Shale gas debate in Europe: Pro-and-con dialectics and argumentative polylogues

Discourse and Communication 10 (6):553-575 (2016)
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Abstract

In this article I scrutinise a crucial tension in understanding the debate over shale gas production in Europe. On the one hand, analyses predominantly grasp the debate in terms of pro-and-con dialectics, as if the pro-shale gas camp faced the anti-shale gas camp in a dyadic clash of opposing voices. On the other hand, it is commonly recognised that this debate is driven by multi-party and multi-position argumentative dynamics. In this broader context, I focus on one pivotal contribution to the debate – Gazprom’s press release from October 2013 outlining Russia’s energy giant’s strategy of dealing with unconventional gas production. I employ concepts and methods of argumentative discourse analysis to contend that an arguer to a multi-party debate – argumentative polylogue – faces a number of constraints and opportunities that cannot be adequately grasped in terms of dyadic pro-and-con dialectics. The analysis reveals how Gazprom needs to simultaneously design its discourse to address a number of other parties who might also disagree among themselves: from Greenpeace to European Union governments to shale gas companies. I show why and how a stakeholder analysis used in organisational communication might lead to a better understanding of this form of multi-party public argumentation.

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