Discourse Theory
- The overall societal discourse.

In any particular society, there is an overall societal discourse, composed of a large number of strands, positions, etc. in a state of complex entanglement.

  • This may be entirely homogenised (as in the FR Germany - especially since the big political change in 1989 when East Germany 'joined' the West)
  • However, society is never entirely homogeneous (and will always change to survive …?)
  • A homogenised society may throw up sub-groups in the most surprising ways (hippies, punk, Baader-Meinhof)
  • The world discourse is perhaps the sum total of the national discourses, and it is even more homogeneous ( ? ), but this changes slowly, for example from a West/East discourse to North/South to Others/Islam as the main overall world discourses.
  • In the 1950's, the UK national discourse about food was especially homogeneous - 'everyone' ate meat, potatoes and two veg for sunday lunch.

The overall societal discourse may be particularly entwined, interdependent and deep rooted. An analysis of discourse can attempt to untangle this, generally by

  1. working on individual discourses on individual discourse planes (e.g. focussing only on the media - immigration discourse)
  2. joining other analyses to this, e.g. political/immigration, everyday/immigration, etc.
  3. then asking how the discourse planes of the entire strand relate to one another - do they 'eat into' each other, dovetail, how do they influence each other (especially in the media)

National Discourses can differ greatly in subtle and unexpected ways. For example, in Germany, because of the harsh winter weather, animals have always spent the whole winter in their cowsheds and stalls. The weather is also too hot in summer, so, about 30 years ago, apparently without any public objection at all, nearly all German livestock was moved into indoor accommodation for the whole year, giving the great advantage that fences are no longer needed in the German fields, thus cutting costs. This shows a profound national difference in attitude and ideas about what is acceptable, and though many British animals may now live all their lives indoors, this is not genrally realised, as so many animals can be seen in the fields. In the UK, the German system would be felt as very unnatural and 'wrong'. In most of Germany there are NO animals in the fields. This is a manifestation of differing national (unconscious) discourses about animals.

Please contact me at george@whatever-will.be if you are interested in the above

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