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This article applies La Boétie’s concept of voluntary servitude to public relations historiography through a historic-critical analysis. Written in the same Renaissance era than other early history books of the history of public relations such as Machiavelli’s The Prince, The discourse of voluntary servitude (1552-1553) reveals to the publics the power that would lie in their refusal to engage with the authority (or in other words, the state, the prince or the monarch). The result is that, through a postmodern approach of emphasizing dissensus, the concept of voluntary servitude and its encouragement of activism and passive resistance can be considered an early precedent of critical public relations theory. Furthermore, without being judgmental, La Boétie invites us to a reflection on the role of self-responsibility of the publics in their power relationships with organizations.
García, C. (2021). Challenging hegemony and power in the sixteenth century: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude as antecedent of critical public relations theory. Communication & Society, 34(3), 77–87. https://doi.org/10.15581/003.34.3.77-87
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