Theorizing about Dialogic Moments: The Buber-Rogers Position and Postmodern Themes

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Dialogue has become a pivotal concept within contemporary human studies, yet few theorists explore its temporal dimension. Is dialogue an extended state of high quality mutuality? Or does it exist in important yet ephemeral moments of human meeting? This article reports on the contributions to communication theory that emerge from a close reading of a metadialogic conversational “text”—the landmark 1957 meeting of Martin Buber and Carl Rogers. Although most commentators have described Buber and Rogers as disagreeing sharply, we argue that a coherent Buber-Rogers position emerged from their dialogue. Buber and Rogers, in their informal theoretical collaboration, theorize that mutuality–and, by extension, dialogue–is possible in role-unequal relationships in moments of meeting. We then discuss how this Buber-Rogers position prefigured the contemporary cultural tenor of postmodernism. Although not postmodernists themselves, Buber and Rogers helped to shape an intellectual climate in which key postmodern themes could flourish.

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Communication Theory, v. 8, issue 1, p. 63-104