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Plastic words, public relations and the neoliberal transformation of twentieth century discourse
journal contributionposted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Anne Surma, Kristin DemetriousKristin Demetrious
This paper argues that public relations and its relationship to communicative ethics played an integral, though hitherto under-theorised, political and cultural role in shaping the emergence and development of the neoliberal project in the twentieth century. Drawing on primary archival documents and synthesising a range of secondary material, the paper explores the proposition that public relations activities were instrumental in embedding the discursive and rhetorical impetus of ideas of freedom, the free market and free enterprise promoted by neoliberals in the USA during the 1930s–1940s, and that the cultural field linking to public relations was much more fertile than previously understood. The reach and diversity of twentieth-century public relations supporting the neoliberal agenda is not yet fully acknowledged. This has implications for our understanding of how public opinion is shaped in contemporary society and the ethical conduct of public debates pivotal to the phenomenon of neoliberalism.