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The critical perspective in the field of communication

Aileen Estrada-Fernandez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study investigated the institutional development of the critical perspective in academia. The purpose was to determine the extent to which the perspective has grown in the field of communication. The literature published before this study claimed, without presenting convincing evidence, that the perspective bloomed in the field during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Four questions guided the study: What was the particular development of the "critical" perspective in US communication scholarship? How has it been appropriated and construed by communication scholars? What were the historical circumstances and the intellectual context which framed its development? What is its current status in academia? In order to answer these questions the study traces the perspective's development using a content analysis of three mainstream journals, a survey of academic programs, and a citations analysis. Additional support came from interviews with critical scholars and journal editors, as well as from historical accounts of the period. The results of the study show that the critical perspective found a space for its development in the field of communication, especially in professional journals and citation practices. However, its presence was limited and, by 1987, there were no clear trends about its future development. It seems that the institutional environment did not allow for a vigorous development of the perspective in the field of communication. Utilitarianism, philosophical positivism, and the lack of economic support from government, industry, and funding agencies hindered its growth. The results also show that critical work's central features have been misrepresented by traditional social scientists. In general terms, then, the critical perspective earned a small but permanent place in the field of communication and enjoys the status of a legitimate academic endeavor in the field of communication. Today critical scholars can publish in professional journals and have access to academic appointments and other institutional resources.

Subject Area

Mass media|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Estrada-Fernandez, Aileen, "The critical perspective in the field of communication" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233059.