Questioning the Closure of Meaning: Hegemony of Neoliberal Discourse, Slovenian Journalism and Democracy
Drawing on the discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe, situated within a post-structuralist and post-Marxist framework, this project considers with particular empirical reference to the Slovenian context the relationship between the journalism and the neoliberal social order. The project aims to critically examine the role media play in the processes of reproduction of the neoliberal discourse and construction of the Slovenian neoliberal reality. In particular, the purposes of my research are threefold: 1/ to expose the characteristics and functioning of the neoliberal discourse (through journalistic texts); 2/ to chart real effects the neoliberal discourse has on the structuring of social relations (by offering specific subject positions and creating consensual neoliberal interpretative scheme); and 3/ to consider broad socio-political implications of those effects (in the contexts of the concepts of citizenship and democracy). Although still work in progress, my findings so far support arguments that the current affairs journalism of Slovenian media construct and reproduce the hegemony of the neoliberal discourse by employing specific discursive strategies of moralization found in the rhetoric, narration and visual iconography of journalistic articles. The neoliberal discourse manages to link together various elements that might be in their particular logics perceived as entirely arbitrary or even contradictory, through hegemonic operation that constitutes a chain of equivalences and fixes neoliberal meanings and identities around specific nodal points. Explicitly, these articles paradoxically articulate and naturalize neoliberal ideas of nation, family, authority and tradition on one hand, as well as egoistic interest, competitive individualism, and the idea of opposing the bureaucratic state on the other. While I keep the analytic distinction between those articulations, in practice they overdetermine each other and simultaneously construct a neoliberal order. Since neoliberal discourse engages in a hegemonic move that also attempts to absorb and redefine some of the oppositional demands, the project will in addition address the issue of structure versus agency, a concern from what position should we speak in order, if possible at all, to develop a subversive critique, and the question of normative ground from which theory-building, and not merely deconstruction, is promising. Answers suggest shifting to a ‘complex of dialectics’ between the contingency and necessity. Finally, I reflect on implications of neoliberalism’s inherent authoritarian tendencies that add force to the processes of depoliticisation by way of transforming conceptualisations of democracy and citizenship. On the basis that any critique of society is in journalistic articles aestheticized (commodified), therefore suffocated, Slovenian journalism is more successful in cultivating a neoliberal moral order than in its normative role of moving beyond neoliberal closure of meaning, providing critical analysis, and stimulating public debate. Rethinking the emancipatory potential of journalism is in this respect crucial.