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Communication & Power


Antone Christianson-Galina

About Antone
MSc Social and Public Communication student. His main fields of interest are cultural cognition, behavioural science and Schopenhauer.
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"Communication is, at its heart, a struggle for power and position." To analyse this point is to join a millennia old debate between idealists and empiricists. Empiricists, like Aristotle and Foucault define communication by how it is actually used. Aristotle teaches how to use rhetoric as a tool to gain political power while Foucault mines history to explore the genealogies of power. Idealists, like Jürgen Habermas, redefine an ideal communication, free from the corrupting influences of the struggle for power and position. Counterintuitively, Habermas' ideal can be used as a tool to gain political power, showing that even if you try to separate communication from power, you create a rhetorical tool that can be used to gain power. You cannot separate communication from the struggle for power because this is what it is used for. Communication is, at its heart, a struggle for power and position.

I will first discuss the many terms for communication and power. Then, I will examine why Aristotle's view of communication is consistent with the idea that communication is, at its heart, a struggle for power and position. I will use Aristotle's definitions and terms to restrict and focus the theories of Foucault. Next, I will introduce Habermas' view of the public sphere and theory of communicative action. I will use a Foucauldian analysis to argue that Habermas' theory of communicative action can be rhetorical device used for political gain. While Habermas argues that communication should not be used in a struggle for power and position, I will argue that his discourse about allegedly power-free communication is used in struggles for power and position. Next, I will use Foucault and Aristotle's theories to criticize Habermas' exclusion of strategic acts in his definition of communication. Finally, I will discuss the implications of my study for the study of communication.

How to Cite: Christianson-Galina, A., 2017. Communication & Power. Rerum Causae, 9(1), pp.44–69.
Published on 01 Jan 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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