An analysis of the construction and contestation of contradictions in a debate between Naom Chomsky and Lord Jenkins on the Gulf War.

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Abstract

This paper addresses the question: how do two things come to be understood as contradictory to each other? The assumptions underlying cognitive consistency theories are described as epistemologically realist, which, on the one hand, justify researchers linguistically defining cognitive elements and relations between them and, on the other, appear to rule out the possibility of argumentation over contradictions. In contrast, it is suggested that contradiction is constructed and contested in language. This position is supported by an analysis of a debate between Noam Chomsky and Lord Jenkins concerning the Gulf War. The analysis shows, firstly, that contradiction is a central topic of the debate; secondly, the various levels at which the issue of contradiction is contested; thirdly, that the deployment of these argumentative techniques must be viewed strategically and as a function of the developing interchange. In discussion, the implications of this analysis for future research into the psychology of contradiction-both in terms of how contradiction is constituted and of when being accused of contradiction proves problematic-are drawn out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-302
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Volume37
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1998

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