Abstract

This article examines the rhetoric of an important, yet understudied, figure in the history of public relations, Bruce Barton. I argue that Barton attempted to mobilize those in the business community to adopt public relations in the creation of a more socially responsible free enterprise through a discourse of evangelical capitalism. Barton’s rhetoric, I argue, positions the corporation as a benevolent shepherd and the public as a submissive and adrift flock in need of salvation. This submissive relationship between public and corporation dovetailed with the technocratic understanding of politics espoused by Walter Lippmann that portrayed the public as a bewildered herd to be guided and mobilized as political leverage by managerial elites, ultimately providing ideological scaffolding for the maintenance and legitimization of corporate power through the appropriation of progressive rhetorics.

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