theory and is propelled by analyses of argumentative strategies as played out in a 2 ½ hours long parliamentary debate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRhetorics Change/Rhetoric's Change
EditorsJenny Rice, Chelsea Graham, Eric Detweiler
Number of pages18
Place of PublicationAnderson, S.C.
PublisherParlor Press
Publication date6 May 2018
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-60235-502-6
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2018


ID: 196117636