Applying Discourse Theory: the Method of Articulation

  • David Howarth


Methodological questions play something of a Cinderella role in discourse theory. Although discourse theorists attack mainstream approaches from an alternative epistemological and methodological standpoint — a stance that embodies a particular conception of social science — there are very few explicit theoretical statements of it. For the most part, such statements are either pitched at a high level of abstraction — dealing mainly with the formal ontological assumptions of discourse theory — or exist in what might be termed a practical state, that is, they are present in the outcomes of empirical research, but remain theoretically latent. This chapter begins the process of rectifying this ‘methodological deficit’ by focusing on the way discourse theory is applied to empirical objects of investigation. By reflecting upon existing research in the field and drawing upon the practice of conducting empirical research in discourse theory, especially with respect to protest movements in Britain and South Africa, I elaborate a method of articulatory practice that avoids the difficulties surrounding the mechanical application of ‘formal-abstract’ theory to ‘real-concrete’ events and processes. This involves a logic of explanation that brings together and transforms a plurality of formal social logics, together with the political logics that constitute and contest the latter, in order to elucidate a carefully problematized instance of research.


Comparative Research Discourse Theory Case Study Method Ontological Assumption Empirical Object 
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.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Howarth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexEssexUK

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