CDA and Power

Submitted by admin on Thu, 09/01/2016 - 21:45

Critical Discourse Analysis has a deep interest in power – what it is, who has it and why, and how it works.

Normally in CDA, this is dealt with as part of an advantaged/disadvantaged or privileged/exploited dynamic. However, in the area of food and farming, the situation in the UK seems rather more complex – there are farmers, food processors, global traders, retailers, consumers and government. Looking at this system from the perspective of power, one would currently say that the supermarkets and global-business companies have the most power at the moment, and that small farmers are the most disadvantaged in the UK system. However, it is very hard to look at this and find any deliberate oppression or exploitation, and any oppression which might be occurring does not seem primarily related to food supply.

Part of the role of Government  is to ensure the supply of nourishing and affordable food for the population, and history has many examples of the overthrow of Governments which have failed in this task, so this is an area where power can be exerted. However, the existing system seems far removed from those days of famine and the fall of Governments. The main dynamic nowadays seems to be a consumer-led preference for cheap food with perfect appearance (but which might contain additives) rather than more expensive products which would be healthier (such as organic products). It is difficult to entirely blame the suppliers for this, although there has been skilful marketing. Government and power issues seem to be on the sidelines of this.

Although the system does not appear to be oppressive (which is the normal standpoint of CDA practitioners), there do appear to be many issues of power, which I want to look at more closely.