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A Critical Search for Values in George W. Bush’s State of the Union Addresses


Agnieszka Sowińska

This book focuses on values and valuation in the State of the Union addresses delivered by the former U.S. President George W. Bush. What values are invoked in the speeches? How are these values constructed? How can they be classified? How are particular construals of values conducive to the actions the speaker wants to legitimize? Drawing on Critical Discourse Studies, the book examines pragmalinguistic tools applied in political legitimization, such as proximization, metaphor or assertion. The analysis reveals three ideological values used in the context of foreign policy making: security, terrorism and freedom.
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This book is about values, language and politics; on a more general level, it is about human nature. We experience the world through the grid of some systems of values. All our human thinking, actions and interaction with others are imbued with values. Language is the means which indicates what is good and what is evil or what is right and wrong. As such, language may be the most powerful weapon of mass destruction. Politics, whose business, roughly speaking, boils down to setting forth the expedient and the inexpedient, the just and the unjust, and likewise the valuable and the worthless is an intrinsic human activity, mediated via language. Both politics and language are at the mercy of the human nature from which they arise (Minogue (2000 [1995]: 15).

Exploring values and value-laden political language is essential as it equips us with the ability to read political actors’ minds – their intentions and the way they project their expectations and assumptions on the audience. Yet, these expectations and assumptions must be fitted to the audience. Recognizing the audience’s needs and values in any political speech is thought to help secure political power and achieve various political goals. What follows is that the role of the audience is not merely that of passive observers, but rather active collaborators in meaning generation. When faced with difficult choices, our systems of values assist us in arriving at a decision, by facilitating the process of setting priorities. In short, values are...

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