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Book: Discourse and Responsibility in Professional Settings

Chapter: Chapter 11: Who has the power to act in the world? Social actors, agency and voice in a Catholic newspaper

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.26847


The chapter investigates the construction of social responsibility in a sample of articles taken from The Universe, a popular Catholic newspaper, in the late 1990s. It explores the representation of society, agency, voice, and social responsibility in a selection of articles dealing with social issues. The analysis identifies the principal social actors referred to in the texts; which of these are constructed as playing active roles; which are given voice; and for what purposes this voice is used. A distinctive pattern of construction of social responsibility is identified, in which there are three main groups of social actors: those who need help; those who are in a position to provide help (principally Governments, politicians, and multinational organisations); and those who speak on behalf of the former to the latter (principally Church organisations). The study argues that this constructs a representation of the world in which the power and responsibility to act for change is largely held by elite groups, and the role of activist organisations is largely to appeal to the powerful to change things. Ordinary people watch this happening, and those disadvantaged groups who are acted for in these texts have little or no voice or active agency.

Chapter Contributors

  • Karin Tusting ( - ktusting) 'Lancaster University'