Antagonistic and Non-antagonistic Advocacy [Argument]

  • Antagonistic=Hostile=Oppositional=Polemic="win/lose"

  • Non-antagonistic=Cooperative="win/win"

There is an basic difference between antagonistic and non-antagonistic argumentation.

The goals of antagonistic argumentation are usually:

  • promoting, increasing, and taking advantage of disunity among opponents and their allies,
  • seeking verbal and material dominance, pushing opponents out of the way,
  • bringing about psychological, verbal and physical confusion and demobilization of opponent forces,
  • causing the disruption, neutralization and ultimate elimination and disbanding of opponent forces,
  • creating favorable conditions for ultimate total material victory of rhetor and allies.
  • Antagonism may start out as rhetorical but often ends up very material: In antagonistic argumentation, the rhetor tries to accuse, discredit, indict, convict, defeat, eliminate or sometimes even kill the opponent.

    Antagonistic rhetoric is like a firearm: Never point it at someone unless you intend to destroy her or him.

    Antagonism ultimately destroys.

Non-antagonistic differences are sometimes material, but are always most appropriately settled by discursive (rhetorical) means:

  • seeking unity,
  • practicing respect and mutual support,
  • understanding, consciousness-raising and compassion,
  • seeking peace and reconciliation,
  • democracy,
  • free and open discussion and
  • finding ways of working together toward the common goal.

Cooperation builds.

The rhetor's task is to correctly determine when each form of rhetoric is appropriate, and when it is not.


O.W. 12/06

For educational purposes only.


Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
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