Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2021

7 Public relations, power and control

From the book Public Relations
C. Kay Weaver


This chapter examines how power and control have been theorised in connection to the role that public relations plays in social culture. Exactly whether and how public relations and its practitioners wield power in society and are able to assert control over citizens are contested matters. Whether we conclude that public relations is a powerful tool, or not, and to what ends it is used, is dependent on our theoretical perspective. The chapter considers how Excellence theory and its liberal-pluralist underpinnings, and Marxist, postcolonial, and poststructuralist theories variously conceptualise power and control in, and through, public relations. In identifying the motivating factors behind particular theoretical constructions of power and control in public relations, the chapter demonstrates how theorising is itself a political act seeking to influence how we make sense of phenomena. Only when we understand the politics of theory and how theories variously represent public relations, are we able to reflect on the ethics of public relations practice. This chapter aims to assist public relations practitioners and scholars to grasp the nuanced debates about the role that public relations plays in society, and the contribution that it makes to shaping social culture, peoples and our futures.

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