What Are the Different Types of Political Discourse?

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  • Written By: Peter Hann
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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A classification of types of political discourse depends on the definition of what is meant by the political sphere. One could take the limited view that political discourse is simply the words and text produced by politicians, but there are many other participants in a democracy. It may be more accurate to look at the political activities of electors, pressure groups, media, political parties and other players in the political process and examine the types of discourse in which they engage. Although discourse is primarily in the spoken and written word, the definition may be widened to include communication by actions, as in political demonstrations and sit-ins.

One of the most familiar types of political discourse involves the speech and debate within the congress or parliament of a nation. This is generally formal by nature, including written speeches, motions, debates on legislation and discussions in committee. Written text associated with this type of discourse is the written record of speeches or draft laws and resolutions, together with legislation approved by the legislative body.


Outside the formal legislative organs, political parties may engage in discourse during conferences, conventions and primary election campaigns. At election time, there is direct discourse with the public on citizens' doorsteps. There also is debate between the parties outside the legislature, as seen in interviews, televised debates and public meetings. The parties also issue their own literature in the form of newspapers or pamphlets aimed at electors on a federal, state or municipal level. Some politicians and pressure groups communicate their ideas through books, magazines and films, an example being the environmental movement.

Demonstrations by the public are another type of political discourse. These combine actions such as processions or marches with the written word in the form of banners or slogans and the spoken word in chanted demands or speeches made. Pressure groups and parties also may campaign through televised advertisements or advertising in the streets, in addition to communication with the electorate through electronic media including websites, telephone and text messages, and video clips.

Government announcements on domestic and foreign affairs are another type of discourse. These include policy announcements, general addresses, and announcements of draft legislation. Foreign policy statements are political discourse directed at the politicians or people of another country, and international discourse takes place through diplomatic exchanges or at an international body such as the United Nations. Treaty negotiations and peace talks also are a type of political discourse. Dissidents in a country sometimes engage in political activity through civil disobedience, and a spell in prison or under house arrest may itself become a symbolic form of discourse in some countries, even if the dissident is not permitted to communicate through the spoken or written word.


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Post 3

My favorite part of elections are the debates on TV. It's so entertaining to watch two candidates trying to overpower one another with their witty answers. And I think that these debates have a huge impact on the outcome of the elections.

Post 2

@discographer-- You've made a good point. Demonstrations are a good example of the influence of political discourse. Through demonstrations, people can change government policies.

At the very basic level, political discourse is an exchange of opinions. The purpose varies of course. When it takes place between policymakers, the goal is to decide on a method to solve a problem. When it takes place between public and policymakers, it's to convince or encourage policymakers to take a certain action. When it takes place between political candidates and public, the candidates are trying to convince the public to vote for them by explaining their positions on topics of importance.

Even though the goals and purposes change, the activity is the same-- exchange of opinions.

Post 1

Political discourse of politicians is mostly formal, but the political discourse of citizens and voters can be informal, especially when it's demonstration discourse.

I find demonstration discourse impressive, as well as letters and phone calls to congressmen about specific issues. This type of discourse varies from requests to demands. I think that demands are particularly suitable for a democracy, especially because some politicians forget that democracy is the rule of the people, not the rule of politicians. Through discourse, people are actually practicing their rights as citizens of a democracy.

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