Jackson, Abigail (2014) A Critical Discursive Psychological Study: Political Rhetoric Surrounding Welfare Reform from 2010-2014. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This research critically analyses the language used by politicians: David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith, in their efforts to build and convey constructs of welfare recipients and welfare reform in the period of 2010-2014. Using Critical Discursive Psychology principles and practices, the constructs are analysed by asking how they were built and how. These questions are considered alongside a focus on linguistic tools, rhetorical features and their function regarding macro factors. The data analysed consisted of transcribed speeches which were delivered by Cameron, Osborne and Duncan Smith prior to and subsequent to the introduction of welfare reforms. Drawing from this data, the analysis discusses how aspects of welfare are rhetorically managed in discourse. The interpretive repertoires which were built and drawn from by the politicians constructed welfare recipients as victims and abusers and welfare reform as fairness and opportunity.
The accounts of welfare produced by these Conservative leaders provide a vague, insufficient version of reality. The speeches are socially functional: they work to condemn unemployed welfare recipients, to criticise the previous Labour government, to praise working people and to justify the welfare reforms. The discourses place blame and
responsibility for the economic downturn and personal financial struggles on individual welfare recipients regardless of their individual circumstances. The discourses were also found to portray the reforms as both punitive and beneficial to welfare recipients therefore appealing to different perspectives. This research challenges the discourses produced by Conservative elites with regards to their validity and their political implications. In doing so, the research aims to offer a critique of the constructs of social security recipients and the coalition’s welfare reforms built by Conservative politicians by deconstructing their accounts. In challenging these accounts the research also aims to provide alternative cultural resources for this social debate. The greater implications of powerful discourses, as well as how discursive practices can be employed to encourage greater awareness, are also discussed.

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