Performing Economics: How Economics Discourse Gets Enacted in Radio News Interviews

Joseph Fitzgerald, Dublin Institute of Technology
Brendan K. O'Rourke, Dublin Institute of Technology

Document Type Conference Paper

10th International Conference in Interpretive Policy Analysis 2015 July 8th to July 10th, 2015 at Lille Center for European Research on Administration, Politics and Society (CERAPS, CNRS/Université Lille 2), , Lille 2 University, Science Po Lille and the European Social Sciences and Humanities Research Institute (MESHS)


This paper analyses the performance of economics expertise on the main radio news show in Ireland. It does this through an analysis of the discourse used by known economics experts. This analysis will illustrate how the expert constructs a societally-legitimised economics discourse that builds their identity as an economics expert, constructs a particular representation of the economy, and gains societal legitimacy.

In advance of the Great Recession, the media played a key role in the prominence of economics expertise in public discourse (Mercille 2013, p.1). Both the lack of warning of impending economic crash and the elite nature of experts has been criticised (Berry 2013). Nevertheless, economics experts remain in high demand from the media and the prominence of economics persists in response to the Great Recession (Mercille 2013).

Engagement with media presents interesting challenges for economics experts as they communicate knowledge of complicated economic policies (Mercille 2013). They need a discourse that establishes their authority as economics experts and yet is accountable to the layperson. This is key for experts to achieve societal legitimacy for the knowledge they produce (Collins and Evans 2007, p.113). Osborne (2004) argues that this challenge requires the skilful performance of a 'mediator' identity - allowing for public participation but guarding against demands on meaning.

Economics provides an interesting turn on expertise and its need to achieve societal legitimacy: the accusation of the ‘pretence of knowledge’ (Hayek, 1975). This ‘scientism’ critique has fuelled an almost anti-expertise expertise through its emphasis on the fallacy of forecasting future events (e.g. Taleb et al. 2014) and a paradoxical certainty in the confident faith in markets 'as ultimate judges' (Pühringer, 2015).