Topics: Sociology, Discourse analysis, Critical discourse analysis Pages: 37 (12443 words) Published: April 29, 2012
Critical discourse analysis
Norman Fairclough

‘Critical discourse analysis’ (henceforth CDA) subsumes a variety of approaches towards the social analysis of discourse (Fairclough & Wodak 1997, Pêcheux M 1982, Wodak & Meyer 2001) which differ in theory, methodology, and the type of research issues to which they tend to give prominence. My own work in this area has also changed to some extent in these respects between the publication of Language and Power (Longman 1989) and the publication of Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research (2003). My current research is on processes of social change in their discourse aspect (Fairclough 1992 is an early formulation of a version of CDA specialized for this theme). More specifically, I am concerned with recent and contemporary processes of social transformation which are variously identified by such terms as ‘neo-liberalism’, ‘globalisation’, ‘transition’, ‘information society’, ‘knowledge-based economy’ and ‘learning society’. I shall focus here on the version of CDA I have been using in more recent (partly collaborative) work (Chiapello & Fairclough 2002, Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999, Fairclough 2000a, 2000b, 2003, 2004, Fairclough, Jessop & Sayer 2004).

Methodologically, this approach entails working in a ‘transdisciplinary’ way through dialogue with other disciplines and theories which are addressing contemporary processes of social change. ‘Transdisciplinary’ (as opposed to merely ‘interdisciplinary’, or indeed ‘postdisciplinary’, Sum & Jessop 2001) implies that the theoretical and methodological development (the latter including development of methods of analysis) of CDA and the disciplines/theories it is in dialogue with is informed through that dialogue, a matter of working with (though not at all simply appropriating) the ‘logic’ and categories of the other in developing one’s own theory and methodology (Fairclough forthcoming a). The overriding objective is to give accounts – and more precise accounts than one tends to find in social research on change - of the ways in which and extent to which social changes are changes in discourse, and the relations between changes in discourse and changes in other, non-discoursal, elements or ‘moments’ of social life (including therefore the question of the senses and ways in which discourse ‘(re)constructs’ social life in processes of social change). The aim is also to identify through analysis the particular linguistic, semiotic and ‘interdiscursive’ (see below) features of ‘texts’ (in a broad sense – see below) which are a part of processes of social change, but in ways which facilitate the productive integration of textual analysis into multi-disciplinary research on change.

Theoretically, this approach is characterized by a realist social ontology (which regards both abstract social structures and concrete social events as parts of social reality), a dialectical view of the relationship between structure and agency, and of the relationship between discourse and other elements or ‘moments’ of social practices and social events (discourse is different from – not reducible to – but not discrete from – ‘internalizes’ and is ‘internalized’ by (Harvey 1996) – other social elements).

I shall proceed as follows. In section 1 I shall give summarise main theoretical features of this version of CDA. In Section 2 I shall discuss the view of methodology, including methods of data collection and analysis, referring specifically to an aspect of ‘transition’ (and ‘globalisation’) in central and eastern Europe and more particularly in Romania: the project of developing ‘information societies’ and ‘knowledge-based economies’. I shall develop this example in Section 3, discussing the recontextualization of discourses of the ‘information society’ and ‘knowledge-based economy’ in a Romanian policy document.

1. Theoretical issues
The term ‘discourse’ is used in various ways...
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