Jacques Ellul’s Contribution to Propaganda Studies

Randal Marlin

in The Oxford Handbook of Propaganda Studies

Published in print December 2013 | ISBN: 9780199764419
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Jacques Ellul’s Contribution to Propaganda Studies

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This chapter examines Jacques Ellul's major contributions to the understanding of propaganda, including psychological, sociological, ethical, and political dimensions of the phenomenon. These include his definition linking propaganda to power seeking, his challenging description of categories of propaganda, and his reference to the psychological needs of the propagandee in a modern, mass-mediated world. Propaganda of integration, sociological propaganda, horizontal propaganda, and rational propaganda are among his novel ideas. His concept of total propaganda, linked to his idea of the dominance of technique in modern society, lies at the heart of his analysis, but it needs to be reconciled with more conventional understandings of propaganda, according to which genuine propaganda does not have to be total. Relations between propaganda and truth, timeliness, pre-propaganda, and myth are explored, along with ethical problems and the paradox involved in using fundamentally undemocratic propaganda methods to preserve democracy.

Keywords: Jacques Ellul; propagandee; total propaganda; pre-propaganda; categories of propaganda; sociological propaganda; horizontal propaganda; rational propaganda; propaganda and myth; mass media

Article.  8973 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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