The genesis of social responsibility theory: William Ernest hocking and positive freedom

Clifford G. Christians, P. Mark Fackler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter intends to show that William Ernest Hocking, in his work on the Hutchins Commission, generated a theory of positive freedom that empowers ethical conversation toward the new social media and democratized news. It discusses the ontological basis created by Hocking and offers a theoretical core to the concept of positive freedom. Social responsibility theory has not achieved its full potential because intellectual work since 1947 has typically followed the report’s superficial version of social responsibility. For social responsibility to be the normative framework of journalism in the age of global media, its conceptual core ought to be radical positive freedom. Hocking’s Freedom of the Press, along with all philosophical work on positive freedom from Rousseau through Taylor, gives us conceptual clarity on this phrase. Social media technologies are reorganizing society, and they need a social responsibility concept that is rooted in community to understand and direct them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Media and Mass Communication Theory
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781118591178
ISBN (Print)9780470675052
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Freedom of the press
  • Global media
  • Hutchins commission
  • News
  • Positive freedom
  • Social responsibility theory
  • William ernest hocking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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