Occupy Wall Street-bevægelsen og Barack Obama i dialog? En komparativ undersøgelse af konstruerede økonomiske virkeligheder

Tanja Brodzki Holm

Student thesis: Master thesis


My motivation for this thesis was caused by the apparently diverging signals coming from the Occupy Wall Street movement and President Barack Obama back in September 2011 when the movement was formed. The Occupy Wall Street movement expressed great frustration with the growing economic inequality in the United States as well as with their President. Barack Obama on the other hand declared his understanding and sympathy with the movement. The two could not seem to agree to disagree. In order to understand these apparent divergences I carry out a comparative study based on the research question: How do the Occupy Wall Street movement and Barack Obama construct the current economic reality in the United States, and which ideological differences and similarities are there? I further conclude on the relations between these constructions of reality in view of Michel Foucault’s power perspective. The empirical data comprises a cross section of texts, such as speeches, interviews, news articles, White House blog posts, and other documents. The methodological and theoretical basis of this thesis consists of Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis combined with concepts from Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s discourse theory. In addition, I include concepts from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s cognitive metaphor theory. This combination allows a language perspective with a focus on the governing qualities of language as well as the contingency in our constructions and understanding of reality. My results show that the similarities consist in a common political agenda with regard to the underlying values that should form the foundation of the economy: fairness and increased equality. Both Occupy Wall Street and Barack Obama construct Wall Street as primary culprit for the financial and economic crises. This indicates a spill‐over effect between discourses. The difference consists in the signifying of meaning to these key concepts. Occupy Wall Street constructs a society dominated by the antagonistic positions between a greedy and corrupt power elite legitimized by the economic and political systems on the one hand, and on the other the general population who is a victim of this greed and corruption. By contrast, Barack Obama constructs economic fairness as conditional upon responsibility and these two complementing concepts as comprising all members of society. These key concepts thus contribute to the construction of an antagonistic position between Obama with the population, including Occupy Wall Street, against negative values, such as unfairness and irresponsibility. This may be regarded as a discursive strategy that utilizes Occupy Wall Street’s agenda to further Barack Obama’s political power. At the same time, however, he lets the movement take part in the political power by introducing common key concepts to the political agenda. This could indicate an incipient discourse coalition.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages160