consciousness is the first step towards emancipation (Fairclough)
Every institution is concerned with social control. The means of this control is a mixture of these two: coercion and consent. Either the institution exerts its agenda by force or it legitimizes its agenda by getting the consent of the people. This consent is achieved by employing language in a strategic way.
An institution, sometimes unconsciously, exerts power by projecting its beliefs and practices as “common-sense”. This is ideology.
Here is an example I came across in Norman Fairclough’s excellent book, Language and Power:
The parallel between this example and relationships in the church is unmistakable. So, here are a couple of questions that we might apply to our own experience:
An example would be how the conventions for a traditional type of consultation between doctors and patients embody ‘common-sense’ assumptions which treat authority and hierarchy as natural– the doctor knows about medicine and the patent doesn’t; the doctor is in a position to determine how a health problem should be dealt with and the patient isn’t; it is right (and ‘natural’) that the doctor should make the decisions and control the course of the consultation and of the treatment, and that the patient should comply and cooperate; and so on.
1. In what ways have you found language being used in such a way that you felt your independence, dignity and freedom were not respected? Can you remember specific instances?
2. Can you detect in your own language the embodiment of assumptions that legitimize an existing power, such as the church or your religion? Are you on the giving or receiving end of that power?