A “Crisscrossing” Historical Analysis of Four Theories of the Press

Terhi Rantanen



Because 2016 was the 60th anniversary of the publication of Four Theories of the Press, it is time to reexplore how this book, labeled as “the bible of comparative media studies,” was born. This article applies a sociology-of-science approach, combined with histoire croisée (“crisscrossing history”), to analyze archival materials, published and unpublished (auto)biographies and previous academic research. It argues, after an analytical crisscrossing of individuals, research traditions, ideas, institutions, and their relationships that lie behind Four Theories, that the book was a compromise between the diverse interests of its authors, their backgrounds, ideas, and national and international politics, and thus an intersection of contradictory but also overlapping elements that also gave rise to new concepts of a press system and of a press theory in a transnational context.


sociology-of-science approach (model), crisscrossing history, history of communication studies, comparative communication, press system, Wilbur Schramm, Theodore B. Peterson, Fredrick S. Siebert

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