The Disorders of Discourse by Derek Hook

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Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal,
South Africa
Berghahn Books
The 'Disorders of Discourse'
Author(s): Derek Hook
Source: Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, No. 97, Globalisation and the
Demise of the Nation-State (June 2001), pp. 41-68
Published by: Berghahn Books in association with the Faculty of Humanities, Development
and Social Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41802158
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The 'Disorders of Discourse'
Derek Hook
Introduction
There can be little doubt that discourse analysis has come to represent
something of a 'growth industry' in the critical social sciences.
Indeed, there has been, together with a proliferation of the various
models of the process of discourse analysis (cf. Bannister 1995; Fairclough 1995; Parker 1992; Potter & Wetherell 1987) a veritable explosion of discursive analytic work. This almost unfettered expansion of
discursive analytic work has led almost inevitably to a variety of misapplications of the work of Michel Foucault, whose name is often
attached, almost as matter of course, to varieties of discourse analysis.
This paper will indirectly take issue with erroneous (misapplications of Foucault's concept of discourse by attempting to re-characterise a Foucauldian perspective on what discourse is, and on what a
sound discursive analytic methodology should entail. These objectives will be achieved through a close reading of Foucault's inaugural
lecture at the Collège de France: 'The Order of Discourse'. Furthermore, this discussion will, where appropriate, be illustrated (or contrasted) with reference to one of the most popular methods of
discourse analysis, namely that of Ian Parker (1992). 1
It is worthwhile briefly locating 'The Order of Discourse' in the
context of Foucault's corpus. In many ways this key methodological
paper marks a watershed in Foucault's writing. It signals, with rare
perspicacity and accuracy, the future genealogical research interests
Foucault was to pursue whilst at the Collège de France (studies of the
prison, delinquency and penality which would lead to Discipline and
Punish [1979], studies of the discursive production of sexuality, of
sexual thematics in nineteenth-century medicine and psychiatry,
which would lead to the three volumes of The History of Sexuality
[1980a, 1986, 1988]). By the same token, the paper represents the cutoff point between Foucault's archaeological and genealogical methods, and as such represents a transition point between the 'analysis of
local discursivities and possibilities of knowledge' (archaeological
method), and the subsequent political study of material arrangements
Theoria, June 2001
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42
Derek
of
Hook
power
and
mobilisation
extent,
is
t
o
relian
Whilst
Foucaul
doubt
unfold
a
provide
a
wor
from
Potter
&
the
following
w
Discourse
and
social
analy
bu
tive
truths
exis
entific
methods
is
seen
as
consti
of
discourse
em
(Coyle
Whilst
life
1998:
24
Parker
commentary,
h
also
attend
to
matters'
(1992
'which
courses
structur
reprodu
Processes of Formation and Constraint
In a succinct introduction to Foucault's 'The Order of Discourse'
paper Young (1981) notes that the central focus of the paper is on the
rules, systems and procedures which constitute, and are constituted
by, our 'will to knowledge'. These rules, systems and procedures
comprise a discrete realm of discursive practices - the order of discourse - a conceptual terrain in which knowledge is formed and pro-
duced. As Young specifies, what is analysed here is not simply that
which was thought or said per se, 'but all the discursive rules and categories that were a priori, assumed as a constituent part of discourse
and therefore of knowledge' (Young 1981: 48). In this way, the effects
of discursive practices is to make it virtually impossible to think outside of them; to be outside of them is, by definition, to be mad, to be
beyond comprehension and therefore reason. Discursive rules are
hence strongly linked to the exercise of power: discourse itself is both
constituted by, and ensures the reproduction of, the social system,
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 43
through forms of selection, exclusio
asserts near the beginning of the pape
tion of discourse is at once controlled,
tributed by a . . . number of procedur
outset then Foucault is involved in
materiality and power to what, in the
remained the largely linguistic concep
that he wants to centre the analysis o
political action. These concerns with
tioning of discourse lead also to his
course is both that which constrains
thinking. What he terms 'discursive p
and productive ways, implying a play
both exclusions and choices (Foucau
then, sexist or racist discourse would
ing or 'shutting down' the speaking
marginalised, it will also work to m
authoritative, the speaking opportu
processes, of formation and constraint
inseparable. More than this, they are b
tutive of one another; discourse is f
mutual constitution. Foucault resolves first to deal with the most
overtly exclusionary mechanisms affecting discourse.
External Systems of Exclusion
There are, according to Foucault (1981), three central means of
exclusion that are operated by successful or powerful discourses:
those of prohibition, those that enforce the division between madness
and reason, and perhaps the most important of all, those which divide
the truthful from the untruthful. The critical analysis of discourse
should be crucially aware of each such method of exclusion. The
social procedures of prohibition are fairly straightforward; Foucault
does not spend much time in elaborating them, noting merely that
where the (intersecting) grid of prohibition is tightest is in the regions
of politics and sexuality. A case in point here is the recent evidence
offered up to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission by victim-survivors of apartheid atrocities. These 'tellings' were
clearly prohibited in apartheid-era South Africa, by extreme and
oppressive measures.
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44
Derek
More
and
Hook
a
divisi
reason
fun
Although
Fou
speech
of
the
sanctioned
fo
and
qualificat
'elements
of
t
cault
ful
1981
:
53
discourses
their
lack
of
'
attempt
to
for
era
South
Afr
nent
disqualif
short,
to
speak
course,
was
no
moral
adopt
and
oth
an
unr
importance
the
or
time.
The
exclusion
posed
'untrut
something
'lik
institutionally
to
unseat
an
ah
for
whom
tru
which
one
sub
men
who
spok
54).
For
a
subs
of
truth,
but,
placed
from
towards
tion
to
the
its
became
t
ut
refe
the
qu
deferred
inste
not
however
b
ing
mutations
ern
the
terrai
the
'will
to
tr
according
to
th
tions
of
mental
the
k
invest
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 45
The easiest way of assimilating Fouca
that truth, like the search for knowle
end-point for critical research, pre
Grace (1997) put it, truth and knowled
course in the first place. What comes
just as what comes to count as practi
cal system, is less about pure knowle
universal sense, than about relations o
In other words, what comes to coun
variety of institutional supports and p
tion of truth. A psychological disorder
cault's perspective, is less a trans-histor
people across cultures, and is more an
of particular qualified, professiona
knowledges and practices (of psychia
These basic material conditions of p
avoided, if we are properly to gain a
straining systems governing discour
structures and practices which limit an
course, which both reinforce and rene
their rightful places within a thoro
power of discursive practices.
The 'will to truth' (the way in which
orised, distributed) makes for a part
workings of a successful discourse, an
ical analysis. The strongest discourses
to ground themselves on the natural,
short, on the level of the various corr
able. This situation is aptly characteris
the will to exercise . . . control in society
way to clothe, disguise, rarefy and wrap
guage of truth, discipline, rationality, u
And this language in its naturalness, aut
ness and antitheoretical directness is .
It makes for interesting speculation h
points of apartheid discourse; the polit
politicians of the time was replete wit
tice, orderliness, Godliness, the natura
segregation and so on, striking evide
attempts to 'wrap itself in the truthfu
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46
Derek
Hook
The
methodolog
is
an
unrelentin
and
statements
proximity
to
a
replace
these
't
which
is
more
c
'the
truth'
is
a
will-to-truth
which
tain
will
p
b
not
o
contingenc
a
vital
means
o
power-knowled
To
be
clear,
wh
of
the
'truthfu
function
cisely
It
is
of
disc
rather
in
this
'relative',
ditions
in
are
tha
way
the
equa
spective.
Fouca
secure,
as
situa
historical
and
s
are
part
of,
the
not
to
a
'baseles
of
conditions
of
ingful
One
and
true.
should
rightly
no
explicit
course
analysis.
enough
energy
on
demonstrat
benefit
from
t
Parker
seems
entirely
to
discur
mately
does
wan
would
be
largel
political/ethica
enough
attentio
qualified
know
he
does
not
prop
reasonable
know
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 47
be made. Careful examination of this sor
isability of discursive analytic work (and
of texts) beyond the level of the targete
which Parker's model cannot manage.
Parker (1992) similarly fails to properl
with the 'will to power'; what counts a
systems through which knowledge is
traced back far enough to the material co
multiple institutional supports and vario
tices underlying the production of truth
sufficiently grasped in its relation to
becomes more a project of reading the t
the breadth of discursive practices beyo
Importantly, whilst Parker's method d
specifying that institutions reinforced/
discourse should be identified, this awar
not properly integrated into his method
ably achievable within the frame of t
that these are goals better attained in a
that does not prioritise textual forms, in
a latitude of diverse data forms.
Internal Systems of Exclusion
There are also a number of exclusions which work internally to discourse - the predominant amongst these are the discipline, the author
and the commentary. Each of these allows the generation of new discourses virtually ad infinitum - although within certain limits of con-
straint. In terms of the commentary, Foucault (1981) is speaking of
the discourses based upon the major foundational narratives of a soci-
ety, and the interchange between these primary (foundational religious, juridical or scientific texts) and secondary cultural texts
(commentaries). It is due to the 'top-heaviness' of primary texts that
they will remain permanent, yet ever capable of being brought up to
date, revisited for hidden or multiple meanings (Foucault 1981). Each
form of commentary obeys the simple directive of recitation; each
gives us the opportunity to say something other than the text itself, but
on condition that it is the text itself which is uttered (Foucault 1981 :
58). The centrality of the bible as a primary text which both disallows
certain forms of discourse, but that simultaneously makes possible an
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48
Derek
Hook
infinite
the
numbe
production
The
more
over-play
course
gene
the
when
i
in
repetition,
dis
Fouc
within
which
w
our
presumed
a
what
is
said,
b
discourse',
before
above
(Fouca
every
opp
ising
collectiv
A
complemen
author.
ing
of
Foucault
discours
Whereas
identity
comm
of
rep
element
throug
Although
the
p
each
instance
of
ity
of
certain
s
of
a
propositio
Foucault
has
se
modernity
in
su
who
is
asked
to
versing
The
the
tex
discipline
tion.
A
valid
d
conditions,
Fou
of
objects,
theo
niques
and
inst
discipline
need
of
simple
truth
errors
and
trut
of
'complex
an
atology
of
kno
that
one
ority'
may
h
(Foucaul
Kuhn's
(1970)
n
thinker
might
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The ' Disorders of Discourse ' 49
truthful assertions, which whilst import
of a viable and future sub-discipline, wou
fied on the basis of their lack of corre
current theorisations.
In violating the integrity of the principl
cipline, and in demonstrating how comm
which re-circulates given understandings
we have dangerously overestimated the c
ities of discourse. It will be impossible, h
positive and multiplicatory role of these
take into consideration their restrictive a
(Foucault 1981: 61). Discourse analysis s
merely with the search for a plenitude o
search for the scarcity of meaning, wi
what is impossible or unreasonable within
Parker's (1992) model of discourse an
well in reference to Foucault's commenta
of author and discipline. Parker is empha
individual, and that one should look be
when attempting to grasp meanings wi
gests 'that there need not be an author b
the animating impetus of Parker's work
imperative to critique and question the
and practices of established, mainstream
sense Discourse Dynamics , like a variet
1989, 1999; Parker et al. 1995) certainly
of the inhibiting discursive powers of th
to disrupt and destabilise these bounda
although the extent to which this awaren
cally) implemented within his analytic m
Philosophical Themes of Limitati
Having uncovered the predominant m
upon discourse Foucault is now concern
relating philosophical themes that rei
question, in essence, is how modern west
cessful in eliding the presence and acti
he identifies collude: they all propose a
course, they all adopt an immanent ra
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50
Derek
Hook
their
behaviour,
edge
'which
prom
(Foucault
course
thought
ply
1981
and
spe
thought
The
:
should
first
m
means
Heideggerian
ide
empty
forms
of
founding
subjec
does
not
need
to
manifest
them'
meaning
is
(1
grasp
ences
and
deduct
1981).
In
other
w
prior
A
to
languag
second
theme
position
cations,
around
that
at
things
a
us
and
recognition'
o
(Fou
is
occupied
by
'
language
has
on
has
always
the
alread
skeleton',
world'
(1981
pre-existing
order
to
understa
Universal
tion
of
a
:
65
me
media
omni
concepts
and
al
the
whole
ratio
the
reification
gleaming
of
a
tr
'things
an
themselv
discourse
1981:
66).
as
the
The
co
concepts
we
ha
somehow
pre-p
It
is
through
t
themes,
the
fo
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 5 1
mediation that discourse is reduced to lit
ing, in the case of the first, of reading in
in the third (Foucault 1981). These admit
only the most superficial qualities (mark
ing, reading and exchange never puts any
discourse is hence annulled in its reality
signifier. Here then is perhaps Foucault '
analysis of discourse should not defer sim
ity, to a study of powerful signification
a refusal of analyses couched in terms of th
of signifying structures, and a recourse to a
ogy of relations of force, strategic developm
which determines us has the form of a war
relations of power, not relations of meanin
This commentary asserts a formidable p
course analysis, indeed for many critic
within the context of their analyses, foc
the text alone. Foucault's claim here is
attribute undue power to the internal pro
against a pan-textualism which might clai
sibly be analysed as a text, as a language,
power in language links to, and stems
tactical forms of power. Power, in no unc
or apprehended in the meanings and sign
be grasped and traced through the ana
relations of force.
If one is thus attempting to engage c
Foucault understands it, then those fo
'turn to text', that define discourse as
construct ... an object' (Parker 1992: 5),
tion . . . and written texts' (Potter & Wet
course to refer to a set of meanings, rep
and statements (Burr 1995), will rema
attempts to apprehend discourse in the f
approaches come dangerously close to
tives, to forms of representation, to la
(1992), although perhaps to a lesser ex
despite the fact that he does emphasise,
discourse may also take material forms,
kinds of practice. The problem here is th
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52
Derek
nal
Hook
his
course,
awaren
rem
to
involve
the
forms
of
powe
The
he
Princip
Foucault's
first
means
reversal
(Young
origin.
1981),
Those
t
positive
role
in
the
demonstrat
discourse
typically
(Fou
dera
way,
the
indivi
expertise
from
The
methodol
way
of
enforci
event
which
he
ation
(1981).
T
the
alibis
of
c
origins
of
disc
sion
and
're-so
tion
of
the
m
indeed,
the
m
operations
of
come,
and,
as
a
our
analyses
w
seen
as
a
way
accounts of discourse.
Said (1983) similarly emphasises the importance of re-relating dis-
course to a greater network of power-relations when he notes that
Foucault's method of critically engaging discourse is to strip it of its
esoteric or hermetic elements and to do this by making [it] assume its
affiliations with institutions, agencies, classes, academies, corporations,
groups, ideologically defined parties and professions . . . [These critical
engagements] . . . forcibly redefine and re-identify the particular interests
that all [discourses] serve. (Said 1983: 212)
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The ' Disorders of Discourse ' 53
Re-emphasising the importance of this
that '[e]ach discourse ... is to some de
control and a set of institutions within the culture over what it consti-
tutes as its special domain' (Said 1983: 219).
Here it should again be noted that Parker's (1992) method does
make allowance for the identification of institutions; similarly, it
makes mention of the fact that discourses reproduce power-relations.
However, in both of the above cases, Parker fails to properly explain
how the identification of institutions, like the identification of those
who will/will not benefit from the mobilisation of the discourse, may
be properly accommodated within a methodology that treats discourse chiefly as a form of language. Again one feels that a broader
definition of discourse, and a broader analytic scope than one limited
basically to the analysis of texts will be necessary if this method is to
comply with Foucault's demands. Similarly, Parker is anxious about
how one might imply the omnipresence of power by emphasising the
inextricability of power and discourse, and thereby lose sight of the
prospects of resistance. This is clearly antithetical to Foucault's
approach, which seeks precisely to emphasise how enmeshed power
is within discourse. (Importantly here, an emphasis of the intimacy
and interconnectedness of power and discourse need not, for Foucault, mitigate against the possibilities for resistance, particularly
given that, in his conceptualisation, resistance is a feature of every
power relationship; there can be no relation of power without resis-
tance [Foucault 1982].)
A perhaps even more direct way of tying discourse to the power-
interests it serves is by isolating the material implications of discourse. Here another pragmatic upshot of prioritising discourse as
event becomes clear: that one should approach discourse not so much
as a language, or as textuality, but as an active 'occurring', as something that implements power and action, and that also is power and
action. Rather than a mere vocabulary or language, a set of instruments that we animate, discourse is the thing that is done, 'the violence', as he puts it, 'which we do things' (Foucault 1981: 67). In a
similar vein Said adds that the predominant goal of discourse is 'to
maintain itself and, more important, to manufacture its material continually' (Said 1983: 216). Many of Foucault's later works take this
material level of discourse as their prime focus. Discipline and Punish (1979) is a case in point where Foucault maps, in rigorous detail,
power's various and developing investments in the body. Here, each
facet of discursive commentary is led and substantiated by the minu-
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54
Derek
tiae
Hook
of
various
impact,
would
Again
here
systems
of
against
at
the
The
the
Par
con
nec
same
tim
Principl
Foucault's
Perhaps
trust
it
(1970)
work,
secon
the
mo
display
had
alr
linear
c
evolution
are
analysis.
The
n
re
concept
stems
explanation,
it
its
analytical
comment
risk
of
ac
that
project
analysis
will
u
The
importan
past'
and
'a
his
tially
a
work
political
o
realm
pened
in
a
prev
it
risks
reprod
context
as
it
1998).
Rather
standings
and
d
t
a
prefers
to
inte
and
understand
bilising
In
content
to
critica
equivalent
of
te
disc
decentre
authority,
such
an
and
'truthful
makes
for
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a
no
The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 55
was previously considered immobile . . .
unified . . . [and] shows the heterogeneit
consistent' (Foucault 1977: 147). In th
course become that much more discern
appeared as a 'transparent medium of
able, just as some of our most fundamen
psyche, sexuality and society become
entities. Hence one starts to see the ab
that any critical, or politically efficacio
sis will have upon effective forms of hi
portant font of critical 'counter-kno
well-suited to destabilising current hier
tance and struggle. Indeed, without this
be limited to 'scratching the surface
remain loaded with contemporary values
porary discourse than a critical analysis
Parker's (1992) method does suggest t
located', in conjunction with the war
should be wary of disconnecting themse
Whilst these stipulations are commendab
history can only possess a limited, per
ity if not centralised as a prime method
appeal to history has an 'after the fac
poses, it loses much of its destabilisin
mately, this reference to history lack
contrary counter-knowledges may be pu
discursive knowledges.
The methodological opposition Foucau
way of enforcing the importance of the
that of series versus unity. Rather than
or suppose that each component of th
type, the discourse analyst must be p
functions across a variety of differen
material reality, institutions, subjectivit
lowing linear successions of developmen
ses), the discourse analyst must trace a l
regularity (horizontal, 'sideways' pattern
ority given to textual forms of disco
problematic; without the realisation tha
sation-point' of discourse, without the b
consider a variety of diverse forms, the
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56
Derek
Hook
be
able
to
capacities
mou
of
d
Foucault's
alerting
notio
to
t
contradictory
w
to
us
gauge
it
in
notion
that
can
ponents,
despit
'flexible
positi
authority
chara
mentary,
'un-u
work
together
that
'discursive
series
which,
h
(1981:69).
Parker
of
He
of
(1992)
the
flexibili
speaks
of
ho
extending
it
However
these
extra-textual forms of discourse. Given then that discourse is able to
work in discontinuous ways, that discursive practices are able to cross
and juxtapose one another with 'mutual unawareness' (Foucault
1981), then we cannot simply speak against discourse, or attempt to
liberate a network of repressed discourse lying beneath it. To attempt
to 'give voice' to a great unspoken risks simply reproducing the criticised discourse in another way. Indeed:
the fact that there are systems of rarefaction does not mean that beneath
them . . . there reigns a vast unlimited discourse . . . which is . . . repressed
by them, and which we have the task of raising up by restoring the power
of speech to it. (Foucault 1981: 67)
It is not the case that there is a great 'unsaid' or great 'unthought'
which runs throughout the world 'and intertwines with all its forms
and all its events' (Foucault 1981: 67). Foucault is pointing out that
the model of repression will be inappropriate here in describing the
functioning of discourse - because, it is quite simply not the case that
the attempt to utter those meanings excluded, marginalised or
'repressed' by discourse will bring us to truth. There is not a vast and
unlimited, continuous and silent discourse 'quelled and repressed by
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 51
various practices', and subsequently, i
'raise up the restored power of speech
This is a difficult point in the sense th
be Foucault's task to do just this, to giv
sources so thoroughly disqualified fro
Foucault 1980b). Whilst this may no
bearing in mind that this kind of genea
voices does not occur under the ausp
untruthfulness with the force of an ind
under the auspices of tracing discursive
trol, by assembling a strategically or
knowledges which will be capable of
against the coercion of presiding dis
more of a question of increasing the com
subversive forms of knowledge than of
their 'truth-value'; more a tactic of s
straightforward head-to-head measurin
'truer' counter-example.
The analyst of discourse is predomin
exploiting the gaps or shortcomings o
tematically demonstrating its contradic
are the seams to be pulled, the joints an
stressed. In this connection, Parker's m
such an emphasis of the internal cont
that he suggests to analysts that one 'se
one another' (1992: 14). Exposing these p
nitely preferable to the attempt to unr
because the latter risks simply repro
arresting its activity.
The Principle of Specificity; Regu
In speaking of specificity Foucault is
eralising forms of analysis which would
lar discursive forms into 'a play of pre-
The activity of a 'general reading' of
because such an activity makes the assum
towards us a legible face which we w
(Foucault 1981: 67). In strong oppositi
cault warns that 'the world is not the
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58
Derek
Hook
there
is
no
pre
favour'
(1981
:
in
things,
true
and
or
to
that
intrins
distingu
important
wor
that
'there
is
thing
within
knowledge
of
capacity
(the
sc
by
certain
dis
there
is
nothin
the world is reducible to certain textual markers.
In contrast to suggestions that discursive practices can be largely
reduced to textuality (as implicit in the approaches of Parker [1992]),
Foucault's warning is that we must resolve to 'throw off the sovereignty of the signifier' and look further afield to identify a wider
array of discursive effects (Foucault 1981 : 66). Similarly, he demands
that one does not reduce the analysis of discourse merely to the
'markings of a textuality', but that one fixes it also in the physicality
of its effects, in the materiality of its practices (1981: 66). As such,
critical readings, like interpretative exercises, will be insufficient,
they will allow one to deny the materiality of discourse, to elide much
of its force, and will hence result in the crippling of the political
impact of our analyses.
The opposition Foucault draws on here is that between regularity
and originality. His point here is to impress upon us the fact that similar discursive acts can occur in a multitude of different ways, in var-
ious different forms which stretch from what has typically been
considered 'discursive', that is, the textual, to the 'extra-discursive',
the material level of discursive practices. Foucault's use of the term
'discursive practices' here is noteworthy; not only does it suggest a
diverse plurality that nonetheless maintains a unified function, it also
makes it difficult to separate the material and the textual, to grant
either a separate (and mutually-exclusive) integrity beyond the other.
The collapse of this textual/material, 'discursive'/'extra-discursive' division seems strategic on Foucault's part; his agenda, it seems,
is precisely to complicate and problematise the division. Indeed, once
we consider the discursive utterance (the diagnosis of someone as a
'pervert', say for example) as an action, as a practice or an event, then
this utterance seems to start verging on the territory of materiality,
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 59
and becomes more easily linked to th
through which such a diagnosis may be
other hand, more obviously material pr
reason of sado-masochistic sexual beha
be of a different ontological nature, abl
discourse, without being exhausted by i
The collapse of such a division also b
it - most obviously an over-emphasis of
are to be found here. The first resides
'discursive', nothing beyond the text, se
a form of dialogue. The second reside
empowered status to language alone.
the deployment of political correctness
the world in isolation from certain fundamental material conditions.
These errors signal a myopia of the text, an over-valuation of the lin-
guistic and representational powers of language in isolation of the
material arrangements of power in which they are enmeshed, and
which they in turn extend.
The breadth of a focus on 'discursive practices' (so conspicuously
absent in Parker's [1992] method) mitigates against exactly such a
myopia. Indeed, as problematic as it is to threaten the collapse of this
distinction on an ontological level, there is nonetheless a critical
methodological efficacy in a cautious, pre-cursory exploration of the
blurring between the textual and material, the 'discursive' and the
'extra-discursive'. Indeed, as will become increasingly clear, this
whole distinction, which to a large extent still retains its integrity, can
be a dangerous one in the sense that it aids and abets the contempo-
rary effacement and denial of the potency of discourse's material
effects. Being able to cautiously blur these lines will keep the analyst
from under-estimating the discursive effects of the material, and the
material effects of the discursive.
It seems that by being able to work in two analytic domains, to substantiate critical textual assertions on the basis of materially-focused
analyses, and vice versa, Foucault gains a unique epistemological
strength in his work, a strength lacking in Parker's (1992) model.
There can be little doubt that Foucault's priority is not that of 'reading', textuality or signification, but rather that of materiality, conditions of possibility, historical circumstance. Hence one might contend
that Foucault's analysis of discourse occurs fundamentally through
the extra-discursive ; a fact which brings his approach to discourse
into strong conflict with that of Parker.
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60
Derek
Hook
The
Princip
Conditions
of
Rather
than
'hidden
should
those
mov
nucleus
move
for
elements
ditions
of
w
possib
injunction
here
i
prove
inadequate
is
insufficient,
b
This
is
the
ported
well
as
probl
textual
i
any
othe
significance
beyo
This
problem
o
political
sis
utility
(Burman
aware.
makes
As
it
others.
'truth'
i
199
Burr
(
difficul
Because
lying
wit
findings
as
open
absence
of
notion
of
reference
in
ent
discourses
Burman
(1990)
explicit
ments
d
or
li
politica
that
it
th
it
is
possible
to
rather
than
anot
It
is
clear
in
thi
to
certain
stable
those
of
truth
a
efforts
of
the
d
then
these
analy
ferent
epistemol
that
one
needs
possible,
to
a
dou
textual
dimensio
architecture,
or
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 61
There is a second reason why merely
prove inadequate. If we produce texts as
that is to say, if we attempt to gener
basis of effective opposition, we may ve
oblique support or adjunct to the crit
much on the textual level of discours
attentions (and discourse itself) to this t
our critical readings and writings open
facets of the opposing discourse. Wh
here is the distinction between discourse
as power itself. My concern is that in en
textual level one is predominantly dealin
power , and is, in relative terms, neglect
instrument of power. Foucault makes a
that discourse should be viewed as n
instrument of power: 'discourse is not
struggles or systems of domination, but
which there is struggle' (Foucault 198
In emphasising that discourse is both
hoped-for effects), and its means (its
warning us that we are making a mistak
function of discourse to any one comfor
of power. Indeed, one needs only briefly
the mutually-beneficial and interdepend
rial and the discursive in the operation
course often appears as both instrumen
its antecedent and its offshoot. (Discour
emergence of certain relations of mater
these effects after the fact. Similarly, m
enable certain speaking rights and privi
ial substantiation to what is spoken in
mutual reliance of this relationship can
such, the attempt to isolate either aspect
analysis of discourse risks severely und
analysis, and colluding in the ongoing p
Remaining within the text, and maint
the contents of the text only, means th
not be able to properly engage with d
power precisely because they will no
macro perspective where different and
power are intimately connected to it
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62
Derek
Hook
lacking
this
networks
of
m
po
the
possibility
instruments
o
counter-discour
in
an
oblique
w
those
forms
of
place.
The
lack
analysis
withou
the
same
cised),
be
a
disco
leaves
part
mantle.
it
instru
Fouca
useful
here
in
tent
and
overt
means
ious
The
of
in
d
which
instrumen
conceptua
exteriority
sibility
(1981)
tions
alone,
F
overlapping
for
and in the absence of which certain discursive statements could not
have been made. Analytic attentions hence need to defer to a variety
of circumstantial variables, stretching across the material, institutional and historical circumstances that make certain acts, statements
and subjects possible at certain specific locations. Rather than just
locating discourse within a web of discursive effects then, one might
also unearth certain of its various potential instruments.
Having already favoured lateral as opposed to vertical lines of analysis, Foucault (1981) now uses the notion of exteriority to eschew depth
in favour of breadth as the primary focus of analytic work. He notes:
Whereas the interpreter is obliged to go to the depth of things, like an
excavator, the moment of . . . [genealogy] is like an overview, from higher
and higher up, which allows the depth to be laid out in front of him in a
more and more profound visibility; depth is re-situated as an absolutely
superficial secret. (Cited in Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982: 106-107)
To this he adds the observation that the deepest truth that the geneal-
ogist has to reveal 'is the secret that [things] have no essence ... or
that their essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien
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The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 63
forms' (cited in Dreyfus & Rabinow 19
interpretation is an unending task, it is
ing to interpret. There is nothing abs
because, when all is said and done, un
already interpretation' (cited in Dreyf
Perhaps the most important point of t
discussion, is that it plays up the extent
course analysis inevitably defer to a kin
which, in a sense, recuperates the princi
interpretative researcher. (It should be
Hogg [1990] have criticised Parker's crite
discourses, arguing that his stress on th
realised in texts' obscures the role of th
preter. Similarly, Marks [1993] claims th
ivity in discourse analysis procedure
'reading' carries the most weight (rela
jects), a fact that is also conceded by
Lacking the breadth or latitude of
approach to critical investigation, discou
tinues to follow 'a vertical line of inv
approach' to the text. Hence, as Potte
1995), one's own less than explicitly co
comes to assume the anchoring-position
sion of the notion of 'truth'. Basicall
model provided by Parker (1992) cann
that it functions as an interpretative ac
recuperates the author-principle (in the f
restores a central anchoring point, not th
but in the authoritative interpretation,
same function. Given that there is no 'p
activity which is interpretative in some
uncover discursive effects. To critical
does not need implicitly interpretative a
trast, to map discourse, to trace its outl
across a variety of discursive forms and
Conclusion: The Shortcomings of
Returning to Coyle's (1998) understand
opened this paper, we can certainly see
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64
Derek
Hook
(1981)
conceptio
of
discourse
an
course;
(2)
tions
as
a
to
de
by-pr
ways
in
which
Likewise,
havi
why
'has
for
to
Parker
be
locate
transform
though,
it
model
at
the
has
least,
translate
all
o
model
of
analy
Indeed,
in
line
this
paper,
course
ent:
can
the
be
tha
analysis.
variou
better
work
than
(depending
a
th
on
broader
analysi
and
the
underly
as
reasonable
kn
can
be
drawn
f
ception
of
disco
riality
and
pow
this
paper
that
analysis
that
so
tory
power
an
approaches
like
It
is
and
with
as
a
refe
way
of
foregoing
meth
ments
may
be
course
indispen
discourse
analy
a
'history
of
s
exclude
the
di
course
is
to
risk
ical
discursive
c
reproducing
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pr
The 'Disorders of Discourse ' 65
rogate. In this connection, Parker (1992)
forms of analysis in only a peripheral a
Secondly, for Foucault, a study of disc
a focus on discourse-as-knowledge - th
matter of the social, historical and po
statements come to count as true or f
Without reference to the underwriting c
the frame of what constitutes reasonabl
lytic procedures such as Parker's (1992) w
lated comments, with a generalisability
to the reference point of the analysed te
Thirdly, without reference to material
method of Parker) discourse analysis r
'the markings of a textuality', a play of
set of hermeneutic interpretations that
More than this, by fixing on textual eff
at the cost of an awareness of discourse as also the instrument of
power), discourse analysis aids and abets in the contemporary effacement and denial of its material effects and appears to risk a dangerous
reductionism in thinking power.
As a way of uniting the above three conditions of discourse in one
overriding methodological imperative, one could suggest that the
analysis of discourse, according to a Foucauldian perspective, cannot
remain simply within the text, but needs to move, in Said's (1983) formulation, both in and out of the text. If one is to ensure that one's ana-
lytic efforts do not result in mere 'markings of textuality', with
limited political relevance, restricted generalisability and stunted critical penetration, then it will be necessary to corroborate the findings
of textual analyses with reference to certain extra-textual factors (history, materiality, conditions of possibility); to do exactly what Parker
(1992) fails to do, to drive the analysis of the discursive through the
extra-discursive.
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66
Derek
Hook
NOTES
1. Parker's (1992) method of discourse analysis is here taken as an emblematic
example of many popular applications of discourse analysis. The attempt here is
not simply to criticise Parker's work in an isolated way, but to comment far more
broadly on methodological problems of much discourse analysis as it is practised
more generally.
2. By 'conditions of possibility' here Foucault (1981) is referring to materialist
conditions that are historically specific and contingent in themselves, rather than
in any way 'transcendental'.
3 . Note that whilst Said ( 1 983) suggests that such a 'regularising collectivity' migh
be somehow overcome, Foucault (198 1) declines to endorse such a position, pre-
ferring, by contrast, to emphasise the 'unthinkability' of that which lies beyond
such systems of régularisation.
4. The strategic importance of history here, as a destabilising (yet realist) element
through which contemporary discourse can be interrogated and critiqued, is, fo
Foucault, unquestionable. The idea is that an historical dimension of analysis will
be precisely that kernel of resistance and refutation needed to guard against the
recuperative powers of current discourse.
5. This relationship between discursive and material relations of power appears
be much like the relationship between power and knowledge for Foucault (1979).
The power-knowledge complex points our attention to the endlessly circular rela
tionship between relations of power and knowledge, relations which are mutually
reinforcing and which substantiate and extend each other in highly complex
ways. If we look beneath the surface of knowledge we will find power, and
beneath power we find knowledge; both in fact are vital to the ongoing production and expansion of the other.
6. This is a distinction reinforced by McHoul and Grace's (1997) observation tha
Foucault moves the concept of discourse away from a linguistic system or gram
mar towards the understanding of a discipline - a discipline both in the scholarly
sense (of science, medicine, psychiatry, sociology, etc.) and in the sense of the
disciplinary institution (such as the prison, the school, the hospital, the confessional, etc.).
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