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Communication Theories in a Multicultural World

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Edited By Clifford G. Christians and Kaarle Nordenstreng

This volume is an up-to-date account of communication theories from around the world.
Authored by a group of eminent scholars, each chapter is a history and state-of-the-art description of the major issues in international communication theory.
While the book draws on an understanding of communication theory as a product of its socio-political and cultural context, and the challenges posed by that context, it also highlights each author’s lifetime effort to critique the existing trends in communication theory and bring out the very best in each multicultural context.
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1 Keeping the Public Sphere(s) Public

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Virtually all of the contributors to this volume, in presenting a theoretical stance, have also told something of their personal life journey. At some point all have taken a strong value stand. I have always been grateful for the events that took me out of the functionalist sociology of the 1950s and into an area of the field of communication that demanded a value stand. The sociology of the 1940s, 1950s, and into the 1960s was struggling to get legitimacy in universities and had to declare its allegiance to the value-free objective scientific orthodoxy of the time. Talcott Parson’s functionalism, presenting social systems as self-adapting with no human or social intervention, seemed to fit the demands of a value-free, naturalistic science. This theoretical stance, I am increasingly convinced, isolated functionalist sociology from professional and societal significance—even from a social engineering perspective. It took a new generation of social theorists, such as Anthony Giddens, to open sociological theory to the objectives of societal construction.

Communication sciences, on the other hand, grew out of the realization that newspapers and public speaking were important for giving the public more control over elected political leaders and to provide the upwardly mobile working and middle classes the information they needed about socio-economic opportunities (Dicken-Garcia, 1989; Marzolf, 1991). Denis McQuail, in his essay in this volume, sums up the centrality of the normative in the field of communication, with telling insight: “It is tempting to suppose that what has saved the...

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