- What is Power ?
|If we knew what power was, we could measure it, collect
it, and perhaps even sell it. However, it seems that it is an idea
we use, and some people, some systems, organisations and countries
seem to have more of it than others.
CDA is very interested in power, and this interest motivates many
of the leading academics (who tend to take the side of the underprivileged
against the dominant). As UK agriculture seems to be a domain where
power, influence and dominance exist, and I want to develop CDA
techniques to examine this, so I will look at some ideas about power
In one passage, Jaeger looks at the power of the acting individual
(Jaeger, 2001, p. 38 references),
and I have adapted this to make the following points:-
- Each person faces the initial problem of having to prevail,
i.e. to get his/her own way, to find their place in society (this
is part of the human condition)
- Each interpersonal situation can be seen as a power relationship,
which manifests in many ways and on many levels - knowledge, experience,
turn-taking, non-verbal elements, etc. This can take the form
of status, position, self-interest, dominance, etc.
- Each person thinks, plans, constructs, interacts and fabricates,
in their own interest.
- However, the acting individual does this
the frame of a rampant growth of the network of discursive relations
the context of 'living discourses' insofar as
||the person brings the discourses into life
||lives 'knitted into' them
||and contributes to their change
- To state the obvious, in the circumstance of the surrounding
'living discourses', the discourse may be more powerful that the
individual person. The person may be able to personalise the habits,
traditions, systems (and discourses) of society, but it may be
impossible to break out of tradition
- In the arena of food, there are several ways of achieving power:-
making people do what they otherwise would not do
'operating the system' so that one rises to a position where ones
administrative decisions have wide influence (but it is then likely
that ones power is limited to a very small area)
being involved in political processes
establishing a position of economic power, through ownership or
shareholdings in businesses
becoming part of an 'establishment' on the basis of the above
influencing any or all of the above via the public media.
becoming self-sufficient, or otherwise leaving the system
In general, any of the positions within the system will only have
power by virtue of their place within the system, and the system
to dominate the individuals
to be created and developed by discursive factors
In this way we can see the power of discourse
- However, this may not always apply.
the case of Monsanto and the development of GM seeds, it seems
that a small group have used every effort available to try to
gain acceptance of their new product, and have succeeded in changing
the system. They have perhaps used power to do this, but is this
a permanent power ? Perhaps they have forced the system to change,
but have they gained positions of power within it ? While they
used discourses of nutrition, economics and genetics to justify
the acceptance of the GM products, to some extent it seems that
they also 'went outside' discourse, by deciding on their intention,
then trying to achieve it.
may apply to the USA invasion of Iraq. They had an intention 'outside'
of the normal discourses and then made every effort to achieve
it, and succeeded (I am still working out my ideas on 'what is
Fairclough has looked in an interesting way at the power of the
new capitalism (Fairclough, 2001, pp 128-9 references).
This is a distinctive network of practices, and part of their distinctiveness
is the way language figures within them, and he detects three interconnected
- Dominance - we need to identify which genres, discourses
and styles are the dominant ones. For example
a. the genres which regulate action and interaction in organisations
(e.g. the language of teamwork, consultation, partnerships and
appraisals now dominates)
b. the dominant genres from the neo-liberal discourse at the IMF
and WTO which are internationally disseminated (imposed ?)
c. the styles of key figures in 'the new order' - entrepreneurs,
managers, politicians, (and even comedians
These are disseminated internationally ( re-scaled) and across
areas of social life (re-structured) - as an example 'negotiation'
as a concept 'flowed' between politics and business, but later
'flowed' to the family, the military, etc.
- Difference. We need to look at the range of difference
and diversity, in genres, discourse and styles, and the social
structuring and re-structuring of those differences.
There are several issues here
1. access - who does and does not have access to dominant forms
2. relationships between dominant and non-dominant forms
3. how other genres are affected by imposition of the new dominant
ones (e.g. what has happened to radical and socialist discourses
since the 'victory' of the neo-liberal ?)
a). have they been marginalized ?
b). how do they still sustain themselves ?
It is an error to think that the dominant forms are the only ones
- Resistance. As an example, managerial genres are colonising
government and public sector domains such as education, and also
moving between scales
Colonisation is never a simple process -
new forms are assimilated and combined with the old
is a process of appropriation, which can lead to different outcomes:-
The changes in the global economy shapes many other levels, perhaps
including New Labour's 'third way', and this may then influence
the development of the new economics
||Tacit or open resistance (subversives 'talking
||Search for coherent alternatives
Extending Fairclough's ideas, we can question that if 'the new
capitalism' has achieved power, is this as a whole system, or is
there a central point of power in this system, or a constellation
of points of power? How does this power system work ??
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