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

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  425 ratings  ·  34 reviews
"A far more frightening work than any of the nightmare novels of George Orwell. With the logic which is the great instrument of French thought, [Ellul] explores and attempts to prove the thesis that propaganda, whether its ends are demonstrably good or bad, is not only destructive to democracy, it is perhaps the most serious threat to humanity operating in the modern world ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 12th 1973 by Vintage (first published 1962)
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The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew BrzezińskiPropaganda by Edward L. BernaysPropaganda by Jacques EllulProofs of a Conspiracy by John RobisonThe Lessons of History by Will Durant
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Jan 21, 2008 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Intellectuals who think they are immune to Propaganda
This is the third book concerning technology and society that really changed the way I think about the world. As with The Technological Society and Mumford's Pentagon of Power, this book contains many ideas and concepts that turn our normal worldviews upside down. He states that Propaganda is necessary for modern societies to function and that they play an integral part in the power structures that run them. This is all the more true for our modern, so-called Democracies. He also states that the ...more
Parts of this book are amazing, even today. While portions of it are a little dated or too caught up in the Cold War or focused on the forces which brought about the second world war, the insights he draws from them are not. I've never read a description of just what propaganda is or why it is so dangerous and effective that was close to this good. Ellul's background in Theology shines through in a lot of places and he is also concerned with understanding how the modern state and the ideologies ...more
Lynn Waddell
This book is the most influential of my career in journalism, and one of the top 10 of my life. I read it almost 20 years ago, and I often reflect on it. It changed the way I analyze news media, politicians, and marketing. Although written in the 1960s, the components essential to propaganda that he outlines hold true. Given the weighty subject matter, it isn't a quick read, more one to pause and contemplate over coffee before moving to next chapter. Even still, Ellul's extreme passion for his t ...more
This is, put quite simply, a MUST read. It was written shortly after WWII and focuses on the propaganda machine of Goebbels. It is shocking how much of what is described in this book is the norm in today's "quality" of discourse. Truly prophetic.
I'm actually reading this right now, so I'll update this as I am amazed and transformed by this highly underappreciated and brilliant Frenchman.
Michael S
Oct 01, 2007 Michael S rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: citizens of a democracy
Scary, scary, scary.
Jake M.
This is among the few books to alter how I think of how the world presents itself. Ellul has a talent for presenting complex ideas in readable text. The book focuses on the conditions, uses, mediums, structures and belief systems needed for propaganda to flourish. In addition, he identifies a working definition of propaganda that is repeated throughout the text to remind the reader of its ever-present influence in our daily lives. This is as much a dissection of propaganda as it is a warning aga ...more
Ki Seung
A dense (with some technical jargon) philosophical work on the nature of man in a technical society, whether it be democratic or fascist. To consider that propaganda (as described by Ellul) is not only necessary, but also a natural outcome in a large and diverse modern society, is a rather bitter concept to swallow, but for me, Ellul makes an excellent case as to its diverse means and forms.
Adam Ross
An interesting book on the way in which comprehensive propaganda is employed in the modern world (a bit dated now, but still good and helpful, covering ground others have ignored). Ellul is a Christian as well, so his approach is more interesting than just an academic approach to the subject.
Jacob Russell
As in The Technological Society, Ellul examines, not the practice of propaganda, but the the underlying assumptions and ideology that gives rise to it--a much broader category of communication than commonly assigned to the term.
Should be mandatory reading in college, if not before. I was quite a bit older when I came upon it. But it's never too late. Provides a clear description of the mechanics of INFORMATION.
Walter Ullon
Essential reading if you live in a mass society.
Depressive, but needs to be read.
An important book
Aug 20, 2009 Sestius rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Interested people
Modern readers, especially perhaps readers in the Anglosphere, might face a few hurdles caused by Propaganda's time and place of origin. (I know I did.) Ellul draws on French experiences of the Second World War, of the first decade of the Cold War and of the end of empire in Indochina and Algeria which seem distant now. He is also much less concerned with evidence than I imagine (and hope!) modern theorists of media and politics are. But this only means that reading Propaganda is a chance to ste ...more
A warning is in order: This book will f*&^k you up. Seriously, if you are in any way involved in our political process, this book will make you question every opinion and every political decision you've ever made. Our modern lives are filled and dominated with and by manipulation and media induced narcosis. Read this book buy a farm a lot of guns ammo and food and prepare for the coming collapse.
Feb 05, 2008 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in the development of the modern psyche
Shelves: class, non-fiction
While it is clear that at times Ellul has no bloody clue what he's talking about in a factual sense, his ideas are intriguing. The proposed chicken-and-egg quandary is especially engaging--as one begins to read more they are compelled to examine their current situation. How much does propaganda effect us? To what extent is thought genuinely independent? Philosophic questions with a spin.

One certainly starts to look at things a little differently after being exposed to the ideas presented here.
Joel S
An excellent discussion of propaganda not as the base tool of ideologues but as the pervasive force in most modern nationalized countries. Propaganda emerges as a technique of communication that is amplified by modern communication technology. Ellul questions the foundations of modern industrialized societies and questions whether current modes of public and political discourse can really engender free thought or encourage that activity which makes us human, to speak and act originally.

Laura Hallman
If you have studied/are studying communications, this book is for you. If you have any interest in the way media works on people, this book is for you. It is brilliantly written and thoughtfully executed. While written in the mid-1960s (a very interesting time for Propoganda), the reader can fairly easily surmise how Ellul would feel about current media (social networks, political races, etc). A great read, though not terribly casual.
this is an amazing book on propaganda. certainly you'll come away with a new view of what propaganda is and what needs to exist for it to manifest. this is not the kind of book that you'll breeze through. some parts you'll have to read several times. it's probably best read twice. my brother said that you almost have to have read the entire book to really understand any of it. read it and find out for yourself.
No light n easy bedtime reading but well worth it.
Giuseppe Crottogini
Reading this book from the perspective as a graffiti artist and symbolic interactionist, I could not put the book down. I've probably read it three or four times, partially because I am somewhat dyslexic with ADD, but also because it clearly describes the sociological indicators to consider when analyzing propaganda.
Eric Smith
Very simply this work is one of the (underlined, bold-typed, italicized) books on the subject that must be consumed. Critique it, tear it apart at the seams, you'll likely still find that all other works on the subject should be measured in reference to it.
It took me a long time to get through this, simply because I needed to let the ideas percolate. This book covers a lot of ground but it's a fascinating read. I definitely want to get my own copy so that I can go over it again.
Ivan Kapersky
Ellul explains in a elegant style how states and people manufactures propaganda as a mechanism for the dissemination of an idea or course of action. It also explores the different propaganda and their structures.
Oct 12, 2008 Dave is currently reading it
Propaganda as defined by Jacques is far more pervasive a current in the modern society of man than we would all like to think. Most of us don't actually fully exercise our free will very freely.
A tough read, but good if you want to understand the true nature of propaganda. An eye opener!
Izcils darbs, īpaši par propagandu kā sociālizācijas instrumentu!
Re-read this one not long ago. Got more out of it the second time.
Zena V.
Haven't fnished it, but I will someday. Shoving it aside for now.
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Baptised Catholic, Ellul became an atheist and Marxist at 19, and a Christian of the Reformed Church at 22. During his Marxist days, he was a member of the French Communist Party. During World War II, he fought with the French Underground against the Nazi occupation of France.

Educated at the Universities of Bordeaux and Paris, he taught Sociology and the History of Law at the Universities of Strau
More about Jacques Ellul...
The Technological Society Anarchy and Christianity The Subversion of Christianity The Presence of the Kingdom The Meaning of the City

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“Again I want to emphasize that the study of propaganda must be conducted within the context of a technological society. Propaganda is called upon to solve problems created by technology, to play on maladjustments, and to integrate the individual into a technological world.” 5 likes
“To the extent that propaganda is based on current news, it cannot permit time for thought or reflection. A man caught up in the news must remain on the surface of the event; be is carried along in the current, and can at no time take a respite to judge and appreciate; he can never stop to reflect. There is never any awareness -- of himself, of his condition, of his society -- for the man who lives by current events. Such a man never stops to investigate any one point, any more than he will tie together a series of news events. We already have mentioned man's inability to consider several facts or events simultaneously and to make a synthesis of them in order to face or to oppose them. One thought drives away another; old facts are chased by new ones. Under these conditions there can be no thought. And, in fact, modern man does not think about current problems; he feels them. He reacts, but be does not understand them any more than he takes responsibility for them. He is even less capable of spotting any inconsistency between successive facts; man's capacity to forget is unlimited. This is one of the most important and useful points for the propagandist, who can always be sure that a particular propaganda theme, statement, or event will be forgotten within a few weeks. Moreover, there is a spontaneous defensive reaction in the individual against an excess of information and -- to the extent that he clings (unconsciously) to the unity of his own person -- against inconsistencies. The best defense here is to forget the preceding event. In so doing, man denies his own continuity; to the same extent that he lives on the surface of events and makes today's events his life by obliterating yesterday's news, he refuses to see the contradictions in his own life and condemns himself to a life of successive moments, discontinuous and fragmented.

This situation makes the "current-events man" a ready target for propaganda. Indeed, such a man is highly sensitive to the influence of present-day currents; lacking landmarks, he follows all currents. He is unstable because he runs after what happened today; he relates to the event, and therefore cannot resist any impulse coming from that event. Because he is immersed in current affairs, this man has a psychological weakness that puts him at the mercy of the propagandist. No confrontation ever occurs between the event and the truth; no relationship ever exists between the event and the person. Real information never concerns such a person. What could be more striking, more distressing, more decisive than the splitting of the atom, apart from the bomb itself? And yet this great development is kept in the background, behind the fleeting and spectacular result of some catastrophe or sports event because that is the superficial news the average man wants. Propaganda addresses itself to that man; like him, it can relate only to the most superficial aspect of a spectacular event, which alone can interest man and lead him to make a certain decision or adopt a certain attitude.

But here we must make an important qualification. The news event may be a real fact, existing objectively, or it may be only an item of information, the dissemination of a supposed fact. What makes it news is its dissemination, not its objective reality.”
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