Despite a legacy of research that emphasizes contradictions and their role in explaining change, less is understood about their character or the mechanisms that support them. This gap is especially problematic when making causal claims about the sources of institutional change and our overall conceptions of how institutions matter in social meanings and organizational practices. If we treat contradictions as a persistent societal feature, then a primary analytic task is to distinguish their prevalence from their effects. We address this gap in the context of US electoral discourse and education through an analysis of presidential platforms. We ask how contradictions take hold, persist, and might be observed prior to, or independently of, their strategic use. Through a novel combination of content analysis and computational linguistics, we observe contradictions in qualitative differences in form and quantitative differences in degree. Whereas much work predicts that ideologies produce contradictions between groups, our analysis demonstrates that they actually support convergence in meaning between groups while promoting contradiction within groups.
- Computational linguistics
- Education policy
- Institutional contradiction
- Political discourse
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management