The language of the liberal consensus: John F. Kennedy, technical reason, and the "new economics" at Yale University

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


On June 11, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed the economy at Yale University. This essay explains the symbolic charge of his economic rhetoric, a persuasive campaign that enjoyed considerable success and marked the first time that a president took explicit responsibility for the nation's economic performance. I argue that the president crafted the authority to take command of the economy through construction of a liberal ethos, the use of dissociation, and a definition of the times. His arguments, in turn, were invented from the liberal matrix that dominated politics in the mid-twentieth-century United States and represent the ways in which that mode of discourse develops a historically contingent and politically powerful form of technical reason. President Kennedy's speech illustrates a set of strategies that can raise the status of one political language above its competitors in the process of public argument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-162
Number of pages30
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2004
Externally publishedYes



  • Dissociation
  • Ethos
  • Invention
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Liberal Consensus
  • Technical Reason
  • Time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education

Cite this