Theoretical Framework

In making my arguments, I draw on two traditions. The first tradition involves the relationship between language and power. As Foucault writes, truth can never be separated from power.

Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it produces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its “general politics” of truth. (1980, p. 131)

Furthermore, truths and the cultural logic in which they are embodied are inseparable from real-world practices. In a very real way, language shapes the way real-world processes take place.

Statements . . . can be articulated to events that are not discursive in nature, but may be . . . technical, practical economic, social . . . [or] political. [To study discourse] is to acquire the freedom to describe a series of relations between it and other systems outside of it. (Foucault, 1994, p. 309)

The second theoretical tradition I draw on in this piece is metaphor theory. This is based on the premise that abstract thought is almost never transparent. Most abstract concepts are connected in some way to a physical reality, or, what Johnson (1995) calls “embodied experience.” Because most thought is metaphorical, and because metaphors are always imperfect fits between one area of experience and another, we can never perceive and understand reality in an unmediated fashion. Our perceptions are both shaped and limited by cultural beliefs and metaphors.

Problem setting, or the formation of how social problems are perceived, may be a more important policy issue than problem solving, and problems are framed in large part through the employment of metaphors. (O’Brien, 2003)

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