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Journal Article

Political Discourse Networks and the Conflict over Software Patents in Europe


Leifeld,  Philip
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Max Planck Society;

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Leifeld, P., & Haunss, S. (2012). Political Discourse Networks and the Conflict over Software Patents in Europe. European Journal of Political Research, 51, 382-409.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-74B8-F
In 2005, the European Parliament rejected the directive "on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions", which had been drafted and supported by the European Commission, the Council and well-organised industrial interests, with an overwhelming majority. In this unusual case, a coalition of opponents of software patents prevailed over a strong industry-led coalition. We develop an explanation based on political discourse and show that two stable and distinct discourse coalitions can be identified and measured over time. The apparently weak coalition of software patent opponents shows typical properties of a hegemonic discourse coalition. It presents itself as being more coherent, employs a better-integrated set of frames and dominates key economic arguments, while the proponents of software patents are not as well-organised. This configuration of the discourse gave leeway for an alternative course of political action by the European Parliament. We operationalise the notion of discourse coalitions and related structural features of the discourse by drawing on social network analysis. More specifically, we introduce discourse network analysis as a new methodology for the study of policy debates. The approach is capable of measuring empirical discourses both statically and in a longitudinal way and is compatible with the policy network approach.