Discourse Theory and Critical Media Politics: An Introduction

  • Sean Phelan
  • Lincoln Dahlberg


The signifier discourse is hardly an unfamiliar one in critical media, communication, and cultural studies. As a focal point of theoretical reflection, it may even be considered a bit passé — the residue of an earlier preoccupation with signification and language that has either been superseded by more fashionable theoretical vocabularies, or exposed for its inadequate attention to “real world” material concerns (Cloud, 1994; Philo & Miller, 2000). This objection could apply, in particular, to a discourse theoretical tradition whose foundational moment was the 1985 publication of Laclau and Mouffe’s (2001), Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. The objection might be: “but hasn’t all this ground been covered already?” “Given the range of already available texts,2 do we really need another book about discourse in media and communication studies?” Our response to these objections is, naturally enough, an affirmative one: yes, another book about discourse is needed, one with a specific theoretical focus that systematically explores what we see as the underdeveloped relationship between post-Marxist discourse theory and what this collection calls critical media politics.


Social Practice Radical Contingency Media Discourse Discourse Theory Critical Discourse Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Antaki, C., Billig, M., Edwards, D. & Potter, J. (2003). Discourse analysis means doing analysis: a critique of six analytic shortcomings. Discourse Analysis Online, 2(1). Retrieved November 9, 2010, from
  2. Aune, J. A. (1994). Rhetoric and Marxism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barnett, C. (2003). Culture and democracy: media, space and representation. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, A. & Garret, P. (Eds.) (1998). Approaches to media discourse. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Berglez, P. (2006). The materiality of media discourse. Orebro: Orebro University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Billig, M. (2003). Critical discourse analysis and the rhetoric of critique. In G. Weiss & R. Wodak (Eds.), Critical Discourse Analysis: theory and interdisciplin-arity (pp. 35–46). London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  7. Blommaert, J. (2005) Discourse: A critical introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowman, P. (2007). Post-Marxism versus cultural studies: Theory, politics, and intervention. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calhoun, C. (1992). Habermas and the public sphere. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Carpentier, N. (2005). Identity, contingency and rigidity: The (counter-) hegemonic constructions of the identity of the media professional. Journalism, 6(2), 199–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carpentier, N. & Cammaerts, B. (2006). Hegemony, democracy, agonism and journalism: an interview with Chantal Mouffe. Journalism Studies, 7(6), 964–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carpentier, N. & De Cleen, B. (2007). Bringing discourse theory into Media Studies. Journal of Language and Politics, 6(2), 265–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carpentier, N. & Trioen, M. (2010). The particularity of objectivity: A poststructuralist and psychoanalytical reading of the gap between objectivity-as-a-value and objectivity-as-practice in the 2003 Iraq War coverage. Journalism, 11(3), 311–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carpentier, N. & Spinoy, E. (Eds.). (2008). Discourse theory and cultural analysis. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  15. Chouliaraki, L. & Fairclough, N. (1999). Discourse in late modernity: Rethinking critical discourse analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Cloud, D. L. (1994). The materiality of discourse as oxymoron: A challenge to critical rhetoric. Western Journal of Communication, 58(1), 141–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Condit, C. M. (1994). Hegemony in a mass mediated society: Concordance about reproductive technologies. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 11(3), 205–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cooke, M. (2006). Resurrecting the rationality of ideology critique: Reflections on Laclau on ideology. Constellations, 13(1), 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Corner, J. (1998). Studying media: Problems of theory and method. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Corner, J. (2001). “Ideology”: A note on conceptual salvage. Media, Culture & Society, 23(4), 525–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cottle, S. (2009). Global crises in the news: Staging new wars, disasters and climate change. International Journal of Communication, 3, 494–516.Google Scholar
  22. Couldry, N. (2000). The place of media power: Pilgrims and witnesses of the media age. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Couldry, N. (2008). Form and power in an age of continuous spectacle. In D. Hesmondhalgh & J. Toynbee (Eds.), The media and social theory (pp. 161–76). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Couldry, N. (2009). Does “the media” have a future? European Journal of Communication, 24(4), 437–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Cullen, P. (2010, September 25). Lenihan critical of ‘doomsday’ media coverage. The Irish Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010, from
  26. Critchley, S. (2004). Is there a normative deficit in the theory of hegemony? In S. Critchley & O. Marchart (Eds.), Laclau: A critical reader (pp. 113–22). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Dahlgren, P. (2004). Theories, boundaries and political communication: The uses of disparity. European Journal of Communication, 19(1), 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dallmayr, F. (2004). Laclau and Hegemony: Some (post) Hegelian caveats. In S. Critchley & O. Marchart (Eds.), Laclau: A critical reader (pp. 35–53). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. De Cleen, B. & Carpentier, N. (2010). Contesting the populist claim on “the people” through popular culture: the 0110 concerts versus the Vlaams Belang. Social Semiotics, 20(2), 175–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. De Luca, K. (1999). Articulation theory: A discursive grounding for rhetorical practice. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 32(4), 334–48.Google Scholar
  31. Devenney, M. (2004). Ethics and politics in contemporary theory: Between critical theory and post-Marxism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Downey, J. (2008). Recognition and the renewal of ideology critique. In D. Hesmondhalgh & J. Toynbee (Eds.), The Media and Social Theory (pp. 59–74). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Fairclough, N. (1995). Media discourse. London: ArnoldGoogle Scholar
  34. Fairclough, N. (1998). Political discourse in the media: An analytical framework. In A. Bell & P. Garret (Eds.), Approaches to media discourse (pp. 142–62). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Fairclough, N. Jessop, B. & Sayer, A. (2004) Critical realism and semiosis. In J. Joseph & J. Roberts (Eds.), Realism, Discourse and Deconstruction (pp. 23–42). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Finlayson, A. (2001). Philo and Miller’s metaphysical media studies. Media, Culture & Society, 23(5), 679–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fiske, J. (1989). Understanding popular culture. Boston: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
  38. Geras, N. (1987). “Post-Marxism?” New Left Review, 163 (May–June), 40–82.Google Scholar
  39. Glynos, J. (2008). Ideological fantasy at work. Journal of Political Ideologies, 13(3), 275–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Glynos, J. & Howarth, D. (2007). Logics of critical explanation in social and political Theory. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Glynos, J. & Stavrakakis, Y., (2010). Politics and the unconscious: An interview with Ernesto Laclau. Subjectivity, 3(3), 231–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Grossberg, L. (1992). We gotta get out of this place: Popular conservatism and postmodern culture. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Habermas, J. (1990). Moral consciousness and communicative action. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  44. Habermas, J. (1993). Justification and application. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  45. Hall, S. (1986a). On postmodernism and articulation: An interview with Lawrence Grossberg. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10(2), 45–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hall, S. (1986b). The problem of ideology: Marxism without guarantees. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10(2), 28–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Harvey, D. (1989). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  49. Hesmondhalgh, D. & Toynbee, J. (Eds.) (2008). The media and social theory. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. Howarth, 2000. Discourse. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Howarth, D., Norval, A. J. & Stavrakakis, Y. (Eds.) (2000). Discourse theory and political analysis: Identities, hegemonies and social change. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Iyengar, S. & McGrady, J. (2007). Media politics: A citizen’s guide. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  53. Jameson, F. (2009). Valences of the dialectic. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  54. Jessop, B. (2004). Critical semiotic analysis and cultural political economy. Critical discourse studies, 1(2), 159–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Jørgensen, M. & Phillips, L. (2002). Discourse analysis as theory and method. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Joseph, J. (2002). Hegemony: A realist analysis. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kellner, D. (1995). Media culture: Cultural studies, identity and politics between the modern and postmodern. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Kember, S. & Zylinska, J. (2010). Creative media between invention and critique, or What’s still at stake in performativity? Culture Machine, 11, 1–6.Google Scholar
  59. Laclau, E. (1977). Politics and ideology in Marxist theory: Capitalism, fascism, and populism. London: New Left Books.Google Scholar
  60. Laclau, E. (1990). New reflections on the revolution of our times. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  61. Laclau, E. (1996a). Emancipation(s). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  62. Laclau, E. (1996b). The death and resurrection of the theory of ideology. Journal of Political Ideologies, 1(3), 201–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Laclau, E. (2000). Foreword. In D. Howarth, A. J., Norval, Y. & Stavrakakis (Eds.), Discourse theory and political analysis: Identities, hegemonies, and social change (pp. x–xi). Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Laclau, E. (2001). Democracy and the question of power. Constellations, 8(1), 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Laclau, E. (2004). Glimpsing the future. In S. Critchley & O. Marchart, O. (Eds.), Laclau: A critical reader (pp. 279–328). London, Routledge.Google Scholar
  66. Laclau, E. (2005). On populist reason. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  67. Laclau, E., Avgitidou, A. & Koukou, E. (2008). The defender of eventuality: An interview with Ernesto Laclau. Intellectum, 5, 85–95. Retrieved December 12, 2010, from Scholar
  68. Laclau, E. & Mouffe, C. (1990). Post-Marxism without apologies. In Laclau, New reflections on the revolution of our time (pp. 97–132). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  69. Laclau, E. & Mouffe, C. (2001). Hegemony and socialist strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics, 2nd edn. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  70. Laclau, E., Worsham, L. & Olson, G. A. (1999). Hegemony and the future of democracy: Ernesto Laclau’s political philosophy. In G.A. Olson & L. Worsham (Eds.), Race, rhetoric, and the postcolonial (pp. 129–64). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  71. Laclau, L. & Bhaskar, R. (1998). Discourse theory vs. critical realism. Journal of Critical Realism, 1(2), 9–14.Google Scholar
  72. Machin, D. & van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Global media discourse: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  73. Marchart, O. (2002). Austrifying Europe: Ultra-right populism and the new culture of resistance. Cultural Studies, 16(6), 809–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Marchart, O. (2004). Politics and ontological difference. In S. Critchley & O. Marchart (Eds.), The Laclau Reader (pp. 54–72). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  75. Marchart, O. (2005). In the name of the people: populist reason and the subject of the political. Diacritics, 35(3), 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Marchart, O. (2007). Post-foundational political thought: Political difference in Nancy, Lefort, Badiou, and Laclau. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Matheson, D. (2005). Media discourses: Analysing media texts. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  78. McKerrow, R. E. (1989). Critical rhetoric: Theory and praxis. Communication Monographs, 56(2), 91–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. McLaughlin, G. (2006). Profits, politics and paramilitaries: The local media in Northern Ireland. In B. Franklin (Ed.), Local media and local journalism: Making the local news (pp. 60–9). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  80. Mills, S. (2004). Discourse, 2nd edn. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  81. Morley, D. & Chen, K.-H. (Eds.) (1996). Stuart Hall: Critical dialogues in cultural studies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  82. Mouffe, C. (2000). The democratic paradox. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  83. Mouffe, C. (2005). On the political. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  84. Mylonas, Y. (2009). Discursive struggles on the “war on terror”: Crisis, politics, representation. (Unpublished PhD thesis). Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  85. Norval, A. (2000). Review article: The things we do with words — contemporary approaches to the analysis of ideology. British Journal of Political Science, 30(2), 313–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Norval, A. (2004). Hegemony after deconstruction: the consequences of undecidability. Journal of Political Ideologies, 9(2), 139–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Norval, A. (2007). Aversive democracy: Inheritance and originality in the democratic tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Philo, G. (2007). Can discourse analysis successfully explain the content of media and journalistic practice? Journalism Studies, 8(2), 175–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Philo, G. & Miller, D. (2000). Cultural compliance and critical media studies. Media, Culture, & Society, 22(6), 831–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Porter, R. (2006). Ideology: Contemporary, social, political and cultural theory. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.Google Scholar
  91. Richardson, J. E. (2007). Analysing newspapers: An approach from critical discourse analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  92. Rustin, M. (1988). Absolute voluntarism: Critique of a post-Marxist concept of hegemony. New German Critique, 43(Winter), 146–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Scannell, P. (2007). Media and communication. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  94. Slack, J. D. (1996). The theory and method of articulation in cultural studies. In D. Morley & K-H. Chen (Eds.), Stuart Hall: Critical dialogues in cultural studies (pp. 112–27). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  95. Smith, A. M. (1999). Laclau and Mouffe. The radical democratic imaginary. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  96. Street, J. (2001). Mass media, politics and democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  97. Stäheli, U. (2004). Competing figures of the limit: Dispersion, transgression, antagonism and indifference. In S. Critchley & O. Marchart (Eds.), Laclau: A critical reader (pp. 226–40). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  98. Strömbäck, J. (2008). Four phases of mediatization: An analysis of the mediatization of politics. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 13(3), 228–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Thomassen, L. (2005a). Antagonism, hegemony and ideology after heterogeneity. Journal of Political Ideologies, 10(3), 289–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Thomassen, L. (2005b). In/exclusions: towards a radical democratic approach to exclusion. In L. Tønder & L. Thomassen (Eds.), Radical democracy: Politics between abundance and lack (pp. 103–19). Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  101. Thompson, J. B. (1996). The media and modernity: A social theory of the media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  102. Torfing, J. (1999). New Theories of Discourse: Laclau, Mouffe and Žižek. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  103. Treanor, L., Inman, J. & Moya, E. (2010, November 17). IMF rides in as Osborne pledges aid for Ireland’s debt crisis. The Guardian. Retrieved December 12, 2010, from
  104. Uldam, J. (2010). Fickle commitment: Fostering political engagement in the “flighty world of online activism.” (Unpublished PhD dissertation). Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from Scholar
  105. Žižek, S. (2000). Holding the Place. In J. Butler, E. Laclau & S. Žižek, Contingency, hegemony, universality: Contemporary dialogues of the left. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  106. Žižek, S. (2006). Against the Populist Temptation. Critical Inquiry, 32(2), 551–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Žižek, S. (2007). Violence. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sean Phelan and Lincoln Dahlberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean Phelan
  • Lincoln Dahlberg

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations