On Foucault: a toolbox for public relations



Publication Details

Motion, J. M. & Leitch, S. R. (2009). On Foucault: a toolbox for public relations. In O. Ihlen, B. van Ruler & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public Relations and Social Theory: Key Figures and Concepts (pp. 83-101). New York: Routledge.


Foucault's work provides both critical theory and methods for understanding public relations as a discourse practice with power effects. Within this chapter we introduce the key theoretical concepts of Foucault's work, focusing in particular on discourse, power/knowledge, and subjectivity. A number of tensions that emerge from a Foucauldian consideration of public relations are highlighted and discussed. We then reflect on potential applications of Foucault's theories for our understanding of the role public relations in mapping discourse transformations and change, power effects within relationship management, and identity work. This chapter contends that Foucault's work can offer new critical insights into how public relations works and why it works.I would like my books to be a kind of tool-box which others can rummage through to find a tool which they can use however they wish in their own area.... I write for users, not readers. (Foucault, 1974, pp.523-524)

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