Public relations and the public interest
Date of this Version
The public interest is a complex concept. During the mid-1900s, amid serious interrogation by political scholars, Sorauf argued that 'a concept as nebulous as the public interest invites not definition but absorption' (1957, p. 618). Decades later, this book invites the same; a journey into and around the public interest that is infused with possibilities, theories, illustrations and examples—and one that provides a revised perspective for thinking about public relations. The public interest is generally understood via criteria, values and contexts rather than definitions, located in historic and contemporary practice, and examined through a range of theoretical frameworks, ultimately providing a new lens through which to locate and analyze the role of public relations in society. The book does not naively propose that, in trying to locate the public interest, consensus will always be achieved or, indeed, sought. Instead, it demonstrates that the public interest can be vexed and complex, often caught up in competing interests that are not easily reconciled. As Dewey wrote eloquently in 1935 (cited in Bozeman 2007, p. 105), 'Of course there are conflicting interests: otherwise there would be no social problems.'
This document has been peer reviewed.