Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2005

Publication Title

Accounting Organizations and Society


The processual ordering branch of symbolic interaction has long recognized the importance of rhetoric and power to the social constitution of reality. However, little systematic effort has been devoted to probing their intertwined effects in the public policy arena.

The purpose of this paper is to employ the processual ordering perspective to examine the dramaturgical styles used in shaping public policy -- expressed in terms of the “public administration” and “realpolitik” forms of rhetoric -- among contending political factions as they negotiate mental health public policy. A latent content analysis of the minutes of key U.S. Congressional debates, augmented with secondary archival material from the press is employed. It is concluded that both forms of rhetoric play a role in shaping public mental health policy and that both factions modify their rhetorical form as the debate progresses. Those modifications strengthen the position of one faction while weakening that of the other. Theoretical implications are discussed.