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Federal Budget Law Reforms in Austria: Which Meta-Discourses Can Be Identified in the Reform Processes and (How) Do They Interplay?

Open Panel

Abstract

The Austrian Federal Budget Law (FBL) was codified in 1986 as one single document. During the years after the codification, the FBL was amended incrementally. Reforms are always embedded in more general discourses – or “meta-discourses” – of modernisation and are linked to the institutional pressures that are present in a certain field at a specific point of time. This means that the way in which reforms are discussed – i.e. the rhetoric and accounts that are used to promote or oppose certain issues, and the assumptions that actors make – is linked to the predominant reform discourse at the moment when it is decided on the reform. The paper addresses the following question: Which meta-discourses took place in the parliamentary process around the codification of the FBL and its amendments from the 1980s on? The data sample will comprise documents from the initial codification of the FBL and its four “milestone”-reforms. It will be looked at various types of parliamentary documents. Benington identifies three main meta-discourses which he labels traditional public administration, new public management, and networked community governance. For each discourse, a list of 10-15 sub-discourses will be compiled. For each sub-discourse, at least three keywords will be identified. Furthermore, when meta-discourses different to the three above-mentioned discourses happen to appear in more than one text, also here, for each discourse, at least three keywords will be tagged in order to grasp the conditions of the reforms. After having identified meta-, and sub-discourses and the respective keywords, a linguistics software tool will be used in order to look for patterns in the language that is used. In the paper, it will be analyzed to what extent the meta-discourses are represented in the documentation around the discussion and passing of the reform bill in parliament, and which changes occur in the course of time. In the paper, the Austrian FBL reforms are interpreted as a continuous effort to accommodate fiscal, economic and social stress by enhancing the capacity of the state. The period covered (1983-2010) should enable to grasp changes in the meta- und sub-discourses as well as the path-dependency of discourse elements. First results on what “fashions” were dominant at specific points in time in the Austrian reform discourse, are presented. Next, both the commonalities and the differences between the discourses showing up in different text genres will be analyzed, e.g. whether the rhetoric used by politicians in the final debate differs from the rhetoric used in the comments of the reform bill drafts. Furthermore, the contribution will contribute to an enhanced understanding of the processes that took place around the FBL reforms and the factors affecting the adoption of budgeting innovations.