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Concepts in the Social Sciences

Discourse

David Howarth

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Details of such licences (for repro­ graphic reproduction) may be obtained from the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd of 90 Tottenham Court Road. Oxford . Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review. em. photocopying. or transmitted.Open University Press Celtic Court 22 Ballmoor Buckingham MK181XW email: enquiries@openup. in any form or by any means. Scarborough Printed and bound in Great Britain by Marston Book Services Limited. David. ISBN 0-335-20071-0 .uk and 325 Chestnut Street Philadelphia. London. mechanical. .co. USA First Published 2000 Copyright © David Howarth. II.) 1.(Concepts in the social sciences) Includes bibliographical references and index. 2000 All rights reserved. 1963­ DiscourselDavid Howarth. Series.H67 2000 00-034658 401t . electronic. WIP OLP. P302. I.openup.ISBN 0-335-20070-2 (pbk. Discourse analysis. Title. no part of this publication may be reproduced. without the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency Limited.41-dc21 Typeset by Type Study. p.co.uk world wide web: www. stored in a retrieval system. recording or otherwise. PA 19106. A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library ISBN 0 335 20070 2 (pb) 033520071 0 (hb) ForAletta and James Library of CongressCataloging-in-PublicationData Howarth.

have used the concept of dis­ course to define and explain problems in their respective fields of study. and the consequent rise of new approaches such . These include a growing dissatisfaction with mainstream positivist approaches to social science.Introduction: Defining the Concept of Discourse The concept of discourse plays an increasingly significant role in contemporary social science. Although originating in disciplines such as linguistics and semiotics. Scholars in academic disciplines as diverse as anthropology. psychoanalysis and social psychology. political theory and international relations. discourse analysis has been extended to many branches of the human and social sciences. Neverthe­ less. not to men­ tion linguistics and literary theory. his­ tory and sociology. It is also a product of the belated impact of the so-c. public policy analysis. Its growing prominence is not only evident in the increasing number of studies which use the concepts and methods of discourse analy­ sis.:alled 'linguistic tum' on the social sciences. and the weakening of its hegemony in disciplines such as political science and sociology. attention ought to be focused on a series of connected factors. cultural. but also visible in the widening scope of its deployment. political science. 1 The reasons for this explosion of interest are complex and it is not the aim of this book to explore them in any detail. gender and post-colonial studies.

1992. in order to account for the specific causal impact of these objects they need to be placed in relation to other social objects. that is. Generally speaking. Moreover. have led to a novel conception of discourse and a specific way of conducting discourse analysis (van Dijk 1985. it is important for discourse analysts to apply their abstract theories and concepts to empirical research questions so as to produce novel interpretations. economic processes. For example. and its subsequent take­ up by practitioners in disciplines such as cultural studies and liter­ ary theory. discourses are regarded as particular objects with their own properties and powers. Rorty 1992a. Fairclough 1989. Others see discourse as synonymous with the entire social system. . in which case 'the discursive is coterminous with the being of objects'. Thus. such as the state. 1996: 6). critical theory and post-structuralism following in its wake (Dallmayr and McCarthy 1977. everything became discourse'. This means that if one is to provide a proper 'grammar' of the use of the concept. 1997b. the emergence of a distinctive field of discourse analysis within the discipline of linguistics during the 19708. this approach stresses the underlying 'material resources which make discourses possible'. the resur­ gence of Marxist theory in the West. realist accounts of discourse place much greater emphasis on what they call the ontological dimensions of discourse theory and analysis. 1997a. by which they mean 'the conscious strategic efforts by groups of people to fashion shared understandings of the world and of them­ selves that legitimate and motivate collective action' (McAdam et al. one needs to be sensitive to the various theoretical contexts in which it functions. Finlayson 1999: 47-68). The concept of discourse In the social sciences. As with other complex and contested concepts in the social sci­ ences. in which discourses literally constitute the social and political world. It is therefore crucial to show how the concepts and methods of discourse analysis can be 'operationalized' in meaningful ways. or at most a conversation between two people. and so on. discourses are primarily instru­ mental devices that can foster common perceptions and under­ standings for specific purposes. Stones 1996: 26-39). In short. This book focuses on developments in the social sciences. arguing that the 'study of the dynamics which structure texts has to be located in an account of the ways discourses reproduce and transform the material world' (Parker 1992: 1). as the concept of discourse has been employed in the social sciences.. Jaworski and Coupland 1999b. Jacques Derrida (1978a: 280) argues that 'when language invaded the universal problematic . the meaning. while accruing additional meanings and connotations.. Harre 1979. in this conception. Bhaskar 1978. positivists and empiricists argue that dis­ courses are best viewed as 'frames' or 'cognitive schemata'. This is especially pertinent given that there is some scepticism about the precise epistemological status and methodological suitability of discourse theory in the social sciences. Crucial to this ontology is the idea that the social world consists of an independently existing set of objects with inherent properties and intrinsic causal powers. Viewed as frames. For some. it has acquired greater technical and theoretical sophistication. Rabinow and Sullivan 1979. and the task of discourse analysis is to measure how effective they are in bringing about certain ends (Snow and Benford 1988). as there are no general accounts of the way in which the theories and methods of discourse analysis can be applied to this domain of study and research. have also contributed to a greater pluralization of the social sciences. Finally. The contingent interaction of these objects with their 'generative mechanisms' causes events and processes in the real world (Harre and Madden 1975. as well as the wider dissemi­ nation of psychoanalytic discourse in the social sciences. Willing 1999). These theoretical systems are laden with par­ ticular assumptions about the nature of the social world and the way that we attain knowledge of it. and to show the 'added value' of their studies in understanding and explaining the social world. In short. 1979. Similarly. scope and application of discourse is relative to the different theoretical systems in which it is embedded (Con­ nolly 1993: 10-44).2 Discourse Introduction 3 as hermeneutics. while Emesto Laclau and Chan­ tal Mouffe (1987: 84) use the concept of discourse to 'emphasize the fact that every social configuration is meaningful'. By contrast. the proliferating 'discourse about discourse' has resulted in rapid changes to the commonsensical meanings of the word. and the task of discourse analysis is to unravel 'the concep­ tual elisions and confusions by which language enjoys its power' (Parker 1992: 28). in which case it is necessary for realists 'to focus on language as a structured system in its own right'. discourse analysis is a very narrow enterprise that concentrates on a single utterance.

4 Discourse Introduction 5 While sharing the underlying assumptions of realism. Anthony Giddens and Jurgen Habermas. The approach developed in this book falls squarely into the post­ structuralist and post-Marxist traditions of analysis. Michel Foucault. Fairclough takes up this theme of 'the duality of social structure and human agency' by insisting that there is a mutually constituting relationship between discourses and the social systems in which they function. Fair­ clough and Ruth Wodak (1997: 259-60) use Giddens's theory of structuration to provide an overall sociological framework with which to conduct discourse analysis. post-structuralists and post-Marxists such as Jacques Derrida. discourses constitute symbolic systems and social orders. in which all human and social experience is structured according to the logic of differance. 1971. In these perspectives. I articulate aspects of Michel Foucault's approach to discourse analysis. incomplete and contingent systems of meaning. while Foucauldian discourse analysis is intent on showing the connection between 'discursive practices' and wider sets of 'non-discursive' activities and institutions (Foucault 1972. still evident in mainstream posi­ tivist and empiricist research programmes. 1982) argues for a conception of discourse as text or writing. with the post-Marxist conception of discourse developed by Emesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. discourses are normally viewed as ideological systems of meaning that obfuscate and naturalize uneven distributions of power and resources. 1991a). hermeneutics and post-Marxism. Marxists stress the way in which discourses have to be explained by refer­ ence to the contradictory processes of economic production and reproduction. This means that dis­ course analysis has the critical task of exposing the mechanisms by which this deception operates and of proposing emancipatory alternatives (Althusser 1969. which is then progres­ sively broadened and deepened by the emergence and extension of structuralist thought. 1987a) theory of communi­ cative action. realist and Marxist accounts in that he stresses the centrality of human meaning and understanding in explaining the social world. that it divorces ideas from social reality. Third. Emesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe put forward much more comprehensive concepts of discourse. I then examine how the critique of structural­ ism gives way to post-structuralist and post-Marxist approaches to discourse analysis. His explicitly 'hermeneutically in­ formed social theory' thus places greater emphasis on the actions and reflexivity of human agents in reproducing and changing social relationships. including the work of Antonio Gramsci. They go further than the hermeneutical emphasis on social meaning by regarding social structures as inherently ambiguous. which brings together three anti-positivistic tradi­ tions of intellectual inquiry . 1987) decon­ struct the Marxist theory of ideology and draw upon post-struc­ turalist philosophy to develop a concept of discourse that includes all the practices and meanings shaping a particular community of social actors. especially his various methodological suggestions and strictures. In this perspective. Norman Fairclough and his school integrate a wide range of sociological and philosophical currents of thought. nor does it examine Jurgen Habermas's (1984. Zizek 1994). I examine a number of key criticisms levelled against this perspective. Laclau and Mouffe (1985. Second. Derrida (1978a. 1976) hermeneutic account of discourse. although I will distinguish and defend it against the other perspectives. Wodak 1996. Aims and arguments of this book This book has five main aims. Louis AIthusser. though it does consider the latter's critiques of post­ structuralist models and does endeavour to clarify the relationship between post-structuralist and hermeneutical approaches. I examine a number of different meanings and uses of the concept of discourse by concen­ trating on-its deployment to ever wider aspects of the social world. Hence it does not include Paul Ricoeur's (1971. Finally. and the task of discourse analysis is to examine their historical and political construction and functioning. I sketch out a movement that begins with a narrow and technical conception of discourse analysis. To begin with. 1981. Mikhail Bakhtin. For obvious reasons of time and space this genealogy is not exhaustive. and that its conception of society gives free .post-structuralism. These include arguments that discourse theory con­ centrates simply on linguistic texts and practices. Giddens's (1984) theory of society differs from positivist. Pecheux 1982. For their part. For instance. The task of discourse analy­ sis is thus to examine this dialectical relationship and to expose the way in which language and meaning are used by the powerful to deceive and oppress the dominated. For instance. to develop what they call critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1989. Fairclough and Wodak 1997). More specifically. Michel Foucault. I put forward a particular approach to discourse theory and analysis.

As against empiricist. agency and power. the production of subjectivity and the logic of decision making. in which the nature of the objective world determines the character and veracity of discourses. in the wake of the growing centrality of structuralism. and need to develop further. Fourth. as well as to indi­ cate areas of possible future research. and the connection between the role of identities and interests in the social sciences. I consider some of the methodological devices that dis­ course theorists have developed. we speak' (Foucault 1972: 49). However. discourse analysis is con­ cerned with the investigation of 'language in use' and attention is focused on the analysis of 'talk and text in context' (van Dijk 1997b: 3). A further aspect of this research has concentrated on the accepted principles that usually govern the logic of 'tum-taking' in conversations. hermeneutics and Marxism in the social sci­ ences during the 1960s and 1970s. For example. I also examine some import­ ant theoretical questions that can fruitfully be addressed from a discursive approach. such as psychiatric interviews. in which speakers adopt certain 'speaker roles' and are encouraged to speak by con­ ventional markers such as body language. Let us consider each of these objectives in more depth. I draw upon styles of research gleaned from the writings of Jacques Derrida. endeavour to deduce from observation what speakers are doing and how they are doing it (Trask 1999:57).6 Discourse Introduction 7 rein to the idea that there are no constraints on social and political action to the extent that 'anything goes'. when applying discourse theory to empirical research objects. In his earlier 'archaeological' writings. According to this particular form of discourse analysis. their research shows that a key principle that structures conversations is the avoidance of 'holes' and 'inter­ sections' between speakers. they are performing speech acts. In this view. Michel Foucault and Ferdinand de Saussure in order to counter the charge that discourse theorists and analysts are no more than methodological anarchists. Traditionally. discourse analysts such as Schegloff and Sacks (1973) have examined the organization and logic of 'tum-taking' in con­ versations. they do intend to keep their promises or are authorized to name ships . and meets their requisite 'felicity con­ ditions' . Austin (1975) and John Searle (1969). discourse analysis is rather narrowly construed and focuses primarily on the rules governing connected sets of sen­ tences in speech or writing. the work of Michel Foucault is particularly perti­ nent. More concretely. In the language of analytical philosophers such as J. which is the study of the way in which individuals experience their everyday activities. individuals' positions within larger institutional structures. I present a series of empirical examples and cases designed to illustrate some of the advantages of employing discourse theory. the construction of hegemonic formations. In particu­ lar. and overall societal organisation' (Jaworski and Coupland 1999a: 21). the complexities of political identity and difference. speech act theory focuses on the fact that by saying something we are also doing something. realist and Marxist conceptions. Discourses are thus 'practices that sys­ tematically form the objects of which. While I show that these criticisms are wide of the mark. Foucault (1970. When someone utters a statement such as 'I promise' or 'I name this ship the Queen Mary'. Finally. these insights enable us to understand 'patterns of indi­ vidual relations between interactants. and they consist of historically specific 'rules of formation' that determine the difference between grammatically well-formed statements and 'what is actually said' at particular times and places (Foucault 1991a: 63). relativists and 'armchair theorizers'. tone and certain ritualized words. I do argue that there are certain aspects of discourse theory which are in need of further refinement and development. Foucault argues that . theories of discourse have undergone three sig­ nificant transformations.they are also performing an act. These include theorizing the relationship between structure. L. the concept of discourse has been extended to a wider set of social practices and phenomena. conversation analysts drawing largely on Garfinkel's (1967) sociological method of ethnomethodology. In this regard. in the course of developing these arguments. and I offer ways of extending the research pro­ gramme. gaze. by trying to identify the intended meanings of a speaker's utterance and the responses of hearers (Labov and FansheI1977).in other words. In a related vein. For instance. post-structuralism. Discourse analysts working in this tradition have elaborated complex typolo­ gies of different sorts of speech act and have tried to explain differ­ ent aspects of communication. A briefgenealogy of discourse Very schematically.1973) stresses the way discursive practices form the objects and subjects of discursive formations.

8 Discourse Introduction 9 certain discursive rules enable subjects to produce objects. On the contrary. Three basic categories are needed to unpack and elaborate upon this complex set of statements. state­ ments. These are the categories of the discursive. and classical liberal ideas about the free market and homo economi­ cus on the other. By contrast. an obstacle to the building of a motorway. he shows how these elements were linked together by establishing a clear set of political frontiers between the so-called 'Wets' and 'Drys' within the Conservative Party. such that discourses and discursive practices are synonymous with systems of social relations. as well as the dislocatory effects of events beyond their control (Laclau 1990: 31. or a unique ecosystem. which develops partly out of Foucault's various contributions. It thus inquires into the way in which social practices construct and contest the discourses that constitute social reality. The third phase of discourse analysis. so as to include non-discursive practices and elements. The construction of discourses thus involves the exercise of power and a consequent structuring of the relations between different social agents (see Dyrberg 1997). Marxist and post-Marxist insights. However. which I shall simply call discourse theory. Laclau and Mouffe's approach. Rather than describing the historical rules that make possible sets of state­ ments. discourse and discourse analy­ sis. 2000) critical discourse analysis widens the focus of discourse theory to include the analysis of politi­ cal texts and speeches. Heidegger 1962. and it is to its basic contours that I shall now tum. as their formation is an act of radical institution which involves the construction of antagonisms and the drawing of political frontiers between 'insiders' and 'outsiders'. Foucault is now concerned with the way in which discourses are shaped by social practices and the way they in turn shape social relationships and institutions. and partly from Derridean. discourses are concrete systems of social relations and practices that are intrinsically political. By the discursive I mean that all objects are objects of dis­ course. A forest might be an object of intrinsic natural beauty. as well as between those who supported the crisis-ridden . Discourse theory begins with the assumption that all objects and actions are meaningful. it avoids the charges of scepticism and idealism by arguing that we are always within a world of signifying practices and objects. as well as the contexts in which they are pro­ duced. In other words. human beings are 'thrown into' a world of meaningful discourses and practices. In this book I argue for the latter perspective.-Q). enlarges the scope of dis­ course analysis to include all social practices. At this lower level of abstraction. and thus remain a distinct level of the overall social system. depending on the horizon of classificatory rules and differences that confers meaning to it. which are always vulnerable to those political forces excluded in their production. and it is this world that enables them to identify and engage with the objects they encounter (Heidegger 1962: 91-148. discourses are still understood as the semiotic dimension of social practice. 1988). In his later 'genealogical' writings. using Heidegger's terminology. Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 108. on the one hand. Foucault (1987) modifies his quasi-structuralist conception of discourse. the family. tradition and patriotism. These practices are possible because sys­ tems of meaning are contingent and can never completely exhaust a social field of meaning. Fairclough's (1989: 25. Hall demonstrates how the construction of Thatcherite ideology involved the articulation of a number of disparate dis­ cursive elements. 'Eng­ lishness'. I will take the category of discourse to refer to historically specific systems of meaning which form the identities of subjects and objects (Foucault 1972: 49). This idea of the discursive as a horizon of meaningful practices and significant differences does not reduce everything to language or entail scep­ ticism about the existence of the world. concepts and strategies. Throughout. Moreover. Barrett 1991: 76-7). and he is at pains to think critically about the different strategies and techniques of conducting research. such that its denial is logically impossible (Wittgenstein 1953. considerably expands the scope of discourse analysis. Discourse theory (Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 107). discourses are con­ tingent and historical constructions. Foucault's approach to discourse analysis emphasizes the methodological requirements of such an enterprise. Moreover. and that their meaning is a product of his­ torically specific systems of rules. These included values traditionally associated with the British Conservative Party about law and order. in that a condition of their meaning depends upon a socially constructed system of rules and significant differences Stuart Hall's discussion of 'Thatcherism' in the UK constitutes a fine example of what I mean by a political discourse (Hall 1983. 1985: 246). which together constitute dis­ courses.

or an inherent characteristic of texts. This means that discourse analysts treat a wide range of linguistic and non-linguistic material ­ speeches. so other writers began to identify weak­ nesses in the key assumptions of structuralist thinking. and the exclusion of human subjectivity and agency from the social world. \ Introduction II Three traditions Discourse theory critically engages with the structuralist. ideas. the discursive approach advocated in this book borrows selectively from the hermeneutical tradition of inquiry. the structuralist tradition of thought is the major influence on the development of discourse theory. For instance. the theory of rhetoric and tropes. the analysis of different modes of production and social formations. In particu­ lar.76-8). behaviouralist and structuralist accounts of social life that concentrate simply on observable facts and actions. . In opposition to theories of lan­ guage which assert that words and language refer to a world of objects. Charles Taylor and Peter Winch in order to interpret the meanings and self-understandings of actions. to understand the meaning of the word 'mother'. the fixed relations between elements of systems. rather than pinpointing their causal mechanisms. Roman Jakobson and Louis Hjelmslev. words and prac­ tices. and Laclau and Mouffe's logics of equivalence and difference (Howarth 1998: 284-8. Discourse analysis refers to the process of analysing signifying practices as discursive forms. Jacques Lacan. even organizations and institutions . While originators of the structuralist model of language such as Saussure were convinced that it could be extended to all signify­ ing systems and practices. discourse theorists do not endeavour to uncover the underlying meanings of. On the other hand. manifestos. as well as the exploration of various symbolic codes. These included the explanation of the role of myths in society. structuralists argue that meaning depends on relations between different elements of a system. In endeavouring to resolve difficulties of this sort. reports. Wittgenstein's concep­ tion of rule following. nor do they simply seek to recover the interpretations actors give to their practices. the formation of human subjectivity in language. policies. phrases.as 'texts' or 'writings' that enable subjects to experience the world of objects. Saussure's linguistic distinctions. discourse theory stands against those positivist. eating and playing sport. This allows discourse theorists to draw upon and develop a number of concepts and methods in linguistic and literary theory commensurate with its ontological assumptions. 'daughter'. It was thus left to later structuralist theorists such as Claude Levi-Strauss. In the second place. These include Derrida's 'method' of deconstruction. Foucault's archaeological and genealogical approaches to discourse analysis. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Meaning is thus an effect of the formal differences between terms. This means that one of the major goals of dis­ cursive social inquiry is to discover the historically specific rules and conventions that structure the production of meaning in a particu­ lar social context. 'son' and so on (Laclau 1993: 432). interviews. that give meaning to everyday life in society. Instead. Moreover. as the original model was extended to cover a greater range of social phenomena. Michel Foucault and Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe were to question some of the underlying assumptions of structuralism. By contrast. On the one hand. . expressions and sentences. drawing on post-structuralist theories of language. words. objects or practices. writers such as Jacques Derrida. they did not provide the resources to carry out such a project. As developed by thinkers such as Ferdinand de Saussure. hermeneutical and Marxist traditions of thinking. Louis Althusser and Roland Barthes to use the structural model of language to eluci­ date a greater range of social phenomena. social practices that are somehow concealed from actors. This precluded the emergence of dis­ course analysis as the original linguistic model could' only be applied to the analysis of signifiers.10 Discourse discourse of social democracy and those who wanted its radical restructuring. This sug­ gests that meanings reside in social practices waiting to be retrieved or discovered by the interpreter and that once discerned can be communicated transparently from one subject to the next. and not the result of any correlation between words and things. one must understand related terms like 'father'. or which disregard everyday social meanings in favour of unconscious struc­ tural laws. questions were raised about the historical construction of systems. historical events. structuralists focus on the way in which meaning and signification are a product of a system of signs. such as cooking. To begin with. Stavrakakis 1999: 57-9. thus making possible what have become known as post-structuralist ways of thinking. discourse theorists draw upon hermeneutical philosophers such as Martin Heidegger.

As against charges of 'methodologicalanarchism' or 'epistemological ir­ rationalism'. The distinctive aspect of the Marxist approach to discourse is the way in which ideas. and of substituting subjec­ tivist and methodological anarchistic accounts of social phenomena. it makes a useful analogy between linguistic and social systems. It was thus left to later Marxist theoreticians such as Antonio Gramsci. Mouzelis 1990. Moreover. Dallmayr 1989. institutions and natural constraints on the pro­ duction and transformation of social meanings. It is also concerned with the role of social agents in criticizing and contesting relations of exploitation and domi­ nation. there are some important theoretical and conceptual issues that need further clarification if discourse theory is to make a meaningful contri­ bution to our analysis of the social and political world. Amongst these are a series of methodological queries about the strategies and styles of carrying out discourse analysis. Critique and evaluation material conditions. Positivists accuse discourse theorists of abandoning the systematic collection of objective facts. post-structuralist and hermeneutical traditions of thinking. the models of ideology in classical Marxism reduced ideologies to more determinate social processes such as economic production and class struggle. I show that discourse theory does not reduce the social world to language understood narrowly as text or speech. though it is far from uncontroversial. Wood 1998). they remain imprisoned within the overarching assumptions of Marxist theory. I also argue that discourse theory's underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions circumvent the charge of relativism which has been brought by a number of commentators. Aronowitz 1992. However. Realist. despite these advances. I put forward styles of research that can 'operationalize' its overarch­ ing assumptions about society and politics. post-Marxists have begun to elaborate a relational and anti-essentialist approach to the study of discourse by pursuing possibilities foreclosed in the Marxist tradition. behaviouralists argue that discourse theorists' concern with meanings and language precludes a value-free inquiry into social and political behaviour. this has the consequence of neglecting the An important aim of this book concerns the application of discourse theory to specific empirical cases showing how this approach can be used to study different aspects of society and politics.Mouffe 1996.Sim 1998. Similarly. Critics also allege that discourse theorists fall prey to conceptual and moral relativism which renders them incapable of making claims to truth and valid­ ity. I do not present discourse theory as a complete and wholly unproblematic approach to social and political analysis. and argue that the very conditions that make possible the transmission of meaning -language as a pre-existing system of differences . Marxism constitutes the third major influence on the emergence and development of discourse theory.12 Discourse Introduction 13 discourse theorists understand meaning as an effect of 'the play of signifiers'. and entails an over-exaggeration of ideological and subjective factors. they seek to provide new interpretations of social practices by situating their meanings in broader historical and structural contexts.also render it problematical. thus providing a powerful means to conduct social and political analysis. It is this synthesis that constitutes the main focus of this book. In evaluating discourse theory. rather than locating interpretations at either the surface or depth levels of society. 1990. By drawing upon structuralist. Although it opens up powerful new ways of interpreting and evaluating empirical evidence. language and consciousness are regarded as ideological phenomena that have to be explained by reference to underlying economic and political processes. Never­ theless. For them. 1988. Applying discourse theory The theory of discourse that I have begun to outline is strongly con­ tested and has provoked considerable debate (cf Geras 1987. and/or of making objective value judgements about the objects they study. Louis Althusser and Michel Pecheux to try and develop non-reductionist and anti­ essentialist accounts of society and historical change. Marxist and pos­ itivist critiques concentrate on the alleged idealism and textualism of. I argue that existing critiques are unsatisfactory because they concentrate their attacks on the ontical rather than ontological levels of analysis. rather than its purely mental or (mis)representational qualities. I also tackle the question of applying discourse theory to empirical cases without subsuming . which have sometimes been levelled at the approach. Osborne 1991. discourse theory. Instead. arguing that it reduces social systems to ideas and language. However. These writers stress the material and practical characteristics of ideology.

and for linguistics and literary theory (Coulthard 1977. Chapter 4 . thus making possible the development of a post-structuralist theory of discourse understood as writing or text. Hall 1998). I begin by introducing Saussure's structural­ ist theory of language. the so-called application problem raised above. It raises and addresses a number of epistemological and methodological diffi­ culties encountered in conducting discourse-theoretical research. The chapter concludes with a set of methodological guidelines for applying discourse theory. 1997. 1997. It concludes by raising and addressing a series of questions in need of further clarification and investigation. I explore Laclau and Mouffe's post-Marxist theory of discourse. Torfing 1999). . Williams and Chrisman 1993). It con­ cludes with a deconstructive account of the Marxist approach to ideology and politics. Hajer 1995.Clifford 1988. for cultural. and evaluates the degree to which Western Marxists such as Gramsci. Moreover. Chapter 1 examines the structuralist model of language and its implications for developing a discursive approach to social and political analysis. Derrida's deconstructive methodology uncovers possi­ bilities that are foreclosed by Saussure and the structuralist tra­ dition. after which I consider the way in which Levi­ Strauss deploys this model of language to analyse social relations as symbolic systems. the appropriate methods and styles of discourse analysis. George 1994. for psycho­ analysis and social psychology (Potter and Wetherell 1987. Note 1 See. Chapter 7 concludes the book by discussing the application of discourse theory to actual empirical research.14 Discourse Introduction 15 them under its abstract categories or giving in to naive positivism. Fowler 1981. gender and post-colonial studies (Hall 1997. public policy analysis.1987. Munslow 1992. I argue that within discourse theory there is a set of yard­ sticks with which to measure and evaluate the plausibility and ade­ quacy of the empirical accounts made in its name. Chapter 5 examines the classical Marxist theory of ideology and politics. I argue that this audacious attempt to develop an autonomous and critical account of discursive practice runs aground because it contradicts Foucault's stated aim of providing a purely historical description of meaningless statements.Burman and Parker 1993). history and sociology (White 1978. I show how these difficulties can be overcome. manifest in his methods of genealogy and problematization. Dryzek 1994. Althusser and Pecheux were able to transcend the limitations of the Marxist approach. I argue for a complex theory of truth in which the truth and falsity of cases is relative to a frame­ work of meaning (or paradigm) within which problems are identi­ fied and analysed. thus paving the way for a consideration of the post-Marxist alternative. Milliken 1999. Chapter 2 draws upon Derrida's deconstruction of the structural model of language to argue that Saussure and Levi­ Strauss are unable to develop a coherent conception of discourse. Williams 1999). political theory and international relations (Apter 1987. provides a much more secure basis for analysing the relationship between discursive and non-discursive practices. Instead. and issues surrounding the generation and evaluation of evidence. Plan of the book The chapters and structure of the book reflect its principal aims and arguments. for political science. Drawing on the philosophy of Heidegger and Foucault. for anthropology.Jaworski and Coupland 1999b. In Chapters 5 and 6. Thus it is the community of scholars that forms the ultimate tribunal of judgement in the social sciences and it is the production of paradigm studies that determines the progressive or degenerate status of the discourse theory research programme. Chapters 3 and 4 evaluate Foucault's different accounts of dis­ course theory and analysis. I begin by considering Foucault's archaeological account of discourse as elaborated in his earlier writ­ ings. By drawing on a range of existing discursive studies.shows how Foucault's later approach to the study of discourse. Chapter 6 introduces and evaluates Laclau and Mouffe's post-Marxist theory of discourse. Dant 1991. Jenkins 1991. and critically explores the approach to social and political analysis that follows from this conception. These include questions pertaining to the definition of objects of study.