Preempting the Future: Rhetoric and Ideology of the Future in Political Discourse

Publication Title

Discourse & Society

Publication Date


Document Type





agency, evidentiality, field, future reality, future, ideology, intertextual context, modality, mood, National Security Strategy, nominalization, political discourse, President Bush, public, Saddam Hussein/Iraq, systemic functional linguistics, tenor relations, textual implication, threat


Defense and Security Studies | International Relations | Political Science


This article posits that an important ideological component of political discourse derives from its representation of the future and the rhetorical functions those representations serve in implicating more immediate material and discursive actions. Working within a systemic-functional framework, this study demonstrates how representations of the future are embedded in and projected through political discourse and how the 'public' is implicated in those representations. I focus on President Bush’s speech on 7 October 2002, which presents his rationale for war against Iraq to a lay, public audience. The analysis shows that the nominalization 'threat' functions in multiple ways to construe a particular vision of future reality. Systematic contrasts in modality serve to privilege this future reality over alternative visions and, simultaneously, to implicate the public in the Administration’s vision. I also consider the speech within the context of the Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy, particularly its ‘policy of preemption’. I argue that the President’s speech plays a significant role in facilitating the conceptual, linguistic, and political change articulated through the preemption policy.



Publisher Location

Thousand Oaks, CA