Political Language

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Language is the life blood of politics. Political power struggles, and the legitimisation of political policies and authorities occurs primarily through discourse and verbal representations. Power can either be exercised through coercion or what US commentator Walter Lippman termed in the 1930s the manufacture of consent. Largely unable, and hopefully unwilling, to coerce; political authorities in so called democratic polities often need to manufacture consent in order to undertake their agendas. While this most obviously concerns relations between a government and its wider public, this process has profound effects on the workings inside governments and is an important aspect of socialisation into governmental work cultures. Put simply the manufacture of consent is a language based process of ideological indoctrination. While being astonishingly comprehensive, it is a remarkably subtle process. Discourse carries the very assumptions under which the things it alludes to are known and ordered in the context in which it is used. In concrete terms this means that the content of political language contains the very rationale by which it is to be framed, defined, understood and acted upon. Commonly this produces the manufacture of consent. Political language, as Michael Geis points out in The Language of Politics, conveys both the linguistic meaning of what is said and the corpus, or a part of it, of the political beliefs underpinning any given statement (p7). Whether circulating inside or outside governments this means that political discourse transmits and unconsciously reinforces the ideological foundations and the ways of knowing of the dominant political authorities. Applied to government agencies this means that the language of its official texts contains the means by which things are known and understood within these agencies. This means that official documents are shaped according to the way in which things are known and...
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