Postmodern fragments?

Marilyn Cooper reminds us that in a postmodern world, intellectuals have constructed a new model of human beings as subjects.  These new subjects “are assumed to be so fragmented that they are incapable of coherent intentions or actions, and agency is merely a position into which they are interpellated” (Cooper 423).  For rhetoric to exist, however, and for rhetorical theory to be of any importance, individuals must possess agency.  Cooper defines agency in terms of neurophenomenology; agents change their structure in response to the world around them and to the imagined potential results of their actions.  Human beings assimilate into their surroundings but do so with unique intentions, goals and histories.  In Cooper’s words, “individual agents are determinate, but not determined” (428).  Agents can be responsible by listening to others in a mind that is open to new ideas, and recognize the fact that truths exist in minds other than one’s own.

Agency exists, and it is indeed necessary for rhetorical theory.  Individuals act with particular intentions and goals as they assimilate into their surroundings, and when individuals come together to form groups they are, in some cases, able to exert rhetorical influence, even as “the system” works to minimize the effects of rhetorics that challenge the dominant ideology.  The belief that 21st-century subjects are inherently fragmented informs scholarly arguments that suggest late capitalism is entrenched and utterly secure.  I argue, however, that by unifying with other individual subjects to form collectives, by filling public spaces and pressuring politicians, and by speaking in a wide range of voices that span across the political spectrum, fragmented subjects are able to make coherent, effective rhetorical decisions.

As our postmodern subject position becomes increasingly apparent it is vital to examine the potential of poly-vocal rhetorics, and to strive for an understanding of the possibilities and limitations of collective agency.  Rights of nature advocates employ a rhetoric that, while still very new, has shown itself to be an effective means of shifting discourse away from the dominant ideology of late capitalism and influencing important political decision-making processes.


Works Cited

Cooper, Marilyn. “Rhetorical Agency as Emergent and Enacted.” CCC 62.3 (2011): 420-444.


14 thoughts on “Postmodern fragments?

  1. I agree with you on the fact that agency exists. People do act with specific goals and intentions as they grow into a certain surrounding. I believe that it takes for the people to be comfortable with where they are, then that’s when the real person comes out to show you what they are actually about.

  2. I felt that there was some great evidence to support this new type of rhetoric that we will be shifting towards in the post modern society. This was a great blog. Every blog that I have ever thought of was more people writing about their personal life instead of intellectual writings.

  3. While reading this post, Cooper’s definition of agency in terms of neurophenomenology was fascinating to me. She described it as agents changing their structure in response to the world around them and to the potential result of their actions. The entire concept is indicative of how we act in society today because how we behave and how we are perceived plays a big role in what we change about ourselves in response to our surroundings.

  4. I also tend to agree with Cooper that human beings are being fragmented by the stress and stimulation of the surrounding world. However, I see that when we have a strong opinion or view about something we can come together with great rhetoric force. I feel that you make a great argument building beyond Cooper’s observations.

  5. I agree that there are many ways to communicate and bring different ideas and experiences together that help us make better rhetorical decisions. The end of the second paragraph, which states that you will argue that fragments are important pieces that can come to together to form “coherent, effective rhetorical decisions,” is a great way to put this idea out there. The post is well-written and clear for the most part, however, I do not understand what you mean by “postmodern.”

  6. Quoting an author was a good move in gaining credibility towards your point of view. Starting off with the source then going in further detail on the topic helped people to see that you are not the only one to think this way. In the quotes however some parts were a little difficult to understand but you did a good job of putting it in your own words and clarifying for people less familiar to the topic.

  7. If I am understanding this correctly, I believe that you are saying that people with different backgrounds and ideas should come together to influence politics as one large whole. What I don’t see is how this could be feasible. The reason for voting is because people often have differing opinions, if everyone agreed and could work together politics would essentially be useless.

  8. I like the way you make your statement about unifying with other individuals. I like the way that you suggest it, and not push it on others. I also enjoyed that you explained in detail about how you agree with Cooper. I would’ve liked to see more of the opposing view, however.

  9. This post brought up good points about how rhetoric is constantly evolving. It does not stay the same, but changes with people’s goals, intentions, and in my opinion, power. I also agree that the public would be much more effective politically if we were unified instead of fragmented throughout the entirety of the internet. Something good might actually get accomplished if this happened.

  10. I agree with you and Cooper that agency exists and is necessary for rhetorical theory to be effective. I think people do come up with their own goals and when they work in a groups other peoples viewpoints can help make their idea stronger.

  11. I also agree that agency exists. Depending on your surroundings, you react and respond to things differently. You can be open to different ideas that can change your thinking and that your own way of thinking isn’t always the only way.

  12. I like how you agreed with Marilyn’s view points and her reasons behind them but you still argued your viewpoints and why you disagreed with her. I agree that when individuals come together they can influence each other to reach a goal or idea. But although they can influence each other I believe that it is because they are individuals with their own strong beliefs that it makes it difficult for everyone to reach a goal together. Because the means to reach that goal is different for every individual trying to reach that goal. Example: equal rights, martin luther king jr vs malcom X. Both same goal but with different means or viewpoints on how to reach that goal.

  13. I agree that agency exists. I think there is plenty of evidence for this and Marilyn Cooper does a very good job explaining what it is. I agree with her saying how stress and stimulation fragment human beings. I also think you do a very good job elaborating on what Cooper said and why you agree with her. I found this whole article fascinating.

  14. This post of article was easier to understand than the last one, “Rights of Nature Advocates and Late Capitalism.” All three paragraphs flowed together and were connected to one another, there was no confusion between paragraphs. I like that the second post and this post were connected to one another, but didn’t understand how the first post connected to either the second or the third post. Is the first post suppopsed to connect to the second and/or third? Another thing that I noticed is that you had a good counterargument. You agreed with Cooper for the most part, but for some of it you disagreedc with her. I liked that you said you disagreed with her on some of her argument and thye went on to explain why you disagreed and how your opinon varied from hers.

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