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A “perfect storm” Language, Power and Metaphor in Government Reports from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis

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posted on 2021-05-23, 11:23 authored by Kenneth P. Davie
In 2008, governments around the world made the extraordinary decision to rescue private banks deemed ‘too big to fail’ by delivering trillions of dollars in public funds to these privately managed institutions. These actions contradicted decades of neoliberal ideology concerning the natural, self-correcting nature of financial markets long advocated by powerful individuals within the upper echelons of finance and government in Europe and America. Governments were required to produce reports explaining their policy decisions following these actions and this task presented a number of linguistic challenges due to the metaphorical nature of language in economic discourse. This study focuses on metaphors used to discuss the 2008 economic crisis in government reports produced by the United States Congress and the European Union. This research adopts Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis method to identify sites within these texts where power and control are exerted through the strategic use of metaphor, formality and relational values with both quantitative and qualitative findings. The finding(s) of this study indicate that throughout the 2011 United States Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report and the 2009 European Union financial crisis report, the primary metaphors used to communicate the financial crisis are the concepts of illness, nature and machines. The reports differ in the amount of these metaphorical concepts used, the frequency of their usage and dispersion of their usage. This research also shows how these metaphors function as linguistic strategies for the exercise of power over others by drawing on Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis and examples are provided.





Master of Professional Communication


Professional Communication

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type