Overtaken by Reality: The Temporal Interplay Between Rhetoric and Collective Action

Prins Marcus Valiant Lantz, Jonathan Feddersen, Sine Nørholm Just

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This study investigates how rhetorical configurations of grand challenges shape collective action through a case study of the Danish government’s handling of a zoonotic disease threat from mink held for fur production during the COVID-19 pandemic. A theoretical framework combining the concepts of “rhetorical ecologies” and “anticipatory action” guides our investigation, operationalized through an event-based analytical approach. Our findings reveal three phases, each representing a rhetorical configuration from which a revised strategy to handle COVID-19 infections in Danish mink emanated as a form of anticipatory collective action. We show how actors rhetorically construed the directionality of time differently in each phase, shaping which kind of anticipatory collective action they pursued. Ongoing attempts to mutually adjust rhetorical configurations and collective action gradually narrowed the space of possible collective action trajectories, eventually leading to the sensation of being “overtaken by reality.” Our study advances understanding of the temporal interplay between rhetoric and collective action and the role of nonhuman actors in tackling grand challenges. For political decision-makers, we outline three avenues for enhancing reflexivity about the rhetorical configuration of grand challenges, namely (1) mapping the human and nonhuman actors and their interplay, (2) sustaining alternative trajectories, and (3) confronting anthropocentrism.
TidsskriftAcademy of Management Perspectives
Antal sider29
StatusUdgivet - 3 jun. 2024

Bibliografisk note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 3 June 2024.