On the Art of Political Manipulation

And why politicians don’t bother convincing the electorate

An op-ed in today’s Indian Express refers to William Riker and heresthetics. Heresthetics? What’s that?

Logic is concerned with the truth-value of sentences. Grammar is concerned with the communications-value of sentences. Rhetoric is concerned with the persuasion-value of sentences. And heresthetic is concerned with the strategy-value of sentences. In each case, the art involves the use of language to accomplish some purpose: to arrive at truth, to communicate, to persuade, and to manipulate. [William H Riker, The Art of Political Manipulation]

In essence, heresthetics involves framing the issue in such a manner so as to change the rules of the game (in one’s favour). In it’s article on Riker, Rhetorica says:

Riker’s The Art of Political Manipulation shows how politicians have used heresthetics to win using a series of political stories told in chapters, each with a specific how-to lesson. There are generally three categories of heresthetical strategies:

1- Agenda control: manipulating the agenda for favorable voting outcomes.
2- Strategic voting: using voting procedures to control outcomes.
3- Manipulation of dimensions: redefining the situation to create a stronger coalition. [Rhetorica]

An astute observer of Indian politics doesn’t need to read the book though: just watch television or read the newspapers.

2 thoughts on “On the Art of Political Manipulation”

  1. BTW Riker’s Art of Political Manipulation is nothing new. Habermas’ theory of communicative action offers better insights and not merely negatives.

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