McKeon, Richard “The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Productive Arts”

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In his article, McKeon discusses the importance of creating a new rhetoric that acts as a productive architectonic art rather than a subordinate art. He says, “If rhetoric is to be used to contribute to the formation of the culture of the modern world, it should function productively in the resolution of new problems and architectonically[1] in the formation of new inclusive communities” (127). McKeon argued that in order to deal with the changes in an age of technology, we must develop a new rhetoric that is productive in solving problems and communicating solutions.[2].

The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Product

McKeon identifies rhetoric as an architectonic art: “an art of structuring all principles and products of knowing, doing and making” (127). McKeon’s idea of modern rhetoric is productive, one capable of contributing to modern culture by addressing problems and fostering community. The author is concerned with a rhetoric that is both structured and capable of creating structure. Though the author has identified rhetoric as architectonic, he has also identified the need for a new architectonic productive art (rhetoric). The new art should be universal, and he calls for a logos of techne, or theory applied. While theory and practice have historically been separated, McKeon seeks to unify these two under the umbrella of the architectonic productive art. This is all to say that McKeon’s hope for an architectonic productive art is a hope for social change. The last paragraph of this essay (as it seems is the case with most of these essays on rhetorical theory) is a glimmer of hope for the future of rhetoric. “in a technological age all men should have an art of creativity, of judgment, of disposition, and of organization” (144). This art should, as McKeon says, be used for both the individual and community to achieve new ends and “eliminate oppositions and segregations based on past competitions for scarce means” (144).

Possible Implications

While ending opposition and segregation is rather a lofty goal for the use of rhetoric, McKeon's idea is indicative of a kind of shift toward morals and ethics within rhetoric. McKeon is concerned with the application of rhetoric to not only organize and create but also to solve social issues. He is trying to remove rhetoric from it’s long history of being associated with persuasion, manipulation, and malicious intentions. McKeon’s rhetoric is bigger than language or a communication--it is social change. The one thing McKeon’s essay didn't address is who is responsible for identifying social ills and implementing the new architectonic productive art to solve these problems. Are rhetoricians, by name, now to be social advocates? Is that our responsibility as a people capable of using language to identify problems and prescribe solutions? Is it selfish of us to only use rhetoric to further our own ideas and agendas?


  1. [1]
  2. [McKeon, Richard. “The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age: Architectonic Productive Arts.” Professing the New Rhetorics: A Sourcebook. Ed. Theresa Enos and Stuart Brown. Prentice Hall, 1993. Print.]
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