On Berger: If Peter Berger were doing public relations - A social constructionist perspective on crisis communication

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Abstract

In this chapter I propose a social constructionist perspective on public relations, and will particularly focus on crisis communication as an important sub-field, with inspiration from the American sociologist Peter L. Berger. Berger is most well-known for the book The Social Construction of Reality (1966), co-authored with the German sociologist Thomas Luckmann. This book has had a fundamental impact on the development of social sciences, and introduced an alternative understanding of how knowledge, and especially knowledge of everyday reality, is constructed in social interactions and is part of the interplay between the individual and society. Berger and Luckmann introduced the term “social construction” in social science, which stands in contrast to the positivistic belief in one objective, “real” reality “out there” that is possible to measure and describe with scientific methods. Instead, it is argued that people’s understanding of the reality influences their behavior and knowledge. This idea goes back to the American sociologist William Isaac Thomas who in 1928 formulated a fundamental principle of sociology - the Thomas theorem: “if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Merton, 1995, p. 380). Hence, there are several and, often, competing realities socially constructed by humans.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Relations and Social Theory
Subtitle of host publicationKey Figures, Concepts and Developments
Editors Øyvind Ihlen, Magnus Fredriksson
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Pages215-232
Number of pages18
Edition2
ISBN (Electronic)9781351984461
ISBN (Print)9781138281295
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Communication Studies

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