Argumentation in Prime Minister’s Question Time

Accusation of inconsistency in response to criticism

| Universidade Nova de Lisboa
ISBN 9789027201744 | EUR 90.00 | USD 135.00
ISBN 9789027263278 | EUR 90.00 | USD 135.00
When political actors respond to criticism by pointing at an inconsistency in the critic’s position, a tricky political practice emerges. Turning the criticism back to the critic can be a constructive move that restores coherence, but it may also be a disruptive move that silences the critical voice and obstructs accountability. What distinguishes constructive cases from disruptive ones? This is the question this book sets out to answer.

The question is addressed by adopting an argumentative perspective. Argumentation in Prime Minister’s Question Time focuses on the turnabout employed by the British Prime Minister in response to the Leader of the Opposition. The turnabout is characterised as a particular way of strategic manoeuvring. The manoeuvring is analysed and evaluated by combining pragmatic, dialectical and rhetorical insights with considerations from the realm of politics. The outcome is an account of the turnabout’s strategic functions and an assessment guide for evaluating its reasonableness.

The book will be of interest to advanced students and researchers of argumentation, discourse analysis, communication and rhetoric.

[Argumentation in Context, 15]  2018.  xi, 162 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Tricky turnabouts: The puzzle
Chapter 2. Confrontational manoeuvring with accusations of inconsistency
Chapter 3. Prime Minister’s Question Time
Chapter 4. The strategic function of responding to criticism with accusations

of inconsistency in Question Time
Chapter 5. The reasonableness of responding to criticism with accusations

of inconsistency in Question Time
Chapter 6. Conclusion: Insights, limitations and challenges
“This sophisticated study shows that holding politicians accountable for their words and deeds is as much about how people argue as it is about what they argue. Mohammed focuses on charges of inconsistency in response to criticism as an especially problematic class of maneuvers in political debate: On the one hand, these charges may disarm inauthentic behavior by one's critics, and on the other, these same charges may be used (as "tricky turnabouts") to evade answering unwelcome questions. They may uphold important discourse norms, but they may also be misused to escape one's own accountability. Mohammed argues that not all inconsistency charges are fallacious: She shows that it is possible to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate charges of inconsistency, using concepts and methods from the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation. A broader (and incredibly timely) lesson is that politicians, like all who argue in good faith, should take care to enact and uphold norms of reasonableness even as they strive to advance their own positions.”
“A tension exists at the heart of contemporary political discourse, wherein the public are encouraged to judge a politician’s credibility as intimately related to their political consistency, and yet, when opponents point out inconsistencies between the words and deeds of a politician they have traditionally been accused of committing the tu quoque ad hominem fallacy. How to square this circle? When (if at all) is it reasonable to accuse a politician of inconsistency?

In this fascinating and erudite book, Dima Mohammed analyses the argumentative interactions of Prime Minister’s Question Time using the Pragma-Dialectical approach to argumentation. With a shrewd understanding of argumentative structure and texture, and contextualised with a thorough understanding of this argumentative activity type, the result is an analytically insightful and critically significant text. Thoroughly recommended for scholars of argumentation studies, discourse analysis and political science.”


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Communication Studies

Communication Studies
BIC Subject: CFG – Semantics, Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis
BISAC Subject: LAN009030 – LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Pragmatics
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2018033780