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  • Publication
    Neoliberalism, Irish polity, and the problem of the public sphere : a critical analysis of Irish governmental discourse in the boom years (1997-2007)
    Drawing on theories of discourse and power (Foucault) and hegemony (Gramsci); my work starts from an appreciation of discourse (semiosis) as an element of social life dialectically related to other elements, simultaneously construing and being construed by reality. Unlike much theorising on discourse and power, the value-added component of this sociolinguistically-grounded, yet interdisciplinary work is its foregrounding of detailed interdiscursive and linguistic analysis of texts. Specifically, my research examines neoliberal ideation in Governmental discourse in Ireland across the lifetime of the two parliaments, preceding the economic crisis of 2008. Specifically, I address the semiosis of the emergent topics of immigration legislation reform, childcare policy development, and the fate of social policy within the national ‘Social Partnership’ programme. Using a critical approach to the analysis of discourse (CDA), my normative thesis is that neoliberalism’s non-majoritarian interests and its anti-democratic tendencies can be revealed in its prioritisation of proactive interventions in the public sphere (Arendt, Habermas), and that an analysis of discursive practices between civil society and state actors in this space can provide evidence of how this dynamic has happened in practice. Adopting Bourdieu’s characterisation of neoliberal ideation as a macro-level sociocultural nomos of late modernity, and employing Fairclough’s deductive, dialectical-relational approach to the analysis of discourse samples, my research adopts a qualitative examination of official, public documents (consultation papers, reports, speeches, etc.). The research undertakes a ‘strategic critique’ of the transposing of hegemonic, pro-market discourses, originating in the field of economics, onto the field of social policy. In order to ground this critique effectively however, this work is complemented by an ‘ideological critique’ of the historical emergence of neoliberal ideation in Irish polity in the mid-1980s. In sum, the analysis shows that the public space of citizen-state interaction has been; compromised through the non-dialogical structuring of the interface; undermined through the suppression of ‘participating’ civil society experts in favour of ‘official’ perspectives; and colonised through the recontextualisation of the discourses (and practices) of civil society agents by the now dominant discourses (and practices) of the market. Specifically, through official strategies of depoliticisation and legitimation, the arena of democratic interaction in the Irish Republic has proved to be a controlled space, emptied of dialogical potential, and one which ultimately has been co-opted by the state as a modality of the productive ideation of neoliberalism itself.
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