By Jacques Ellul,

Book cover of Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes

Book description

This seminal study and critique of propaganda from one of the greatest French philosophers of the 20th century is as relevant today as when it was first published in 1962. Taking not only a psychological approach, but a sociological approach as well, Ellul’s book outlines the taxonomy for propaganda, and…

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2 authors picked Propaganda as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is another classic work in the subfield of propaganda studies, and it’s pretty dense. That said, its arguments on how technology and propaganda come together to enable mediated control of our very thought are powerful. Ellul’s point that propaganda is a sociological phenomenon—something that surrounds us in everything we do, everything we watch, everything we listen to—have also aided me in understanding why experimental or lab-based attempts to understand the specific effects of disinformation and propaganda often come up short. It’s difficult to study these things in a vacuum because they are so contextual, so tied to who is…

I love how the study of persuasion and propaganda provides plentiful opportunities to address values, ethics, and morality. As a theologian, Jacques Ellul interrogates propaganda to demonstrate the practice of critical thinking that increases human autonomy and freedom. What I love about this book is its spirit of optimism: through inquiry, dialogue, and reflection, we can evaluate propaganda’s explicit and implicit claims. We can discern between propaganda that is designed for personal gain and propaganda that is trying to benefit society. We can acknowledge our own vulnerability to propaganda and recognize when our buttons are being pushed. 

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