ДИСКУРС КОНСЮМЕРИЗМА И ИДЕОЛОГИЯ: О РОЛИ ЦЕННОСТЕЙ И ОЦЕНКИ В ИНТЕРНЕТ-ВЕРСИЯХ МУЖСКИХ ЖУРНАЛОВ
Статья посвящена рассмотрению языковой оценки в онлайн-версиях популярных мужских журналов в ее соотношении с понятием «ценность», имеющим три возможных трактовки: этические принципы, ценностные концепты и личностные ценности. В результате проведенного анализа делается вывод о том, что функция ценностей и оценки в дискурсе является двоякой. С одной стороны, акты оценки в тексте отсылают к определенным ценностям с целью легитимизации некоторой социальной практики. С другой стороны, дискурсивная реконтекстуализация данных практик может сама являться «системой интерпретации», задача которой заключается в (пере)формулировании определенного ценностного концепта. Данный процесс может являться одним из способов формирования личностных ценностей реципиента. Обозначенные функции также рассматриваются в более широкой дискурс-аналитической перспективе как репликация социальной власти, а именно как репликация идеологии консюмеризма, характеризуемой меркантилизацией всех сфер жизни и укоренением ментальности потребителя.
Introduction. There have been some notable shifts towards analyzing language critically within linguistics in recent decades, with textually oriented critical discourse analysis (CDA) being one of the most prominent examples of this trend. The key premise that all the studies within this school seem to rely upon is the view of discourse — i. e. language usage through text and talk — as a form of social practice. What follows from this premise is that discourse is understood as socially constitutive and socially conditioned at the same time and, as such, is a powerful tool of reproducing, sustaining and transforming (unequal) power relations within societies [Fairclough, Wodak 1997: 258; see also: Fairclough 2003; Чернявская 2014]. One way to approach a text from this perspective is to investigated it in terms of the rhetorical effects pinpointable to certain ways of deploying language and other semiotic resources. This mode of critical analysis can target the forms of discourse traditionally associated with persuasion and manipulation, such as the language of politics and advertising [see e. g.: Butt et al. 2004; Dunmire 2005; Lazar, Lazar 2004]. On the other hand, critical analysis can also be applied within a broader framework to look into the role of language in shaping social cognition and social identities.
The approach that links specific language usage to shaping social cognitions draws upon the tenets of the socio-cognitive school in CDA most notably advocated by T. A. Van Dijk. Unlike approaches informed by Hallidayan Systemic Functional Linguistics which maps worldviews directly onto language structures, the pioneers of socio-cognitive school insisted that cognition be viewed as an interface between discourse and society, i.e. social effects of text and talk are always mediated by social cognition [see e. g.: Dijk 1993; 1995]. One of the forms of social cognition which can arguable be shaped (among other ways) by discourse, on the one hand, and which can be though of as playing the most crucial role in defining peoples beliefs, attitudes, motives, and actions, on the other, are values.
The concept of values has been a matter of major concern and the subject of investigation in different fields of knowledge, including philosophy, sociology and psychology. In a motley collection of studies definitions of the concept, albeit often vague and contradictory, have been given and theoretical account of the ontology and the role of values in human behavior (most notably within psychology) has been provided. In linguistics and CDA in particular, however, little attention has been given to investigating the concept of values. In most cases values have been analyzed in terms of (e)valuation and appraisal with little or no effort being made to define the concept itself and elucidate the ways it might be linked to discourse semantics and lexico-grammar [see e. g.: Martin 2004]. Moreover, as has already been noted above, an ample amount of work has been done to look into such forms of discourse as advertising, while some relatively new genres, like men’s lifestyle magazines, which nowadays are arguably one of the most influential channels of shaping values and identities of modern men, have not been investigated.
The purpose of the present paper is therefore to investigate evaluation and appraisal vis-a-vis the concept of value within a broader theoretical framework of ‘discourse as ideology’. With this end in mind a study of two articles from an online men’s magazine AskMen.com has been undertaken against the working assumption of a twofold function of evaluation and values in the genre in question. The invocation of values through evaluative discourse semantics is contended to be a way of legitimizing social practices and — at the same time — a tool for inculcating values and shaping social identities of the addressees. Both of the dialectically related functions are then construed in terms of ideological effects, viz. as geared towards reproducing unequal power relations associated with consumer capitalism.
Theoretical Framework and Method. The study is informed by the notion of ideology as it is construed in CDA. N. Fairclough drawing upon the Marxist philosophers L. Althusser and A. Gramsci defines ideology as a conception of the world which having been naturalized through specific language usage is presupposed and largely taken for granted [Fairclough 1989; 2003]. This conception of the world, which has to various degrees merged with ‘commonsensical background’, directly or indirectly contributes to establishing and maintaining existing power relations. One of the dominating ideologies of contemporary society, we contend, is the ideology of consumerism.
In socio-economic terms this phenomenon is defined as the stage of contemporary capitalism which is increasingly dependent for its survival on manufacturing and meeting the so-called ‘false’ needs rather than addressing the real needs of real people [Barber 2007]. Consumerist capitalism is associated with with a vast array of social, political and economic consequences, including, but not limited to, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, an ever-growing gap between rich and poor (locally and worldwide), infantilization of individuals, corruption of traditional values, destruction of citizenship [Ibid.]. The key concept that may be drawn upon in order to explain the changes the transformation of identities and changes in peoples behavior is the concept of ‘value’.
The subject of values despite its long history of scholarly attention still remains to some great extent vague and contradictory. In what follows we will provide an outline of a few basic understandings of values pertinent to the analysis presented in this paper. The following review will be loosely based on the typology suggested by H. Nordby [Nordby 2008].
One of the first possible interpretations of values is to understand them as ‘properties we ascribe to actions we think of as ethically good or wrong’ [Ibid.]. By ascribing such properties to actions we effectively measure them against a set of rules about interpersonal relations and the norms that people should abide by. While this kind of interpretation rings intuitively true, there has been a lot of discussion as to what these norms should ideally look like and what the source of their origin is. Furthermore, this understanding is somewhat circular in its logic with values regulated by norms which are themselves a type of values.
In a broader sense values can be understood as ‘value statements’ or ‘axiological beliefs’ as opposed to factual statements that can be empirically verified. Various philosophers and social scientist attempted to bring forward a theory of axiological beliefs capable of explaining the latter. For example, J. Dewey suggested that ‘valuation-propositions’ involve ‘the means-end relationship’ and, as such, can be explained, supported and tested very much in the same vein as propositions about ‘matters-of-fact’ [Dewey 1939]. R. Boudon drawing on earlier works in sociology and philosophy developed the so-called ‘cognitivist’ theory of value beliefs. The key argument of the theory is that people believe “X is good, bad, legitimate, fair etc.” because to these individuals ‘these statements are grounded on reasons which they see as valid and hence likely to be considered as valid by others’ [Boudon 2001: 120]. These reasons can thus be investigated and explained via various types of rationality which are not solely restricted to instrumental rationality of the Deweyesque type. An attempt to apply various philosophical normative theories to explain ‘people’s actual moral reactions’ has been made by G. Harman [Harman 1994: 229]. Overall, despite the fact that values are understood in a variety of ways and are explained by different, sometimes contradictory theories, the overarching theme is construal of values as axiological beliefs.
Another way of understanding ‘value’, as suggested by H. Nordby, is ‘to think of values as general concepts people believe in’ such as justice, democracy, fairness and equality [Nordby 2008]. These concepts are typically thought to be universal and are often exploited in political discourse with a view to justifying and legitimizing certain political moves. The understanding of values as value concepts has proven productive in CDA as it has been shown, inter alia, that these universal concepts are often invoked in political discourse as a legitimizing tool and that their specific semantic construals can vary to a great extent [Dijk 1998, Sowinska 2013]. While investigation of such concepts can be a way of exposing the abuse of political power and manipulation, they can hardly be instrumental in explaining the transformations of social identities described above.
The third way of understanding values is in psychological terms as mental objects sharing some properties of needs, attitudes and motives in the overall meaning-based regulation in individuals. These personal values act as pivotal nodal points at the top of the hierarchy of meaning-based regulation exercising control over a person’s behavior including the production of value beliefs and their actions across different contexts. Personal values act as generalized and context independent entities that are instantiated in ad hoc situated motives and meanings. Personal values are socially conditioned and may be understood as ideals that are aspired to but, unlike specific needs, can never be entirely met [Леонтьев 2007: 22–32]. This distinctive understanding seems to be more productive for explaining the aforementioned shifts that take place in social identities and people’s behavior.
Let us now try and explicate the relationship between ‘value’ and valuation as a specific set of meanings in discourse semantics. T. Van Leeuwen quite convincingly argued that evaluation invokes moral concepts that are ‘detached from the system of interpretation from which they derive’. These moral concepts are a form of pre-constructs that have been previously conceptualized and legitimized elsewhere, i. e. in other discourses at some point in history [Van Leeuwen 2008: 110]. Indeed, we can view an instance of evaluation as appraising something as good, bad, useful etc. by invoking a certain value concept, but it is not always clear why this very concept has become to be deemed virtuous. One approach would clearly be to undertake a historical discourse research, as Van Leeuwen suggests, in the discourses that legitimized this concept, if this has taken place at all. The other approach would be to apply numerous normative theories to explain it as scholars like R. Boudon and G. Harmon have advocated. In any case, explaining valuation in this sense is clearly beyond the scope of linguistics.
What, on the other hand, is actually within the scope of linguistic inquiry is textual analysis geared towards investigating the range of value concepts invoked through evaluation semantics in a given text and across multiple texts. This kind of analysis will disclose the fact that evaluation and appraisal that constitute a part of the text’s taken-for-grantedness are in fact arbitrary and could have been completely different. On a more general scale this analysis will also promote the understanding that value concepts invoked in discourse are arbitrary and historically contingent.
Furthermore, a given text can be viewed as ‘discourse-in-the-making’, that is as an ad hoc unfolding ‘system of interpretation’ in its own right. In this case the relationship between a recontextualized social practice and its legitimation through evaluation is a dialectical process: the practice is legitimized by invoking values and values are at the same time (re)conceptualized through this recontexualization. The episodic models formed in the process of interpretation of a given text may include evaluation which then becomes the source of more stable forms of knowledge, viz. values. In this case it is quite plausible that discourse contributes to formation of values of the third type — personal values.
The following analysis is informed by appraisal systems developed by J. R. Martin and P. R. R. White which draw upon and are situated in Hallidayan Systemic Functional Linguistics [Halliday, Matthiessen 2004; Martin, White 2005]. Appraisal is located as an interpersonal system at the level of discourse semantics, i.e. its realization diversifies across a range of grammatical structures, and is regionalized as three interacting domains — ‘attitude’, ‘engagement’ and ‘graduation’. Attitude comprises lexico-grammatical resources deployed to construe feelings, judgments of behavior and evaluation of things. Engagement is concerned with the ways in which various language resources position the speaker or writer with respect to the value position being advocated and with respect to potential responses to that value position on the part of the putative addressee. Graduation is concerned with resources aimed at adjusting the degree and the strength of evaluation, which ramify into ‘force’ and ‘focus’.
Attitude subsumes three semantic domains — affect, judgment and appreciation. Affect is concerned with construing positive and negative feeling, including emotional reactions. Judgment resources are drawn upon to assess behavior according to various normative principles. Appreciation resources are drawn upon with a view to evaluating “semiotic and natural phenomena, according to the ways in which they are valued or not in a given field” [Martin, White 2005: 43].
Analysis. In what follows we will consider the realization of appraisal in two passages from the online men’s lifestyle magazine Askmen.com. The first text ‘Grooming Basics’ is located in the dedicated Grooming section of the magazine, and, as the title suggests, recontextualizes a non-discoursive practice of ‘basic’ grooming procedures that, according to the magazine, every man should engage in. The second text What Does Confidence Mean? is of a different kind. It comes from the Dating section of the magazine which is dedicated to constructing norms and values for relationships between men and women. Since it is virtually impossible to present a full analysis of the passages in a paper this size, we will focus only on one extract from each text.
Cleansing removes debris and dead skin cells from pores along with a whole host of other microscopic gunk. To get the job done properly, opt for a dedicated face wash used with lukewarm water. The standard soap and cold water combo might seem cheap and harmless but it’s far too alkaline and will disrupt the skin’s natural balance (Grooming Basics. URL: http://www.askmen.com/grooming/appearance/ grooming-basics.html).
In depth analysis of the paragraph reveals the complex structure of evaluation. As is obvious from the paragraph, the substances naturally produced by the skin are referred to as ‘gunk’ and ‘debris’ — both instances of negative appreciation (cf. gunk — unpleasantly sticky or messy substance). The second instance is also intensified through quantification a whole host of gunk — a token of writers strength of investment into value position being advanced. Given the prosodic nature of evaluation coloring significant stretches of discourse, we interpret the epithet ‘dead’ in dead skin cell as a token of invoked negative appreciation as well. This prosody of negative evaluation textured by the above mentioned lexemes works at the same time to positively appraise the referenced practice of ‘cleansing’ which ‘removes’ the negatively assessed gunk, debris, and dead skin cells. The value concepts that are arguably invoked by these instances are ‘health’, ‘healthy appearance’.
The next instance of evaluation is adverbial properly conveying an assessment of the cleansing practice (‘the job’) and invoking a value which can be construed as ‘meeting high quality standards’, ‘finesse’. Such types of evaluation, we believe, are geared towards shaping an image of an ideal putative addressee — an individual holding themselves to a high set of standards. The epithet ‘dedicated’ in dedicated face wash can be interpreted in much the same manner.
The next stretch of evaluation instantiated with cheap and harmless is also of a complex nature. In spite of the fact that the target of evaluation is soap and cold water, we suggest it in fact needs to be extended as evaluation of the whole ‘counter-practice’ — the ‘wrong way of doing things’. The seemingly positive assessment cheap and harmless is invoked only to be countered, firstly, through modalized might seem implicating that it actually is not true, and, secondly, by the proposition it’s far too alkaline and will disrupt the skin’s natural balance through the use of connective but. Both the intensified complex far too alkaline and the proposition will disrupt the skin’s natural balance are construed as tokens of negative appreciation with skin’s natural balance being an instance of negated ascribed positive appreciation. To sum it up, such value concepts as ‘natural’ and ‘health’ are invoked to legitimize the referenced practice and simultaneously marginalize the counter-practice.
The set of value concepts invoked in the paragraph is indicative of the general ‘mood’ of this passage. The key concepts are ‘quality’, ‘high standards’, ‘health’, ‘healthy appearance’, ‘effectiveness’, and ‘efficiency’. This is sufficiently illustrated by other instances of evaluation in the given text: the most luxurious lather, unique ability, the perfect shave, the right tools, the right techniques, the way skin looks and feels, have an immediate impact etc.
From the dialogistic perspective the passage in question is predominantly monoglossic, i. e. the writer presents themselves as strongly aligned with the value position of the text. Evaluation in the majority of instances is textured through monoglossic presuppositions. These are the cases when evaluation is infused into the meaning of the lexeme used to denote a certain thing, as is the case with debris and gunk or is conveyed through adjectives used attributively in a word group like dedicated face-wash, standard combo, dead cells, natural balance. The same status of a monogloss can be ascribed to categorical assertions that are not modalized, like it’s far too alkaline, and will disrupt. The only instance in the given paragraph where a different value position is invoked is the modalized proposition the standard soap and cold water combo might seem cheap and harmless. This instance being dialogical is yet of a dialogically contractive type since the position is invoked only to be countered in the immediate context.
In the following extract from Text 2 evaluation plays major role as the passage unfolds axiologically and, unlike the previous passage, primarily invokes the values of affect and judgment:
There is a big difference between being cocky and being confident. Often, men who are missing real confidence, the kind that comes from within and is legitimately founded in security and self-assuredness, will feign confidence. This dance of pretending to be confident is popularly exemplified by a pompous or self-important attitude, a need to condescend to or patronize women and other people in order to assert a sense of importance or superiority over others, a tendency toward bragging and boasting (specifically about money), and a need to show off cars, conquests and wealth in a misguided attempt to impress others (What Does Confidence Mean? URL: http://www.askmen.com/dating/heidi/what-does-confidence-mean.html).
As was the case with the first extract, evaluation here is of a very complex nature. The prime communicative objective of the passage may be defined as categorization and classification, with specific local objective of this extract being the texturing of the counter-practice. This counter-practice is subsumed under the label ‘cocky’ (cf. conceited or arrogant especially in a bold or impudent way). The first semantic move towards delimitation of the two categories is deploying the resources of graduation. To emphasize the difference between confident and cocky the noun ‘difference’ is intensified through quantification (big difference) and ‘confidence’ is sharpened via focus (real confidence), semantic resources deployed to up-scale or down-scale specification (cf. real confidence vs. sort of confidence), which is a way to indicate maximal investment of the author into the value position and to strongly align the addressee into this position as well.
The noun confidence is apparently a nominalized quality (cf. smb is / feels confident) and is thus construed as an instance of affect. Contextually, though, it can be said to be a token of judgment targeted at those engaged in the counter-practice (men who are missing real confidence… will feign confidence). Judgmental reading is also strongly implicated by yet another marker of evaluation in the sentence, viz. by behavioral process feign with those engaged in counter-practice being its participant (men… will feign confidence). The process feign invites interpretation in terms of judgment as it places its participants (‘men’) in a position where certain values and norms criticizing incongruent and inauthentic behavior are invoked.
The two attributive clauses related to the nominalization confidence (the kind that comes from within and is legitimately founded in security and self-assuredness) are also aimed at delimitating the two categories and conceptualizing them in evaluative terms. The clause ‘that comes from within’ invites positive evaluation as it is being conflated with sharpening through metaphor (that comes from within, cf. true confidence, the real confidence) and, as such, invokes the values of authenticity and congruency again. In the next clause of the same sentence (is legitimately founded in security and self-assuredness) evaluation is instantiated with nominalized qualities security and self-assuredness (cf. smb feels secure; smb feels self-assured), which are markers of affect. They are positioned circumstantially to the process founded, which is intensified with adverbial legitimately used to sharpen the category ‘confidence’ (cf. founded in security vs. legitimately founded in security) and convey the author’s strong alignment into the value position. Overall, the extract above unfolds through interplay of affect and judgment values invoked to recontextualize and de-legitimize the counter-practice of ‘being cocky’.
In the next sentence the abovementioned counter-practice is picked up in the in the thematic part via anaphorically referential this dance inviting evaluative reading in judgmental terms (the noun dance when used metaphorically to refer to the counter-practice again invokes the values of inautheticity and incongruency). In what follows the counter-practice lexicalized by dance is the target of successive evaluation in the postmodifying clause pretending to be confident. The process pretending can then be construed as inscribing negative appreciation of dance and invoking judgmental values as directed to the implied participant of the process. In the rheme the counter-practice dance is identified through an array of nouns (attitude, need, tendency and need) whose pre/postmodifications and projections also instantiate evaluation.
The epithets pompous and self-important premodifying the noun attitude are instances of judgement. This can be explained by the fact that the noun attitude is a nominalization (cf. attitude — someone thinks, feels and behaves in a certain way), therefore pompous and self-important are used to evaluate the counter-practice against some normative values. Another set of judgmental markers are processes patronize and condescend located in the clause projected by the noun need. This evaluation is then enhanced in the hypotactically linked clause ‘in order to assert a sense of importance or superiority over others’, where both importance and superiority implicate evaluative reading in terms of judgment which is complementary to the evaluations in the main clause instantiated by the processes to condescend and to patronize. In both cases a normative value chastising conceited and arrogant types of behavior is arguable invoked.
Postmodifying nominalizations bragging and boasting related to the noun tendency are also instances of judgment criticizing what seems to be a socially unacceptable conceited way of acting. In the same vein negative evaluation is instantiated via the process to show off with its participants cars, conquests and wealth and is further amplified by evaluation in the clause in a misguided attempt to impress others. The epithet misguided premodifying the noun attempt is another instance of judgment (cf. misguided — having or showing faulty judgment or reason).
Discussion and Conclusion. The theoretical premises and the analysis in the last section of this paper suggest that the lifestyle genre is a powerful tool of legitimizing various social practices, with invocation of values in the form of axiological beliefs and value concepts being a major source of legitimization. As has been demonstrated with the first extract, appreciation resources are massively deployed to legitimize the grooming practice and — most notably — the need to purchase the beauty products indispensable to it. In the second extract a different set of evaluative resources — affect and judgment — are used to deligitimize and marginalize the counter-practice as unhealthy emotional reactions are being reworked in terms of normative values.
Rhetorically the extensive deployment of these resources should be characterized in terms of persuasion and manipulation. This is most evident in the first passage where evaluation legitimizes the practice and at the same time works to advertize and promote the beauty products that are an integral part of it. With the second text specific rhetorical effects are less easy to be pinpointed, since nothing is overtly promoted or advertized. Nevertheless even in this passage there are certain semantic moves aimed at conceptualizing confidence in terms of consumerist behavior (cf. confidence is not something that you can wear like a T‑shirt or a gold watch, but it is something that can be enhanced by putting on a fresh, crisp new item of clothing or by putting a little extra effort into your physical appearance).
Viewed from a different angle, one of the communicative objectives of the second passage may be advertizing and promoting the magazine itself. The way attitude and engagement are co-articulated in the text is a clear sign of strong alignment of the putative addressee into the value position of the text. The ‘bonding’ with the reader might also be said to be enhanced, on the one hand, by marginalizing of what to an average man will look like a repulsive and frowned upon practice of behavior — being cocky and self-assured. On the other hand, the standard and ‘go-to’ practice of most men in dating women is being strongly legitimized with only minor ‘glitches’ being fixed along the way (cf. don’t apologize for not being able to take her to a nicer restaurant, but do take her to the nicest restaurant that you can reasonably afford).
The same solidarity is apparently boosted by (presumably) strategically placed presuppositions where the addressee is the agent of the process, cf. the kind you deserve and should want to be with in Any self-respecting, street-savvy woman (the kind you deserve and should want to be with) will be able to sniff out this obnoxious illusion. To a certain extent transcending the role of critical analyst we would like to point out that the magazine gives an impression of a resource accurately capturing sentiments and feelings that many men can relate to.
Viewed rhetorically the strategies and moves described above are most probably intentional as far as the authors and editors are driven by the obvious purposes of the magazine, i. e. advertizing products and building a strong readership. Thus, evaluation deployed in Text 1 can be a strategic tool in promoting specific cosmetic products associated with the practice because the income of the magazine presumably depends on the click-through rate, i.e. the number of users that click on the advertized resource accessible directly via hyperlinks or otherwise accompanying the main text on the page. The same is true for almost any section of AskMen and across online magazines and lifestyle blogs in general. For the same reason increasing the readership is crucial for the magazine’s fiscal policy, therefore strategies aimed at solidarity with the readers are a staple of their stylistic makeup.
In terms of CDA the question we pose is “What sort of social power is replicated through these specific language choices?” First, it is the power of lifestyle magazines to regulate a broad range of social practices up to the point when almost every type of activity of a contemporary man is to a greater or lesser extent covered by lifestyle discourse. When this happens it is the magazines’ perspective that is systematically built into and naturalized in these recontextualizations. As it has been shown in the previous section, while the subject of evaluation is the journalist and/or the editor, the perspective is passed off as the one that is unequivocally true and should therefore be taken for granted.
But is it only the magazines perspective that is being instantiated in these language choices or does it actually transcend this magazine’s discourse and all the other lifestyle magazines’ discourses for that matter? Given the understanding of ideology spelled out earlier in this article we are inclined to assume that what is being transmitted in the discourse is the overarching ideology of the consumerist society. In this case the writers and editors may be thought of as only relaying the power spawned by consumer capitalism and those who consciously or otherwise have a stake in it.
This brings us to our last point — considering the role of values in this process. As has been shown in the analysis section, value concepts and axiological beliefs are consistently invoked through evaluation in the passages. Whereas these beliefs and concepts may be though of as having been pre-constructed elsewhere, we are also inclined to think that the texts in question can actually be a part of discourse-in-the-making, where such value concepts as ‘confidence’ are being (re)negotiated and (re)conceptualized. Furthermore, it doesn’t altogether seem impossible, that such texts may be one of the channels through which values in the last distinctive sense, i.e. personal values, are being shaped, which would explain the shift of social identities associated with consumerism of the type described by R. Barber.
The passages presented above are only two examples of the genre where the addressee is consistently placed into the subject position of a consumer, a consumer of beauty products and the magazine and the lifestyle it sells at the very least. We can also generalize from this examples to imagine the actual scale of this process given the accessibility and the reach of the genre facilitated by the Internet. Therefore it is advisable that we, both as consumers and critical analysts, should not underestimate this functionality and the power it brings.
© Molodychenko E. N., 2015
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