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Browsing by Author "Granskog, Anyara"

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  • Granskog, Anyara (2020)
    In recent years, a resurgent leftist faction has arisen in the Democratic Party of the United States, emerging first in Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign to become the party’s nominee in the 2016 presidential election. Sanders’ campaign declared a ‘political revolution’, a left-wing project advocating socioeconomic and political transformation and problematizing inequality in American society. The primary election process drew deep factional lines in the party between Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s supporters, and ultimately resulted in Clinton’s candidacy and defeat in the general election. In the wake of Sanders’ campaign, multiple left-wing organisations emerged both within the Democratic Party and beyond it, adopting his policy goals and campaigning style. Among these was Justice Democrats, a factionally-oriented organization challenging Democratic incumbents and endeavouring to enact a political realignment towards the left on the intra-party level. The ongoing factional struggle is seen against the backdrop of a broader hegemonic crisis. The leftist faction of the party has produced a new populist discourse building a counter-hegemonic left-wing social imaginary. This thesis examines the discourse of the political revolution, and the discursive devices constituting its articulation of key dichotomies. The thesis applies a theoretical framework of Giovanni Sartori’s factionalism, Margaret Canovan’s populism, and Gramscian hegemony to conduct a discourse analysis of the resurgent leftist discourse on the meso and macro levels. This thesis asks: how does the discourse of the political revolution construct an adversarial dichotomy of an in-group and an out-group as part of its populist counter-hegemonic project? To answer its research question, the thesis develops its methodological approach by combining critical discourse analysis (CDA), discourse theory, and aspects of the complementary method of discourse tracing. This framework views discourses and social reality as mutually constitutive. The value of such analysis lies in practicing reflexivity and considering what kind of social reality the discourse strives to generate, reproducing and disrupting dominant ideas and structures. Examining a discourse yields insight into the possible real-world consequences of the adoption of the worldview it constitutes, and facilitates the tracing of shifts in political culture. The thesis finds that, on the meso level, the discourse constructs a logic of difference to dismantle the conception of the Democratic Party as monolithic, producing an ideologically-based factional challenge through the dichotomisation of two factional groups. The discourse articulates an ideologically committed left-wing factional in-group, and a clientelist party establishment out-group corrupted by established campaign finance practices. The adversarial in-group and out-group constitute factions of principle and interest (as per Sartori), drawing from the redemptive and pragmatic faces of democracy, respectively. On the macro level, the discourse constructs a logic of equivalence through articulating a populist people-elite binary. ‘The people’ are conceived of as a broad, diverse collective connected by class-based grievances and interests, sovereign but unrepresented. This is juxtaposed with the articulation of an out-of-touch, oligarchic elite configuration consisting of dominant economic forces, a political elite, and a discursive elite. The elite are likewise connected by class interests, exercising undue influence over the political system and reproducing a hegemony facilitating economic inequality. The elite is articulated as the common Other for ‘the people’ as the groups’ class interests conflict and systemic structures privilege the elite at the expense of the needs of the people. This people-vs-elite dichotomisation produces the articulation of ‘the people’ as a historical bloc, a class alliance with transformative capacity, whose political action is seen as necessary to usher in a democratic renewal at both the meso and macro levels. The discourse scandalizes the existing level of inequalities in American society and articulates campaign finance practices yielding wealthy elites influence over the political process as impermissible. These scandalisations challenge existing social structures and dominant ideas. The discourse seeks to thereby shift these ideas and practices beyond the hegemonic limits of intelligibility through the production of a left-wing social imaginary. Understanding the effects of discourses and discursive shifts on social reality, and vice versa, is useful for academics examining social reproduction and transformation. A discursive shift the like of which the political revolution seeks to achieve holds practical policy implications and has potentially wide-reaching consequences on U.S. political culture and social practices. Ramifications may be felt beyond borders in the political discourses of other nations due to the prominent position the U.S. holds in the international community. Should this counter-hegemonic discourse become more broadly adopted within the Democratic Party and beyond, it may provide a blueprint for similar movements in comparable contexts.