The curious promise of educationalising technological unemployment: What can places of learning really do about the future of work?


University education is full of promise. Indeed universities have the capacity to create and shape, through staff and students, all kinds of enthralling ‘worlds’ and ‘new possibilities of life’. Yet students are encouraged increasingly to view universities as simply a means to an end, where neoliberal education delivers flexible skills to directly serve a certain type of capitalism. Additionally, the universal challenge of technological unemployment, alongside numerous other social issues, has become educationalised and portrayed in HE policy, as an issue to be solved by universities. The idea that more education can resolve the problem of technological unemployment is a political construction which has largely failed to deliver its promise. In this article, we look at educationalisation in hand with technologisation and we draw on a Critical Discourse Analysis of HE policies, to demonstrate the problems arising from taken for granted visions of neoliberal social development related to education, technology, and employment. To disrupt the tired visions of ‘techno-fixes’ and ‘edu-fixes’ we identify in these texts, we call for a radical re-imagining of HE policy. Instead of attributing responsibility for social change to abstract notions of education, market and technology, a new shared vision is needed where more agency is explicitly attributed to the researchers, teachers, and students who are the genuine human future of work.

The Curious promise of …

Frugality and fairness. The 2008 economic crisis and morality

Frugality and Fairness. The 2008 Economic Crisis and Morality


Rosa Escanes Sierra

University of Sheffield


This paper contributes to the body of work that tries to understand the links between morality and evaluative language in elite political discourse within the context of the 2008 economic crisis in the UK (see for example Kelsey et al, 2016). Austerity measures were one of the main legacies of this major event and still resonate in British politics. The reduction of the state, legitimised by deficit panic tactics (Krugman, 2012) is still part of the political agenda.  

The study, within a Critical Discourse Analysis framework, is part of a doctoral project which aims to enhance our knowledge regarding the role of ethics in the discourse of political economy. Specifically, it considers whether an economic crisis could increase the use of overt morality discourse and what exactly this explicitness looks like linguistically. It contemplates this question in terms of how intrinsic morality is within politics and economics. Ethics are part of the very purpose of government, since they determine duties for citizens and translate values into policies (Swift, 2006). Moreover, economics, was actually born as a branch of ethics (Sen, 1987).

This research pays particular attention to the role of income inequality in moral linguistic patterns.  Inequality was one of the main focuses when analysing the failure of the neoliberal model in 2008. ‘Remoralising’ the markets by acknowledging their problems with greed and polarised wealth distribution was, at the rhetorical level, a common trend amongst some elite politicians at that time (Jessop, 2012). In view of this, and considering their role in wealth distribution, I analyse yearly budget parliamentary debates in Britain from 2008 to 2012 and compare them to an equivalent corpus from a period of economic growth, 2002-2006. This comparison aims to see if there was indeed a more prominent use of morality invocations during the crisis period, using frequency and keyword analysis, and how this relates to the framing of inequality.

Furthermore, for this paper I focus on two concepts dealt with in the study: frugality and fairness. They serve as examples to discuss how corpus linguistics can be used to break down a complex idea like morality. Using tools such as keyword analysis, semantic domains, collocation patterns and close textual analysis, the study proposes an inductive dialogue between a top-down (from big concepts or categories to specific lexical items) and a bottom-up (from specific lexical items to big concepts or categories) perspective.


Keywords: comparative study; Critical Discourse Analysis; economic crisis; morality; political discourse.


Jessop, B. 2012, November. “Recovered imaginaries, imagined recoveries: a cultural political economy of crisis construals and crisis-management in the North Atlantic financial crisis”. Paper presented at the Strategies of representing and managing crises conference, Morecambe, UK.

Kelsey, D., Mueller, F., Whittle, A., & KhosraviNik, M. (2016). “Financial crisis and austerity: interdisciplinary concerns in critical discourse analysis”. Critical Discourse Studies, 13(1).

Krugman, P. 2012, May 31. “The Austerity Agenda”. The New York Times.  

Sen, A. 1987. “On ethics & economics”. Oxford: Blackwell.

Swift, A. (2006). “Political philosophy. A beginner’s guide for students and politicians”. (2nd, Ed.) Cambridge: Polity.


Critical Realism in Discourse Analysis A Presentation of a Systematic Method of Analysis Using Women’s Talk of Motherhood, Childcare and Female Employment as an Example


In critical realism, language is understood as constructing our social realities. However, these constructions are theorized as being shaped by the possibilities and constraints inherent in the material world. For critical realists, material practices are given an ontological status that is independent of, but in relation with, discursive practices. The advantage in taking a critical realist, rather than relativist, approach is that analysis can include relationships between people’s material conditions and discursive practices. Despite calls to develop a critical realist discourse analysis there has been little empirical critical realist work, possibly because few have addressed the critique that critical realists have no systematic method of distinguishing between discursive and non-discursive. In this article we outline a three-stage procedure that enables a systematic critical realist discourse analysis using women’s talk of motherhood, childcare and female employment as an example.

Critical Realism in CDA