Talk Matters: Three Essays on the Strategic Use of Public Speech in Parliamentary Politics
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Driscoll, Colleen Elizabeth
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CitationDriscoll, Colleen Elizabeth. 2021. Talk Matters: Three Essays on the Strategic Use of Public Speech in Parliamentary Politics. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractDoes political speech serve a purpose beyond merely articulating political positions? Until recently, scholars have treated the language politicians use in public – in parliamentary debates, in media appearances, or at campaign rallies – as simply a reflection of the existing power structures and interests in place at any given point in time. Rather than playing an independent role in shaping the political sphere, speeches simply hold a mirror to it. In this view, a powerful speech given in the course of a parliamentary debate acts only as the representation of a position held by supporters of the speaker, and all the speaker does in presenting the speech to the chamber is give voice to that constituency. In this sense, the words uttered have no meaning separate from the conveyance of policy.
Questioning this view, recent scholars of party competition reconceptualized the use of speech as a strategic means of position taking to optimize electoral returns.
In this line of study, politicians strategically time speeches to present or emphasize ideological positions deemed electorally advantageous.
The ability to sufficiently analyze speeches at scale has historically held back further progress on the analysis of politicians' strategic use of speech; however, advances in modern computing, aided by efforts by national governments to digitize parliamentary proceedings, have opened the field up to systematic study by researchers.
In this dissertation, I leverage these developments to dive deeper into the idea of political speech as strategic and substantively meaningful in multiple arenas. In an extension of the current understanding, I argue that speech time – being limited either by parliamentary rules or popular attention spans – is a scarce resource that individual politicians and/or their parties use to promote their views. I demonstrate my argument and its implications in two cases -- Ireland and Germany. Each shows that speech itself is meaningful as a topic of research and illuminates larger political phenomena that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368435
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