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Introduction This paper is taken from a wider study on discourses of education policy and work skills in twenty-first century Japan. In the field of Japanese education policymaking, there are clearly delineated interest groups, with identifiable discourses, which leads to the potential for discursive struggle within individual policy texts. Likewise, in the terrain of work skills, there are a number of different discourses – traditional, post-materialist, global – which might compete to define ‘reality’ within modern Japanese corporations. In order to gain a better theoretical understanding of the nature, significance and potential consequences of discursive struggle, the study draws upon two major theoretical approaches: the Discourse Theory (DT) of Laclau and Mouffe (1985) and the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of Fairclough (1989, 1992, 1995 etc.). This paper begins with a brief exploration of Discourse Theory, laying a particular emphasis on the constructs Laclau and Mouffe introduce that can be utilised in the discursive analysis of texts, such as nodal points, floating signifiers and elements / moments. It also discusses the highly influential concept of hegemony, which Laclau and Mouffe borrow and develop from the post-Marxist writings of Antonio Gramsci (1971). It then moves on to a discussion of identity within Discourse Theory, introducing the concepts of myth and social imaginary. The second half of the paper introduces the textually-oriented Critical Discourse Analysis of Fairclough. Fairclough provides a systematic framework for connecting the micro-analysis of
texts with the macro-level discourses circulating within society as a whole by working through the three dimensions of text, discursive practice and social practice. Of particular use and significance are the concepts of intertextuality and interdiscursivity (Kristeva, 1986; Fairclough, 1992; Candlin & Maley, 1997; Candlin, 2006; Bhatia, 2010), which act as an analytical bridge between text and discourse. While the assumptions of CDA fundamentally differ from those of Discourse Theory in terms of the degree to which social reality is seen to be accessible outside the medium of discourse, some of the analytical constructs introduced by Laclau and Mouffe are compatible with Fairclough’s CDA. Indeed, in his work with Chouliaraki, Fairclough himself explicitly advocates the use of Discourse Theory terms such as articulation and equivalence / difference, and acknowledges the value of Laclau and Mouffe’s theorisation of discursive struggle and hegemony (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999). It will be argued that several of Laclau and Mouffe’s major concepts can be put to use effectively in combination with Fairclough ’s constructs of intertextuality and interdiscursivity, which provide the practical analytical framework that Discourse Theory itself lacks.
The Discourse Theory of Laclau and Mouffe
Overview The following section will introduce the Discourse Theory of Laclau and Mouffe. In doing so, it will draw mainly on their book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985) plus other works written by Laclau or Mouffe individually (for example, Laclau, 1990, 1993, 1996; Mouffe, 1993, 2008) and on commentaries on their work by Phillips and Jorgensen (2002), Howarth et al. (2000), Torfing (1999), and Sjolander and Payne (2011). It will also bring in other social theorists, such as Gramsci (1971), Foucault (1972, 1984), and Žižek (1989, 1994) whose works complement (if on some points diverge from) those of Laclau and Mouffe. The aim of this section is not to delve into the complex deconstructionist approach that led to the formation of Laclau and Mouffe’s critique of Marxist thought, but to outline in somewhat simplified form the theory of discourse they arrived at and, more importantly, to introduce some of its concepts, especially those which can be operationalised in the discursive analysis of texts. It is divided into four main parts: the social theory behind Laclau and Mouffe’s work; the analytical concepts they introduce; their theory of
myth and social imaginaries. the base was viewed as being entirely determinant of the superstructure. of course. such as the working-classes. to recognise their own oppressed position within society and begin to work against it politically. 1985). church. that divides groups of people into classes.hegemony and hegemonic intevention. or base. Whereas under the historical materialism of Karl Marx. to put it another way) cannot be separated. something that Gramsci himself did not do (and which has led to some critics arguing that Laclau and Mouffe are not Marxists in the true sense at all). the discursive and non-discursive worlds (the superstructure and the base. discursive processes – Politics has primacy. and used the term hegemony to describe this discursive construction of consciousness and identity. as human beings. post-Marxist theorists such as Gramsci (1971) softened this stance to account for the ability of groups. For Laclau and Mouffe. enter a world already composed of discourses and cannot conceive of objects outside it. Gramsci argued that the dominant classes within society use discursive processes within the superstructure to manufacture popular consent for the unequal distribution of power and wealth. rather. that external reality has no independent existence. even if ultimately the base is the determinant of people’s interests and class. This is not to say. The concept of hegemony implies that the superstructure is more than a simple reflection of material reality in that it may contribute to the creation of social reality itself. Laclau and Mouffe take Gramsci’s ideas further by dissolving entirely the division of society into base and superstructure. the groups that exist in society are all the result of political. our perception of reality and of the character of real objects is mediated entirely by discourse. judiciary. and finally their theory of identity. media and education system (referred to as the superstructure). As Laclau and Mouffe (1985: 108) write: 3 . For this reason. A Social Theory of Discourse The foundation of Discourse Theory is a combination of post-Marxist social thought and post-Saussurian linguistics. with people’s consciousness created by the economic structure of society. In Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. as Laclau (1990: 33) described it. which Laclau and Mouffe fuse together into a single all-encompassing theory of the social world (Laclau & Mouffe. However. there is no objective material reality. We. As post-Marxists. they critique the strict Marxist division between material economic conditions and the ownership of the means of production within society (the material-economic base) and the meaning-producing cultural and political institutions of the state.
is not to discover the ‘truth’ about reality (for example. independently of my will. which 4 . of course from that of Critical Discourse Analysis. since all social phenomena are mediated through discourse. then. or with the realism/idealism opposition. Laclau and Mouffe turn to the theory of meaning drawn from the structural linguistics of Saussure (1960). For this. but the rather different assertion that they could constitute themselves as objects outside any discursive conditions of emergence. The basic unit of language is the sign. 1999). This position is different. which theorises discourse in the same sense as Fairclough and other CDA researchers. there are still important aspects of their theory that critical discourse analysts can profitably make use of. with perceptions of society and identity always open to new representations as meanings are constantly altered and reconfigured through contact with competing discourses. which will be described below. The most crucial aspect of Discourse Theory – for our purposes – is the idea that. What is denied is not that such objects exist externally to thought. even if we do not accept this ontological position adopted by Laclau and Mouffe. It is also different from the approach taken by this study. the structuralist view of language can be illuminated with the metaphor of a fishing-net. If social reality is constituted by an ongoing struggle over meaning. An earthquake or the falling of a brick is an event that certainly exists. But whether their specificity as objects is constructed in terms of ‘natural phenomena’ or ‘expressions of the wrath of God’. A broad array of discourses. we need a set of conceptual tools with which this struggle can be described. their meanings can never be permanently fixed. in the sense that it occurs here and now. to find out which groups exist within society) but to describe how discursive struggle constructs this reality (for example. which they modify in line with the post-structuralist view of language as alterable through the day-to-day interactions of social actors. This idea brings Discourse Theory close to the genealogical project of Foucault (1984). As Phillips and Jorgensen (2002: 25) argue. each structuring reality in a different way. how people and groups perceive their identity within society) so that it appears natural and neutral. Nevertheless. The aim of discourse analysis. People’s understanding of these aspects (often termed ‘terrains’ or ‘domains’) is contingent upon the ongoing struggle between discourses. depends upon the structuring of a discursive field.The fact that every object is constituted as an object of discourse has nothing to do with whether there is a world external to thought. who argued that the task of the genealogist was to immerse oneself in the myriad of power struggles that shape historical forms of discourse (Torfing. compete to define what is ‘true’ within a particular aspect of the social world.
arbitrarily joins a particular sound-image (the signifier) with a particular concept (the signified). Discourse analysis – as understood here – attempts to map out the processes by which the meaning of signs can become relatively fixed (and unfixed). since (in terms of the metaphor) signs cannot be fixed definitively into position. The constitution of a discourse involves the structuring of signifiers into certain meanings to the exclusion of other meanings. like other post-structuralists. Despite their rejection of Saussurian principles. For Laclau and Mouffe. to arrest the flow of differences. and it is this constant negotiation of meaning that accounts for the contingency of discourses. argue against the study of language as a fundamentally synchronic entity. Through the use of language (la parole. It is a reduction of possibilities. and therefore social life itself. All other possible meanings excluded by a particular discourse constitute the field of discursivity. and Laclau and Mouffe’s Discourse Theory introduces analytical concepts with which these processes can be analysed and described. although this is ultimately impossible. discourses attempt to fix signs into certain positions in a similar sense to that suggested by Saussure. like knots within a fishing-net fixed into a certain position in relation to all the other knots. Signs derive their meaning from their difference from one another. Laclau and Mouffe. the object of study in structural linguistics). as opposed to la langue. in a sense. and since signs derive their meaning from their relation to one 5 . however. the field of discursivity makes possible the articulation of a multiplicity of competing discourses (Torfing. They argue that. Laclau and Mouffe retain the notion that signs in la parole strive to acquire fixed meaning from their relation to one another. 1999). a discourse is an attempt to fix a web of meanings within a particular domain. Thus: Any discourse is constituted as an attempt to dominate the field of discursivity. Since no discourse can fix a web of meanings completely or permanently. Key Analytical Concepts The first concept that must be considered in the work of Laclau and Mouffe is that of discourse itself. to construct a centre (Laclau & Mouffe. they are. as Saussure termed it. and thus can be seen as an exercise of power (Howarth & Stavrakakis. 2000). the position of signs is always up for negotiation. A signifier that is allocated a certain meaning in one discourse may be given another meaning in a different discourse.  2001: 112).
1985: 105). Nodal points themselves can be thought of as floating signifiers. An element in this sense is a sign within the discourse whose meaning has not yet been fixed. a temporary halt to the fluctuations of meaning of elements. the word in which is condensed all the richness of meaning of the field it “quilts”. 1989: 97). discourses of clinical medicine may be said to compete with discourses of alternative treatment in the terrain of health and illness. the use of the term ‘order of discourse’. Articulation is ‘any practice establishing a relation among elements such that their identity is modified as a result of the articulatory practice’. This is a useful analytical distinction. For example. 2000). though they may share certain signs. Discourses attempt to fix webs of meaning through the constitution of nodal points. a pure signifer without the signified’ (Žižek. compete with discourses of football. however. assigning meanings to other signifiers within that discourse. constitutes its identity’ (Žižek. employed by Fairclough in a slightly different sense. however. This closure is. Phillips and Jorgensen advocate. and ‘freedom’. ‘whereas the term “nodal point” refers 1 Phillips and Jorgensen (2002) argue that the field of discursivity is too broad a concept for practical use. Elements which are particularly open to different ascriptions of meaning are known as floating signifiers.another. on the level of the signifier itself. According to Žižek. though as Phillips and Jorgensen make clear. This positioning happens through articulation. Democracy acquires the meaning of ‘real’ democracy as opposed to democracy based on class oppression. Signs that have had their meaning fixed by a discourse are called moments. unifies a given field. never permanent: ‘the transition from the “elements” to the “moments” is never entirely fulfilled’ (Laclau & Mouffe. a nodal point possesses no density of meaning – quite the opposite. since no theoretical distinction is made between the exclusion of meaning from discourses directly in struggle with one another and those that are not. 1985: 110). freedom is given an economic connotation. 1989: 95). For example. it is. to denote the limited range of discourses which struggle in the same terrain. as Phillips and Jorgensen (2002: 28) explain. In and of itself. [it] is rather ‘the word which. an ‘empty signifier. therefore. 1989. while a discourse is ‘the structured totality resulting from this articulatory practice’ (Laclau & Mouffe. ‘state’. They bind together a particular system of meanings or ‘chain of signification’. they do not. a discourse establishes a closure. rearticulating them into new meanings different from those used in competing discourses (Žižek. in Žižek’s words. the signifier ‘communism’ is a nodal point that binds together other pre-existing signifiers such as ‘democracy’. and the state acquires a new set of functions and roles. but. as a word. Nodal points organise the discourse around a central privileged signifier or reference point – ‘points de caption’ as Lacan (1977) termed them. Through articulation. we must be wary of delimiting the order of discourse a priori to beginning a discursive analysis of texts. It only acquires meaning through its positioning relative to other signs. a nodal point is not simply ‘the “richest” word. all other signs within the discourse will be configured differently as a result1. Howarth & Stavrakakis. 6 . in communist ideology and discourse.
to a point of crystallisation within a specific discourse.”… What is at a given moment accepted as the “natural order”. Unlike Gramsci. we can say hegemony is ‘the expansion of a discourse. In Discourse Theory terms. Phillips and Jorgensen (2002) provide the example of how modern Western societies view as a matter of common sense the treatment and understanding of children as a group with distinctive characteristics. Discourses then reach the level of ‘common sense’. the social practices they structure can appear so natural that members of a society fail to see that they are the result of political hegemonic practices. Hegemony is. just a few hundred years ago. or set of discourses. Deetz. and. are what we call “hegemonic practices. 1999: 101). Laclau and Mouffe do not view society as a single field of hegemonic struggle. 1992): The practices of articulation through which a given order is created and the meaning of social institutions is fixed. children were regarded quite differently as 7 .’ In the example they provide. 1985. the term “floating signifier” belongs to the ongoing struggle between different discourses to fix the meaning of signs. in that their origins and intrinsic contingency are forgotten (Laclau & Mouffe. When discourses successfully become hegemonic. into a dominant horizon of social orientation and action by means of articulating unfixed elements into partially fixed moments in a context crisscrossed by antagonistic forces’ (Torfing. jointly with the common sense that accompanies it. This opens up the concept to include struggles over a variety of social relations. like discursive closure. social consensus achieved without recourse to violence or coercion. such as those of gender. following Gramsci (1971). is the result of sedimented hegemonic practices (Mouffe. 2008: 4). the word ‘body’ is a nodal point in the discourse of clinical medicine and a floating signifier in the struggle between the discourse of clinical medicine and the discourse of alternative treatment. a concept introduced by Gramsci (1971). Hegemony and Hegemonic Interventions The representation of discourse as a structuring of meaning within a particular terrain leads Laclau and Mouffe to their concept of hegemony. it is achieved through articulation. However. which has been taken up by many other researchers working within the field of discourse analysis (particularly CDA). not only those of class. Hegemonic struggle takes place over and within many domains of social life. Discourses whose contingency has become invisible are called objective in Discourse Theory.
concerted efforts to re-articulate discourses and achieve the dominance of one particular perspective. ideology and objective discourses are indistinguishable. Antagonisms may be visible through the presence of elements that are articulated in different ways by opposing political projects. 1990: 92). and thus the domination of a particular discourse is never complete or permanent.‘small adults’ and were treated accordingly. Ideology also plays a crucial role in the construction of hegemony. As Mouffe (2008: 4) puts it. no discourse is capable of completely hegemonising a field of discursivity. In the modern “post-ideological” world. despite the ironical distance that people place between themselves and totalising ideological representations. floating signifiers – into one unambiguous set of meanings (Laclau & Mouffe. of the impossibility of any ultimate suture’ (Laclau. For them. or they may be instigated as a deliberate and strategic act by interest groups as ‘an overt or covert struggle for discursive dominance’ (Grant et al. 1985).’ Such counter-hegemonic practices may occur naturally through day-to-day communicative practices which challenge or transform existing discourses. ideologies continue to function through everyday social actions which act out and reproduce those 8 . It is. They may be resolved. then. It is constituted in discourse that aims to construct society as a decideable discursive form within a totalising horizon. and thus this view and the discourse that grounds it may be termed objective. Žižek (1989) argues that. relationships and systems of knowledge and belief (Foucault. albeit temporarily. conflicting demands are made upon social identities. in other words. hegemonic projects will need to construct and stablise the nodal points that structure social orders by articulating elements – i. projecting on to it an impossible fullness. through hegemonic interventions (Gramsci. 1972). since they both seek to hide the political processes by which a social order is made to seem normal or unchallengable. Laclau & Mouffe. The fact that our view of children has been constituted through historical struggles over meaning has long been forgotten.e. When two or more antagonistic discourses compete for hegemony within a specific terrain. Laclau and Mouffe reject the Marxist view of ideology as ‘false consciousness’ since we cannot access the ‘real world’ except through discursive systems of representation. thus reconstituting unambiguity (Laclau. is ‘the non-recognition of the precarious character of any positivity. 1993). 1985). To do this. ‘the “will” to totality of any totalizing discourse’ (Laclau. Objectivity notwithstanding. Ideology. 1990: 92). however. 1998: 7-8). ‘every hegemonic order is susceptible of being challenged by counter-hegemonic practices which attempt to disarticulate it in order to install another form of hegemony. 1971.
unconscious illusion may be called the ideological fantasy (Žižek. Subjects are not interpellated in only one specific way. therefore. even though they are aware that in of itself it has no intrinsic material value. Torfing (1999) provides more examples. despite the knowledge that they are highly and deliberately manipulative. they are given meaning through chains of equivalence that link together signifiers and establish identity relationally. Žižek’s standard example is the use that people routinely make of money as the primary form of wealth. From Althusser. the media. a myth emerges at times of dislocation when events occur that cannot be symbolised and integrated into existing discourses. ideological by Laclau’s definition of the term). He described this behaviour as ‘ideological fantasy’: They know very well how things really are. The formation of a myth 9 . Identity. they borrow the post-Marxist concept of interpellation.representations regardless of our knowledge of their distortedness. but still they are doing it as if they did not know. The illusion is therefore double: it consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real. constantly striving to become whole. but are ascribed different positions by many temporary. which describes subjects as fundamentally fragmented or ‘split’. while dismissing the role played in Althusser ’s ideas by economic determinism. And this overlooked. such as the way we allow ourselves to accept and be inspired by advertisements. While these nodal points are empty signifiers. Althusser argued that. contingent – perhaps competing and contradictory – discourses. According to Laclau (1990). which is related to another of the important concepts introduced in Discourse Theory: that of myth. Laclau and Mouffe. Laclau and Mouffe build on the work of Althusser (1971) and Lacan (1977). and the family. thus causing their destabilisation. take the concept of interpellation and import into it the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan. individuals are placed (or interpellated) into certain subject positions by ideology via superstructural institutions like the education system. effective relationship to reality. Identity comes from identification with certain subject positions. rather than being fully autonomous and self-conscious. 1989: 32-3). A myth is a complex type of floating signifier that seeks to construct society as a totality with a positive and fully sutured identity (it is. conceived by Lacan as master signifiers and by Laclau and Mouffe as nodal points of identity. Myths and Social Imaginaries For their theory of identity. Chains of equivalence play a crucial role in the formation of group identity.
whose boundary is defined by the presence of the Other. Gramsci stated that the working classes could only become hegemonic if they went beyond the economic-corporate struggles of class and took into account the interests of other social groups. are essentially devoid of meaning. defined by Laclau (1990: 63) as ‘a horizon’ or ‘absolute limit which structures a field of intelligibility’. The logic of equivalence serves to dissolve the boundaries between social groups or different interests by ‘relating them to a common project and by establishing a frontier to define the forces to be opposed. The construction of national identity is a classic example of this. like nodal points. Consequently. 1990: 61). which can be contrasted with its conceptual opposite the logic of difference. while social imaginaries occur when a group is able to move beyond its interests on to a universal terrain. where the logic of equivalence predominates. Laclau (1996) argues that myths operate at the level of the interests of a particular group. It is.is an attempt to overcome the dislocation by suturing the dislocated space into a new structure. When a myth succeeds in neutralising social dislocations and constitutes the hegemony of one particular vision of social order. itself discursively constituted with a single identity. ‘Europe’ and so on. fundamentally hegemonic. The difference between myth and social imaginary may be seen in terms of Laclau’s reformulation of the Gramscian concept of hegemony. since ‘it involves forming a new objectivity by means of the rearticulation of the dislocated elements’ (Laclau. social division will tend toward a dichotimisation of political space. and thus can function as a ‘surface of inscription’ for a variety of social demands and dislocations. ‘the people’. Through contrast with an alien ‘Them’ or ‘Other ’. an otherwise diverse national community can be aggregated into a single collective identity. incorporating them into a single vision of society. a division of the social into two opposing camps (workers versus owners. the “enemy”’ (Mouffe. which ‘represents the pure and perfect but impossible identity of the community. Accordingly. 1993: 50). 1983) takes place not around a shared essential quality but around an empty nodal point. 10 . While the concrete or literal meaning of the myth might include a vision of ideal social order – such as ‘Marxism’ or ‘the market’ – the term myth may be applied to any floating signifier that refers to society as a decidable totality (an impossible aspiration in Discourse Theory). therefore. it can be said to have reached the level of a social imaginary. This would include signifiers such as ‘the country’. 2007: 662). Social imaginaries are constituted through what Laclau and Mouffe termed the logic of equivalence. and defines an antagonistic boundary defining their limits’ (Glasze. Myths in themselves. The constitution of what has been termed ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson.
it introduces the important concepts of intertextuality and interdiscursivity (Kristeva. creating a more complex articulation of elements and making it more difficult to dichotomise social space into two collective groups of Self and Other. secularism and revolutionism. Epistemological Differences between Discourse Theory and Critical Discourse Analysis Before beginning an explication of the analytical constructs of Fairclough’s textually-oriented CDA. 1986. before looking at the concepts of intertextuality and interdiscursivity which are at the heart of Fairclough ’s analytical framework.communism versus capitalism. which this thesis argues (see the following chapter) can be productively combined with the analytical constructs provided by the Discourse Theory of Laclau and Mouffe. As with all hegemonic discourses.). which was articulated around the nodal points of republicanism. became increasingly fragmented during the 1990s in the face of the competing discourses of Islamism. into a discourse struggling for hegemony. the Green movement and womens’ rights. Çelik (2000) has shown how the well-defined frontier of Kemalism. The movement from myth to imaginary is reversible: imaginaries ‘that at one point appear to be deeply rooted may be challenged and subverted with surprising ease at another ’ (Norval. This. Candlin & Maley. Kurdism. be properly acknowledged before any attempt to combine them is made. the logic of difference works to dispel the illusion of unity amongst different interests. 1992. however. Fairclough.’ In the shift from imaginary back to myth. 2006. populism. 2010). even a stable social imaginary is not immutable. of course. 2000: 226). The present section begins with an account of the fundamental epistemological differences between CDA and DT. statism. The Critical Discourse Analysis Approach of Fairclough Overview The following section provides a brief explication of the textually-oriented Critical Discourse Analysis method of Fairclough (1989. a mythical space that strives to survive in the political arena. nationalism. It then outlines the basic premises of CDA as a whole. Çelik (2000: 201) argues was an example of ‘the transformation of a hegemonic discourse that managed to function as an imaginary horizon. 11 . the West versus the East). For example. In particular. 1992. 1995 etc. 1997. Candlin. the dominant identity discourse of modern Turkey. Bhatia. which must.
Politics and ideology thus become purely self-constituting. following Mouzelis (1990). Likewise. Fundamentally. They maintain that not all groups have equal access to key discourse genres that make such attempts at hegemonic intervention possible. not what they take off from. Social actors are subject to constraints that do not emanate from the discursive level but from structural relations of dependency. in emphasising the contingent nature of discourses. since social interests are the product of them. ideology is linked closely to the maintenance of unequal power relations. have argued that. tautalogical practices. 1991: 213-4). It is impossible to say where they derive from.it is important to acknowledge the epistemological differences that exist between the basic premises of Laclau and Mouffe’s Discourse Theory and those of CDA. 1999: 125). In CDA. and gender. Chouliaraki and Fairclough (1999). if the historical materialism of Marxist theory occupied the extreme position of discourse being entirely constituted by economic materialism. Viewed on a scale. If social identities are contingent upon discourses. 1991: 215). Laclau and Mouffe would be at the opposite end. CDA distinguishes between discursive and non-discursive social practices. and thus it is possible to distinguish between discourses that are ideological and those that are not. For Fairclough. like any other transcendal signifier (Eagleton. ideology is ‘a system of ideas. In critiquing Laclau and Mouffe’s concept of ideology. there is no way to explain how the articulation of interests relates to a social actor ’s social position. while Laclau and Mouffe view the social world as being wholly constituted by discourse. Žižek (1994) and Eagleton (1991) have critiqued the failure of Discourse Theory to provide an account of how political interests are constituted. From a similar perspective. Eagleston argues that in Discourse Theory: there is no “raw material” on which politics and ideology go to work. Coombe (1998) and others. such as class. they simply drop from the skies. ethnicity. Laclau and Mouffe overestimate the ability of social groups to bring about change through the rearticulation of elements into new social orders. Žižek too breaks with Laclau and Mouffe by maintaining the central Marxist proposition that ultimately class and economy are crucial in determining political interests and identities. values and beliefs oriented to explaining a given political 12 . Discourse Theory ‘is unable to explain which social forces have greater capacity to effect articulatory changes and why’ (Chouliaraki & Fairclough. while CDA would be somewhere between the two (Phillips & Jorgensen. 2002: 20). It appears ‘wholly coincidental that all capitalists are not also revolutionary socialists’ (Eagleton.
1995. At a macro level. 2002: 187). ideologies. each constituted by and constitutive of the other.. On the other hand. which corresponds to the overall premise within CDA that the discursive and non-discursive worlds exist in a dialectical relationship. discourse is shaped and constrained by social structure in the widest sense and at all levels: by class and other social relations at a societal level. and vice versa. as the analysis moves from a micro to a macro perspective... At the mid and micro levels. ‘little d’ discourses draw on ‘big D’ discourses to produce talk.. As Fairclough writes: On the one hand. or social-democratic. discourse is socially constitutive. by systems of classification. by various norms and conventions of both a discursive and non-discursive nature. such as liberal. Under this conception. Discourse is a practice not just of representing the world. but of signifying the world. 1993: 280). as well as the relations. 1996). that is to uncover the way in which societal level knowledge. legitimizing exisiting hierarchies and power relations and preserving group identities’ (Chiapello & Fairclough. Discourse contributes to the constitution of all those dimensions of social structure which directly or indirectly shape and constrain it: its own norms and conventions. but the term is used within CDA in several more developed senses. by the relations specific to particular institutions such as law or education. 2011) sees it as a deliberately manipulative activity. 1992: 64). Such ‘grand’ or ‘mega’ discourses have also been called ‘big D’ discourses (Gee. which operates ‘by making use of those structures and strategies that manipulate the mental models of the audience in such a way that “preferred” social cognitions tend to be developed. discourses are... conservative. ideology operates on both a discursive and non-discursive level. which ‘represent social groups and relations between social groups in a society in different ways’ (Fairclough. following Fairclough (2005). write and interact. that is. 13 . norms and values) that are ultimately in the interest of the dominant group’ (van Dijk. 1990). 2005: 925). For van Dijk. discourse is a ‘way of talking about and acting upon the world which both constructs and is constructed by a set of social practices’ (Candlin & Maley. particular ways of representing certain parts or aspects of the physical. constituting and constructing the world in meaning (Fairclough. social cognitions (attitudes. They include political discourses.order. One of the aims of CDA is to connect the micro with the macro. 1997: 202). writing and interaction. social and psychological world. identities and institutions which lie behind them. Van Dijk (1993. Discourse itself can be defined in a very general way as ‘language in use’ or ‘situated text and talk’ (Hall. and so forth.. assumptions and ideologies affect the detailed way in which we talk.
in the broad Hallidayan sense of stretches of spoken or written language (Halliday. within texts there can appear evidence of struggle between competing social actors. Secondly. as producers of texts themselves. it. or as Foucault puts. non-discursive) aspects of social practice. These three aspects correspond to what. discourse is the power which is to be seized’ (Foucault. Principal Tenets of Critical Discourse Analysis This study. discourse ‘is not simply that which translates struggles or systems of domination.e. He defines them as follows: The identity function relates to the ways in which social identities are set up in discourse. – since they are often aimed at achieving the hegemony of a particular point of view with the explicit aim of creating change within other (i. Fairclough calls the ‘identity’. the relational function to how social relationships between discourse participants are enacted and negotiated. discourse ‘is not only a site of power struggle. drawing on Halliday (1978. Thirdly. threaten or overturn dominant or hegemonic notions of identity. reports etc. By exposing the processes by which such hegemonic practices are achieved within texts. interpellating social actors in a certain way. sustain. 1984: 10). This is particularly true of texts produced in political contexts – speeches. the ideational function to ways in which texts signify the world and its processes. ‘relational’ and ‘ideational’ functions of language. Moreover. entities and relations (Fairclough. 1992: 67). What this means is that the study of texts is not merely an exercise in abstract lexico-grammatical description but an analysis of a key tool in the reproduction or reformation of the wider social world. but it is the thing for which and by which there is struggle. contribute to the dissolution of those same hegemonic practices. 1978). Firstly. discourse helps to construct social relationships between people. policy papers. having a genuine “physical” impact on the social world. discourse contributes to the construction of systems of knowledge and belief. interest groups and their differing ways of viewing the world. discourse contributes to the construction of ‘social identities’ and ‘subject positions’. accepts 14 . therefore.Following Foucault (1972). Fairclough (1992) identifies three aspects of the constructive effects of discourse. social relations or systems of ideas and beliefs. critical discourse researchers may. can reproduce. 1994). but also a stake in power struggle ’ (Fairclough. while drawing upon the very useful concepts introduced by Laclau and Mouffe. 1992: 64) Texts. In Fairclough ’s words.
Discourse. the socio-cognitive model of Teun van Dijk (1988. 5. to investigate how such practices. as one aspect of social practice. In epistemological terms. Although the precise method of conducting CDA differs between some of its principal architects – most notably. social relations. and the textually-oriented model of Norman Fairclough (1989. At the same time as they are positioned by discourses. Critical Discourse Analysis seems to offer a more persuasive view of the relationship between discourse and society. Discourses are historical and cannot be fully understood outside of their social and historical context. 4. Discourse has a dialectical relationship with other social dimensions: it is both constitutive and constituted of social reality. both reflecting and shaping social structures. events and texts arise out of and are ideologically shaped by relations of power and struggles over power. social subjects and identities. 15 . 6. namely: objects of knowledge. A principal purpose of CDA is to expose how this is achieved through the detailed examination of texts. Before examining the specific analytical constructs employed by Fairclough in his textually-oriented CDA. and to explore how the opacity of these relationships between discourse and society is itself a factor securing power and hegemony (Fairclough. 1991). events and texts. 1992. social actors also have the power to transform and hybridise them though agency.the gist of the critique of Discourse Theory as laid out above. 1995) – each method is based on a small set of common features that characterise the approach of CDA as a whole. These can be summarised as follows: 1. actively contributes to the construction of social reality on a variety of levels. 3. CDA is critical in the sense that it aims to contribute towards a fairer and more just society. Discourses are subject to diachronic change. 1993: 135). and (b) wider social and cultural structures. the discourse-historical model of Ruth Wodak (1996). and conceptual frameworks. Discourse functions ideologically: it contributes to the creation and reproduction of unequal power relations within society. CDA has been defined in the following way: discourse analysis which aims to systematically explore often opaque relationships of causality and determination between (a) discursive practices. relations and processes. it will be useful to provide a brief overview of the CDA approach. including some of its major influences. 2.
such as examination and confession. 2003). 1984). Instead they rely upon collective frames of perceptions. showing that texts always draw upon and transform other historical and contemporary texts (Foucault. Foucault made three other observations significant for CDA: the importance of discursive practices in modern technologies of biopower. Hall argued that recipients were able to interpret or ‘decode’ texts differently from the way they were encoded (Hall. thus forming a core element of their social identity (Durkheim. Foucault. Many of the most fundamental concepts used in CDA were derived from the work of Michel Foucault (1972. and the vital role that changing discursive practices has in producing social transformation (Foucault.frequently taking the side of oppressed social groups. Many critical discourse analysts. 1972). 1980). Foucault posited the notion that discourse actively constitutes social reality by constructing objects of knowledge. or ‘social representations’. 16 . employing humour (Bolton & Boyd. 1971. 2006). language constructs a social position for the individual and constrains how they speak and act (Althusser. the significance of discursive struggle that takes place both in and over discourse. In his later ‘genealogical’ work. In his studies of media reception. 2003) to contest the discursive practices of hegemonic elites. Subjects have ‘apparently paradoxical properties of being socially determined. and yet capable of individual creativity. 1989: 140). counter-narratives (Brown & Humphreys. rather. They may question or ridicule attempts to influence their self-perceptions and identities. speaking subject’ (Foucault. It was from this notion that the concepts of intertextuality and interdiscursivity are derived. No single group or individual has the power to determine the discourse or can precisely intend the final result. Discourses evolve over time and become independent as a result of historical processes. knowing. have softened his stance on interpellation by emphasising the power of social actors to resist or transform discourses. He also emphasised the interconnectedness of discourses. as explained in more detail below. yet capable of creatively transforming discourse conventions’ (Fairclough. 1984). 1972). 1972: 55). which are shared amongst members of a social group. social identities. In his early ‘archeological’ studies. Social actors do not create reality based on their own individual experiences and strategies. relationships and conceptual frameworks. obliged to act discoursally in preconstituted subject positions. 1933). Foucault argues that ‘discourse is not the majestically unfolding manifestation of a thinking. and cynicism (Fleming & Spicer. in a process that can be referred to as ‘interpellation’. while accepting the principal tenets of Foucault’s theories.
and on how recipients of texts apply 17 . cohesion. working in a different tradition. positions from which to speak. which refers to the sum of all genres and discourses that are in use within a specific social domain or institution (such as the media. or the university). the textual dimension focuses on how discourses are realised linguistically. for example. may select from two quite differing discourses in their interaction with patients and colleagues (Iedema. 1982). Discursive practice: processes related to the production and consumption of the text. coherence. subjects do not become interpellated in just one subject position: different discourses give the subject different. Under this view. including lexicalisation. Laclau and Mouffe) present a more conflictual picture in which different discourses exist side by side or struggle for the right to define truth. Norman Fairclough introduced a framework for the analysis of texts within a critical discourse tradition. Text: the linguistic features of the text. grammar. and should be analysed accordingly: 1.Furthermore. including the ‘force’ of utterances. 1978). Textually-Oriented Critical Discourse Analysis In several influential works written during the late-1980s and 1990s. both ‘masters and slaves of language’ (Barthe. he proposed a three-dimensional framework that could be employed to relate micro instances of language use (‘communicative events’) to wider aspects of social practice. Discursive practice analyses how producers of texts draw on already existing discourses to create a text. Social practice can be analysed using the construct of ‘order of discourse’. 2003). often have to juggle their competing roles as both clinicians and managers and. and possibly contradictory. such as Language and Power (1989). and text structure 2. Emphasising the importance of carrying out systematic analyses of spoken or written language (texts). intertextuality and interdiscursivity 3. Doctors in contemporary neo-liberal societies. Discourse and Social Change (1992) and Critical Discourse Analysis (1995). discursive practice and social practice. They are. many theorists of CDA (and. in doing so. Social practice: the institutional and organisational circumstances of the discursive event and the constitutive effects of discourse Drawing on systematic functional linguistics (Halliday. while Foucault tended to identify one dominant discourse or knowledge regime in a historical period. Fairclough argued that every communicative event consists of three dimensions of text. in Barthe’s words.
‘Thus the discourse moment of any practice is a shifting articulation of symbolic / discursive resources (such as genres. 1999: 21). We regard Laclau and Mouffe as providing valuable conceptual resources for the analysis of change in discourse . This level of analysis mediates the relationship between text and social practice.they capture the instability and flux of social practices and identities. While. Borrowing Laclau and Mouffe’s terminology. 1992: 87). Fairclough’s method is based on the three components of description. In Discourses in Late Modernity (1999). he maintains Laclau and Mouffe’s interpretation of Gramscian hegemony.. In a later article published in Organization Studies (2005). Fairclough distinguishes between discursive and non-discursive elements within the process of articulation. he argues that: Laclau and Mouffe provide valuable resources for theorising and analysing the openness and complexity of late modern social life . Fairclough also employs the term ‘nodal discourses’ as a key terrains 18 .in particular their conceptualisation of ‘articulation’ and ‘equivalence / difference’ (Chouliaraki & Fairclough. and the pervasive dissolution and redrawing of boundaries. which is seen ‘in terms of the relative permanency of articulations of social elements’ (Fairclough & Chouliaraki. The dimension of social practice itself examines how texts reproduce or challenge wider aspects of society. co-authored with Lilie Chouliaraki. Despite his rejection of Discourse Theory’s tendency to overstate the contingency of social practices. voices) which themselves come to be articulated into relative permanences as moments of (the moment of) discourse. 1999: 25). Linguistic properties are described. particularly how they relate to the ‘production. discourses. the relationship between productive and interpretive processes of discursive practice and text is interpreted. interpretation and explanation. showing how texts both shape and are shaped by social practices. and transformed in that process’ (Chouliaraki & Fairclough. and the relationship between discursive and social practice is explained (Fairclough. 1995: 97). in line with CDA principles. Fairclough advocates the use of several concepts provided by Laclau and Mouffe... reproduction. discursive practice and social practice. which characterise late modernity. Moments are themselves transformed through articulatory processes by being brought into new combinations with each other. 1999: 124) Articulation as a concept dissolves any strict demarcation between the three dimensions of text.available discourses to interpret them. Fairclough argues that articulation brings together shifting elements of the social and stabilises them into more or less relative permanences as moments of social practice. or transformation of relations of domination’ (Fairclough.
breaks down that unity. When social practices come into conflict with one another (as. in turn. subjects are overdetermined in the Althusserian sense. using them in the same sense as Laclau and Mouffe. leading to the polarisation of society between two or more discursively unified camps. then presents several empirical studies in which discourse theoretical 19 . citing the discourse of ‘new public management’ or ‘total quality management’ as examples. the logic of equivalence dissolves differences among a set of particular interests. when it comes to the actual analysis of text. Sjolander ’s book. and the continual interaction between diverse practices (and discourses) means that outcomes are never entirely predictable and that resources for resisting hegemony are always available. 1999: 25). In the presence of antagonistic forces. 1999: 123). are ‘antagonisms which take the form of struggles over the articulation of discursive practices – they presuppose free-floating elements and weak boundaries’ (Chouliaraki & Fairclough. These ‘contradictory positionings constitute antagonisms both between different subjects and within individual subjects ’ (Chouliaraki and Fairclough. he sees nodal discourses as organising relations between other constituent discourses. seeing it as a ‘balkanization and reification of methodology’ (Howarth. Despite this. Chouliaraki and Fairclough also borrow the concepts of equivalence and difference from Discourse Theory. 2011: 35). in modern capitalist societies they tend to be limited within particular social domains. Hegemonic struggles. the differences between the perspectives were not that great’ (Sjolander.over which hegemonic struggle occurs. then. Sjolander (2011) reported a degree of resistance from discourse theorists against the kind of stepwise approach towards the analysis of texts that Fairclough provides. threatening this hegemonic construction of society into Us and Them. co-edited with Payne. antagonisms can lead to the full polarisation of society into coloniser versus colonised (oppressor versus oppressed). Intertextuality and Interdiscursivity From a round-table discussion between proponents of Discourse Theory and Critical Discourse Analysis. for example. 2005: 317). however. Chouliaraki and Fairclough argue that while in colonial contexts (one of the examples provided by Laclau and Mouffe). The logic of difference. Fairclough argues is the case in contemporary education settings in Britain with participants positioned both as teachers and students and as producers and consumers of educational products). Hegemony can always be dearticulated and rearticulated (though not as easily as Laclau and Mouffe seem to assume). the overall conclusion from the discussion was that ‘in the end. Defining the term in a slightly different sense to Laclau and Mouffe.
Bhatia. reaccentuates. Interdiscursivity refers to articulation within and between orders of discourse. Fairclough. there is often space for them to exercise creativity in drawing upon the resources of other discourses associated with other social practices. One of the aims of discourse analysis is. It has since been taken up by Fairclough. Links between texts can be made in different ways: ‘through continued reference to a topic or main actors. ’ It shows ‘how a text responds to. 1986. with both constructs emphasising the fundamental idea that discursive practice builds on prior patterns while at the same time questioning them (Isaksson. Sjolander and Payne highlight the crucial constructs of intertextuality and interdiscursivity (Kristeva. the configuration of macro-level discourses the producers of the text consciously or unconsciously draw upon. therefore. Candlin. perhaps question. 1997. as Sjolander and Payne (2011) point out. In Chapter Four. 1992. including education policy documents. 2010) as a bridge between DT and CDA. while social actors are generally constrained by the discursive conventions of particular social settings. semantic and textual discursive (in the sense of creating and packaging coherent discourse) options available to and chosen by individuals serve to construct. Candlin & Maley. According to Kristeva (1986: 39). corporate reports and interview excerpts. or as Candlin and Maley (1997: 212) put it. Intertextuality and interdiscursivity can be related to Laclau and Mouffe’s concept of articulation. Intertextuality. to look for ways in which the ‘lexico-grammatical. and reworks past texts. social roles and social behaviour ’ (Candlin & Maley. 2011). or by transfer of main arguments from one text into the next’ (Krzyanowski & Wodak. it will be shown how this might be done. 2008: 205). intertextuality implies ‘the insertion of history (society) into a text and of this text into history. it is ‘the use of elements in one discourse and social practice which carry institutional and social meanings from other discourses and social 20 . Candlin and Maley (1997) argue that. offers more concrete guidelines than articulation for what to focus upon within a text but it can usefully be applied in conjunction with some of the terms of Discourse Theory. and in doing so helps to make history and contributes to wider processes of change’ (Fairclough 1992: 102). 1997: 202). 2006. news items. particularly in the case of ‘evolving’ discourses (the discourse of mediation being the example they study). The term ‘intertextuality’ was coined by Kristeva (1986) in the context of her interpretation of the work of Bakhtin (1986) for western audiences. Candlin. reinforce. Bhatia and many other researchers as a key element of CDA. but first it is helpful to provide a brief exploration of intertextuality and interdiscursivity and how they have been defined in the traditions of CDA. through reference to the same events.concepts are applied to the analysis of different forms of texts.
A Barthes Reader. Bazerman C. elements / moments. linking the text under study both with other texts and with wider macro-level discourses and social practices. offer a framework in which key discourse theoretical terms such as nodal points. Chreim. It has been argued that. floating signifiers. however. (2010). When discourses are mixed in conventional ways. the constructs of intertextuality and interdiscursivity developed by Fairclough. New York: Hill and Wang. Anderson B. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press. this can act as a challenge to hegemony. Interdiscursivity in professional communication. (1971). this works towards the stability of the dominant order of discourse and. 2006). If. In particular. for example.): Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. creating new or hybrid discourses. Bazerman. In L. This relates intertextuality and interdiscursivity to processes of social and organisational change.’ Fairclough argues that intertextuality and interdiscursivity can contribute either to the reproduction or the challenging of the established status quo. Althusser (ed. Barthe R. despite their epistemological differences. Closing Remarks This paper has introduced two influential approaches to the study of discourse and its relationship to social change: the Discourse Theory of Laclau and Mouffe and the textually-oriented Critical Discourse Analysis of Fairclough. the two approaches share enough in common that the analytical constructs they provide can be operationalised in conjunction with each other in the discursive analysis of texts. the dominant social order. 1999: 335). 2003. Imagined Communities.practices. Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. The Languages of Edison’s Light. 1999. social agents must operate not only on a material or structural level but on a discursive level too by creating ‘significant and stable meanings’ within the terrain they are competing for (Bazerman. which has been well-documented in a number of discourse analysis studies (see. Discourse & Communication 4 21 . London: Verso. (1983). and the logic of equivalence / difference. Faber. New York: Monthly Review Press. (1972). thereby. In order to effect lasting change. References Althusser L. they are combined creatively. can be employed to enrich a discursive analysis. (1999). Bhatia V. which relate to Laclau and Mouffe’s concept of articulation.
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