Discourse and Theosophy, by George McNamara

2. Discourse Position.

The discourse position can refer to a specific ideological position of a person, plane or medium. In particular

  • The discourse position is the (ideological) location from which people participate in the discourse and assess it. This applies to individuals and also groups or institutions, which may also take part in discourses. (American free-market, and democracy positions are typical of this type of ideological location)
  • Any discourse position is typified by particular discursive entanglements which feed on the previously, current and expected experiences of the participant. This is often entirely predictable, such as the positions taken up by vegetarians and meat-eaters.
  • The discourse position is a result of the person's previous involvement in various discourses in which the individual has been subjected (involved). The person has been "knitted into" the discourse, and has "knitted in" the discourse into their own position
  • What begins as a discourse position may develop further (and be fixed) into an ideological or institutional position.
  • This also applies to the media - the way they use discourse strands forms them into implicit discourse positions, which shape overall reporting - we can predict the positions each newspaper will take.

Groups and individuals can assess and use discourse positions in different ways

  • Hegemonial discourses might see a supermarket as a positive symbol of wealth.
  • Anti-hegemonial discourses might see the supermarket negatively (idealising small shops and small farmers)
  • Economic discourses might only look at the balance sheet.
  • Some people are so influenced by the discourses of marketing that they have "my favourite supermarket"
  • These different positions all relate to the same basic discourse structure, the supermarket
  • These discourse positions belong (in a rough form) to the general knowledge of the population, who usually distrust both of the extreme positions.

Discourse positions within a dominant or hegemonial discourse are usually rather homogeneous. This can be seen as a function of hegemony - the positions will agree :-

  • Not to rock the boat
  • Not to cast doubt on the ruling economic system
  • Discourse positions which DO deviate from the dominant are sometimes assigned to the camp of 'all opposing discourses', whether they fit there or not
  • However, opposing discourses (and elements of them) can be introduced subversively into the hegemonial discourse (e.g. the cliché 'time is money' can be turned into a criticism of capitalism)
  • Some opposing discourses are allowed to exist, for example, the organic discourse has been allowed to enter supermarkets, but in a tightly controlled way in terms of packaging and shelf-life - it has to fit in with the 'supermarket paradigm' to get in

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