What is the Meaning of Public Sector Health? Translating Discourse into New Organizational Practices

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This study explores the dynamics involved in establishing discourses necessary for constructing organizational change within the public sector. Drawing upon critical discourse analysis, the study identifies two competing discourses – a ‘patient’ and a ‘healthy citizen’ discourse, which exist as strategic resources in health care. The case study focuses on a municipality in Denmark and the way the organizational actors translated meaning into the development of a new healthcare centre. The analysis contributes to our understandings of translation by focusing on discursive legitimizing strategies in the context of public sector change. First, the study shows that discourses not only provide different senses of meaning and warrant particular social actors a louder voice than others, but that these actors also develop discursive legitimizing strategies and translate particular meanings into the organization and organizational practices. Second, when the strategies make a discourse resonate with the local context, in this case a highly political context, then specific organizational practices become more legitimate than others, and the discourse is more inclined to become manifest. Finally, the findings indicate that the manifestation of a discourse can also be explained by how successful this discourse can be carried out in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Change Management
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)283-307
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Discursive Legitimizing Strategy
  • Translation
  • Public Sector Change
  • Health Care

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