In this essay, I explore the possibilities of rhetoric as gift. I begin with the Homeric gift economy and the rhetorical resources of this economy. My use of "economy" here is not reducible to a monetary exchange system, but rather a more general system of practices orchestrating cultural identity and relations. As Georges Bataille suggests, studying a general economy may hold the key to all the problems posed by every discipline (1991, 10). For Bataille everything from geophysics to political economy, by way of sociology, history and biology, to psychology, philosophy, art, literature, and poetry has an essential connection with economy. So, too, rhetoric. Henry Johnstone once defined rhetoric as the art of getting attention (1990, 334). We cannot attend to everything at once, so something must call our attention, invite our focus, and this something is rhetoric. Rhetoric's desire to dispose its audience to invest in the object of attention connects rhetoric to economy. Rhetoric can be said to enact a disposition to invest, or a cathexis, a certain kind of savings. As such it is subject to economic movements and displacements, a dimension seen as well through Lyotard's figure of the dispositif (1993, x.).

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Philosophy and Rhetoric, "On Rhetoric as Gift/Giving," Mari Lee Mifsud, Copyright © 2007 Penn State University Press.

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