The Problematics of Dialogue and Power

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In recent years, dialogic approaches to communication have become far more common and persuasive in interpersonal communication, organizational life, rhetoric, political communication, and media studies. Yet, the relationship between dialogue and power remains relatively unexplored. In this chapter, we clarify the distinction between convergent dialogue and emergent dialogue, offering a new synthesis of relevant sources along with personalized examples from consulting practice. After surveying definitions and research in dialogue studies, we describe the contours of dialogue by considering its characteristics as they relate to power. We then identify and explore the persistent dialogic tensions that affect power relations: identity, outcome, meaning, voice, and field. Finally, we relate the concepts of convergent and emergent dialogic styles to Foucault’s descriptions of juridical and contingent power.

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Annals of the International Communication Association, v. 27, issue 1, p. 125-157