This chapter makes a case for the added value of integrating Critical Discourse Analysis with Critical Policy Studies, producing a theoretical and methodological synergy we term ‘Critical Policy Discourse Analysis’ (CPDA). It lays the groundwork for the highly practical and method-focused chapters which follow. The intellectual origins and key theoretical assumptions of Critical Policy Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis are reviewed in order to reveal the conceptual underpinnings and complementarities which lead us to propose this integrated approach to policy research. The chapter examines some of the key concerns of post-positivist approaches to policy research, and demonstrates how CPDA is ideally suited to address them. It offers definitions of core concepts like text, discourse and interdiscursivity, before outlining how the remaining empirical chapters fit into this CPDA approach.
Nicolina Montesano Montessori
This chapter introduces the method of Text Oriented Discourse Analysis (TODA) (Fairclough, 1992). It introduces the original approach and its theoretical, methodological, historical and political rationale. It then describes a research project performed on political discourse in Mexico, comparing the discourse of a former president and the counterhegemonic discourse of the Zapatista movement, which protested against the shift to a global economy, especially the installed free market treatment between Mexico, Canada and the USA (NAFTA). The approach draws on a Gramscian approach to hegemony and puts Discourse Theory (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985) and different strands of Critical Discourse Analysis together to develop and apply a new methodology to analyze (counter)hegemonic procedures in empirical data.
Liberal governments are increasingly turning to behavioural science for ways of shaping human conduct. Popularly known as ‘nudge’, this applies behavioural economic theory to public policy. It uses a range of semiotic and material interventions to penetrate individual psychologies and secure voluntary behaviour change. This chapter explores its use in an anti-obesity social marketing campaign targeting children. It proposes a transdisciplinary text analytical framework, bringing Lemke’s (2012) theory of neoliberal governmentality into dialogue with critical discourse analysis in order to investigate how nudges work in practice, and to critically assess their role as a technique of neoliberal governmentality. The findings reveal, in the face of ‘wicked’ social problems like health and wellbeing, the increasing importance of the child as an instrument of self-disciplinary power in the creation of more resilient, risk-prepared neoliberal subjectivities.
Major policy reforms in English higher education challenge existing structures, funding systems, even the purpose of higher education. Taking a broadly critical, interpretive approach to policy analysis, I seek to examine policy constructions in what is increasingly characterised as a marketised sector (for example, Molesworth et al., 2011). I draw on concepts from Bernstein’s sociology of pedagogy (2000) and the Discourse Historical Approach (DHA) (Reisigl and Wodak, 2015) within critical discourse studies (CDS) to explore connections between national policy texts on learning and teaching and institutional policy, participant accounts and practices. This chapter focuses on the discursive construction of community and its use in legitimating approaches to learning and teaching which differ from participants’ own constructions. I illustrate how recontextualisation of policy can be explored by tracing topics and arguments across different texts and spaces. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the value of the methodological framework for investigating policy and practices.
Juan Francisco Palma Carvajal
In recent decades NGOs have become one of the most important actors participating in social policy. However, there is still discussion about their role in promoting or resisting neoliberalism. Engaging directly with this debate, this chapter explores the role of two advocacy NGOs involved in processes of policy-making during the recent education reform carried out in Chile, a country known as the first laboratory of neoliberalism around the world. Based on Foucault’s theoretical work on governmentality in combination with a Discourse Historical Approach (DHA), the research investigates these NGOs’ discursive practices to analyse their role in relation to neoliberal rule in Chile. Results indicate that none of the NGOs is able to challenge the hegemonic neoliberal discourse. On the contrary, the NGOs’ discourse practices not only mask the power of the neoliberal model ruling Chilean education, but also dilute the recent process of discussion and critique regarding the rules of the game.
In the neoliberal era, argumentation and logic based on economic rationale have become the norm even in welfare states like Finland. The argumentative logic expressed in public (media) discourse reflects the clash between pro-market demands and societal concerns. The Nokia Corporation spearheaded a small Nordic nation out of a recession and into global markets, convincing many that Finland’s future lay beyond the welfare state. What was good for Nokia was reconceptualized as being good for Finland. The findings presented in this chapter identify competing argumentative structures – welfare statist employee frame or neoliberal market frame – that constituted Finnish public discourse in 2007–2013. The findings show a narrowing of scope in economic argumentation across three Finnish newspapers with distinct audience profiles. Instead of plurality of viewpoints, the media argumentation promotes pro-market interpretations.
Analysis of how policy-makers and legislators represent social actors in texts can give valuable insight into their conceptualisation of objects of governance. Drawing on Van Leeuwen’s methodological work in Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and the theoretical perspective of Cultural Political Economy (CPE), this chapter shows how to analyse the representation of social actors using the example of significant shifts toward ‘competition’ in UK policy on the governance of its gas industry. The chapter analyses the representation of social actors in the ‘texts’ of two parliamentary ‘second reading debates’ (in 1985 and 1995) and shows how current problems in the UK’s competitive energy markets are, effectively, prefigured in the way social actors had been represented in the conceptualisation of competition during these debates. The chapter concludes that analysis of the representation of social actors gives a powerful method for uncovering implicit conceptualisation of objects of governance.
Hendrik Theine and Maria Rieder
Many societies around the world have witnessed a decisive trend towards an increasing inequality of income and wealth. A sign of economic inequality establishing a foothold in the realm of political and economic discourse was the surprise popularity of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century (Capital). This chapter looks at the print media treatment of Capital in four European countries. Using a critical discursive perspective on economics relations, we investigate discourses in Britain, Germany, Ireland and Austria specifically in relation to Piketty’s economic policy proposals to increase the taxation of wealth and income. We draw on the concept of legitimation as well as proximation to discuss the most commonly used argumentative strategies for and against Piketty’s proposals. Providing examples for each of the strategies, we show and critique the routinisation and conversationalisation of hegemonic discourse, demonstrating how boundaries between information and persuasion as well as ‘objective’ power relationships get blurred.
This chapter presents the theoretical underpinnings of historical ethnography in the analysis of policy discourse and examines key methodological considerations in studies which take this approach. I begin by situating such research theoretically according to three dimensions, the discursive, ethnographic and historiographic, pointing out existing synergies between relatively distinct theoretical and methodological traditions. To examine how policy analyses can benefit from integrating these approaches, I then present a case study in which this methodology was applied, focussing on the development and implementation of a language policy in Slovenia. I show how the use of historiographic methods of gathering sources and a discursive approach to analysing them allowed me to develop a detailed description of a highly complex policy text despite having no direct access to back-stage political deliberations.
This chapter presents a synergy between Historical Materialist Policy Analysis (HMPA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of practical argumentation as an instrument to investigate hegemony struggles. How to merge HMPA and CDA and why? Does only CDA contribute to enhancing HMPA or does it also work the other way round? These questions are discussed by applying the suggested HMPA–CDA research framework to an empirical analysis of the hegemony struggles going on in Italy’s political economy under the government of Mario Monti (2011–2012) with a particular focus on the conflict over the 2012 labour market reform. Through detailed references to the study of the Italian case the chapter aims to advance a research agenda interested in the study of hegemony as an object of inherently transdisciplinary empirical investigation and to contribute to the debate over the necessity to strike a balance between the attention to semiotic and extra-semiotic elements at play in hegemony struggles.