Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Public relations theory: An agonistic critique of the turns to dialogue and symmetry
Authors: Davidson, Scott V.
First Published: 1-Jun-2016
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Citation: Public Relations Inquiry, 2016, 5 (2), pp. 145-167
Abstract: This is a conceptual article that seeks to apply agonistic theories of democracy to critique the embracing of dialogic communication in public relations theory. Several strands of scholarship, despite their vastly different starting points and epistemological assumptions, have converged on advancing dialogic forms of communication as representing the best normative theories for shifting practice towards what might be considered civic, democracy- friendly norms. As a consequence, theorising has emphasised compromise and consensus which pressurises practitioners to adopt ostensibly non-partisan styles of communication. In contrast, agonistic democratic theory elevates the value of permanent contest, dissensus and performance in vibrant public spaces which expose and test the legitimacy of those who hold power and privilege. However, the disputes in other academic fields between advocates of deliberative and agonistic approaches have up to now been largely absent in the public relations literature. This article uses agonistic theory, particularly the work of Chantal Mouffe, to critique some of the assumptions that have been used to apply to public relations: (a) Habermasian deliberation and (b) two-way symmetrical communication. Finally, the article discusses the value of the agonistic framework for building new models for understanding the forms of public relations that would support democratic practice.
DOI Link: 10.1177/2046147X16649007
ISSN: 2046-147X
eISSN: 2046-1488
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2016, Published by Sage publications. This version of this article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License ( ), which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Media and Communication

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
AGONISM_PR_PRi_final.docxPost-review (final submitted)53.29 kBUnknownView/Open
AGONISM_PR_PRi_final.pdfPost-review (final submitted author manuscript)481.9 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

Items in LRA are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.