The view from below : constructing agency under a neoliberal umbrella
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This dissertation starts from the proposition that globalization is a process of integration aided and abetted over centuries by technologies (e.g. transportation and today’s electronic communications) that have collapsed time and space among individuals and enabled the projection of power. This dissertation excavates and analyzes what are termed discourses of globalism, the rhetorical construction of a social order that transcends the nation-state. The primary form of globalism at this juncture is neoliberal globalism, an elite discourse that is hostile to the nation-state and promotes a world that organizes individuals into global markets as producers and consumers. One of the defining tenets of neoliberal globalism is the assertion that “there is no alternative” to organizing society, a phrase made (in)famous by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1990s. The project is framed as a search for the emerging rhetorical strategies that might reconstruct agency (the capacity for individuals to affect the world) at a grassroots level under that umbrella of neoliberal globalism and at least contemplate an alternative organization of a more integrated global society. Methodologically, the dissertation employs Kenneth Burke’s (1937) theory of discursive history as an interplay of acceptance and rejection frames over time. Using food talk, primarily Internet content concerning food and agriculture, as a corpus of texts the dissertation charts neoliberal globalism as an acceptance frame and its impact on agency and equipment for living, the embedded social rules and roles for living in a social order. Using the concept of the rejection frame, the dissertation then argues that a grassroots globalism is nascent as seen in food talk and is attempting to counter neoliberal globalism through constructing a theory of rights that transcends the nation-state and provides a new form of equipment for living in a globally organized world. The dissertation concludes by theorizing this emerging rhetoric of rights as a step toward a rhetoric of global personal sovereignty that might unite people in all locales in a balancing of neoliberal globalism.