Critical discourse analysis and 'demande sociale'
I shall approach the theme of the colloquium from the perspective of a version of 'critical discourse analysis' which is focused upon theorizing and analyzing dialectical relations between discourse and other moments of the social process, and which is oriented to forms of transdisciplinary research such as the 'cultural political economy' I drew upon in Fairclough (2006), which incorporates this sort of approach to CDA.
The particular case I shall refer to is 'social demand' for research which may contribute to improving democracy in the EU, overcoming - in one formulation - 'the democratic deficit'. Specifically I shall refer to an EU project on 'participation' called PARADYS (Participation and Dynamics of Social Positioning) which I was involved in (PARADYS 2004, Hausendorf & Bora 2006). My paper will include discussion of the following general points about the theme of the colloquium.
One might argue that critical discourse analysis is inherently oriented to 'social demand', assuming the latter is taken in a broad sense (Castel 2000) to include for example 'the scattered and diffuse anxiety' which Bauman draws together under the rubric of Unsicherheit (1999:5), that is the 'social demand' which is implied perhaps more than articulated in often elusive expressions and reactions in ordinary life, as opposed to the 'social demand' that is usually more explicitly formulated by public agencies or organizations such as research councils.  As Bauman's discussion indicates, such 'social demand' requires interpretation, as well as explanation. If we see critical discourse analysis as grounded in giving primacy to certain values (such as social justice, well-being, equality, democracy) and as seeking to theorize and analyse the obstacles to and the possibilities for the flourishing of these values in ways which bring out their discoursal or semiotic aspects, 'social demand' in this broad sense can constitute a point of departure for selecting topics and constructing objects of research.  We might say that CDA is, or should be, responsive to 'social demand' in this sense.
But one might argue that 'social demand' of any sort, including that which comes from or via public agencies, requires interpretation and explanation. This should perhaps be particularly clear for discourse analysts. Although there is sometimes an explicit orientation to discourse in formulations of 'social demand', discourse analysts are I suggest more often in the position of offering interpretations which suggest significant discursive dimensions of 'social demand' which have been ignored or understated, and of having to convince others (funding bodies, colleagues in other disciplines, etc).
Insofar however as 'social demand' takes the form of explicit demand for expertise in or research on discourse, we might take this in itself as a topic for transdisciplinary (including discourse-analytical) theorizing and research. What are we to make for instance of an apparent tendency for knowledge about discourse to be valued - if still on a relatively small scale - by managers, policy-makers and so forth for its practical utility in enhancing such desirables as efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness (perhaps by managers of call centres for instance, Cameron 2000)? I suggest that as discourse analysts we might be wary about responding to such social demand without analyzing and understanding it, which may call for new concepts and categories within our theories of discourse. Some years ago for instance I discussed the concept of 'technologization of discourse' (Fairclough 1992), interventions to redesign and change discoursal dimensions of social practices to enhance the achievement of organizational objectives. We might situate this within the widely discussed recent tendency for the expansive dynamic of capitalism to extend the logic of commodities into formerly 'extra-economic' areas of social life, and we might interpret the emergence of 'social demand' explicitly oriented to discourse partly at least in such terms. How, in that case, might we evaluate it?
Bauman Z In Search of Politics Polity Press 1999
Cameron D Good to Talk? Sage 2000
Castel R La sociologie et la réponse à la <<demande sociale>> Sociologie du travail 42.2 2000
Fairclough N Discourse and Social Change Polity Press 1992
Fairclough N Language and Globalization Routledge 2006
Hausendorf H & Bora A eds Analyzing Citizenship Talk: Social Positioning in Political and Legal Decision-Making Processes John Benjamins 2006
PARADYS Final Report 2004