Articles from functionalist and critical viewpoints in PR. A comparison

Essay, 2011

5 Pages, Grade: 2,0



L’Etang’s (2008) introduction to critical thinking presents a critical framework which has an agenda to respond to the literature written from the dominant paradigm's viewpoint. Obviously L’Etang is an exponent of critical theory, which is mainly concerned with examining language, rhetoric and criticism. So by comparing the articles ‘Public Relations Theory in Practice’ from Heath and Coombs (2006) and ‘Public Relations Models and Persuasion Ethics: a New Approach’ from Fawkes (2007), it is important to keep in mind, that the first text is written from the dominant paradigm's point of view, whereas the latter espouses the notions of the critical paradigm. This paper aims to illustrate a contrast between the two writings, thus also to demonstrate the differences between the two paradigms. The main focus will be on expounding the purposes and objectives of the pieces of writing, as well as on the assumptions, arguments and the evidence presented in them.

In order to be able to contrast the two texts, first it is necessary to provide simple definitions of the paradigms. In general, a paradigm is a worldview, which influences the way in which people understand the world around them (L’Etang 2008). Therefore, a dominant paradigm is the most popular worldview which is adopted by the majority of people and dominates the debate. It is also regarded as the most important approach, which comprises a set of beliefs (assumptions), that the discipline represents (L’Etang 2008). The most essential point of a critical paradigm from the perspective of this paper is that it aims to challenge the dominant paradigm (L’Etang 2008). A desirable result would be a paradigm shift, which is usually the aim of moving between two paradigms, for example the shift from traditional environmental paradigm to the paradigm of sustainable development (Carter 2007). This knowledge can be applied to the discipline of Public Relations and helps to contrast both articles.

Heath and Coombs' (2006) article ingrains a functionalist point of view. It analyses Public Relations (PR) in terms of how it functions and examines its causes and effects. In other words, the main purpose of the text is to show the importance of practical skills in PR, disguised under the term ‘critical thinking skills’ (Heath and Coombs 2006). Whether this purpose is appropriate for an introduction into the discipline of PR, should be considered critically. The questions which underpin the leitmotiv in this text are predominantly: What are theories, how are they conceptualised, and how can they be applied to PR? In order to answer these, Heath and Coombs (2006) simply offer guidelines for the PR-practitioners in order to provide 'excellent' PR (Edwards 2006).


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Articles from functionalist and critical viewpoints in PR. A comparison
Queen Margaret University
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