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Burke, Clinton, and the Global/Local Community

Mark E. Huglen and Bernard L. Brock

NDSTA Journal
Volume 16, 2003


Global and local cultures are polarized rhetorical communities competing to become the dominant model for the 21st century. Kenneth Burke’s teachings are a potential tool for locating a common ground between the perspectives. Through the appropriation of Burke’s teachings with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s address on globalization, we discover that Clinton generates an ambiguous identification with the values of both perspectives and suggests that government should become the agency of mediation for their interaction. Our analysis reveals a “disconnect” in Clinton’s address between the problem of globalization and solution, which indicates places where discourse needs to develop for dialogue to mature.

Key Words: Kenneth Burke, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Globalization

About the authors.

As we enter the 21st century, tensions between the rapid expansion of globalization and the existing values, patterns, and practices of local communities are being experienced throughout the world. Further, these tensions between the two perspectives show little sign of resolution, but more important, both sides of the equation generally speak to their own communities using languages that the others don't understand. Global businesses and transnational corporations, for example, talk to each other in their own economic, capitalistic terminology, while communities' cultural workers and political activists rally their own groups of value-laden supports. Seldom do the “globalists” and “communitarians” locate the connections that would allow them to communicate directly.

Even in the academic community, communication between the two perspectives has become disconnected, mostly because the traditional practice in the academy has been to use discipline-specific methods and languages. In the preface to The Cultures of Globalization, Frederic Jameson articulates the importance, yet enigmatic nature of globalization, when he states that it is an "unclassifiable" force that is transforming the socio-political and economic culture and, paradoxically, is revealing problematic implications for all areas of society and academic inquiry (p. xi-xvii).(1)

The task is to find a way to articulate the interrelationships of the phenomenon in a language that can be understood by most people. We feel that Kenneth Burke's rhetorical theory and method is sufficiently versatile for such a task, and we will demonstrate this by appropriating it with Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech "Globalization into the Next Millennium.” In this talk, Clinton artfully describes the university setting in such a way that it becomes the context for discussing global and community relationships and values. We will analyze it, first, by presenting Burke’s “terms for order” and “pentad,” second, by
demonstrating how they account for the issues and challenges either explicitly or implicitly in Clinton’s speech and, third, by drawing conclusions regarding the effectiveness of Clinton’s speech and Burke’s method.

Burke's Rhetorical Methods
Kenneth Burke's dramatistic rhetorical theory and method will be used to critically analyze the effectiveness of Clinton’s rhetorical appeals to the opposing global and local perspectives. Burke’s “terms for order,” which will serve as the structure for our analysis, and the “pentad” will be presented initially, while other Burkean terms such as “identification/division,” along with several of his minor terms, will be explained when they are introduced. We seek to gain an insight into both Clinton’s address and the usefulness of a Burkean approach for understanding the opposition/dialogue between globalization and community.

Burke’s terms for order is central to The Rhetoric of Religion. The disruption of and return to order, for Burke, is a cyclical, psychological process that can be captured by the terms “order,” “pollution,” “guilt,” “purification,” and “redemption.” These terms were selected to capture the relationships in Burke’s poem:

Here are the steps
In the Iron Law of History
That welds Order and Sacrifice:

Order leads to Guilt
(for who can keep commandments!)
Guilt needs Redemption
(for who would not be cleansed!)
Redemption needs Redeemer
which is to say, a Victim!).
Through Guilt
To Victimage
(hence: Cult of the Kill). . . . (1970, p. 4-5)

Burke realizes that all people “order” their lives, but when they find themselves in a situation that contradicts this order, they feel the situation is “polluted.” Then, their natural response is to assign “guilt” for the pollution, so that they can choose an act that “purifies” the situation. This results in a sense of “redemption,” which allows them to return to a state of order. Burke sees this cyclical, redemptive process as inherent in human beings and basic to human dramas. For this reason, we will use Burke’s terms for order as the context for all other terms in the analysis of Clinton’s speech.

Second, the pentad, and its familiar family of terms: “scene,” “act,” “agent,” “agency,” and “purpose,” is developed and illustrated in his book A Grammar of Motives. The pentad is a tool for the microanalysis of any drama that reveals the motives and/or philosophy of the source of the discourse based on the assumption that language is a “dancing of an attitude” (Philosophy of Literary Form, 1973, p. 9). Burke provides a very simple definition for the terms that constitute the pentad:

In a rounded statement about motives, you must have some word that names the act (names what took place, in thought or deed), and another that names the scene (the background of the act, the situation in which it occurred); also, you must indicate what person or kind of person (agent) performed the act, what means or instruments he used (agency), and the purpose. (1969, p. xv)

This system of microscopic analysis can be applied to both global and community discourse and will serve as an implicit tool for understanding Clinton’s address.
Placing the entire gamut of Burkean concepts within the context of the terms for order explicitly will serve to unify the analysis as well as relate the perspectives in the dialogue to each other. The other methods will be used implicitly to tease out critical analysis when appropriate.(2)

Rhetorical Analysis of Clinton's Strategies
Speaking at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, June 17, 1999, Hillary Rodham Clinton describes some of the global challenges and community values that governments will have to balance in the years ahead in her speech, "Globalization into the Next Millennium.” The Sorbonne is a prestigious university where scholars, ministers, dignitaries, political leaders, students, and staff gathered to listen to Clinton.

Clinton opens her address with all the appropriate acknowledgements, but then uses the university setting to create a scene(3) for establishing her values and her sense of order for the address: “One cannot walk into this historic place without thinking of the extraordinary minds who have called this university home,.... One also is confronted by the combination of tradition and change that has always thrived within these walls.” She sees the challenges of the day in the balancing of tradition and change and where, historically, great progress came out of the confrontations and struggles between prevailing traditions and innovative changes facing the world.

Clinton strongly suggests that the current university scene is where prevailing traditions and ideals from the past will be recognized and the challenges of the current day will be addressed. She then shifts focus to the national scene and the issue of globalization and the dramatic technological changes that accompany it:

We hear...about something called globalization and the dramatic changes that it is bringing.

All around us we see remarkable increases in technology and the resultant shifts in the economy and the social structures of our nations. We see the effects of rapid transportation and communication in our lives. And we live in a world that is more interconnected and more interdependent than ever before.

She immediately makes it clear that her interest is not to favor or oppose it, but to understand how its forces can be harnessed on behalf of society: With any “sweeping change in history” there will be those for and those against. “But the real challenge is not to engage in an argument, but to try better to understand the forces that are at work and to harness those forces on behalf of society." With this thought, she articulates that however globalization is defined, it ought never be " ...a substitute for humanization, never a force for marginalization, ...” which allows her to return to the immediate scene of the university to visualize the leading thinkers, agents, who walked the streets of France as they gave us our traditional values that made us great and that we live by today. In this scene these agents gave us our sense of purpose.

In this return to the university scene, Clinton establishes a controlling phrase, which Burke calls the “god-term” (Rhetoric of Religion, p. 33). Clinton’s god-term is “inalienable rights” of all people. This god-term functions as the touchstone for her sense of order. She does this by drawing upon historical agents for this order, including Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as Thomas Jefferson. In the historical scene, Clinton, symbolically, paints a picture of Jefferson walking the streets of France, checking out the architecture, while mulling through significant historical ideas to mold, design, and structure his thoughts for the future. Our forefathers and foremothers fought, struggled for our basic human rights, and our challenge is to recognize and honor the important ideals and live them out now and in the future.

According to Clinton, "That simple and powerful idea built our sister republics, and it has bound us together through the good times and the tough times for more than two centuries." It’s not just an abstract ideal, but something that "has consistently tested us to see if we can live up to our own stated ideals and realize their promise, to see whether our actions as individuals and collectively match our ideals—whether in our own backyards, or in the Balkans." They become America’s purpose.

In the scene of a great university Clinton has turned to our forefathers and foremothers to establish today’s and our future’s values. Emphasizing the scene of the university and the values of the stated ideals, a Burkean scene-purpose ratio, Clinton has identified how we can keep order in our lives in the face of the threat of change from globalization. She further relates our well-being to these values, "Our prosperity, our security—we owe those to the pioneering work of our forefathers and foremothers. And yet, we cannot take for granted that the ideals, which motivated us and still should guide us, will be the ones that triumph in the 21st Century.” Clinton makes it clear that as we move into the 21st century, globalization should never threaten our "inalienable rights" nor our “prosperity” or “security,” because these are our values and reasons (purpose) for living.
In establishing her sense of order, Clinton emphasized the scene of the university as the marketplace of ideas and identified traditional agents (forefathers and foremothers) as the designers and builders of those ideas. Interestingly, by balancing traditional ideals with the changes of technology, she embraces (identifies with) and accepts both global technology and community ideals, values, and practices to establish her sense of order. Clinton turns next to the problems associated with globalization.

Clinton recognizes the inevitability of change in the world that results from the rapid expansion of capitalism on a global scale. She indicates that the expansion of capitalism can be beneficial for highly developed countries, such as the United States and France, but suggests that rapid expansion is detrimental for people in localized cultures and communities around the world. The rapid expansion harms local cultures, creates a sense of Burkean pollution. She identifies pollution at two levels: first, in literally referring to and tracing “runaway capitalism,” and second, for people being oppressed and deprived of their "inalienable rights."

Examining the global scene, Clinton articulates concern over runaway capitalism, which is significant coming from the First Lady of a powerful capitalist nation. She strongly implies that without some restrictions or restraints, capitalism serves as an engine (agency) to pollute the globe, because people in many nations and communities are not benefiting (purpose) from the present-day treaty arrangements. Clinton recognizes that the agreements made at the end of the Second World War created important “financial architectures” that enabled “us to tackle the problems that we knew would lie ahead.” But that set of arrangements, made in the past, have “outlived their usefulness.” In handling the present pollution, Clinton indicates that new financial “architecture” (agency) is needed “that will help us tackle runaway global capitalism’s worst effects; ensure social safety nets for the most vulnerable; [and] address the debt burden that is crushing many of our poorest nations.” All around us, according to Clinton, we see increases in technology that result in shifts in the economy and social structure. The pollution occurs when the shifts benefit only a powerful few and oppress others.

To Clinton, the current society (scene) is marked by the confrontation between tradition and change, by the “sweeping changes” of technological innovations and advancements. She frames these changes in the imagistic metaphor of an “un-harnessed horse.” However, her metaphor describing the pollution created by globalization is relatively mild, since its power comes symbolically from the image of a "one-dimensional" agrarian culture.

She next qualifies the global scene of technological innovations and talks about the benefits of a "harnessed" technology, which could produce a "multidimensional" consumer society that would provide a wonderful living for many people. This harnessing of globalization is consistent with the historic values of ensuring "inalienable rights" that again returns, by association, to the university scene. Hence, the image of the “runaway” forces versus the "harnessed" technology is framed and situated within the values of the university scene and then held accountable to the historic ideal (purpose).

Clinton’s second level of pollution takes the form of recalling the violence in the twentieth century, especially the mass destruction of human beings. By referring to mass graves, she provides an extreme example of the denial of human rights. Her scene, however, moves from the great minds of the university and human values to stark, gory, and haunting images of “crowded train stations,” as well as the "hearts of people" who have seen "their families separated, their daughters raped, their fathers executed, their homes destroyed.” She says, “I doubt that any one of us will soon forget the haunting images of children crowded onto trains (scene).” Clinton is referring to Kosovo and Milosevec, and the stories told to her in the camps she had visited, particularly, in Macadonia (scene).

At this second level, Clinton has shifted the scene of pollution from economic globalization to that of a devastating regional/local political and cultural oppression. Her description of a crowded train station and a woman holding the arms of her children tightly, but eventually losing those children in the crowd, conjures grotesque feelings and emotions (scene). This pollution, instead of being mild, carries a different aura of oppression. By shifting from global economics to the political/cultural oppression, Clinton has dramatically escalated the pollution. Burke’s next step and hence Clinton’s next anticipated task is the assignment of guilt.

In managing guilt, Clinton shifts back to global economics but does not clearly assign responsibility to any specific agents or agencies associated with runaway capitalism. Instead, she generalizes to potential sources for the guilt. The potential sources are the people who do not uphold the important ideals, “inalienable rights.” In essence, Clinton assigns an abstract “guilt trip” to humanity as a whole.

She makes a more concrete assignment of guilt when she talks about crimes against humanity. People have put aside differences recently to wage a battle on such crimes, for example, Milosevic: “The many democracies that came together to wage this battle against Milosevic may have spoken different languages and even held different political views.” However, “. . . they have sent a unified message at the end of this century that says we will not turn away when human beings are cruelly expelled, or when they are denied basic rights and dignities because of how they look or how they worship.” According to Clinton, “When crimes against humanity rear their ugly heads, we have to send such a message as an international community.”

In assigning guilt, Clinton supports contradictory positions. She takes a strong stance against crimes against humanity but does not require any groups of people or institutions to take responsibility for runaway capitalism. It’s important to understand that by not specifically assigning guilt for the problems created by economic globalization, Clinton loses a direct link to any solution, as she now looks to purify the polluted scene.

Clinton suggests several levels for purification. She feels citizens need to learn from the past and live honestly in the present to imagine and create a better future:

We’ve chosen as our theme: Honor the past, imagine the future. By honoring the past, we have to take a hard look at where we have been; we have to acknowledge the progress we’ve made, but also the violence and the disappointment, in order to live honestly in the present and imagine and create a better future.

Clinton’s return to traditional values will allow us to recognize where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

She wants people to stand up against the oppression because it will make the world a better place. Clinton then refers to the political pollution and says, “I’ve met people who are determined to rebuild Kosovo with a sense of positive energy and not vindictiveness and retribution.” The political situation in Kosovo seems to be improving (scene): “This has been possible because our nations’ leaders and our citizens stood up against evil (agents). Now there are some who I know who would quibble with my use of that word, but I think it fully describes the conflict we have been waging these last few months.”

In Clinton’s view, technology is part of the solution, not the problem. In Macadonia: “Hundreds of thousands of refugees were able to pick up a satellite phone to tell their families that they were still alive because of Telecomms Without Borders (agency).” There are other examples: “And starting tomorrow, a public/private partnership between the United States and France will allow refugees in Leon to get on the Internet and tell their stories right to their families and friends, and try to find out whether their loved ones are merely missing or dead.” In particular cases, technology is an agency serving the purpose of making the world a better place.

Clinton makes it clear that globalization cannot be stopped, but can be “harnessed.” She raises the question, “Will the global economy lead to growth and stability or will it lead to a race to the bottom of the economic ladder?" The question that positions “growth and stability” against “a race to the bottom” finds Clinton throughout her speech on both sides of that equation. She opposes and therefore divides from unharnessed globalization. However because globalization is inevitable, she identifies with a harnessed technology that works on the side of good.

Finally, at a second level of purification, Clinton offers the metaphor of a three-legged stool with government the crucial leg balancing the other two legs of a globalized economy and a civilized society. This stool metaphor serves as Clinton’s terminological vehicle for purification: “I often use a very simple metaphor to talk about society that of a three-legged stool: one leg is the government, another is the economy, and the third is a civil society.” The government represents the political realm, the economy associates with science and technology, and the civil society associates with the traditions and ideals growing out of the university-intellectual scene. According to Clinton, “We have the responsibility to create a society in which we expand the benefits of democracy and freedom to all of our fellow citizens; where we ensure that free markets benefit all people, not just a privileged few; where we create and nurture vibrant civil societies that foster active citizens.” The world needs all three “legs” to be vibrant and strong, but one cannot become stronger or weaker than the other: The economic needs to thrive, the civil society needs to develop, and the government needs to be the mediator for the task.

Clinton’s solution is to purify the polluted scene by “harnassing” the rapid technological expansions. She never assigned guilt to individuals or institutions, which means that she had no choice but to provide a generalized, abstract act of purification with little connection to the guilt. The question remaining is, “How will she seek redemption?”

Redemption returns us to a sense of order. What does Clinton provide for future redemption and establishment of order? Redemption naturally follows from a successful act of purification. It comes with the elimination of who or what is responsible for the initial pollution. Clinton bases her redemption on hopes for a better future. She says, “So the challenge is taking that reality as it is and learning how to harness those forces, to answer positively questions that confront humanity.” The forces of technological innovation and globalization are inevitable, but there are values in place to help steer the course.

Through a series of questions, Clinton makes it clear that she feels government can maintain a balance between the economic and civil legs of the world: “Will it (global economy) help to expand opportunities for all citizens, or only reward those of us already lucky enough to have the skills to manipulate information and navigate through the information age?” “Will we learn from one another, will we respect each other’s cultures, or will we retreat into our own self-proclaimed identities?” “Will we permit our unique cultures to be uprooted by a one-dimensional consumer culture?” “Will we permit spirituality to be replaced completely by materialism?” “Will the fear of the unknown lead us further into racism, nativism, xenophobia, and violence?” In how she asks the questions, Clinton implies answers that, again, allow her to identify with the values of both globalization and community.

Clinton strongly suggests that government action can balance the global and local for the good of the people. The scene for tomorrow is the humanization of the globe, which is seen in the metaphor of the three-legged stool: strengthening the government, the economy, and civil society for the purpose of creating a better world. In the present scene, there are those who wish to weaken the role of government. In lieu of the advancing globalization, however, a strong government is needed to mediate the forces of globalization for the local communities. Clinton had little choice but to present an abstract redemption because the purification didn’t connect with the guilt. The rest of the address embraces the positive values of both globalization and community, while rejecting the negative effects of both.

We initially raised the issue of the tensions between the rapid expansions of capitalist globalization and the values and patterns of local cultures and communities. We observed that the two sides of the opposition were not communicating with each other effectively, or directly. Further, we suggested that Burke’s rhetorical theory and method were appropriate for understanding the relationship between the two opposing discourses and tested this possibility through the Clinton appropriation.

Burke’s terms for order revealed a disconnect in Clinton’s address. The disconnect can be interpreted and explained by looking at the two levels of pollution and how Clinton assigns guilt for the purification that would bring the redemption for the return to a sense of order: Pollution is occurring because of a runaway capitalism; but, she makes it known that it is also occurring because of historical crimes against humanity and the present existence of oppressive regimes.

The disconnect is present in her strategic reluctance to assign guilt to the runaway capitalism; interestingly, she shifts, instead, to the images of crimes against humanity. This shift is a play upon the Burkean scene/purpose ratio. With this shift, she is able to identify, define, and transform technology into an agency for solving the problem of oppression in the world, which is a play upon the Burkean agency/purpose ratio.

Another Burkean strategy was available to Clinton, but didn’t follow this course either. She could have transcended the division between the global and local perspectives by demonstrating that their interests were really joined at a higher level. Instead, she chose to maintain a disconnect between the two.

We also need to recognize that the disconnect leaves an identifiable void where discourse needs to fill and develop into a more genuine dialogue. It is clear that Clinton is leaving the task of purifying that scene, solving the problem of runaway capitalism, to others. It is also clear, however, that she is not engaging in a “cult of the kill” to end the conversation at this time of the history of the world. She is keeping the conversation alive through her strategic uses of the resources of ambiguity.

(1) Broadly speaking, globalist projects have been associated with modern, macro, and even totalizing tendencies, while community projects have been aligned with local, micro, and fragmentary postmodernist critiques. Such modernist projects include G.W.F. Hegel's "Absolute Spirit," Rene Descartes' infamous “foundationalist” epistemology, and Jurgen Habermas' sponsorship of the "universal” audience in philosophy and communication. Conversely, postmodernist projects include Jean-Francois Lyotard's "postmodern condition" and “The Differend: Phrases in Dispute,” Jean Baudrillard’s “consumer culture” and “The Illusion of the End,” and Michel Foucault's “micro” politics. For more dicussion, see Steven Best and Douglas Kellner’s Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations; Hinrich Fink-Eitel’s Foucault: An Introduction; Ann Cvetkovich and Douglas Kellner’s Articulating The Global and The Local: Globalization and Cultural Studies; and Marwan Kraidy's “The Global, The Local, and The Hybrid: A Native Ethnography of Glocalization.”

(2) For more discussion of Burke’s theory and method see Bernard L. Brock’s “Evolution of Kenneth Burke’s Criticism and Philosophy of Language” in Kenneth Burke and Contemporary European Thought: Rhetoric in Transition.

(3) We are italicizing Burkean terms for the remainder of the essay for the purpose of clarity.

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About the authors
Mark E. Huglen
(Ph.D., Wayne State University, Detroit) is an Assistant Professor of Communication at The University of Minnesota, Crookston. Mark has co-authored two books: Poetic Healing: A Vietnam Veteran’s Journey from a Communication Perspective with Basil B. Clark and Argument Strategies from Aristotle’s Rhetoric with Norman C. Clark. His panel about the online version of his public speaking course, a course with Richard Christenson and Lynette Mullins, which was among the first online public speaking courses in Minnesota, received the “2001 Top Panel” award for the Basic Course Division at the National Communication Association convention.

Bernard L. Brock (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is Professor Emeritus of Communication at Wayne State University, Detroit). Bernard’s edited book Methods of Rhetorical Criticism: A Twentieth-Century Perspective with Robert L. Scott and James W. Chesebro is one of the most frequently read books on rhetorical criticism for students of communication. Another of his edited books, Kenneth Burke and Contemporary European Thought: Rhetoric in Transition, relates the rhetorical theory and critical approaches of Kenneth Burke to four major European thinkers.

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