Analysing crisis discourses: theories and strategies

Talk given by Amelie Kutter at the 7th CADAAD conference CONFERENCE ON CRITICAL APPROACHES TO DISCOURSE ANALYSIS ACROSS DISCIPLINES in Aalborg on July 4th, 2018

Since the financial crisis emerged in 2007, many projects and publications have been launched that discourse-analyse representations of crisis and crisis management in communications by various groups and organisations. This research has generated insights in recurrent features of crisis discourse, such as blame games, claims for extraordinary authority, or trends of normalisation. Crisis itself, however, is usually taken for granted and rarely subjected to theoretical consideration. The present paper suggests that theories of crisis that borrow from Marxist thought help to gain an understanding of crisis as a catalyst of social change and to conceptually focus analyses of crisis and its discursive construction. The paper introduces concepts such as Gramsci’s notion of ‘organic crisis’ and ‘passive revolution’ and Polanyi’s theorem of the ‘double movement’. They draw our attention to specific drivers of crisis and change in capitalist societies, such as the formation of new concepts and their co-optation by those in power or the mutual penetration of the market logic and the logic of social protection in political and business administration. Using examples from a study on communications by EU institutions and financial journalists, the paper shows how these crisis theories can guide textual analysis. A discourse-analytical strategy is suggested that conceptualises the research subject from the macro-theoretical view of crisis theories and brings middle range concepts from discursive political studies, including hegemonic articulation and governmentality, in dialogue with categories from critical discourse analysis.