|Abstract||Amid neoliberal and technocratic threats to equality and human flourishing, Rhetoric and Composition needs to broaden what we recognize as democratic rhetorical action. We often invoke democratic ideals to authorize our work, but too frequently, we assume stable meanings for such concepts as democracy" and "civic discourse," neglecting to interrogate the particular definitions we rely upon and as a result restricting what we research, criticize, and teach as the rhetorical actions that support democracy. I argue we need to reconceive democracy itself by replacing theories centered on deliberation and public sphere studies with specifically rhetorical theories grounded in our discipline's approaches to human relations, ethics, and political life. This dissertation empowers such work by providing a framework of heuristics we can use to theorize multiple understandings of democracy from the standpoint of Rhetoric and Composition.^I develop the framework by using a method called transformational/practical theory-building and drawing on concepts from Athenian demokratia; from political philosophers Sheldon Wolin, Josiah Ober, Chantal Mouffe, and John Dewey; and from rhetoricians Aristotle, Cicero (De officiis), Chaim Perelman, and Kenneth Burke. The framework of heuristics guides theorists and teachers to engage the three key issues around which rhetorical understandings of democracy should be built: how best to translate demos and kratos, to define democracy's nature, and to conceive political virtues. From this framework, I develop a theory of democracy as a dynamic social energy, manifested when we citizens, individually as well as collectively, grip power in order to enact equality, and when we embody the political virtues of relational equality and substantial efficiency (using all available means to enact democratic power) in our everyday rhetorical actions.^I then build on my findings to trace the democratic and rhetorical contours of the practice of reflection, illustrating how my new theory of democracy, developed from the standpoint of Rhetoric and Composition, can enlarge our notions of what counts as rhetorical action for democracy. I conclude by calling for a recognized subfield of democracy studies in Rhetoric and Composition and describing how my framework and theory provide several concrete directions for enriching rhetorical theory, history, and pedagogy."--Abstract.