Notes on PR Part 1: Disciplinary Subjectivity.

I’ve decided on my strategy for coping with some of the more reactionary statements my PR students make. I am going to treat the class as a field study in the formation of subjectivity, disciplinary discourses and recuperation.

Regarding the first it has so far been illuminating to see how the students schooling and experience in PR has constituted their subjectivity. The best representative example I can think of came in seminar. I asked the students whether they thought the choice of terms to describe a large group of people such as a mob, a crowd, a body politic, the public or stake-holders shaped their assumptions and views of how they treated a large group of people. The only person who responded asked for clarification on how the idea of the public was different to the idea of stake-holders. To them ideas such as the public, body politic etc were all synonyms for the idea of stake-holders.

This example of the subsumption of extra-economic ideas under the neo-liberal sociology of the market is also mirrored in the way that PR theory appropriates Habermas’ theory of the public sphere. Despite the fact that Habermas rails against Public Relations as a pernicious profession associated with the refeudalization of the public sphere, PR scholars tend to hypostatize Habermas’ ideal image of the public sphere with contemporary society. In doing so it simply becomes another way of describing the neo-liberal interpretation of the market which is generalized to society. Thus the public sphere describes a group of savvy and discriminating consumers  to which companies, institutions etc. utilize PR to represent themselves as responsible, dynamic and desirable. Rather than a utopian vision of communicative and deliberative democracy (sic) it is the utopian vision of the market as a form of consumer oriented democracy.


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