Actas del II Congreso de la Región Noroeste de Europa de la Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de América Latina (ALFAL)

8.2 Theoretical Background and Methodology

The methods of text analysis used in this paper have been developed against the background of the theories mentioned in 8.1.

Jessop looks at the development of the capitalist state as a succession of different accumulation strategies. In The future of the Capitalist State he describes in detail the transition of the Keynesian National Welfare State into the Schumpeterian Competitive Workfare State. Each dominant accumulation strategy goes together with a period of balance that consists of a compatible political and hegemonic project in a certain period. Jessop calls this a spatio temporal fix, in the sense that these political and hegemonic projects are in harmony with the dominant accumulation strategy and enjoy the acceptance of both dominant and dominated sectors of society (Jessop 2002:48-51). However, when a crisis occurs, a battle arises between different projects and strategies. These tend to involve a discursive struggle that focuses on the defence of a new project and the articulation of a new economic and political model. This implies a hegemonic struggle. In order to win ground for a particular strategy, the forces behind that strategy will need to gain universal acceptance. In this sense, Jessop emphasises the importance of discourse and narrative. In fact, Jessop bases his theory on CDA and discourse analysis as developed by Laclau and Mouffe (1985), who developed a theory on hegemony in the sense of Gramsci (1971). Narrative is an important tool for processes of political and social change. Political models are complex, and it requires discursive selectivity to make sense of politics. It is through narrative that this selection takes place, and that events are being backgrounded or foregrounded. Within narrative an evaluation takes place, and through narrative, subjects are positioned in a particular way. Narrative helps to make sense of a particular, subjective, or imagined vision on reality (Jessop 2002:6-7). Social agents that promote change tend to have a story to tell about what went wrong in the past, who was responsible for this failure and the account of a new strategy that will be more successful.

Laclau and Mouffe have developed a version of discourse analysis in which they claim that the social agent is a discursive construct that is never complete, or closed in their terms. Society is a myth, a social construct that is never complete. Social relations and social institutions are open to challenge. The same holds true for economic and political strategies. There may be a time that society and its elements are relatively stable. In such a period, there seems to be an objective reality that is taken for granted - say social justice in the context of the welfare society. Objective views tend to become political and contested in times of crisis. New strategies for change are then launched. Different agents compete for achieving hegemony for their alternative strategies. This leads to a hegemonic struggle in which narrative and discourse play an important role. Just as society has not a fixed, universal meaning as such, words do not have an unambiguous, unchangeable meaning (Laclau and Mouffe 1985:105-108; Phillips and Jørgensen 2002:36-7). The process of defining new strategies or attacking existing ones, is in part a discursive struggle to gain acceptance for new articulations and new concepts (Fairclough 2003:45).

Subsequently, CDA is of importance to Jessop's political theory, as it links detailed linguistic analysis to social change. I will rely on Fairclough's version of CDA, especially his focus on orders of discourse and his analysis in relation to social problems such as hegemony. Fairclough indicates three cyclical elements in a dialectic between discourse and social life in relation to Jessop's theory:

Inculcation implies that the new reality is adopted as common sense, in which case a new objective (in Laclau and Mouffe's terms) social reality would have been reached. I will use these major elements in the sense that I will first discuss the competing narratives, then I will apply an interdiscursive analysis in order to relate discourse to social practice through the analysis of discourse, genre and styles. I will also use Laclau and Mouffe's theory on Discourse Analysis to indicate how the articulation of a particular discourse leads to the materialization of social action. Finally I will return to the spatio-temporal fix to evaluate materialized achievements.

I distinguish narrative from discourse in the following way: I see narrative as a textual part of discourse that provides a subjective logic to any strategic plan. I see discourse as a more generally established way of looking at reality, for instance: the discourses of the church, neoliberalism, etc. As such, they are more fixed in their ways (Fairclough 1995:94; 2003:17). From an analytical point of view, I see the analysis of narrative as a particular version of content analysis.1 Compared to content analysis, narrative is probably a better tool to grasp the subjective logic that directs a particular narrative.

Based on this theoretical background, the data will be submitted to the following methods:

Out of the available theories on narrative I have followed Jessop in selecting Somers's account on narrative, since she developed categories especially for the social sciences, as will be pointed out below (Somers 1994).

Interdiscursivity, the analysis of discourses, styles and genres, is central to Fairclough's version of CDA, since the interdiscursive analysis links changes in discourse (and genres and styles) to changes in social practice (Fairclough 2003:35).

Each of these methods will be explained in the respective introductory paragraphs.

1 See Titscher et al. (2000: chapter 5) for a description of content analysis.

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Volumen 22 (2005)
ISSN: 1139-8736