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The Effect of Disruptive Power-in-Language on Discourse in 1969: An Analysis of the Chicago Seven Trial Open Access

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As a consequence of power's ubiquitous nature in society, it remains difficult to isolate and analyze, given that power is an emergent, elusive social construct, appearing and disappearing within social exchanges. Historical writings about the late sixties suggest that American society at that time could be summarized by several social characteristics - conditions which in combination provided an enabling platform for a perfect "power" storm of 1968, characterized by 1) social alienation, 2) crisis-oriented ideology and discourse. 3) Sequential and proximate series of direct power confrontations and, 4) increased national and global media effect.This study focuses on micro-level, highly documented verbal discourse found in official trial transcripts and several historical interviews with primary participants of the events and trial. An historical analysis of the effect of power within verbal discourse during the much publicized, turbulent events surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the subsequent five-month trial of the Chicago Seven in 1969-1970 is presented. The historical narrative and analysis of the events and trial of the Chicago Seven supports conclusions regarding the type, amplitude, and effect of power-in-language. The study's findings and analytic interpretations pertain to the historical participants of 1968-1970 but the conclusions offer reason to believe that newer ideas concerning social power should be considered that may refine or redefine classic power notions of industrial era U.S. society.The utility of using historical methods research to discover how power-in-language was used in a specific context during 1968-70 is that it can help refine what we currently know about power or help redefine those same notions in light of newer beliefs concerning the complex, interactive nature of power, discourse, and social structure. Power and discourse are seemingly inseparable concepts that have both been analyzed individually in apparent efforts to understand the nature of each. Previous discrete analysis of these concepts has failed to provide a current understanding of how both operate in combination. By synthesizing those analyses using history as a vehicle or platform of understanding, a deeper understanding of the most significant social use of knowledge era power can be had - that of complex power-in-language. Understanding power-in-language could help explain some of the missing pieces of other social theories and hypotheses, unfortunately obscured by negating or ignoring power's effects in human interaction.

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