Fairclough, Norman eianlf at EXCHANGE.LANCS.AC.UK
Wed Oct 6 10:02:59 UTC 1999

Dear Critics-L members,
I am attaching a draft call for a CDA project language in the neo-liberal
global order. If you would like to be involved, please let me know.
                Best wishes,
                Norman Fairclough
Neo-liberalism as a focus for critical research on language

What follows is an initial proposal for co-ordinated action against
neo-liberalism on the part of critical language researchers. It echoes for
instance recent appeals by Pierre Bourdieu for social scientists to take up
their responsibilities as intellectuals in the face of what he presents as a
threat to 'a civilization, associated with the existence of public services,
the republican equality of rights, rights to education, to health, to culture,
to research, to art, and, above all, to work'. See also Chomsky's or Said's

What's happening in the contemporary world is that a restructured ('global')
form of capitalism is gaining ascendancy. There are winners and there are
losers. Amongst the losses: an increasing gap between rich and poor, less
security for most people, less democracy, major environmental damage. If
markets are not constrained, the results will be disastrous. The political
priority is to challenge this new order, and especially the neo-liberal claim
that it is inevitable. Language is an important part of the new order. First
because imposing the new order centrally involves the reflexive process of
imposing new representations of the world, new discourses; second because new
ways of using language are an important part of the new order. So the project
of the new order - a project because it is  incomplete, and those who benefit
from it are working to extend it - is partly a language project.
Correspondingly, the struggle against the new order is partly a struggle over
language. Should CDA be seen as first and foremost a resource for this
contemporary struggle over language? I think that is what critical social
science is about: addressing the real issues of the time, with a view to their
progressive resolution.

What is neo-liberalism?
According to Bourdieu, neo-liberalism is a political project for the
reconstruction of society in accord with the demands of an unrestrained global
capitalism. Neo-liberalism has been adopted in fact if not in theory by social
democratic as well as conservative political parties, so that one effect of the
current scenario is, in the absence of really distinct political policies, a
weakening of democracy. Governments of different political complexions take it
as a mere fact of life (though a 'fact' produced by inter-governmental
agreements) that all must bow to the logic of the global economy. This means
that states enter an intense competition to succeed in terms dictated by the
market. This has led to radical attacks on social welfare and the reduction of
those protections which welfare states provided for people against the negative
effects of markets. It has also led to an increasing division between rich and
poor, and an intensification of the exploitation of labour. It has produced
radical insecurity for most people. Moreover, the unrestrained emphasis on
growth poses major threats to the environment. It has also produced a new
imperialism, where international financial agencies under the tutelage of the
USA and its rich allies indiscriminately impose restructuring on less fortunate
countries, sometimes with disastrous consequences (eg Russia).

The problem therefore is globalisation as an economic (and then political and
cultural) process, and neo-liberalism as a political project tied to it. Or
more exactly, neo-liberal globalisation: it is not the impetus to increasing
international economic integration that is the problem but the particular form
in which this is being imposed, the particular consequences (eg in terms of
unequal distribution of wealth) which are being made to follow.

I am appending pp 24-31 of Zygmunt Bauman's recent book In Search of Politics,
which rather eloquently profiles the new global order. See also the powerful
critique by the German journalists Hans-Peter Martin and Harald Schumann, The
Global Trap, Zed Books 1997.

Language in Material Social Processes
The theoretical basis for the proposed focus of CDA is a view of language - or
rather, more broadly, semiosis - as an irreducible part of material social
processes. Let us assume that social life is an interconnected network of
practices of production of diverse sorts (economic, political cultural etc).
Every practice is partly a linguistic practice - let us say that every practice
includes the following elements in a dialectical relationship:
                productive activity
                means of production
                social relations
                social identities
                                cultural values
Critical analysis of language is analysis of the dialectical relationships
between semiosis (incl language)  and other elements in material social
processes, the production of social life in and across practices. To speak of
dialectical relations is to claim that while these categories remain distinct
and are not simply reducible to each other, each is internalized in and by the
others. Thus productive activity, means of production, social relations and so
forth are all partly semiotic, and semiosis 'is' simultaneously productive
activity, means of production, social relations, and so forth.

Semiosis figures in two broad ways in material social processes: as an element
of these processes, and in the reflexive constructions of these processes which
social actors produce as an inherent part of these processes. For short: in
action, and in representation. We may specify what is said above about language
as part of the neo-liberal order in these
terms: the neo-liberal order is a distinctive network of practices of
production part of whose distinctiveness is the way semiosis figures as an
element of its material processes and in the reflexive construction of these
processes. There is no schematic short-cut to specifying the order itself or
how semiosis figures: how semiosis figures in particular practices, and how
practices (in their language element) interconnect, have to be established
through analysis. Nor are we dealing with a closed order or system: the
neo-liberal order is uneven and incomplete and characterized by variation and
struggle. It is not a homogenisation, it is a specific structuring of
difference. The concept of hegemony is of value is specifying patterns of
domination, integration, resistance and fragmentation, and also drawing
attention to a crucial part of analysis: not only to specify the threat, but
also to specify emergent practices of resistance, and to discern possibilities
for change.

Discourses of neo-liberalism
The neo-liberal global order is (as I said above) an incomplete project rather
than a fait accompli (as its apologists like to claim). Various resources are
deployed in the struggle by the winners in the neo-liberal order (the banks,
the corporations, political parties etc) to pursue the project and extend the
new order, including the symbolic resources of neo-liberal discourse. This
discourse constructs the world as 'globalised', offering unprecedented
opportunities for the unquestionable virtue of 'growth' through intensified
'competition', but requiring unfettered 'free trade' and the dismantling of the
rigidities of 'state bureaucracy' and 'unaffordable' welfare programmes,
'flexibility' of labour, 'transparency', 'modernisation' and so forth.  There
is a narrative of progress here. This is as Bourdieu puts it a 'strong
discourse', having behind it the weight of the social forces which dominate the
new order, and working as a powerful resource to enhance their domination. This
discourse projects and contributes to actualizing new forms of productive
activity, new social relations, new forms of identity, new values etc. It
appears in specific forms and transformations in different spheres of life -
economic, social, political, cultural (for instance it is incorporated in
specific forms as an element of the political discourse of the 'third way',
which is itself being internationalized). For instance, the concept of
'flexibility' variously enters economic discourse, political discourse,
educational discourse, and the representations of everyday life in advertising
and popular culture. Part of the analytical task is to describe this field of
dispersal and the recontextualizations and transformations within it.

But as the example of 'flexibility' shows, the discourses of neo-liberalism are
not just neo-liberal discourses. What is at issue as I said above is not a
homogenisation, but a new structuring of diversity. So for instance the 'other'
of 'flexibility' is what we might call a discourse of 'insecurity' which
represents social life in terms of insecurity, risk, anxiety etc. What the two
have in common is their predominant individualism: the construction of social
problems as problems for individuals ('flexibility' as an individual virtue,
'welfare dependence' as an individual flaw, 'insecurity' as an individual
problem) is a salient feature of the discourses of the neo-liberal global

The genres of neo-liberal globalisation
We may use the term 'genre' for ways in which language figures as an element of
material social processes. The changing network of practices which constitutes
the new order includes a changing network of genres. For instance, part of the
change in working practices is towards forms of team work which include new
genres; part of the change in practices of governance is towards forms of
'partnership' and networking which include new genres; part of the change in
education is towards forms of family learning (eg family literacy) which
include new genres.

Take for example what one might call the genres of citizenship - the whole
network of genres which constitutes part of the network of practices connected
with citizenship. These include the genres of the news industry (news itself in
TV, radio and the press; news analysis and commentary; interviews, special
report, documentaries), the structured network of genres of the 'public sphere'
in the media as well as in social movement politics; the genres of the public
relations industry (opinion polls, focus groups etc), etc. What is at issue is
the structuring and restructuring of relationships within this network, as well
as the structuring of diversity (eg the dominance of media public spheres over
social movement public spheres), and the contestations of and struggles over
these. And how this network contributes to shifting social relations, shifting
relations of power, shifting identities and so forth.

CDA as a resource for struggle
CDA can constitute a resource for struggle in so far as it does not isolate
language but addresses the shifting network of practices, shifting material
social processes, in a way which produces both clearer understanding of how
language figures in hegemonic struggles around neo-liberalism, and how
struggles against neo-liberalism can be partly pursued in language. It asks:
what are the problems facing people, what are they doing in response, how can
these resistances be strengthened and coordinated into a plausible alternative,
and how specifically does language figure in all this? The aim is to give
substance to discourse as a dimension of a new left politics while avoiding the
idealistic reduction of that politics to discourse - to recognise the
irreducible language factor without exaggerating it.

The proposal
A great deal of ongoing research in CDA bears upon neo-liberalism in many
different domains of practice - in education, the media, local government,
national politics, work, and so forth - without necessarily addressing
neo-liberalism explicitly.  The aim immediately is to draw researchers into
ways of seeing connections between the diverse work that is going on in
relation to neo-liberalism, and to inflecting their work in ways which help to
address this broad common concern, as well as encouraging new directions of
research, and providing a network which researchers will be attracted to.

Objectives might be specified as:
a) A general analysis of neo-liberal globalisation in its language
aspect, and analyses of specific practices and domains in individual research
projects. This would including specifying the main discourses of
neo-liberalism; specifying the genre networks of neo-liberalism; specifying
their effectivity in constituting forms of productive activity, social
relations, identities, cultural values, forms of consciousness; identifying
forms of struggle in their symbolic mode, and possibilities for extending and
strengthening them.

b)Linking analysis to action, finding ways to connect academic research with
struggles in the economic, political, social and cultural spheres.

These objectives might be pursued in various forms - publications, academic
conferences, conferences involving activists, networking with academics I other
areas and with campaigning organisations, etc. Obviously we could use the
resources of the internet.

The initial idea was to transform the Language Ideology and Power research
group at Lancaster University into a long-term project on neo-liberalism, based
upon researchers currently working for PhDs as well past members of the group.
The project would however be greatly enhanced if it could be extended in
various ways:
a)      involving similar groups elsewhere, for instance the group at
Georgetown University, the Vienna group, networks in Copenhagen and Brazil;
b)      involving individual researchers around the world;
c)      linking up with other social researchers taking a similarly committed
stance towards neo-liberalism - eg Bourdieu's group.
d)  Of course this will not all be achieved at once!

The immediate way forward is perhaps as follows:
a)      the Language Ideology and Power group at Lancaster plus associated
individuals  will work on fleshing out the proposal over the next few months;
b)      we will circulate a draft statement about the proposal which will
include a general analysis of language in neo-liberalism as well as proposals
for what could be done; perhaps this draft could then be contributed to by a
wider group of people and eventually published.

Hans-Peter Martin & Harald Schumann, The Global Trap, Zed Books 1997
Z Bauman, In Search of Politics, Polity Press 1999
Pierre Bourdieu Contre-feux, Raisons D'agir 1998
John O'Neill, The Market, Routledge 1998
Colin Hay, The Political Economy of New Labour, Manchester 1999
Anthony Giddens, The Third Way, Polity Press 1998
M Chossudovsky, The Globalisation of Poverty, Zed Books 1998
R Sennett, The Corrosion of Character - the Personal Consequences of Work in
the New Capitalism, Norton 1998
L Elliott  D Atkinson, The Age of Insecurity, Verso 1998
Z Bauman, Globalization - the Human Consequences, Polity Press 1998
D Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernty, Blackwell 1990
Terry Eagleton, The Illusions of Postmodernism, Blackwell 1996
Bob Jessop, Reflections on globalization and its (il)logic(s), unpublished
N Fairclough New Language, New Labour, Routledge 2000
L Chouliaraki & N Fairclough Discourse in Late Modernity, Edinburgh 1999
N Fairclough, Discourse, social theory and social research: the discourse of
welfare reform, Journal of Sociolinguistics 4.2, 2000

                                Norman Fairclough
                                        September 1999

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