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“You can’t do’s theory rather than practice”: staff use of the practice/principal rhetorical device in talk on empowering people with learning disabilities

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This study explores the discourses of support staff of people with learning disabilities talking about how choices and control are promoted or denied for service-users. A semi-structured interview based on issues identified in the White Paper 'Valuing People' was administered to 15 professional care-givers of people with learning disabilities. These were transcribed and analysed using discourse analysis. The analysis demonstrated the use of two dominant discursive themes: increasing autonomy and practicalities talk. These themes were frequently mobilized together in a manner that paralleled what Wetherell et al. (1987) termed a 'practice/ principle rhetorical device,' to argue against increasing choices and control. The implications of this are discussed, as are the subject positions offered to staff and service-users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-726
Number of pages22
JournalDiscourse & Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008

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