Reason 3: Critical
While The Salvation Army is still active today, methods of communication looked quite different when William Booth founded The Salvation Army in 1865 (Marks, 1991). William Booth employed critical theory when starting this Christian movement. Critical theory, as defined by Max Horkheimer, has a precise and practical resolve “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer, 1982, p.244).
William Booth and his “persecuted band of evangelists” (Ellis, 2007, p.20), set up in 1865 with the precise and practical resolve to liberate or convert the roughs of East London (Ellis, 2007, p.20) from lives that Booth considered damaging. Booth was concerned with a variety of social justice issues including human trafficking, as it is known today, or simply girls being sold into prostitution as it was referred to in the nineteenth century. It was in 1885 when The Salvation Army became involved in exposing the sale of young girls into prostitution (Ellis, 2007, p.24), which is an ongoing fight The Salvation Army continues to battle within the grounds of critical theory, as defined by Max Horkheimer. Booth, and Salvationists today, work to showcase society’s failings in issues of social justice and highlight achievable goals, in hopes of producing social transformation. “Critical Theories are centrally concerned with social change” (Baxter & Braithwaite, 2008, p. 325), as is the case when using The Salvation Army.
This example highlights the inadvertent role of communication theories whether people are conscious of it or not. Though William Booth “had little time for academic or theological debate” (Ellis, 2007, p. 20), his approach to social transformation was aligned with academic approach to critical theory.
“Scholars in the Critical Theory tradition ask how cultural structures and practices shape the lives of members of a culture and, conversely, how members’ lives and activities shape cultural structures and practices” (Baxter & Braithwaite, 2008, p. 325). William Booth may have never used that academic diction but communication theory is embedded so deeply that the disconnect Booth saw between the “roughs of East London” and moral/virtuous behaviour (as well as the actions he took to evoke social change) match what academic scholars refer to as critical theory.
Stay tuned for the final reason in this series next Tuesday on how communication theory applies to my boyfriend’s sporadic gym attendance… Just don’t tell him that’s what the next blog is about!
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Ellis, S. (2007). Onward, Christian Soldiers. British Heritage, 27, 18-24. Retrieved January 17, 2014, from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.msvu.ca/docview/217034325
Horkheimer, M. (1982). Critical Theory. New York: Seabury Press.
Marks, L. (1991). The Knights of Labor and the Salvation Army: Religion and Working-Class Culture in Ontario, 1882-1890. Labour/Le Travail, 89-127.
Waddington, K., & Michaelson, G. (2012).Gossip and organizations. New York: Routledge.