The Power of Discourse, Of course!

  • Paul OrlowskiEmail author
Part of the Explorations of Educational Purpose book series (EXEP, volume 17)


This chapter builds on the previous chapter on ideology by explaining concepts such as discourse and hegemony from a poststructuralist perspective. Concerns around the power of discourse and hegemony are discussed in accessible ways that demonstrate how certain ideologies gain prominence, while others are dismissed. Discourse is always connected with desire and power. In this chapter, both discourse and power are explained in Foucauldian terms. Power is, therefore, conceived of as a set of social relations built seamlessly into daily relations and practices. In effect, this kind of almost invisible power acts as a social regulator in racial, class, and gender relations. Critical discourse analysis is effective in illuminating the ways in which social power is embedded in representation of text, such as in the school curriculum. Sometimes discourses come together to form discursive formations that are particularly powerful in affecting social relations. The chapter outlines the anti-liberal rhetoric in the discursive formation that helped propel George W. Bush into the White House for two terms. Hegemony refers to the ideal representation of the interests of the privileged groups as universal interests, which are then accepted by the masses as the natural order rather than as a demonstration of the construction of power along lines of race, class, and gender. Sometimes discourses arise that are counterhegemonic in that they attempt to destabilize the status quo in some way. This chapter examines the concepts of hegemony and counterhegemony mostly from a theoretical perspective that also makes a distinction between a false consciousness and a more accurate political consciousness. It explains how an individual’s social location and experiences influence their values and perceptions of others. The chapter also introduces the notion of reframing social and economic issues from various ideological perspectives.


Aboriginal People Political Ideology Dominant Discourse Critical Discourse Analysis White Supremacy 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Saskatchewan/SaskatoonSaskatoonCanada

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