Soft Materialism: Exploring Rhetoric and Power

Date: October 1, 2013 Time: 4:30 p.m. Location: Hunter Conservatory (Kimball Auditorium)

The Department of Rhetoric Studies' Visiting Speaker Colloquium welcomes Dr. Ronald Walter Greene on October 1 to give a talk on Soft Materialism. Since antiquity, advocates of a rhetorical education have promised students the ability to harness the power of language for the purpose of persuasion in all facets of civic and personal life. In so doing, the power of language is transformed into the power of the speaker to work toward affecting the belief and behavior of audiences. Today, the ancient rhetorical arts of persuasion are harnessed to the most modern of communication technologies, often described as a quest for the knowledge necessary to develop a set of "soft skills." According to the 2012 annual Gallup poll of American attitudes about K-12 education, more than 80% of Americans believe that the primary goal of public education in the United States should be to teach students the "soft skills" of critical thinking and communication. Beginning with a brief history of the emergence of soft skills in economic discourse and soft power in military discourse, Dr. Greene will assess how this trend toward a "soft materialism" (re)orients the relationship between rhetoric and power, manifesting itself in the communicative habits of our daily lives.

Dr. Greene is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota and the author of Malthusian Worlds: U.S. Leadership and the Governing of the Population Crisis. His work investigates how different institutions regulate and advocate communication as a technique for improving democracy. He was recently honored as the 2013 Distinguished Scholar of the Critical and Cultural Studies division of the National Communication Association. 

A cookie and cider reception will follow the talk at 5:30 P.M.