Links and Entanglements
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Tool - Links and Entanglements
.Toolbox section 2, Relationship between Discourses

Theory - The nature of discourse strands.
Discourse strands can be imagined as varying from thick ropes to thin filaments, and from large lengths to small text fragments. We generally "all knit along together" producing and developing discourse, and it is almost inevitable that we either deliberately build in links with other discourse, or accidentally produce links.

The types of links between discourse strands can be described in many ways - as simple links, as knots, as tangles, as patterns of interrelationship. The link or entanglement can also be described in terms of other characteristics, such as tight, loose, complex or simple knots, etc.

These concepts can open up useful lines of discussion

1. The Context of Food Policy
2. Government and Policy
3. Policy Analysis
Decision Techniques
Lobby Influences
The Imaginary Reader
A Site of Struggle
Situation Analysis
Repetition (of "sustainability")
Links and Entanglements
4. In-depth analysis of sub-topics
5. The Dispositive (Triangulation)
6. Summary
7. Conclusions

Example:- in the Aims, it is stated "MAFF has the following Aim: good quality food which meets consumers' requirements, modern sustainable, competitive farming and fisheries businesses, and protection of the rural and marine environment and a thriving rural economy". The phrase in bold is a good example of links in discourse - it makes a connection with discourse strands on modernity, sustainability, competitiveness and business - each of these words represents another major discourse, and they are currently some of the most important world-wide discourses. In fact, in the Aims and Objectives text, many of the words used represents another discourse, but not often to the extent of this 7 word phrase. The authors might claim that this 'places' the aims and objectives in a wider picture, or that it 'joins' the Governemtn to these discourses, but it also creates entanglement.

Interpretation and Discussion. Links and entanglements are part of the essential nature of discourse, as described above (I also describe discourse more fully here).

The discourse strand can be imagined as varying from thick ropes to thin filaments, and from large chunks to small text fragments. In this case, the discourse seems strong, but not especially 'heavy'. There are many concepts woven together, but these are short phrases on each topic - little is developed from them.

Types of links between discourse strands can be described in many ways - as simple links, as knots, as tangles, as patterns of interrelationship. In this case, the individual links are usually simple rather than being heavily knotted, however there is a very high level of linkage building (most words act also as links), so the the overall effect is of a fairly solid knot.

Other characteristics, such as tight, loose, complex or simple knots, etc. This passage seems generally to be firmly written and connected to other discourses, however, the linkages are very extensive.

However, we must assume that every element of this text has been worked on by many individuals, groups, committees and experts, up to the highest level of government, so it is unlikely that any aspect of it is unconscious - we must imagine that the entanglements are there deliberately, and that they serve a purpose.

Therefore, it might be more accurate to describe this passage ("modern sustainable, competitive farming and fisheries businesses") as the naming of 4 major external discourses. This might be done to impress or satisfy some of the readers, and also to place the government is a context in a way which satisfies them. Perhaps it is also a 'knowing' example of "the great milling mass" of discourse and the way that all parts of the "milling mass" are interconnected, and thus an expression of the government's sophistication. It is certainly a major statement of the Government's apparent (unwritten) aim of inclusiveness - it seems that one of their major techniques is to recruit and include all possible opinions, and to bind them in so that they join a process rather than oppose the Government.

This may be a lot to read into a 7 word phrase, but this is an exploratory stage of the analysis. As an outsider, it is useful to open up some of these new possibilities and ideas, and it might be possible to carry forward these new ideas to form a new picture of what is going on. Further research using the other techniques in the toolbox or insider information might be needed to give a definitive answer.


More Notes on Entanglement

A text is seldom simple and must be described in a complex way. For example, with the sample text, the aims and objectives strand can be seen as part of a 'rope' of 'discourse fibres' - these fibres can be visualised as the discourses about the government view of its own role and purpose (and the views of others about this), national administration discourses, 'new government' philosophy, targets, budgets, internal developments, influencing the media, being influenced by lobby groups from environment, industry and consumers. etc.
Some of these are special 'inside the Government' discourses (the administrative and new government dimension), others are discourses of 'government and governed' (green and business lobbies), others are 'outside world' discourses (relationship to the EU).
This visualisation of discourse strands helps us in a number of ways -
- by widening the way we look at what is going on
- by focussing more narrowly on what the exact purposes of the document are
However, the situation is very complex, and one of the ways to deal with the complexity is to imagine the entanglements that exist. To define these exactly is almost impossible, however, it is possible to develop a typology of the entanglements, using such terms as tight, loose, knotted, complex, simple, etc to describe the entanglement

There are also other broad classes of discourses in the background - discourses about the nature of government, about the relationship between blocs such as business, environment, consumers, the media, and even about the nature of aims and objectives. Aim A2 is also an example of "the great milling mass" of discourse and the way that all parts of the "milling mass" are interconnected.

1. Overview. Before describing the discourse strand in detail, it is worth mentioning the following points:-
a. nearly every word in this text represents another major discourse. Taking this further, one could propose that the main purpose of the text is to collect and balance the external discourses which are most important in the opinion of the government. This could be a useful definition of government - it chooses the most important discourses for a society and applies them !
2. from a discourse perspective, everything should be seen in the context of "the great milling mass" which dominates all communication. The government has selected the parts of this "milling mass" that it deals with. This is 'a given' which is difficult to challenge, and it affects the analyses which can be made.
3. Location of strand. This strand can be described as the UK Government 'aims and objectives' discourse strand for environment, food and rural affairs (the responsibilities of the former MAFF). However, this is like the tip of an iceberg - there are clearly many discourses and much background knowledge contained in this passage.
4. Although this may be the most important text (and strand) in the entire output of the Ministry, one can ask if there is a 'special substance' that makes this strand more important than any other. The answer to this question is that this strand may operate at a more inclusive and influential level than other strands, but there does not seem to be anything 'special' about it beyond the way it is presented as a key to the Departmental report.

To try to characterise it further, it does not seem like a 'strong strand' on which administrative decisions depend, it is more presentational. However, it appears to be the cornerstone of the public service agreements, but it is debatable if these are also more presentational than effective in creating change.

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