Critical history of propaganda

62-069  Critical history of propaganda

second cycle Master degree study programme Political Science

Course Supervisor: Prof. Ernest Ženko


The course is focused on the historical study and understanding of modern propaganda as a specific new scientific technique, which emerged in the context of social sciences and the media of mass communication. Special attention will be therefore given to those authors and their work, where this technique is systematically thematized and elaborated for the first time, and to the presentation of the historical context in which they worked. It will be also presented in detail the basic premises, paradigms and theorems on which techniques of propaganda were based and their placement within the classifications of science, scientific fields and disciplines. The emergence and development of propaganda techniques will be shown through a critical reading of the scientific paradigm of social engineering and early conceptualizations of communication theories, where it is possible to make a reconstruction of the concept of propaganda.

The contents of the study program:

  • Introduction: Illustration and elaboration of basic concepts: modern propaganda, scientific technique, social sciences, social engineering, management and politics, leadership and governing, acting and creating.
  • Progressive era in the USA (1880-1920): Engineers movement and the appearance of »social engineering« and scientific management as a paradigm of organizing and steering the society as a whole.
  • Social sciences and the search for social laws inside the world of human affairs as an complementary part in forming techniques and management knowledge (social psychology, mass psychology, behaviorism, sociology).
  • Communication as a society self-building process: Instrumental conception of communication as a function of society. The formation of communication as a scientific concept and its role inside the theories of scientific management, theory of organizations and cybernetics.
  • Modern propaganda and PR as “antipolitics”. The instrumental use of language and the manufacture of uniform feelings and mental pictures of the world for the purposes of a unified and effectively operating society. (E. L. Bernays, W. Lippmann, H. Lasswell, J. Goebbels).
  • Central propaganda theorems: manufacturing consent, engineering of opinion, agenda setting, gatekeeping.
  • Modern propaganda as a war technique invested in strategic planning of mass manipulation and in making human capacities available for use.

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