Academic journal article Sociological Focus

The Great Recession and Free Market Capitalist Hegemony: A Critical Discourse Analysis of U.S. Newspaper Coverage of the Economy, 2008-2010

Academic journal article Sociological Focus

The Great Recession and Free Market Capitalist Hegemony: A Critical Discourse Analysis of U.S. Newspaper Coverage of the Economy, 2008-2010

Article excerpt

This study examines the role of discourse in re-establishing the hegemony of free market capitalism during and immediately after the global financial crisis in the United States, colloquially referred to as the Great Recession. Theoretically, we employ post-Marxism and particularly the work of Ernesto Laclau, but also draw insights from poststructural feminism and critical theory. Methodologically, we use a corpus linguistics approach to critical discourse analysis. This methodology allows us to examine, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the discursive strategies used during 2008-2010 in a random sample of daily newspapers throughout the United States. Our findings include identifying the discursive chains of equivalence used to obscure counter-hegemonic discourses of alternative forms of economic relations that are locally based. Contributions of this study include furthering our understanding of the role discourse plays in current economic relations and demonstrating how a corpus linguistics approach to critical discourse analysis can be used empirically to examine post-Marxist theoretical assertions both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Ulrich Beck (2009) argues that late modernity is characterized by different dialectics in which crises of modernity develop out of modernity's "successes." Beck argues these crises create an opening in which the basic principles of modernity can be challenged by turning these basic principles back onto themselves. If these principles remain unchallenged, the result will be what Beck calls "more-modernity," and modernity will continue unchallenged and unabated.

The global financial crisis of 2008 provides a prominent example in which the successes of modernity create a crisis of unprecedented magnitude (Beck 2009). The global financial crisis, colloquially referred to in the United States as the Great Recession, resulted from the successes of free market capitalism. Yet today free market capitalism appears to have remained largely unchallenged with its hegemonic status intact and perhaps even more unfettered than before the crisis. To employ Beck's "more-modernity" phrase, it appears that today we have "more-free market capitalism."

This study seeks to understand the discursive processes that contributed to reasserting the hegemonic position of free market capitalist hegemony during the Great Recession and its aftermath. We argue an understanding of the discursive strategies employed to reinforce free market capitalism as the only economic relation possible provides insights into potential counter-hegemonic economic relations that were obscured through these hegemonic discursive strategies. To date, little if any research examines these processes. Rather, research on the global economic crisis focuses on how it may change governmental and private behavior (Dahrendorf 2010; Schimank 2011) or how a paradigmatic shift is necessary to re-establish a vibrant worldwide civilization (Gills 2010); and the processes that led to the financial crisis and impacts the crisis has had upon the poor, while benefiting those who have most to gain from capital accumulation (Hossain, Fillaili, and Lubaale 2010; Soederberg 2010; Stilwell 2009; Tabb 2010; Treas 2010).

To examine the discursive strategies surrounding economic relations during the Great Recession, we draw primarily upon post-Marxism as advanced by Laclau and Mouffe ([1985] 2001) and later Laclau ([1996] 2007). We also draw upon the poststructural feminist work of Gibson-Graham (1996; 2006), as well as Foucauldian notions of govemmentality and Beck's work on social change (2009). Methodologically, we employ a corpus linguistics approach to critical discourse analysis to examine a random sample of daily newspapers in the United States from 2008-2010. We find this relatively new theoretically informed methodology compelling for several reasons. Having emerged within the last decade from linguistics, it uses both quantitative and qualitative techniques in order to more effectively both de-mystify ideology and identify emancipatory strategies. …

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