I was really looking forward to this book It did include some useful insights and examples, but the value that it might otherwise offer to the student of propaganda was deeply undermined by the unacknowledged bias toward Marxism and Marxist theory I don t per se mind that the author is a Marxist I mind that he presents Marxist ideas, categorizations, and terminology as assumptions, as if they were established truth.
For instance, right at the beginning page 3 he introduces but fails to define his concept of flawed ideology implying some ideologies are flawed, and others are not He then proceeds to say When societies are unjust, for example, in the distribution of wealth, we can expect the emergence of flawed ideologies In a society that is unjust, due to unjust distinctions between persons, ways of rationalizing undeserved privilege become ossified into rigid and unchangeable belief This is basically Marx s theory of class identity and class based struggle Characterizing differences in prosperity as the distribution of wealth and differences in philosophy as ways of rationalizing undeserved privilege implies fundamentally Marxist assumptions about the nature of wealth something distributed by the system and class identity undeserved privilege You can certainly make an argument for these things as indeed, innumerable Marxist scholars have but they are NOT self evident truths to be tabled without critical examination Such a intellectual presentation that fails to acknowledge its obvious intellectual pedigree would fail any decent dissertation committee.
The bigger flaw, though, is that by building in a whole host of untenable Marxist assumptions about class and race and politics and human nature, the author makes this exploration of propaganda into just another long diatribe about social justice and dialectical materialism Good propaganda is something oppressed people do, and bad propaganda is something privileged people do In Stanley s conception, the morality or immorality of propaganda is derived from the class identity of the one doing the propaganda work This again is classic Marxism Leninism The full explication of this deeply flawed and dangerous idea comes in pages 76 77, in which he basically admits that he is not attempting to be unbiased It might be thought that my project in this book requires a neutral stance, a nonideological perspective The fact that there is no neutral stance cannot lead us to political paralysis, or to skepticism about political and moral reality This totally undermines the legitimacy of his whole book, because what he s saying here is that this is self consciously a work of ideology There s a difference between a perspective a lens through which to examine something and an ideology a self referential set of beliefs.
How Propaganda Works is, sadly, an ideological work, not really that different from the kinds of studies commissioned by the Communist Party in China Go back and read Bernays or Ellul, orrecently Peter Pomerantsev Let this one go.
S Not that it should matter, but I m a liberal atheist.
This is an excellent read Jason Stanley gives you a background on propaganda, and then proceeds to explain how it works in a liberal democracy like the U.
S In today s world, with so many things being call fake this is a resource that can give us all a baseline from which to draw conclusions Professor Stanley, keep writing