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Bringing Discourse Theory into Media Studies: The applicability of Discourse Theoretical Analysis (DTA) for the Study of media practises and discourses

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When Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe published an elaborate version of their discourse theory in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985), they were met with fierce resistance by a unified front of traditional Marxists and anti-poststructuralists. The debates on post-Marxism dominated much of the book’s reception. This focus, combined with discourse theory’s rather abstract nature, its lack of clear methodological guidelines, and its more natural habitat of Political Studies, caused discourse theory to remain confined to this realm of Political Studies, despite the broad ideological definition of the political preferred by the authors. This article aims to revisit discourse theory and bring it into the realm of Media Studies. A necessary condition to enhance discourse theory’s applicability in Media Studies is the re-articulation of discourse theory into discourse theoretical analysis (DTA). DTA’s claim for legitimacy is supported in this article by two lines of argument. Firstly, a comparison with Critical Discourse Analyses (CDA) at the textual and contextual level allow us to flesh out the similarities — and more importantly — the differences between CDA and DTA. Secondly, DTA’s applicability is demonstrated by putting it to work in a case study, which focuses on the articulation of audience participation through televisional practices. Both lines of argument aim to illustrate the potential, the adaptability and the legitimacy of DTA’s move into media studies.
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Bringing discourse theory into Media Studies
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
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Keywords: 

. Introduction


  
Journal of Language and Politics265–293

266 


    
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



 267





2. A short outline of Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory


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      

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    
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    

        


    







3. Critiques and replies on Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory

          

          








 27
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



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 

 273
 
      

  
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         

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   

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


4. Bringing DT to the realm of Media Studies
4. 



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about
of
      as      
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274 
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  
          
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 
    
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              
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
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   
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          
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
 
         
       



nothing exists outside of discourse?
not
nothing has any meaning outside of discourse

meaningful’

    
          


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 
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   
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
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5. Jan Publiek or the articulation of audience participation
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

 


Table 1. 
Number of
people
Number of
Interventions
Total
speaking time
Average speaking
Time per turn


   
       
       
      
        
     
        




284 









         



  





 
 

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 
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286 
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             
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           
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 
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 
 
 
 
 
 
 
6. Conclusion
  
   


 
true


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 
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
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



         
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       
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 
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
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
288 
Notes
. 

2. 



3. 


4.      

5.             

6.        
     

         






7. 


8. 




9.     



0. 
.      

 289
     

References
Critical Studies in Mass Communication

e Politics of Truth: From Marx to Foucault
e Pleasure of the Text
e Language of News Media

Approaches to Media Discourse
     Annual Review of Anthropology  

Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method

Twentieth Cen-
tury Political eory
 De discursieve articulatie van publieksparticipatie in vier televisie talk-
shows. Een onderzoek naar de constructie van publieksparticipatie in het televisiesysteem aan
de hand van de discourstheorie van Ernesto Laclau en Chantal Mouffe


  
    e Ungraspable AudienceHet on(be)grijpbare publiek 

 
Journalism

Continuum
             
   Challenges in a Changing
World — Issues in Critical Discourse Analysis
Discourse & Society

Journal of
Language and Politics
      Laclau. A Critical Reader 

           
Laclau. A Critical Reader

Communication and Citizenship
    e Practice of Everyday Life    

290 
        Discourse & Society 

Language and Power
Discourse and Social Change
Media Discourse

Discourse as Social Interaction
L’Archéologie du savoir e Archaeology of Knowledge

   Foucault
Live. Collected Interviews, 1961–1984
Language in the News. Discourse and Ideology in the Press

       
Social text 
Essentially Speaking: Feminism, Nature, and Difference
Discourses of Extremity
   Power and Its Disguises. Anthropological Perspectives on politics 

e Antonio Gramsci Reader. Selected Writings 1916–1935 
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
  Journal of Language and Politics
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
Discourse & Society
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 Culture, Media, Language.
Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972–79
Representation: Cultural Rep-
resentations and Signifying Practices
Models of Democracy

Research Strategies in the Social Sciences

Discourse
Discourse eory and Politi-
cal Analysis. Identities, Hegemonies and Social Change
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          
Discourse
eory and Political Analysis. Identities, Hegemonies and Social Change

Discourse eory in European Politics: Identity,
Policy and Governance
Aus der Mitte der Gesellscha
 29
Die vierte Gewalt. Rassismus und die Medien

Using Foucault’s Methods
Social Semiotics
     Reading Images   
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Reading Images: e Grammar of Visual Design

. Multimodal Discourse: e Modes and Media of
Contemporary Communication

Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture


New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time
New
Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time
Emancipations
e Populist Reason
Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical
Democratic Politics

New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time
             
e Making of Political Identities
cience in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers rough Society


European journal of communication
   Televisiejournalistiek over de multiculturele samenleving 

 Talk on Television, Pparticipation and Public Debate.

Exploring Media Discourse
         
Genders 

Journal of Communication Inquiry
e Return of the Political
e Democratic Paradox
On the Political

Communication theory
  Discourse Analysis as eory and Method.

Public Intimacies. Talk Show Participants and Tell-All TV

292 
Sociological eory

Discourse & Society

Research Strategies in the Social Sciences

Laclau and Mouffe. e Radical Democratic Imaginary

Lacan and the Political
Television Quarterly
           
    
Discourse & Society
Methods of Text and Dis-
course Analysis
 Journal of Film
and Video
New eories of Discourse. Laclau, Mouffe and Žižek
 Discourse and Communication: New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass
Media Discourse and Communication
News as Discourse

  News Analysis: Case Studies of International and National News in the
Press
Racism and the Press
Elite Discourses and Racism
Discourse as Structure and Process
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Journal of Language and Politics

Strategieën voor kwalitatief onderzoek
 
Onderzoekstypen in de communica-
tiewetenschap.
        
Onderzoekstypen in de commu-
nicatiewetenschap.
Tele-Advertising: erapeutic Discourse in American Television

Meth-
ods of Critical Discourse Analysis

Wir sind alle unschuldige Täter: Diskurshistorische Studien zum Nachskrie-
gantisemitismus
 293
Die Sprachen der Vergan-
genheiten. Öffentliches Gedenken in österreichischen und deutschen Medien 

e Discursive Con-
struction of National Identity

 e Sage Handbook of Media Studies    

Social eory aer Postmodernism
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Authors’ addresses
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
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About the authors
Nico Carpentier (PhD) 







Benjamin De Cleen
      
         


... Sensitizing concepts (Blumer, 1954) offer a 'general sense of reference and guidance in approaching empirical instances' (p. 7). It is a way of explicitly bringing theoretical concepts into the analysis that help the analyst by pointing at what to look for and where to look (Bowen, 2006; Carpentier & De Cleen, 2007;Ritzer, 2000) without determining what to see. The six domains of university sustainability engagement introduced in the second section are used in this study as such sensitizing concepts. ...
... "elements"). Following Carpentier & De Cleen (2007) I use the term "element" to refer to both in order to keep it simple. ...
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The remarkably growing body of academic literature on the university in relation to sustainability pivots around the idea that the university has an important role to play regarding this issue. However, which role this precisely is and what type of university this requires is often left implicit. This article presents an empirical analysis of how the idea of the “sustainable university” – understood as any notions of an existing or desirable future university that engages with sustainability – is discursively constructed in 4584 scientific publications on the topic. Through a combination of a discourse analysis with the content analysis tool topic modelling, three discourses on the sustainable university are discerned: the sustainable higher education institution, the engaged community, and the green-tech campus, providing the groundwork for further research and debate on what the sustainable university could be and should be.
... El análisis se ha realizado combinando dos tipos de análisis cualitativo: el análisis teórico del discurso (Carpentier y De Cleen, 2007) y el análisis histórico del discurso (Reisigl y Wodak, 2015), que se han aplicado a una muestra de 560 artículos 46 . El caso de estudio se centra en el periodo de debate nacional que precedió el IV (1990IV ( -1991 y el VI (2010-2011) Congreso del PCC. ...
... El trabajo de Ernesto Laclau sirve como marco analítico en este capítulo y es sistematizado a través del análisis teórico del discurso (Carpentier y De Cleen, 2007) -ontolótico y laclauniano-y del análisis histórico del discurso (De Cillia, Reisigl y Wodak, 1999) -de corte óntico. En otras palabras, este trabajo examina las prácticas relacionales y el lenguaje que utiliza el periódico cubano Granma para trazar la frontera entre 'el pueblo' y 'el enemigo' en momentos de debate nacional. ...
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EDUARDO Galeano (2015: 7) escribió del líder histórico de la Revolución Cubana: ''Fidel Castro. Sus enemigos dicen que fue un rey sin corona y que confundió unidad con unanimidad''. Sin embargo, el Intelectual uruguayo también destacó la importancia que su código de honor ''quijotesco'', que sus valores tradicionales, reminiscentes de las guerras de independencia de la segunda mitad del siglo XIX, tuvieron en la victoria de la Revolución de 1959. La idea de una identidad nacional diferenciada, con una serie de valores específicos, ha sido esencial para unificar al pueblo en épocas de cambio. Este capítulo examina la construcción discursiva del pueblo cubano en momentos de debate a través de las páginas del periódico nacional Granma, órgano oficial del Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC). Los datos sugieren que el diario presenta un pueblo heroico capaz de salir victorioso de cualquier desafío inducido por el enemigo. Para ello, en las páginas de Granma se articula una construcción muy precisa del pueblo, dotándolo de una serie de valores y roles históricos heredados de sus ancestros, tales como patriotismo y sacrificio. El principal argumento es que esta construcción de la Cubanidad responde a un populismo discursivo que construye la unidad del pueblo cubano a través de la pertenencia a un código de ética revolucionario.
... Part of these struggles of securing or renewing consent take place in the field of media and are of a discursive nature. Discourse as a concept has been used in diverse ways, ranging from narrow linguistic micro-textual to broad macro-textual and contextual approaches (see Carpentier & De Cleen, 2007). This study aligns with critical approaches to discourse that move beyond the micro-textual and micro-contextual frames of reference and look into how meaning and ideological messages are constructed and communicated in texts and social practices. ...
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Since China’s environmental policy is defined as top-down “authoritarian environmentalism”, political propaganda and media censorship heavily affect the communication of climate change. Hence, conducting an investigation of climate change communication in the context of China is a valuable exercise. This article uses Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to investigate how the Chinese Press reported on, and discursively constructed climate change through the employment of a series of discursive strategies, over a 20-year period, 2000-2020. The findings indicate that news reporting on climate change was in consistent alignment with the ruling Communist Party’s environmental policies during these two decades, facilitating the consolidation of the government’s hegemony.
... Discourses are the indispensable and powerful tools that give meaning to our social realities; they are the frameworks of intelligibility that structure humans' relationships with the world, through the provision of meaning. While discourses are often defined as almost-synonyms of language, in this article, they are approached from a macro-(con)textual perspective (Carpentier & De Cleen, 2007), as structures "in which meaning is constantly negotiated and constructed" (Laclau, 1988, p. 254). Discourses are, in other words, defined as knowledge structures that consist of systemically articulated signifiers that together form reasonably stable entities. ...
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This article is theoretically grounded in a reflection on the discursive-material knot, which uses a macro-(con)textual approach to discourse, but also allocates a non-hierarchical position to the material, recognizing its agency. The article uses the ontological model to further theorize the discursive-material struggles of, and over, nature, and in particular of non-human animals. These theoretical frameworks are then deployed to reflect on the “Silencing/Unsilencing Nature” project (and its diverse subprojects). This is an arts-based research project which aims to unpack the discursive-material relationship between humans and nature, and how nature often has been silenced, focusing on the position of the wolf in the zoo assemblage, and how these animals are discursively and materially entrapped. At the same time, the “Silencing/Unsilencing Nature” project investigates how this situation can be changed, and how their voices can still be made audible, gain more strength and become further unsilenced.
... The 'discourse theoretical analysis' approach (DTA) differs from 'critical discourse analysis' (CDA) approach, which is more common in media research. On the differences, seeCarpentier and De Cleen (2007). The approach is notably supplemented with the notion of fantasmatic logics, as developed by JasonGlynos and David Howarth (2007). ...
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Traditional news media is one of the most important sources of information on contemporary society. Media has the power to affect public opinion and alter identities, which in the long run may affect social norms, practices and participative conditions. In traditional news media research, migration is an established topic while music is not. Their combination is lacking in both media and music research. In this study 106 newspaper articles from six major Swedish newspapers, published over a period of five years, are analysed through a discourse theoretical perspective. The discursive representation of ‘migrants’ in the investigated media confirms the picture provided in previous research, according to which the ‘migrant’ is often associated with the alien, the worrying and the problematic – not least in its relation to the ‘Swede’. More surprising is that while ‘music’ is repeatedly described as capable of affecting social relations and processes, it does not lead to a political practice of change. Instead ‘music’ becomes a mythic ritual, according to which subjects turn into conforming and well-integrated citizens.
... Before presenting our fantasmatic narrative analysis of Veja's anti-populist discourse, however, we outline the research strategy and methods underlying our case study. In doing so we build on and extend literature that emphasizes the central role the media play in shaping the character, scope, and influence of discourses in the spheres of politics and academia, including discourses about populism (Goyvaerts & De Cleen, 2020;Carpentier & De Cleen, 2007;Carpentier, 2020). ...
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In this paper we draw on the concept of fantasy and the principles of political discourse theory to develop an analytical framework for the study of Veja's anti-populist discourse. As one of Brazil's most influential publications in elite policy-making circles, Veja exerts considerable influence over the way populist politics is portrayed and understood. By tracking the signifiers 'populism' and 'populist' in the pages of this weekly magazine, our study affirms the distinctive virtues of adopting a psychoanalytically-informed perspective on political antagonism and ideology, treating fantasy as a core concept in the study of polarizing discourses generally and discourses about populism in particular. Far from remaining above the fray in its opposition to the discourses of both Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (and the Workers' Party) and Jair Bolsonaro (and the Social Liberal Party), our critical fantasy study shows how Veja's pronouncements were both ideologically invested and normatively inflected.
... 5 This chapter analyzes Instagram posts-both images and text-from a qualitative perspective, drawing on sensitizing topics of discourse theoretical analysis. 6 Through these lenses, food appears as a familiar cultural trope that fulfills the role of an empty signifier. An empty signifier, for Ernesto Laclau, is an element that is able to encompass meaning beyond its immediate definition. ...
Chapter
As social media become key communication platforms connecting political leaders and their audiences, populist leaders have been experimenting with the use of everyday cultural tropes that spark emotional connection with their followers. Flipping through their Instagram posts, one such trope stands out for its familiarity: food. In fact, food has started a few battles on social media. In Italy for instance, Matteo Salvini, former deputy prime minister, sparked a “Nutella battle” in late 2019. A self-declared fan of the chocolate nut spread, Salvini announced that he would stop eating it because it contained foreign hazelnuts—not just Italian—only to pose with a Nutella jar on Instagram the next day.1 Similarly, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has sparked a “poop war,” asking climate change defenders to protest less and eat less, so they poop every other day and reduce waste. These examples represent the use of food as a political tool for defending both nationalist and class-based values: national production and restraint. But they also indicate the problematic nature of using food as part of populist friend-and-foe narratives. This chapter explores a set of questions related to political communication in the digital era: How do far-right populist leaders use Instagram food posts as a way of bypassing elite and expert mediations between the leader and “the people”? How do far-right populist leaders respond to (and even instrumentalize) Instagram foodie trends? These questions are relevant for understanding how food becomes a cultural trope taken up within populist performances of class and national identity.
Chapter
Qualitative inquiry into the mediated communication of any issue or event can tell us a great deal about the sentiments presented in the public sphere, as well as how these relate to broader power structures operating within a given society. As outlined in the previous chapter, news media coverage of people seeking asylum often mirrors the ideologies contained within dominant, political communication about the issue, and there is evidence that media discourse influences everyday public opinion in certain conditions. In Australia, however, the extent of this influence is unclear. We still know little about how publics perceive news media coverage of people seeking asylum in Australia, and how they reconcile their own positions on the topic with consideration of mediated discourse.
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This article analyses the Swedish TV series Hållbart näringsliv ( HN ) to study hegemonic discursive formations over the meaning of the climate crisis. Combining new materialist approaches in discourse studies with a political ecology understanding of the socio-ecological entanglement, we propose the concept of technocratic solutionism to understand how the neo-liberal green economy secures instrumentalist discourses on nature in the Swedish context. The discourse-theoretical analysis of nine HN episodes identifies four nodal points which articulate the technocratic solutionist discourse: capital’s leading role, Nordic exceptionalism, substitutionalism and long-termism. We argue that the climate crisis can be understood as a materiality that dislocates capitalist assemblages, which then, in response, deploy a techno-solutionism discourse to protect the core principles of economic growth and profitability while marginalizing potential radical alternatives.
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The Covid-19 (acronym for the coronavirus disease of 2019) pandemic negatively affected the world economy akin to the global financial crisis of 2008, leading to the revival of the debate about neoliberal rationalities. Although many nations attempted to contain the pandemic through a public goods approach, the authors argue that these state interventions concealed neoliberalism by advancing its governmentalities. Further, they use Norman Fairclough's (1992) interdiscursivity to describe how in Kenya, The Standard newspaper's coverage of the government interventions was dialogical, euphemising neoliberalism through content that seemed to advocate state welfarism while advocating for the free market at the same time. The interdiscursive analysis was enriched by using Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's (1985) concept of chains of equivalence and difference to explain the power relations behind the euphemisation of neoliberalism. The authors also argue that the invisible free-market mechanism becomes hegemonic when it takes over populist demands through the transformation of the chains of difference – the antagonism against neoliberalism – into chains of equivalence, the points of similarity between neoliberalism and people's welfare demands. For the current study, the authors selected articles on Covid-19 that appeared in the Standard, chiefly those written on policy issues and published during the early period of the pandemic. Two regular themes were analysed to illustrate the euphemisation of neoliberalism, namely, corruption watchdogism and unemployment narratives. The authors use interdiscursivity to illustrate how these two themes euphemise neoliberalism.
Book
This volume of essays employs discourse theory to analyze mainstream topics in contemporary European politics. Inspired by developments in post-structuralist, psychoanalytic and post-Marxist theory, each contributor problematizes a central issue in European governance, including European security, Third Way politics, constitutional and administrative reform, new forms of nationalism and populism, the shift from welfare to workfare, environmental politics and local government. Alongside these substantive issues, the book tackles questions raised by the difficulties of applying discourse theory to empirical cases.
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In this brief and powerful book, Diana Fuss takes on the debate of pure essence versus social construct, engaging with the work of Luce Irigaray and Monique Wittig, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Houston Baker, and with the politics of gay identity.
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From the theory of "deliberative democracy" to the politics of the "third way," the present Zeitgeist is characterised by an attempt to negate the inherently conflictual nature of democratic politics. Political thought and practice are stifled by a misconceived search fro consensus and the promotion of a bland social unanimity which, as Chantal Mouffe shows, far from being the sign of progress, constitute a serious threat for democratic institutions. Indeed, in many countries this 'consensus of the centre' is providing a platform for the growth of populist right-wing parties which, by presenting themselves as the only 'anti-establishment' forces, are trying to occupy the terrain of contestation deserted by the left. Taking issue with the work of John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas on one side, and with the tenets of the third way as practised by Tony Blair and theorised by Anthony Giddens on the other, Mouffe brings to the fore the paradoxical nature of modern liberal democracy. Against those who affirm that, with the demise of the left/right divide, antagonism has been eliminated from contemporary post-industrial societies and that an all-inclusive politics has become possible, she argues that the category of the 'adversary' plays a central role in the very dynamics of modern democracy. Drawing on the work of Wittgenstein and Derrida, and engaging with the provocative theses of Carl Schmitt, she proposes a new understanding of democracy in terms of 'agonistic pluralism' which acknowledges the ineradicability of antagonism and the impossibility of a final resolution of conflicts.