This course involves a detailed presentation and discussion of the conditions of emergence, the epistemological and conceptual presuppositions, and the methodological innovations associated with the application of discourse analysis in the study of political phenomena. The evaluation of the method’s relevance for political science will be attempted through the analysis of a series of empirical examples and case studies. The course is organized around three separate axes:
1. From ‘ideology’ to ‘political discourse’. After a brief presentation of the modern project of the ‘critique of ideology’, special attention will be given to the difficulties it faces today and to the way constructionist argumentation attempts to resolve them by concentrating on the centrality of the concept of discourse.
2. The epistemological and conceptual framework of a theory of political discourse. In this part of the course we will study the major traditions on which discourse theory and discourse analysis draw in reorienting political study. In particular, we discuss the work of Aristotle (dialectics and rhetoric), Saussure and structuralist linguistics, Barthes and semiological analysis, Foucault’s contribution, Lacan and the psychoanalytic conception of discourse.
3. Methods and strategies of empirical research. Using as a point of reference the work of Laclau and Mouffe, what is attempted here is a survey of a variety of methodologies and techniques of political discourse analysis as developed in the tradition of the ‘Essex School’. Special emphasis is given to the analysis of a variety of empirical examples: the political discourse of the New Social Movements, populist discourse, nationalist discourse and ‘European identity’, the discourse of advertising and its political implications, etc.