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Seminar: Sticky Words?

Start Date

8 May 2015 3:00 pm

End Date

8 May 2015 4:00 pm

Rhetorical Path Dependency in Modern Politics

Assoc. Prof. Dennis Grube
Institute for the Study of Social Change
University of Tasmania

Speech matters. Political actors are defined by what they say as much as by what they do. Every time a political leader speaks, they add a little piece to the larger public picture of themselves that they have constructed over time. But with each rhetorical choice, they also narrow the range of rhetorical options open to them for the future. This paper examines the idea of path dependency, a well-established concept in the field of policy studies, and applies it to the study of political rhetoric. It argues that words are sticky, leaving political leaders caught between the desire to utilise fresh and engaging rhetoric to explain new policy choices and the reality that they can't shake off the wording of their previous promises. The paper draws on cases from the UK, Canada and Australia to identify and analyse the factors that contribute to rhetorical path dependency, and offers a typology to capture its effects.

Dennis Grube joined the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania in January 2015, having spent the previous five years in the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University in Brisbane. In 2013 he spent six months as a Visiting Fellow with the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, and was Director of Griffith University's Master of Public Administration Program from 2010-2013.

Dennis's research interests focus on political rhetoric and its impact on public administration in historical and contemporary contexts. He holds an Australian Research Council fellowship for the period 2013-2016, working on a comparative project assessing the role of public service leaders as public actors in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He has published monographs and comparative articles on public leadership, the use of political rhetoric in Westminster jurisdictions, and on the historical use of political rhetoric as a tool for ostracising groups seen as 'other' in nineteenth century Britain.

Date: Friday, 8 May 2015

Time: 3 - 4 pm

Venue: Room 312, Social Sciences Building, Sandy Bay campus

All welcome. No RSVP required.

If you have any queries, please contact the School of Social Sciences, tel: 6226 2331, e:


Institute for Social Change
University of Tasmania
Private Bag 44


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