Edited by Jon C. Lovett and David G. Ockwell
Chapter 6: Analysing Dominant Policy Perspectives – The Role of Discourse Analysis
David G. Ockwell and Yvonne Rydin Introduction The last decade has seen a ‘linguistic turn’ within policy analysis (Edelman, 1988; Rydin, 1998, 1999; Hastings, 1999) as it becomes increasingly accepted that language use and appeals to different discourses by various actors in the policy-making sphere have a direct influence on the nature of any policy. In this chapter we explore how to undertake a discursive policy analysis. Rather than focus on the theoretical debates on this approach, we address the practical problems and potential for undertaking discourse analysis of environmental policy through a case study of the policy governing anthropogenic fire in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia. We begin by exploring the rationale for and benefits of using discourse analysis. Then we emphasize the need to find an appropriate ‘middle range’ theory for application in any specific context. To illustrate our point, two alternative frameworks for undertaking such an analysis are outlined. We then apply these frameworks in detail to our case study and use them to understand why a particular policy perspective has dominated fire policy in Cape York. This demonstrates the nature of the insights that the two approaches facilitate and provides the opportunity for exploring the methodological difficulties and practicalities of such an analysis. The arguments for a discursive approach to policy analysis The term ‘discourse’ is both complex and contested. It has multiple roots in the social sciences and humanities (Hastings, 1999, 2000). Dryzek (1997, p. 8) defines a discourse as ‘a shared way of apprehending...
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