"Blame Shifting and Credit Claiming – Comparing Strategies of Communicative Self-Legitimation in the Eurozone Crisis Debate"
Moritz Sommer, Jochen Roose – 2015
The recent Eurozone crisis has transformed into a dramatic crisis of democratic legitimacy that affects both domestic actors and European Union institutions. The withdrawal of popular support, increasing demands for accountability and a growing public attention put political actors under intensive legitimation pressure that has to be dealt with. In times of crisis, effective performance is an unreliable source of legitimacy; top-down strategies of communicative self-legitimation, such as blame shifting and credit claiming (Weaver 1986) gain importance. The self-portrait of actors in the discursive contest over responsibility attributions is likely to influence their perceived legitimacy. In this sense, the public sphere turns into a central arena for legitimacy contestation. Understanding politics as a discursive struggle between actors over public support we test in how far different degrees of legitimation pressure can explain the communication behavior of core political institutions (European Union institutions, national governments) during the crisis. This paper draws on empirical data on responsibility attributions in the Eurozone Crisis debate in Greek and German newspapers as well as Reuters news reports. The data stems from a collaborative Greek-German research project (GGCRISI) applying Discursive Actor Attribution Analysis. The analysis of responsibility attributions for the period between 2009 and 2013 allows approaching discursive strategies of self-legitimation via a detailed analysis of public communication patterns.