Department of Linguistics
University of Vienna
First draft, not to be cited without permission of the author
Plenary Lecture: "Language and Ideology"
Discourses on Unemployment in the EU: the conflict and consensus between diverging
1. Introduction: Decisionmaking in organizations
The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann characterizes organizations primarily in terms of their decisions (Weiss and Wodak 1998, Menz 1999, Iedema and Wodak 1999, Wodak 1996a). He claims that these decision processes determine the day—to—day life in organizations. Organizations, he says, are constantly reproduced through decisions: 'Organizations produce decision options which otherwise would not exist. Decisions serve as contexts for decisions' (Luhmann 1997, 830). The European Union is a very complex system with an extremely differentiated structure. 'With increasing complexity of decision—making on decisions on decisions', Luhmann says about such organizations, 'the autopoesis creates conforming structures and develops a growing tendency towards a decision not to decide' (ibid, 839). This may sound confusing at first, but what it means is that decisions are postponed, delegated, or shifted to other bodies by an organization. Organizations may even choose not to take any decision at all, and this also is a decision. This is what happens at numerous meetings, as all of us know and experience only too well. The feeling that yet again 'nothing has been achieved' simply means that there has been a decision not to decide anything definite and to postpone the decision.
So far, two theoretical approaches in particular have concerned themselves with the decision—making processes in the European Union (see Abelès, Bellier and Douglas 1996, Weiss 1999): the 'institutional—functional approach' emphasizes the legal aspect and the legislative procedure and explains decisions on the basis of these formal structures. The 'behavioural—interactionist approach' focuses on communication as it actually occurs at meetings. Van Schendelen (1996) criticizes that the functional paradigm merely concentrates on the 'skeleton' of institutions and neglects the actual 'flesh and blood'. In our view, only an approach which combines both these two aspects will yield satisfying results; a sociolinguistic approach has to consider both the structures and functions of the organization and what is actually happening there in the interactions at different levels of the hierarchy.
Decisions are taken at many points in an organization, at meetings, in the corridors, during telephone conversations or on social and informal occasions. It is very difficult to reconstruct individual incidents. However, organizations tend to stage their decision processes, much like a drama, orally at meetings as well as through their protocols, directives and other written bureaucratic genres (Iedema 1994, 1998a). At least for an insider these scenes are comprehensible; they are hierarchically structured as not everyone has unlimited access to everything, status and power are thus produced and reproduced. The linguist and sociologist Denis Mumby characterizes the significance of meetings in organizations as follows:
meetings are perceived as a necessary and pervasive characteristic
of organizational life — they are events that people are required to engage in if
decisions are to be made and goals to be accomplished. While this is the ostensible
rationale for meetings, they also function as the most important and visible sites
of organizational power, and of the reification of organizational hierarchy. (Mumby
In contrast to the views of Max Weber and David Goody it becomes ever more obvious that today oral organizational culture is a just as important as written culture, if not even more. About discourse in organizations, Steven Deetz says that
of all institutional forms, language has a special position. All
other institutional forms may be translated into language. Further, every perception
is dependent on the conceptual apparatus which makes it possible and meaningful,
as this conceptual apparatus is inscribed in language. Talk and writing are thus
much more than the means of expression of individual meanings: they connect each
perception to a larger orientation and system of meaning. The conceptual distinctions
in an organization are inscribed in the systems of speaking and writing. (Deetz 1982:
Our current 5 -year interdisciplinary project explores discourses in supranational institutions of the EU. In this paper, I will chart and reconstruct decision making processes in the complex, multinational, multilingual organization by showing how a policy paper on employment policy and unemployment intended for the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg in November 1997 was produced in several drafts; i.e. the genesis of such a paper. Compared to other organizations, the EU is characterized by even greater complexity, because a wide range of frequently conflicting political and ideological positions of different lobbies and interest groups have to be added to the above—mentioned characteristics (see below).
This is only one aspect of our interdisciplinary project, which investigates how a new European Identity, the 'dispositif ideel' (Maurice Godelier XXX), is constructed by means of a new employment policy. The study is carried out by a team of researchers (Gilbert Weiss, Carolyn Straehle, Peter Muntigl, Maria Sedlak, Ruth Wodak). The project is anchored in the research tradition on communication in organizations, which has been carried out by the author and with colleagues in the Vienna Department of Applied Linguistics since 1974 (see Wodak 1996a, Straehle et al. 1999, Iedema and Wodak 1999). Most recently a study on the language of diplomats in the Foreign Ministry was completed (Wodak et al. 1997, Titscher et al. 1998), which was primarily ethnographic and investigated meetings of ambassadors and compared these meetings to meetings in other organizations, like the Austrian Broadcasting Company and meetings of foreign correspondents held there (Wodak and Vetter 1999). The second strand of research which has influenced the current project is concerned with the discursive construction of national identities (Wodak et al. 1998, 1999, De Cillia, Reisigl and Wodak 1999, Benke and Wodak 1999a,b); each document which is passed by the European Union constitutes a compromise between the 15 member states, a blend between national and supranational interests achieved through negotiation, i.e. through communicational means and discursivly constructs narratives of European identities.
Prime objective of our research, however, is to develop discourse—theoretical
approaches and assumptions. Although I cannot go into detail in this paper due to
space restrictions, I would like to briefly introduce our definition of discourse
and provide a model - the discourse-historical approach- on which this research is
based (Wodak and Reisigl 1999). In way of a short digression, I would like first
to discuss the meanings of Acritical research@ which this is an example of. I will then address
the reconstruction of decisions by looking at the drafts of a policy paper and charting
the 'life of arguments' in their recontextualization, so—called textual chains (Fairclough
1992), from the first proposal to the draft to the final version.
2. Discourse—theoretical considerations
2.1. Critical Discourse Analysis and the concept of Acritique@: The discourse-historical approach
The paradigm of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) then is taken as point of departure for our linguistic analysis in the above—mentioned projects. CDA is problem oriented and interdisciplinary (Wodak 1996 a,b, 1999a,b; Fairclough and Wodak 1997). However, one has to bear in mind that 'interdisciplinary' does not mean a cumulation of eclectically selected approaches, but something entirely new in quality which emerges from integrating various positions, including epistemological ones, thus moving beyond superficial analysis and exploring new dimensions in an entirely innovative way. Looking at socially relevant areas of life, these studies focus on communication embedded in historical and social contexts rather than on the linguistic system as such.
In contrast to traditional quantitative sociolinguistics, which correlates linguistic
phenomena with certain social variables (such as age, social class, sex [gender]),
the aim of CDA is to show the complex dialectical interplay of language and social
practice on many different levels. The complexities of modern societies can only
be grasped by a model of multicausal, mutual influences between different groups
of persons within a specific society. That is to say: If we take, for example, the
politicians as specific and not at all homogeneous groups of elites, then they are
best seen both as shapers of specific public opinions and interests and as seismographs
that reflect and react to the atmospheric anticipation of changes in public opinion
and on the articulation of changing interests of specific social groups and affected
In recent years, the discourse historical approach (Wodak et al. 1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, Wodak and Reisigl 1999, van Leeuwen and Wodak 1999) has increasingly been influenced by other schools and sub-disciplines, especially British Discourse Analysis in the tradition of Hallidayian Systemic Functional Linguistics (e.g. by Fairclough 1989, 1992, 1995, Fowler 21996, Hodge/Kress 21991 and van Leeuwen 1993, 1995 and 1996), by classical and New Rhetorics as well as Argumentation Theory (e.g. by Toulmin 21996, Perelman 1980 (3x), Kopperschmidt 1989, 1991, Kienpointner 1992, 1996) and by German "Politolinguistics" (e.g. Dieckmann 1964, 1975, 1981, Burkhardt 1996, Wengeler 1997, Jarren/Sarcinelli/Saxer eds. 1998, Klein 1998, Sarcinelli 1998 etc).
Apart from these mainly linguistic and communication theoretical sub-disciplines, the discourse-historical approach, committed to Critical Discourse Analysis, adheres to the socio-philosophical orientation of Critical Theory (see Horkheimer/Adorno 1991 , Marcuse 71980, Horkheimer 1992, Bon8 and Honneth eds. 1982, Benhabib 1992, Honneth 1988, Honneth 1990, Honneth 1994, Menke and Seel 1993, Calhoun 1995, Habermas 1996 etc.). As such, it follows a complex concept of social critique which embraces at least three interconnected aspects, two of which are primarily related to the dimension of recognition and one to the dimension of action:
(1) "Text or discourse immanent critique" aims at discovering inconsistencies, (self-)-contradictions, paradoxa and dilemmata in the text-internal or discourse-internal, for example, logico-semantic, cohesive, syntactic, performative, presuppositional, implicational, argumentation, fallacy and interactional (e.g. turn-taking) structures. As it is based on a hermeneutic exegesis with the help of specific linguistic and discourse analytical tools, "immanent" is here, of course, not meant in the very strict sense of "without previous knowledge", for no analyst can escape the hermeneutic circle which always implies a certain understanding and preconception (with at least implicit theoretical assumptions) of the specific analytical instruments employed in the interpretation.
(2) In contrast to the still widely unpolitical "immanent critique", the "socio-diagnostic critique" is concerned with the demystifying exposure of the - whether manifest or latent - persuasive, propagandist, populist, "manipulative" character of discursive practices. It aims at detecting problematic - "problematic" from the analyst's normative-ethical perspective as we explain in (3) - social and political goals and functions of discursive practices, at uncovering the responsibilities and the speakers' - sometimes - disguised, contradictory, opposing, ambivalent or "polyphonic" intentions, claims and interests which are either inferable from the (spoken or written) discourse itself or from contextual, social, historical and political knowledge. With this form of socio-diagnostic critique, the analyst transcends the purely textual or discourse internal sphere. She or he makes use of her or his background and contextual knowledge and embeds the textual or interactional structures of a discursive event in a wider frame of social and political relations, processes and circumstances. From this point of view, discursive practices are seen as specific forms of social practices (Fairclough 1992, Fairclough and Wodak 1997, Wodak 1996a,b) that are related to other forms of social activities. Here, the critical gaze is, inter alia, directed at exposing contradictions and oppositions between discursive and related social practices, for example, between nice declarations having the function of positive political self-presentation and discriminatory administrative exclusionary practices conflicting with these declarations (Reisigl and Wodak 1999). In keeping a watch on discursive practices related to or concerned with social activities under legitimation-obligation (as they may, for example, be connected with exercise of power and hegemony, with the imposition of duties and burdens, with political decisions of restricting the individual's freedom, etc.), this critical diagnosis can be seen as a form of social control. That means, that critical analysts position themselves politically, and this leads us to a third moment of critique.
(3) While the aspects of critique mentioned in (1) and (2) are primarily - but not exclusively - related to the epistemic and cognitive dimensions of "seeing through", of "illuminating" and "making transparent" (to use optical metaphors typical for the Enlightenment), the "prospective critique" is associated with the ethico-practical dimension. Inasmuch as it is contra-present and wants to become practical and to change and transform things - by attempting to contribute to the solution of specific social problems and disfunctionalities - it is political in the action-related sense of "politics". First, this engaged social critique is nurtured ethically by a sense of justice based on the normative and universalist conviction of the unrestricted validity of human rights and by the awareness of suffering, which both take sides against social discrimination, repression, domination, exclusion and exploitation and for emancipation, self-determination and social recognition (in the Habermasian sense of "difference-sensible inclusion", Habermas 1996, 172 ff; see also Honneth 1994 and Calhoun 1995, 193-230). Second, it is motivated by the - perhaps in part utopian - conviction that unsatisfactory social conditions can, and therefore must, be subject to methodical transformation towards fewer social disfunctionalities and unjustifiable inequalities.
A very specific form of critical social practice directed against the status quo is "retrospective critique". In criticizing the status quo ante - that is to say, in critically reconstructing the past, the effects of which are still related to the present - and, at the same time, in criticizing the present way of dealing with the past - that is to say, in critizing the status quo -, it has the quality of prospective critique, as it aims at the revision of an actual "picture" or "narrative" of history and, in consequence and in future, at a new, responsible way of treating of the past and its effects (Wodak et al. 1994, Mitten and Wodak 1998).
Though critique implies a certain degree of social distance on the part of the observing critics, the endeavour to "intervene" (in the Adornian (1963) sense) for a social change - for example towards more social justice - is always situated. Critics are not disembodied heremitic individuals, but interested members of specific societies and social groups with specific points of view. In order to avoid a too simplistic and one-sided perspective, social critique has to be carefully and self-reflectively applied. It has to keep loyalty (a) to the empathy with the victims of discrimination, (b) to the principles of justice and (c) to the principles of rationality (not to be understood in the negative and restricted sense of "instrumental rationality") which can help to lead to a better future.
To conclude the remarks on "critique" with a quote of one of the founding figures of Critical Theory: @To translate critical theory into political action is the yearning of those who take it seriously. There is, however, no general recipe for this, except perhaps the necessity of recognizing one's own responsibility.@ (Horkheimer, quoted by O'Neill 1979)
One methodical way of minimizing the risk of critical biasedness and of avoiding simply to politicize instead of accurately analyzing is to follow the principle of triangulation: One of the most salient distinguishing features of the discourse-historical approach in comparison to most of the approaches already mentioned is its endeavour to work interdisciplinarily, multimethodically and on the basis of a variety of different empirical data as well as background information (see for example Wodak 1986, Wodak 1991a, Wodak 1991b, Wodak et al. 1996, Mitten and Wodak 1993 and Wodak et al. 1998). Depending on the respective object of investigation, it attempts to transcend the pure linguistic dimension and to include more or less systematically the historical, political, sociological and/or psychological dimension in the analysis and interpretation of a specific discursive occasion.
In investigating historical and political topics and texts, the discourse-historical approach addresses the historical dimension of discursive actions in at least two ways: First, it attempts to integrate much available knowledge about the historical sources and the background of the social and political fields in which discursive "events" are embedded. Second, it explores the ways in which particular genres of discourse are subject to diachronic change, as has been studied in a number of previous investigations (Wodak et al., 1990; Wodak et al., 1994; Matouschek, Wodak, and Januschek, 1995).
In accordance to other approaches devoted to Critical Discourse Analysis, and this has already been touched upon above, the discourse-historical approach perceives both written and spoken language as a form of social practice (Fairclough 1992, 1995, Fairclough and Wodak, 1997; Wodak, 1995; Wodak, 1996b, van Dijk 1998). A discourse is a way of signifying a particular domain of social practice from a particular perspective (Fairclough 1995, 14). As critical discourse analysts we assume a dialectical relationship between particular discursive practices and the specific fields of action (including situations, institutional frames and social structures) in which they are embedded: On the one hand, the situational, institutional and social settings shape and affect discourses, on the other, discourses influence discursive as well as non-discursive social and political processes and actions. In other words, discourses as linguistic social practices can be seen as constituting non-discursive and discursive social practices and, at the same time, as being constituted by them.
To put it more precisely: "Discourse" can be understood as a complex bundle of simultaneous and sequential interrelated linguistic acts which manifest themselves within and across the social fields of action as thematically interrelated semiotic (oral or written) tokens (i.e. texts), that belong to specific semiotic types (genres). "Fields of action" (Girnth 1996) may be understood as segments of the respective societal "reality" which contribute to constituting and shaping the "frame" of discourse. The spacio-metaphorical distinction among different fields of action can be understood as a distinction among different functions or socially institutionalized aims of discursive practices.
Thus in the area of political action - and the case study which I am dealing with here is in a wider sense "localized" within this area B we distinguish among the functions of legislation, self-presentation, the manufacturing of public-opinion, developing party-internal consent, advertising and vote-getting, governing as well as executing, and controlling as well as expressing (oppositional) dissent (see Figure 1 below).
INSERT FIGURE 1
A "discourse" about a specific topic can find its starting point within one field of action and proceed through another one. Discourses and discourse topics "spread" to different fields and discourses. They cross between fields, overlap, refer to each other or are in some other way socio-functionally linked with each other.
These discursive characteristics are inter alia described under such labels as "textual chains", "intertextuality" (see e.g. Beaugrande/Dressler 1981, Fairclough 1992, 101-136), "interdiscursivity" (Fairclough 1995, 133) "orders of discourse" and "hybridity". While "hybridity" refers to the heterogeneous mixture of different genres or genre features in a concrete text (both written or oral) or a new genre, and while "interdiscursivity" means both the mutual relationships of discourses and the connection, intersecting or overlapping of different discourses "within" a particular heterogeneous text, "textual chains" refers to the sequence or succession of thematically or/and functionally related texts which is preshaped by the frame of particular configurations of conventionalized linguistic practices (i.e. the ordered relationship within and between the fields of action) that reflect the social order in its discursal facet, that is to say, the "orders of discourse" (Fairclough 1995, 10).
We can illustrate the relationship between fields of action, genres and discourse topics with the example of the area of political action in Figure 2:
Through discursive practices, social actors constitute knowledge, situations, social roles as well as identities and interpersonal relations among various interacting social groups. In addition, discursive practices are socially constitutive in a number of ways: First, they play a decisive role in the genesis and production of certain social conditions. This means that discourses may serve to construct collective subjects like nations, ethnicities etc. Second, they might perpetuate, reproduce or justify a certain social status quo (and "racialized", "nationalized" and "ethnicized" identities related to it). Third, they are instrumental in transforming the status quo (and "racializing concepts", nationalities, ethnicities related to it). Fourth, discursive practices may have an effect on the dismantling or even destruction of the status quo (and of nationalist, ethnicist concepts related to it). According to these general aims one can distinguish between constructive, perpetuating, transformational and destructive social macro-functions of discourses (Reisigl and Wodak 1999, Van Leeuwen and Wodak 1999).
To explore the interconnectedness of discursive and other social practices as well as structures, we employ, as already mentioned, the principle of triangulation (cf. Cicourel, 1974), i.e. we combine various interdisciplinary, methodological and source-specific approaches to investigate a particular discourse phenomenon. In exploring the discursive construction of collective groups like nations and ethnicities, our interdisciplinary approach combines historical, socio-political and linguistic perspectives. Intradisciplinarily, we apply various methods of one and the same discipline. In addition, the principle of triangulation implies using various methods of data collection and the analysis of different corpora and genres, depending on the topic in question.
Our triangulatory approach is based on a concept of "context" which takes into account (1) the immediate, language or text internal co-text, i.e. the "synsemantic environment" (see Bhhler 1934) or "semantic prosody" of a single utterance (lexical solidarities, collocational particularities and connotations, implications, presuppositions as well as thematic and syntactic coherence) and the local interactive processes of negotiation and conflict management (including turn taking, the exchange of speech acts or speech functions, mitigation, hesitation, perspectivation, etc.); (2) the intertextual and interdiscursive relationship between utterances, texts, genres and discourses (discourse representation, allusions/evocations, etc.); (3) the language external social/sociological variables and institutional frames of a specific "context of situation" (the formality of situation, the place, the time, the occasion of the communicative event, the group/s of recipients, the interactive/political roles of the participants, their political and ideological orientation, their sex, age, profession, level of education as well as their ethnic, regional, national, religious affiliation or membership, etc.); and (4) the broader sociopolitical and historial context the discursive practices are embedded in and related to, that is to say, the fields of action and the history of the discursive event as well as the history to which the discursal topics are related.
Intertextuality, a concept which goes back to Bakhtin, connects texts both synchronically and diachronically. Each text, according to David Harvey (1996), is anchored in time and space and relates to texts produced previously, synchronically or subsequently. Here the concept of recontextualization, which was developed by Basil Bernstein (1990) (see Mehan 1993, Iedema 1997, Sarangi 1999, Fairclough 1999, van Leeuwen and Wodak 1999) in his most recent work on pedagogy, is particularly useful as it can be applied to chart shifts of meanings either within one genre — as in different versions of a specific written text — or across semiotic dimensions: in an organizational context, for example, from discussion to monologic text to implementation of contents to acts which may even belong to a different semiotic mode. The shift from design to building, for example, has been investigated by the systemic linguist Rick Iedema:
In the context of organizational planning, this is also the case: talk becomes writing becomes design becomes physical construction. The logic here resides in the fact that each recontextualization moves the relevant meanings (contents) into an increasingly solid materiality, an increasing non—negotiable materiality. If we think about how congruent language may become metaphorized, then I think these organizational recontextualizations are metaphors (1998b, 6).
Iedema further points out
"that organisations reproduce themselves by means of not only processes of repetition, but also and primarily processes of production. This productive imperative governs which modes/semioses can recontextualize which others. Generally, organisational recontextualizations move towards increasingly non—negotiable and unchangeable modes/semiotics" (1998b,7).
Thus interaction during a meeting, for example, may not only be recontextualized in a written text, but meaning shifts are also observable from dialogue to monologue (monologizing), from dynamic to static, from process to entity, from negotiable to fixed. Many 'voices' (in the Bakhtinian sense) coalesce to form one continuous strand, where violations of text coherence in the document in question indicate the different stances, views and interests voiced by those who took part in the meetings.
Insert Figure 3
Insert Figure 4
In summary we can say that we are concerned with semiosis, for example if we look at the construction of meanings, the reconstruction and making of decisions in organizations (Wodak 1999a, b).
3. The Competitiveness Advisory Group (CAG)
The CAG, i.e. the body under investigation, was set up by President Santer in order to prepare specific drafts and proposals directly for the Council of Ministers. The group consists of 12 members, two women and ten men, who represent industry, politics and the trade unions; the Commission itself is also represented by one member. These representatives discuss highly sensitive issues and draw up a report every six months. The CAG is chaired by Jean Claude Paye, former Secretary—General of the OECD, whom I interviewed in Paris in September 1998. Meetings are audio—taped, there are hand written protocols as well as resolution papers. In autumn 1997, the CAG was asked to draw up an employment policy paper for the Council of Ministers in November 1997.
Figure 5 shows the data which were available to me and which allow a reconstruction of the text genesis, from the first draft, which simply lists the relevant issues, to the final version of the document.
Insert Figure 5
The meetings were held in three languages, Italian, English and French; the chairman edited each version of the document in English, although his native language is French.
This document, which generically can be classified as a policy paper, consists of four parts. First, an introduction, which discusses the implications and consequences of globalization. It is argued that globalization should be regarded as a positive phenomenon, and that Europe should be aware of and respond effectively to this challenge. The USA and Japan are mentioned as Europe's competitors. In part 2, the emphasis is on Europe's previous mistakes, starting with common sense views rendered in highly generalising and hyperbolically exaggerated rhetoric, which are, however, later refuted. Thus, unemployment is not regarded as a consequence of globalization, but rather as a result of too strict and rigid employment laws and of too high taxation. Part 3 focuses on the construction of European identity: the attractions of the 'European marketplace' are praised in phrases resembling those of advertising brochures: notwithstanding high taxation, there are numerous arguments in favour of investment in Europe, primarily the level of education, the know—how, the culture, the fairness, the traditions of equal treatment, equality and democracy. In part 4, proposals for reducing unemployment are put forward. At the CAG meetings, different versions of the document were discussed and various modifications were suggested. The entire process of text construction was marked by a conflict between the trade union representatives, who wanted to retain the 'status quo' and demanded 'social cohesion', and those group members who represented the employer side and advocated a liberalisation of the labour market.
In the following I would like to discuss the 'life of arguments', drawing on the systemic—functional theory of M. A. K. Halliday (see Thompson 1998), among others, in order to describe and explain the semantic recontextualizations. Concepts of argumentation theory and of rhetoric are also particularly relevant in this context (see above, 2.1.).
4. The 'life' of arguments
Before analyzing some changes and recontextualizations from two drafts, I will focus on the discussion of the title of the document. I will then concentrate on the 2nd paragraph, which clearly manifests the different voices participating in the discursive interaction. As visible in Figure 6, the first suggestion for a title was 'Ambition for Employment'. This became 'Ambition for Employment. Competitiveness as a source of Jobs', and was finally changed to 'Competitiveness for employment'. According to Van Dijk (1998), titles function as macro—propositions, i.e. they summarise the content, provide signals for the reader and anticipate what will be said; their additional function is to arouse the addressee's interest. Consequently, titles are predominantly located in the interpersonal metafunction, to use Halliday's terminology. The interpersonal metafunction defines the relational level, in our case between the reader and the text.
Insert Figure 6
At first, the focus was on 'employment'; therefore — and now I will come to the textual metafunction — 'employment' constituted the rheme, the new information, which was to be discussed, without, however narrowing down the number of possible options at this point. Halliday, by the way, took the distinction between theme and rheme from the Prague School. Theme and rheme organise a text according to the given, the assumed knowledge and the new information. Thus the theme—rheme pattern in a sentence is of profound importance. Whatever is perceived as theme is taken for granted. This is also significant in our case. At this meeting, the participants decided — as befits the name of their own group — to include 'competitiveness' as a subtitle in the title and thus limited possible decisions and options. In the final version, only 'competitiveness' and 'employment' are highlighted, a connection is made between them, although it remains open whether this relation is causal of functional. Throughout the entire policy paper, competition and competitiveness are assumed to be the basis of the new employment policy; therefore the paper includes a discussion of how competitiveness might be increased.
Now let us take a quick look at the third paragraph. In the following, two versions, that of October 14th, 1997 and that of October 28th, 1997, are presented. A third meeting took place in between, which was marked by conflicts between the trade unions and the employer side:
1 But it [globalization] is also a demanding one, and often a painful one.
2 Economic progress has always been accompanied with destruction of obsolete activities and creation of new ones.
3 The pace has become swifter and the game has taken on planetary dimensions.
4 It imposes on all countries — including European countries, where industrial civilisation was born — deep and rapid adjustments.
5 The breadth and urgency of the needed adaptations are indistinctly perceived by public opinion, which explains a widespread sense of unease.
6 The duty which falls on governments, trade—unions and employers is to work together
— to describe the stakes and refute a number of mistaken ideas;
— to stress that our countries have the means to sustain high ambitions; and
— to implement, without delay and with consistency, the necessary reforms.
This paragraph is transformed and recontextualized as follows:
1 But it is also a demanding process, and often a painful one.
2 Economic progress has always been accompanied by destruction of obsolete activities and creation of new ones.
3 The pace has become swifter and the game has taken on planetary dimensions.
4 It imposes deep and rapid adjustments on all countries — including European countries, where industrial civilisation was born.
5 Social cohesion is threatened.
6 There is a risk of a disjunct between the hopes and aspirations of people and the demands of a global economy.
7 And yet social cohesion is not only a worthwhile political and social goal; it is also a source of efficiency and adaptability in a knowledge—based economy that increasingly depends on human quality and the ability to work as a team.
8 It has been difficult for people to grasp the breadth and urgency of necessary adaptations.
9 This explains a widespread sense of unease, inequality and polarisation.
10 It is more than ever the duty of governments, trade—unions and employers to work together
— to describe the stakes and refute a number of mistakes;
— to stress that our countries should have high ambitions and they can be realised; and
— to implement the necessary reforms consistently and without delay.
11 Failure to move quickly and decisively will result in loss of
resources, both human and capital, which will leave for more promising parts of the
world if Europe provides less attractive opportunities.
What, then, are the transformations? Basically, we distinguish between four types of transformation which result from recontextualization: addition of elements, deletion of elements, rearrangement of elements and substitution of elements (Van Leeuwen and Wodak 1999). In a textlinguistic context, these are transformations which refer to the coherence and cohesion of a text in the sense of Dressler and Beaugrande (1981), i.e. to text syntax and text semantics. Thus, in sentence 4 of the final version we observe a change in word order, which refers to the rheme: Now the emphasis is on 'European countries' and no longer on 'adjustments'. This allows for at least two readings, and we can only select an interpretation if we are familiar with the entire context: first, it may be interpreted as a purely stylistic change, as a tendency towards making plain English more comprehensible and efficient. Efficiency characterises the entire document, the content as well as the form. This is business speak. Or, it can be interpreted as highlighting Europe and its tradition in an attempt to construct a new identity.
Sentence 5 is missing in the initial document. In this sentence, the trade union voice — in the Bakhtinian sense — makes itself heard; therefore this constitutes a concession to the unions, as becomes clear if we look at the union representative's turn during the meeting (see Wodak (ed), in preparation). The inclusion of social cohesion as important objective is demanded and it is claimed that the social welfare state is under threat. This topos of danger is further developed and justified in the following two sentences. The trade union argues that social welfare must not be perceived as a burden, but as something intrinsically efficient. Consequently, investment in human capital will improve competitiveness. Unfortunately, I do not have the space to discuss the syntactic and semantic structure of this argument in detail. However, I would like to point out two elements which pervade the entire text like a motto: first, the tension between people's hopes and the implications of globalization (please note the multiple embedding of nouns, the presentation of people as anonymous group and their characterisation in terms of irrationality); second, the 'knowledge—based economy', which is presented as a European trademark.
The following sentence in the initial version of the document is complex and appears as two sentences in the new version, i.e. in a transformed and rearranged form.
Insert Figure 7
At the same time, a shift occurs from the theme to the rheme. Again, this is a case of business speak, a simplification, but on the other hand the information is transformed. There are further additions, for example in the description of the atmosphere and of the feelings of the people. The transformation of the nominal group 'public opinion' to 'people', i.e. to actors, is also important. Throughout the document, 'people' are consistently described by means of 'sensing processes', or are characterised by their hopes and beliefs, whereas knowledge and mental processes form the basis of the rational arguments of the experts. Although the distance taken by experts vis—á—vis 'ordinary people' is reduced, the group referred to as 'people' remains anonymous. We do not know who is included in this group and who is not. 'Perceive' is replaced by 'grasp', i.e. a mental process is replaced by a material one, in order to include the element of transitivity into the analysis as well.
The very last sentence has also been added to the final version: the topos of
danger, which is conjured up here, is a rhetorical device used to persuade politicians
to act quickly. The topos of speed and urgency also pervades the document, as does
the semantic field 'urgent, rapid, quick' etc.; efficient, urgent action is needed.
The basic message of this document, then, is that action is required, mere thinking
is not enough, otherwise Europe will no longer be able to keep up with competition
and primarily, as is often mentioned in the document and the meetings, with Japan
and the USA.
In this brief illustrative analysis of recontextualization I have only been able to sketch out a small number of linguistic characteristics. A more detailed discourse analysis, however, basically reveals four contradictory recontextualization tendencies, which can be interpreted on the basis of the interaction, the negotiations and compromises occurring at the meetings:
static versus dynamic quality
simplicity versus complexity
precision versus vagueness
argumentation versus statement and generalising claims
In other words, recontextualization depends to a large extent on the semiosis at the meetings. The transformations from oral to written, from oral to written (a monologizing process which leads to materialization; Iedema 1999), display the same contradictions and incoherences which are manifested in linguistic interaction. Each document, then, ultimately mirrors a structure of interaction which can only be made transparent through detailed linguistic analysis. As I have indicated, such analyses highlight the decision—making processes which we as 'ordinary European citizens' are never informed about, since we are always confronted with decisions 'from above'.
The issue of transparency is an important theme within the European Union, on which great emphasis was also placed during the Austrian presidency (1998). However, the 'citizens' Europe' has only remained a political slogan to date. Unfortunately I cannot discuss globalization extensively here which played a major role in the discussion and legitimization of competition — another buzz word of our time —, but I would like to quote Jhrgen Habermas, probably one of the most eminent philosophers of our time, who says that
'Terminating the social pact inevitably means that those looming
crises which so far have been buffered by the welfare state will flare up again.
This will lead to social costs threatening to overstretch the integration capacity
of a liberal society'. (Habermas 1998, 68). And he argues, 'In the context of a globalising
world economy, nation—states can only improve their international competitiveness
by reducing the state's operational power, i.e. by implementing 'dismantlement policies',
which damage social cohesion and jeopardise a society's democratic stability' (ibid.,
It is this conflict which is reflected in our document and which politicians in the European Union member countries are confronted with. Incorporating a variety of different 'voices', including those of the European citizens and their hopes and beliefs therefore would indeed serve essential democratic principles.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that by carrying out critical discourse—theoretical sociolinguistic analyses we will not be able to solve these problems; however, by using an interdisciplinary, applied linguistic approach we will be able to make these processes more transparent — and this is a very important contribution, in accordance with our notions of critical research.
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