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Frank Nullmeier

Explaining discursive change by economic, social and political contexts is a well-known type of research strategy used inside and outside interpretive social science. But is it possible to explain discursive change in a particular interpretive way? This chapter develops a basic model of interpretive explanation. Interpretive explanation is based on the understanding of the internal rationality of the discourse. It shows that discursive changes are triggered by reasons that prove to be good against the background of the standards proper to the discursive formation. Balances of acceptance are the discourse-internal factors through which the dynamics leading to change are induced or not. A six-stage model of interpretive explanation will be developed which demonstrates the manageability of the approach presented for empirical studies on European policies.

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Frank Nullmeier

In Germany, this author argues, justice is undoubtedly the dominant political value in all disputes about social issues in Germany. At the end of the 1990s, political actors wanted to abandon the traditional social policy framework as a policy of redistribution, influenced by (the UK’s) New Labour, international efforts towards administrative reform and the tendency to perceive capital markets as a solution to the fiscal problems of the welfare state. To mitigate the focus on redistribution, established parties tried to avoid the semantics of ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice’. New variants of the term justice, such as ‘justice of participation’, ‘ justice of education’ and, above all, ‘generational justice’ were introduced into political discourse. Discussion about justice has now been replaced in all parties’ manifestoes by a focus on ‘growth’ and ‘freedom’.