CDA - How does Power work ? and who has it ?
Jaeger states a hypothesis that "Discourses exercise power as they transport knowledge on which the collective and individual consciousness feeds. This emerging knowledge is the basis of individual and collective action and the formative action that shapes reality." (Jaeger, 2001, p. 38 references)

Wodak also makes several interesting points about how power works (Wodak, 2001, p. 11 references):-

  • Power is about relations of difference, and particularly about differences in social structures
  • power does not derive from language, but language can be used
    to challenge power
    to subvert it
    to alter distributions of power in the short and long term
    it provides a finely articulated means for differences of power in social hierarchical structures
    it can use almost any linguistic form which can be 'pressed into the service' of power
  • the constant unity of language and other social matters ensures that language is entwined in social power in a number of ways:-
    language indexes power
    it expresses power
    language is involved where there is contention over power and a challenge to it
  • power is signalled not only by grammatical forms within a text, but also by a persons control of a social occasion by means of a genre of text
  • it is often exactly within the genres associated with given social occasions that power is exercised or challenged.

This seems to suggest that

  • power is mostly exercised at social occasions, and by social means
  • there is power within discourse (but is this impersonal - there seems little to be gained from creating a new discourse or achieving a major discursive step forward)
  • but, there is no suggestion as to the roots of power - are intention and resolve really at the root of it all ?

Who has Power (and why) ?

Jaeger has also approached this question (Jaeger, 2001, p. 34 references), writing that "power is easily exercised over discourse, in the form of easy access to media, unlimited access to resources," (he wrote this about a science discourse, but it applies to everyday, educational, political and media discourses too).

This seems to imply that access to resources and media is the key to power, and that controlling this access is central.

With the extreme variant of power, military might, the army with the access to most resources will probably (but not always) win, and on this basis, it is the politicians who control military resources who therefore have most power.

However, looking in the other direction, in societies with a free press, very little control is exerted over the media, or over access to the media. However, this is subject to the norms and standards normal to that society, that is, by a societal discourse 'turned into a law'.

Further interesting questions are "what happens if you use discourse well ??" and "what happens if you don't use discourse at all ??" Debatably, President Bush did not use discourse in the Iraq issues leading to the invasion, he ignored the discourses (??). However, another extension of this question is to see discourse as a great civilising force, and non-discourse as the opposing force.

In my Food Case Study, I have examined the chosen text in terms of the power relations encoded in it.

Please contact me at if you are interested in the above

(0044)(0) 1372-749803

A website from