The Governance of Education in the late capitalist era: a corpus-based critical discourse analysis of UK education policy.

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Linguistics and English Language


This postdoctoral fellowship will be used to consolidate, extend and disseminate findings from an interdisciplinary study of the changing discourse of governance in the UK. There has been widespread awareness in recent years of the government’s increasing use of media ‘spin’ in the presentation and implementation of its policies. However, much of the critical linguistic analysis of this phenomenon has been narrowly focussed and methodologically eclectic. By contrast, this study applies a highly systematic method to the historical analysis of the policy rhetoric of successive British governments since 1972.

The methodology combines corpus linguistic software tools with a range of text analytical methods in order to investigate the representation and legitimation of the identities, roles and power relations in a corpus of education policy discourse. The findings are historically contextualised in relation to the wider state, society and economy by drawing on neo-Marxist state theory.

Using this method two important historical trends have been identified. Firstly, there is substantial textual evidence for the increasing role of a personalised, inclusive style of political rhetoric, which is systematically exploited to legitimate contentious policy claims. The second trend relates to the increasing significance of ‘mangerialism’ in contemporary forms of governance (Clarke and Newman, 1997; Newman, 2001). By developing a sociosemantic category of ‘managed action’, this study offers unique insights into how such ‘governing at a distance’ operates in language. The fellowship will be used to develop a ‘grammar of management’ building on these findings.


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