Critical Metaphor Analysis of EU Policy Documents between 1985 and 2014
39 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 31, 2017
This study aimed at unveiling the implicit assumptions underlying the language of EU policy-making, drawing on Hannah Arendt's critique of modernity. It conducts a critical metaphor analysis of strategic EU policy documents spanning a 30-year period from 1985 to 2014, in order to reveal the extent to which EU policy-making, by relentlessly focusing on the ‘competitiveness, growth, and jobs’ narrative, relies on modern conceptual frameworks. These are characterized by the prominence of rationality and causality, at the expense of sense of purpose, reality and meaning.
This underlying modern framework is revealed through the validation of a set of four metaphorical keys. These are:
(i) a sensitive inversion, i.e. economic agents are sensitive and humans are functional;
(ii) size matters, i.e. big is better than small and one is better than many;
(iii) deficit framing, i.e. potential is locked and present is broken/future is bright; and
(iv) speed is of the essence, i.e. the world moves fast and we must hurry up.
Building on the qualitative analysis of six strategic EU policy documents, we used computational methods to analyse a larger corpus of policy texts from the same period, containing 6512 documents. The paper shows that the metaphors used in EU policy discourse allow holding together a fragile and ambiguous state of affairs and argues that the EU’s crisis is due to the fact that these metaphors no longer work.
Keywords: metaphor, critical discourse analysis, European Union, policy, Lisbon strategy, Hannah Arendt, computational methods
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