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Politics, Power and Contingency: Judging Hutton and Responding to Mendus

  • DIANA COOLE (a1)

Abstract

My purpose in the article was twofold: to commend to political theorists a method of critical analysis that can usefully be applied to texts that circulate within public life, and to apply it myself in reading the Hutton Report. Like many people, I was incredulous when the report appeared and suspicious of its conclusions. But I was also curious as to how it managed to appear simultaneously both objective and biased. Consequently, I wanted to investigate how political power was operating at a deeper discursive level. I welcome this opportunity to respond to Susan Mendus's detailed and thoughtful response, both to defend my methodology and to clarify those points where I think she misinterprets its implications. Because her reply is so clearly structured, I have replicated that structure in my responses.

TRUTH

I distinguished in the article between two competing views of truth, each of which may be situated in presuppositions regarding agency, language and meaning. In the first part of her reply, Mendus contests my observations regarding the empiricist and legalistic view of truth that I associated with the Hutton Report. She makes three observations here.

First, she is sceptical that Hutton subscribed to this positivist-juridical conception at all and as evidence, she cites an early section of the report where he explains his intention to reproduce parts of the inquiry's transcript of evidence so that the public can understand why he reached his conclusions. ‘These are not’, Mendus concludes, ‘the words of a man who denies the need for interpretation.’

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