Citation

Introduction

In an effort to reorient the field of propaganda studies, this essay offers thirteen interrelated propositions about propaganda. The concept is defined as a mode of mass persuasion with a distinct historical genesis predating its modern use strictly as a term of disrepute. These propositions address the moral and affective dimensions of propaganda, as well as the relation between propaganda and other kinds of public information and institutions such as advertising, teaching, and religion. Offering a functionalist and contextual approach to studying propaganda, the propositions shift attention from content analysis to emphasize how information flows through various media networks. The essay regards the targets of mass persuasion not as passive dupes, as customarily assumed, but rather active consumers who play a part in shaping the meanings and effects of propaganda—past, present, and future—both in totalitarian societies and more democratic ones.