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The contribution of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to policy analysis

Building R19, Room 524, School of Education
Friday 8 March 2013 (11:00-12:30)

Kamran Khan/Ildegrada da Costa Cabral
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With speaker Norman Fairclough (Emeritus Professor, Lancaster University)


I shall discuss the potential contribution of CDA to policy analysis through a comparison with recent papers in the journal Critical Policy Studies and in Fischer & Gottweis (2012) which discuss the contribution to policy analysis of Cultural Political Economy (CPE) on the one hand (Jessop 2009, Sum 2009) and Poststructuralist Discourse Analysis (PDA) on the other (Howarth 2009, Howarth & Griggs 2012). CDA, CPE and PDA agree with those in policy studies who adopt broadly ‘interpretivist’ (anti-positivist) positions that there needs to be a ‘discursive (or semiotic) turn’ in policy studies. CPE and PDA have both drawn upon CDA to achieve a better analytical purchase, and CDA has sought to work in a ‘transdisciplinary’ way with particularly CPE so that it can properly address (as it aspires to) dialectical relations between semiotic and material facets of social change. But as well as this common ground, there are significant differences between CDA and the other two over what the ‘discursive turn’ should amount to. The comparison between CDA and CPE/PDA is a way of addressing contentious issues over what exactly discourse analysis can contribute to policy analysis (as well as political analysis more generally and political economic analysis).

I shall discuss in particular the contentious issue of what role analysis of argumentation should have in critical approaches to policy analysis. Argumentation analysis is widely associated with a Habermasian position which is taken to be incompatible with critical social analysis (both CPE and PDA see themselves by contrast as Gramscian). The ‘argumentative turn’ in policy studies (Fischer & Forester 1993, Fischer 2003) would seem to have such a Habermasian orientation, notably in viewing the task of policy analysts as facilitating the achievement of consensus in policy debate. But Isabela Fairclough and I argue, in Fairclough & Fairclough (2012), that argumentation analysis is compatible with the concerns and objectives of CDA and other critical approaches, and indeed can strengthen CDA in certain important ways. My aim will be to show, with reference in particular to policy responses to the current financial and economic crises, how our approach to the integration of CDA and argumentation theory and analysis helps to address certain limitations of CPE and PDA with respect to the ‘discursive turn’, and might help to enhance the contribution that they can make to policy analysis.

Registration is from 10:00 in the Foyer of the School of Education. Tea & coffee will be available on arrival.

This lecture is organised by Doctoral Students from the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism and is open to all.

Cost: free of charge (but registration is required)

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