Discourse, Culture and Organization
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Discourse, Culture and Organization

Inquiries into Relational Structures of Power

Tomas Marttila, Tomas Marttila

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eBook - ePub

Discourse, Culture and Organization

Inquiries into Relational Structures of Power

Tomas Marttila, Tomas Marttila

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About This Book

This edited volume brings together leading international researchers from across the social sciences to examine the theoretical premises, methodological options and critical potentials of the Essex School of discourse analysis, founded on the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. In doing so, it presents a clear picture of a poststructuralist and post-foundational research program to postdisciplinary discourse research. Divided into three parts, it begins by elaborating the ontological, theoretical and methodological foundations of the Essex School's approach to discourse analysis. The second part provides empirical case studies showing how the Essex School research program informs and instructs empirical discourse research. In the concluding third part authors explain how and with what possible consequences this strand of discourse research contributes to social practices of critique. It offers a crucial contribution to the further methodologization and operationalization ofthe Essex School's approach so as to make it a viable alternative to discourse-analytical approaches that take dominant positions in today's 'field of discourse studies'. The book's transdisciplinary focus will attract readers who use discourse analysis in all areas of the social sciences and humanities, particularly applied linguistics, cultural anthropology, sociology, philosophy and history.

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© The Author(s) 2019
Tomas Marttila (ed.)Discourse, Culture and OrganizationPostdisciplinary Studies in Discoursehttps://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94123-3_1
Begin Abstract

1. Introduction to the Volume

Tomas Marttila1
Department of Sociology, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Munich, Germany
Tomas Marttila


Essex School in Discourse AnalysisErnesto LaclauHeuristic theoryResearch methodology
End Abstract


The ‘discursive turn’ has enriched social research and cultural studies with new ways of understanding and analyzing the social world as a discursively constructed reality. While many discourse analysts refer to the rise of a semiautonomous ‘field of discourse studies’ (e.g., Zienkowski 2017), Angermuller et al. (2014: 3) remind us that different discourse analytical approaches have always been ‘indebted to 
 more disciplinary traditions , which provide many productive tools and concepts to assist in meeting both the theoretical and methodological challenges involved in Discourse Studies’. The Essex School’s approach to discourse analysis elaborated in this book is no exception in that regard. The initial works of its originators—Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (e.g., Laclau 1977, 1980; Mouffe 1979)—already provide evidence of the intellectual inspiration drawn from scientific traditions , which include structuralist theories of culture, discourse and language (e.g., Benveniste, Foucault Jakobson, Saussure ), post-Marxist political theories (e.g., Althusser , Balibar, Gramsci), deconstruction (e.g., Derrida), post-phenomenological (or rather post-foundational) philosophy (e.g., Heidegger, Ranciùre) and post-Freudian psychoanalysis (e.g., Lacan ).
Without any doubt, these intellectual references located at the heart of the Essex School’s approach have a productive impact on discourse research because they allow us to cognize and—in a consistent manner—think about the all-embracing logic of social reality’s discursive structuration. However, this overwhelming intellectual indebtedness also has a potentially restrictive impact because it runs the risk of postponing or even completely impeding the possibility to take the step from theorizing about discourses to analyzing discourses. I am keen on arguing that no other discourse analytical approach, perhaps apart from some theoretically and methodologically sophisticated approaches to Foucaultian discourse analysis (Diaz-Bone 2006, 2010; Schmidt-Wellenburg 2009, 2014), embraces such a wide span of profound philosophical, theoretical and methodological ideas related to the discursive structuration of social reality. At the same time, however, earlier contributions to the Essex School’s approach to discourse analysis witness a gap between theoretical and methodical takes on discourses. This implies that discourse scholars have been either occupied with philosophical and theoretical debates about discourses and their ontological premises or—to a much lesser extent—have carried out empirical discourse research.
In my view, the systematic discussion of the discourse-theoretical perspective characteristic of the Essex School and the scientific methods aligned with this theoretical perspective is a relatively recent phenomenon that set in only around 10–12 years ago (e.g., Howarth 2005, 2006; Nonhoff 2006; also in this volume). Some recent publications by Glasze (2007a, b), Glynos and Howarth (2007, 2008), Marttila (2015a, b, 2018) and Zienkowski (2012) have gone a decisive methodical step further by starting to systematically discuss how the discursive structuration of reality manifests itself in empirical terms and what methods of empirical social research make it possible to locate and study these manifestations of discursivity in empirical material . It is apparent that the above described gap between discourse theory and empirical discourse analysis has not just begun to wither away, but the center of gravity has also moved toward empirical research. Based on my own experience gained from teaching the Essex School’s approach in postgraduate research and method courses, the philosophical and theoretical background of this particular strand of discourse analysis has often an intimidating impact on students. Many of them seem to fear that they have to invest a vast amount of time in theory work before they get even close to planning and carrying out empirical analysis. Indeed, in contrast to many more pragmatic and less theoretically elaborate language-centered approaches to discourse analysis (e.g., interpretative discourse analysis, conversation analysis, corpus linguistics), the Essex School’s approach to discourse analysis departs from a particular theoretical understanding of discourses and logics of discursive structuration of the reality. Hence, the methodologization and methodical operationalization of the Essex School’s approach must take place against the background of its characteristic discourse-theoretical framework. Torfing (2005: 24) cautions that we should not fall prey to a ‘discourse theory light’ and ‘merely pick up a few concepts and argument’ from the Essex School’s discourse theory but instead become aware of the ‘methodological choices’ it opens up for an ‘analysis of specific discursive formations’ in a more thoroughly and reflected manner (ibid., p. 25). In other words, it would be worthwhile thinking about and utilizing the Essex School’s approach in terms of ‘heuristic theory’ that provides ‘a body of propositions’ that on their part can ‘serve to map out the problem area and thus prepare the ground for its empirical investigation by appropriate methods’ (Nadel 1962: 1).
There is growing awareness about the theoretically informed logic of discourse research (see Nonhoff and Glynos and Howarth in this volume). For example, Glynos and Howarth (2007) make the case for a ‘retroductive’ logic which basically denotes that empirical discourse analysis must be conducted in the form of a dialogue between theoretical premises and the methodical options they provide. This volume’s primary aim is to make a crucial contribution to the further methodologization and operationalization of the Essex School’s approach so as to make it a viable alternative to discourse analytical approaches that take dominant positions in today’s ‘field of discourse studies’. Reflecting the nature of the task ahead, this edited volume includes contributions that tackle and discuss theoretical, methodological and research pragmatic issues related to the Essex School’s approach. This is the first English edited volume, which follows Howarth et al.’s (2000) Discourse Theory and Political Analysis, Critchley and Marchart’s (2004) Laclau: A Critical Reader and Howarth and Torfing’s (2005) Discourse Theory in European Politics, and gathers international discourse scholars to discuss the premises, possibilities, limitations and (ethico-moral) objectives of discourse research carried out along the lines of the Essex School’s approach. The contributions included in this volume are presented and made accessible to an international public for the first time. Being rooted in various scientific disciplines (cultural studies, economics, geography , language studies, political science, sociology, etc.), and being active within different research fields and areas, the authors will take their own research experience as a starting point and discuss the following matters in their contributions:
  1. 1.
    how they relate themselves to, conceive of and make use of the Essex School’s approach in their research
  2. 2.
    what th...

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