A Novel Way to Develop Policy and Practice
In this paper I explore the relevance to Q methodology of the work of Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975), the Russian philosopher and literary theorist whose concept of human language emphasised the interrelationship of all utterances, and a value-governed experiencing of the world from a multiplicity of unique perspectives. Bakhtin theorised novelistic discourse as a polyphony of contesting voices, with an interacting diversity of characters’ voices valued over a monologic authorial voice. This preference for heteroglossia over monoglossia has not only an aesthetic but also an ethical dimension, with wider implications beyond literature for our individual lives and public society. Bakhtin emphasised the plural nature of subjectivity and the development of meaning and understanding through the interplay of multiple voices. This developmental process requires respect for the voice and values of, and an answerable attitude toward, the other. I consider the theoretical underpinnings of Bahktin’s work in relation to that of William Stephenson and describe how Bakhtin’s concepts and related sociocultural theory might be combined with Q methodology to develop more ethical, democratic and efficacious policy and practice in a range of contexts. I explore and illustrate these developmental possibilities at a range of levels with reference to a Q study on policy and practice (Deignan, 2012) that I carried out in the UK higher education sector.