Chapter

Discourse as Framework for Analysis: Policy Construction and Legitimization for Changing Policies and Practices

Vivien A. Schmidt

in The Futures of European Capitalism

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780199253685
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600210 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199253684.003.0006
Discourse as Framework for Analysis: Policy Construction and Legitimization for Changing Policies and Practices

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To explain the often radical changes in policies and practices that depend on overcoming entrenched interests, institutional obstacles, and cultural blinkers to change, the usual explanations in terms of rational choice, historical, and sociological institutionalism will not do. This chapter provides a new framework for the analysis of such change, by examining discourse in institutional context or discursive institutionalism. Discourse consists of both a set of ideas containing cognitive and normative elements and an interactive process consisting of a coordinative discourse of policy construction among policy actors and a communicative discourse of policy legitimization between political actors and the public. In Britain, France, and Germany, such discourse differs not only in ideational content but also in the relative importance of the coordinative or communicative discourses—largely related to differences in single‐actor and multi‐actor systems—which is only further complicated by the addition of the European level. After discussing how discourse matters in terms of its substantive content and where discourse matters in terms of institutional context, the chapter ends with a discussion of the causal influence of discourse or when discourse matters.

Keywords: Britain; discourse; Europe; France; Germany; institutions; policy construction; policy legitimization; rational choice; sociological institutionalism

Chapter.  19901 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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