Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 12-20-2019


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Janie M. Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Anthony M. Wachs


bureaucratic/bureaucrat/bureaucracy, modernity, instrumental rationality/reason, practical reason, rhetoric, Giambattista Vico, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, Alasdair MacIntyre


To what extent and in what ways does modernity reveal itself through the bureaucratic? This project aims at an interpretive understanding of bureaucratic modernity. The rationalization of society and action in the (late) modern world requires that an increasing number of human activities and domains be explained in allegedly neutral, ‘rational’ terms and without reference to morally substantive ends. Ultimately, this entails a form of epistemic reductionism that elevates instrumental rationality to the exclusion of practical reason and probabilistic ways of knowing. Bureaucratic modernity signifies a decrease in choices that can be legitimized in public on some basis other than calculative-methodological-procedural thought. Guidance for civic and marketplace conduct now comes from administrative expertise. Such a milieu promotes a disposition to reality that has implications for: what counts as knowledge, ethical discourse and action, and education. The dynamics of bureaucratic modernity function as an informal cultural pedagogy that reshapes knowledge, ethics, and formal education for its own purposes and after its own model of human life and sociopolitical community. This project engages the work of Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, and Alasdair MacIntyre in order to construct a communication ethics story of bureaucratic modernity’s significance. The final episode in this narrative consists in a turn to Giambattista Vico’s rhetorical conception of human knowledge and action for the purpose of articulating a communication ethics of prudentia. Vico’s curricular vision promotes a rhetorical way of being in pragmatic contexts and offers a source of hope for the recuperation of practical reason.