Rhetorical Capture

12 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2013

See all articles by Margaret Jane Radin

Margaret Jane Radin

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: January 14, 2012


“Rhetorical capture” refers to a form of discourse using conclusory labels. Forms of rhetorical capture include begging the question, capture by antithesis, capture by substitution, and capture by assimilation. Begging the “baseline” question has been especially prevalent in legal and political discourse; for example, the assertion that anti-discrimination rights “take” the property rights of owners who wish to exclude assumes a baseline that the owners had the right to discriminate in the first place. Capture by antithesis or substitution is also prevalent, as in “war is peacekeeping” and “attack is defense.” Another form of rhetorical capture, capture through assimilation, occurs when a word bearing culturally good connotations is applied to a practice that may not warrant those connotations — for example, the assumption that receiving a set of fine-print terms divesting important rights from an unknowing consumer is “freedom of contract.” When rhetoric displaces reasoning in matters important to democracy, democracy suffers.

Suggested Citation

Radin, Margaret Jane, Rhetorical Capture (January 14, 2012). Arizona Law Review, Vol. 54, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2274828

Margaret Jane Radin (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
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