Rhetoric of Epistemic Authority: Defending Field Positions During the Financial Crisis
Human Relations, 2016, Forthcoming
54 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2015
Date Written: December 28, 2015
In this article we explore how elite actors respond to a field-wide crisis. Drawing from a study of CEOs of large US banks in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, we show how elite actors use rhetorical strategies to defend their dominant position in the field. Specifically, we show how actors strengthen their epistemic authority — the perceived expertise and trustworthiness of an actor — through four distinct but interwoven rhetorical strategies. Actors used two internally-directed means of strengthening epistemic authority by providing rational guarantees and expressing normative responsibilities, and two externally-directed strategies that sought to strengthen their own epistemic authority by lowering the epistemic authority of others through critiquing judgments and questioning motives. We contribute to research on defensive institutional work by highlighting how elite actors rhetorically defended their position following a field-wide crisis.
Keywords: elites, field position, field-wide crisis, financial crisis, financialization, institutional work, rhetoric
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