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The term "discourse" and related terms such as "discoursive", "discoursivity" etc. originating from the Latin verb: discurrere, to run about or to run astray indicates a systematical and methodical approach of terminological (in the broadest sense) clarification. Its range of meaning encompasses the partly institutionalized use of "speech", "address", "treatise" ; the cognitive denotation for deliberation or "agreement" or the pejorative connotation of undisciplined inappropriate "parlation".

Two major approaches have been particularly influential in the social sciences and the humanities: Jürgen Habermas’ and Otto Apel’s discourse ethics and Michel Foucault’s concept of discourse as the societal locus of the intersection of power and knowledge. Power in the Foucaultian sense denotes a dynamic field of social relations and is not identical with the meaning of power as sovereignty or rulership. Especially Foucault’s notion of discourse is of importance in the context of GOETE, because he has inspired wide ranging theoretical, methodological and methodical considerations. Common to all of the varieties of what is known under the umbrellas of critical discourse studies and discourse analysis is a deliberate examination of the distinctions underlying certain discourses. For example, the discourse on "ethnicity" or "at risk children and youths" is comprised of various theoretical and practical positions and perspectives. "Ethnicity" can be conceived in an essentialist or in a constructivist sense; it can be considered in isolation or as one element of intersection, where social class, gender, sexual preference, age etc. also have to be taken into account. The assumption of this perspective is that categories are not to be studied in isolation but as parts of a relation network. Moreover the position taken in a discourse may be examined to reflect certain interests and aims, etc. However, standpoint discourse theories should not unproblematically be conflated, because they have very different traditions and poststructuralist discourse analysis following Foucault have a very skeptical notion of agency and authorship. Moreover, of particular importance are the culturalist perspectives on discourse analysis because they encompass various strands ranging from (post) Marxist theories of hegemony, to sociology and socio-linguistics. Moreover, there are also "bridges" between Foucault’s theory of discourse and a conversation analytical meaning of discourse.


Apel, Karl Otto (1973) Das Apriori der Kommunikationsgemeinschaft, in Apel, Karl Otto, Transformation der Philosophie. Vol. 2. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Habermas, Jürgen (1983) Moralbewusstsein und kommunikatives Handeln. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.

Foucault, Michel (1971) L’ordre du discours. Leçon inaugurale au Collège de France, prononcée le le 2 décembre 1970. Paris: Gallimard.

(Karin Amos & Marcelo Parreira)