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President Johnson's war on poverty : rhetoric and history /
David Zarefsky.
University, Ala. : University of Alabama Press, c1986.
xxiii, 275 p. ; 23 cm.
More Details
University, Ala. : University of Alabama Press, c1986.
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. 256-266.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1986-07:
In this provocative and subtly argued book, Zarefsky (speech, Northwestern University) offers a rhetorical analysis of the 1960s antipoverty program. Beginning with a theoretical discussion of the role of rhetoric in the social construction of reality, he reminds us that rhetorical choices are not peripheral but central in the shaping of public policy. Zarefsky asserts that in the conceptualization and promotion of LBJ's 1964 antipoverty program, the controlling metaphor of ``war,'' with its promise of a coordinated national strategy that would lead to total ``victory'' over a clearly identifiable ``enemy,'' proved highly effective in the short run, but ultimately led to disillusionment when the ``war'' did not go as planned. When advocacy groups took the militant rhetoric seriously and organized disruptive demonstrations, for example, political support for the antipoverty campaign eroded and ``commanding general'' Sargent Shriver came under severe attack. When ghetto riots broke out in 1965-68, the war on poverty threatened to become a war on the poor. Zarefsky's preoccupation with rhetoric sometimes leads to neglect of larger political, economic, and foreign-policy realities. Some attention to the way Johnson's political hero FDR presented the New Deal as a domestic analogue to war would have added a valuable historical dimension. On balance, this is an important and original study. Upper-division undergraduates and above.-P.S. Boyer, University of Wisconsin-Madison
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, July 1986
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Main Description
Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}In January 1964, in his first State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson announced a declaration of u201cunconditional waru201d on poverty. By the end of the year the Economic Opportunity Act became law.The War on Poverty illustrates the interweaving of rhetorical and historical forces in shaping public policy. Zarefsky suggest that an important problem in the War on Poverty lay in its discourse. He assumes that language plays a central role in the formulation of social policy by shaping the context within which people view the social world. By terming the anti-poverty effort a war, President Johnson imparted significant symbolism to the effort: it called for total victory and gave confidence that the u201cwaru201d was winnable. It influenced the definition of the enemy as an intergenerational cycle of poverty, rather than the shortcomings of the individual; and it led to the choice of community action, manpower programs, and prudent management as weapons and tactics. Each of these implications involves a choice of language and symbols, a decision about how to characterize and discuss the world. Zarefsky contends that each of these rhetorical choices was helpful to the Johnson administration in obtaining passage of the Economic Opportunity Ac of 1964, but that each choice invited redefinition or reinterpretation of a symbol in a way that threatened the program.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. ix
Chronologyp. xvii
Rhetoric and Public Policy The Force of Symbolic Choicep. 1
Inception The War is Declaredp. 21
Rhetorical Crisis The Transformation of the Military Objectivep. 57
Rhetorical Crisis The Transformation of the Enemyp. 92
Rhetorical Crisis The Transformation of Weapons And Tacticsp. 120
Consummation The Stalemated Warp. 160
The Impasse of the Liberal Argumentp. 192
Notesp. 209
Selected Bibliographyp. 256
Indexp. 267
About the Authorp. 276
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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