Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America

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9780029283752: Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America

Eloquence is vanishing from society, so claims Thomas Shachtman. Today's new commentators employ a lexicon of 5000 words, down from 10,000 in 1963, sound bites have taken the place of speeches, crudeness has replaced wit, and movie heroes shoot first and ask questions later. But the crisis of articulate expression is much deeper than we realise, for we have also lost our ability to respond to other points of view - to argue - without coming swiftly to blows. In this work, the author attempts to identify the causes of this decline - from the increasing presence of technology in our lives and the proliferation of jargon-spouting "specialists" to political and corporate double-speak - and he proposes a concrete, multi-faceted programme for rehabilitating eloquence through the constructive use of media together with political and educational reform. Although current trends towards an ever greater flow of information are unlikely to reverse themselves, Shachtman argues that we must use available technology to facilitate - rather than short circuit - debate about important public issues.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Shachtman's (Skyscraper Dreams) latest seems to start out as an intriguing study of the fate of conversation and Socratic dialogue in America. But the study of such an elusive topic would require a great deal of supposition, and apparently Shachtman prefers to deal with facts. After reviewing studies on how we learn to speak, standard English and on the culpability of schools in declining literacy, he makes it clear that his primary interest is political discourse. With television news more closely approximating entertainment and election campaigns approximating advertising, Shachtman worries that Americans are in danger of losing their voice in the democracy?and, what's worse?not really knowing they've lost it. Little of this will seem new: informed readers are aware of changes in network news coverage; of the low intellectual caliber of talk shows; of the decline in literacy in schools; and of the spin-doctoring and sound-biting of political communication. Shachtman offers suggestions for increasing general articulateness (and, in doing so, raising the level of discourse), but most are commonsensical, and some are naive: does anyone really believe that "Oprah Winfrey might hire a vocabularist to cook up some delectable words for her talk show"? Probably not. The book will confirm readers' worst suspicions, but it gives them little new to think about.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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