Fairclough, Isabela and Fairclough, Norman
Practical reasoning in political discourse: The UK government's response to the economic crisis in the 2008 Pre-Budget Report.
Discourse & Society, 22
This article focuses on practical reasoning in political discourse and argues for a better integration of argumentation theory with critical discourse analysis (CDA). Political discourse and its specific genres (for example, deliberation) primarily involve forms of practical reasoning, typically oriented towards finding solutions to problems and deciding on future courses of action. Practical reasoning is a form of inference from cognitive and motivational premises: from what we believe (about the situation or about means—end relations) and what we want or desire (our goals and values), leading to a normative judgement (and often a decision) concerning action. We offer an analysis of the main argument in the UK government’s 2008 Pre-Budget Report (HM Treasury, 2008) and suggest how a critical evaluation of the argument from the perspective of a normative theory of argumentation (particularly the informal logic developed by Douglas Walton) can provide the basis for an evaluation in terms of characteristic CDA concerns. We are advancing this analysis as a contribution to CDA, aimed at increasing the rigour and systematicity of its analyses of political discourse, and as a contribution to the normative concerns of critical social science.